SMILE (Shedding Light On Mental Health Awareness)

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A smile is often mistaken for happiness when it’s really a coping mechanism for so many. Those who suffer from depression do this often which I know from experience. Sometimes the smile you wear can fool you too because you’re feeding to yourself that you’re happy in order to not deal with your real issue(s). Many of us aren’t even comfortable acknowledging that we have feelings because those we grew up or hang around make us feel uncomfortable and/or bad about it. May is Mental Health Awareness month, so I wanted to write about my journey, coping mechanisms, and what to look out for. But remember, I CAN ONLY SPEAK FOR ME.

youhavenoidea.gifBeing African American I’ve had to deal with the harsh reality that many black people don’t acknowledge that depression is even real. It’s “white people shit” to so many of us and “you’ll get over it”, but it’s not that simple. When you’re surrounded by toxicity, express how it makes you feel then you’re bashed for acknowledging your feelings… that sticks with you. Many of us are told early on to “stay in a child’s place” while our elders continuously drag us into an adult’s place. From knowingly allowing us to sit around listening to them talk negatively about us to people, to laughing at us when we’re emotional, to getting upset with us for not doing/being who they want us to be, to simply having us sit around a bunch of adults all the time. I’d also like to mention that black people always bash absent fathers – when they choose to acknowledge their kids mental state – but no one wants to talk about the toxic mothers – single or not. Her being a single parent or being unhappy within herself doesn’t give her the right to destroy her children inside and out because of her internal issues. Many of our parents or guardians were raised by very toxic beings and it shows.

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I do believe that parents play a huge role in their child’s depression because as their child, you value what they say early on. When you’re upset, and they tell you to “suck it up” you feel like having emotions is a bad thing. When they’re upset and take their anger out on you, you start to feel like you can’t do anything right. When they belittle you, you start your process of exclusion and feel shame and resentment towards them. Instances like these are introductions because let’s be honest, if your own parents tear you down, why would you feel good about yourself? What your parents don’t realize is that not only do their hurtful actions and words stick with you, but this is where depression begins – for you. This is when you start to feel alone like you have no one, like nobody understands. They also don’t realize that they’ve created a broken person that someone else will be expected to fix – in a relationship. These are all facts that many parents, any color, aren’t ready to accept. And this is why so many of us become distant with our parents. Many of them don’t change and we’re always made out to be wrong for not wanting to deal with their negativity because they’re our parents. I’m here to let you know that IT IS OKAY TO EXCLUDE NEGATIVE PEOPLE FROM YOUR LIFE NO MATTER WHO THEY ARE BECAUSE YOU OWE IT TO YOURSELF.

oliviapopedrinking.gifMy depression started around middle school and it only got worse as I got older. I was always giving my all – loyalty, love, help – to people and they’d end up fake. I was bullied, left out, used, I was hurt a lot. I confided in my parents at the time because that’s all I knew. However, my parents couldn’t talk to their parents when they were younger, so they did what they felt was best. No, it didn’t help me then. I’ve always noticed that my parents lack emotion so they’ve always given the short, simple advice. But I couldn’t handle that because I was too sensitive, and I needed more. More being feeling as though they understood what I was going through which I didn’t feel. I feel like they’re so straightforward because they had to figure out life on their own. Nobody was there for them to help identify what they were feeling. I tried to deal with my depression the best I could, but I started taking medications for it this year. I didn’t want to tell my parents because I knew they wouldn’t understand. I was already seeing a therapist, but I stopped for a few months because I didn’t feel like she was helping. I didn’t want my parents or anyone else to judge me so after I told them I stopped all conversations about it. I can’t expect anyone to understand what they haven’t been through or chosen to identify and that includes my parents.

Being as though many don’t know what depression is – signs of depression – I’d like to tell you some things to lookout for. These are things I noticed in myself, others, and others noticed in me as well.

  • Excessive sleep (Lack of energy)
  • Frequent changes of mood
  • Avoiding people/things
  • Lack of appetite
  • Short temper
  • Negative outlook on everything

workinginmyselfThese are only a few signs I feel are easier to notice when you truly know a person. When it comes to coping with [my] depression I read, write, meditate, exercise, listen to nature sounds, and as bad as this may sound, I exclude myself from A LOT. Alongside taking my medications and therapy. People definitely take it personal, but I know me which is why I do this. I may want to have a girl’s night out, however, if I’m already feeling a way, I know I’ll ruin it with my mood. I’m firm on vibes and I don’t want to be that negative energy for anyone, but people can’t seem to understand that. Not to mention many thinks going out fixes everything. When it’s all over your reality slaps you back in the face fast. That’s why I laid off drinking so much because I’d feel good for however long and once those drinks wear off, that “good” feeling is gone. Or I overthink myself while drinking which ruins everything.

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I know everyone can’t identify depression which is why I hope this post helped you a little. Whether it’s for you or someone else. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel bad because you want them to know how they made you feel. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel bad for taking medications or seeing a therapist to help you. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel like what you feel isn’t real. There are so many depressed people on this earth who consider it sadness when it’s so much more than that. And this is why they can’t understand why you’ve identified your “sadness” as something bigger.

Contact me, find a support group, do breathing exercises, write positive notes to yourself, drink lots of water, go out for some fresh air. Do things that make you feel better and possibly less alone in your time. There is someone here for you, who understands what you’re going through even though you may not know it. You have to want to be better in order to get better. I know it isn’t easy, but it has to start somewhere. Acknowledgment is the first step so you’re already halfway there.

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