When Happiness and Sadness Collide
Some people come into your life for a season and there are those who become a permanent mainstay. I found this person in my dear friend, sorority sister, fellow mom, and travel buddy Katrina. It’s a rare find to meet some who is so in sync with you in career aspirations, family values, and food selections. In 2013, my maternity leave started as hers concluded. As a friend, I knew something was bothering Katrina. She didn't seem like herself. I heard her stories, and thought, "She's one of the strongest people I know. She'll be fine." One morning, I waited for our normal phone call, and it didn't come. It bothered me but I thought maybe she had an early meeting, maybe one of her children were sick, or perhaps she was just running late. When the call did come, and I heard her words, the tears fell from my eyes. Below, please find the story of how anyone can battle depression from my friend Katrina.
Through the lens of the camera you see a happy mom, but what the camera fails to reveal is the pain and sadness behind the scenes. The year 2013 brought bursts of happiness combined with waves of depression. At the time, I was going through a tough pregnancy with continuous vomiting from morning to night. My doctor considered this a “normal” pregnancy, so he wouldn’t take me out of work but recommended a reduced work schedule. In February, I lost my uncle to cancer after a 4-week diagnosis. Shortly, after burying my uncle, I learned the doctors found two non-cancerous nodules on my vocal cords due partly to the volatile vomiting. I was forced to go on voice rest, I still had to work, I was raising a four-year son, I was six months pregnant, and My husband and I were in the process of building a new home.
My second son was born in June of 2013, and for a brief time, all was well with the world. With the obstacle of pregnancy out of the way I mentally prepared myself for nurturing a newborn, vocal surgery, moving into the new house, getting my current home ready for the incoming renters, and returning to a full-time work schedule. I’m a natural planner, so I outlined my plans and fully believed I could do everything that needed to be done.
In July, I underwent a successful surgery. In August, we made small repairs to our existing home. Also, we closed and moved into our new home the weekend before I was to return to work from my maternity leave. Two days after returning to work, I received a call that the house I just rented out was on fire. A shortage in a floodlight on the patio destroyed my old home and displaced our renters. We would spend the next three months dealing with investigations and insurance claims.
By November, I found myself not being able to function or take care of my usual responsibilities. Things I once loved no longer fulfilled me. Why did I feel so empty when my life was so full? I had the new home that I had dreamed of, two beautiful and healthy children, a stable career and a supportive and loving husband. I cried for two months and struggled daily to force myself out of bed. At the suggestion of my husband, I visited a therapist in January. I was diagnosed with Postpartum Psychosis (PPD). Symptoms of PPD include paranoia and suspiciousness, feeling very irritated, hallucinations, delusions, difficulty communicating and thoughts of suicide. I was told to take a leave of absence from work to deal with treatment.
Only weak people get "depressed," and my life is virtually perfect right now, so that's not me.
I took their advice and put in my leave although I really didn’t feel like this was what I was going through. The crying didn’t immediately cease through my treatments. I started seeing my therapist regularly, exercising, taking prescribed medications, and attending church during the week to clear my mind. Nothing was helping, I was becoming a burden to my family. I went from feeling so strong to so useless. I didn’t want to be left alone with our children, I no longer trusted myself.
The time had come. I cried the entire way to drop off my children at daycare because this was goodbye. I couldn’t bear to live another day like this. I wrote a note addressing my parents, my sister, my husband and my children. I told them how this wasn’t their fault and how I would be at peace since I couldn’t control the pain and thoughts that I was having. I went into the garage and turned on the car, closed the garage door and played “I Can Only Imagine” by Tamala Mann. The next thing I remember is my husband opening the garage door and coming in. Concerned from an earlier phone call, he rushed home to check on me. I will forever be grateful that my family saw these signs and didn’t take them for granted.
That night I went to a facility that helps to deal with depression and other mental illnesses. The next 10 months would be the hardest times of my life, weekly therapy sessions, doctor’s appointments, medications that didn't work, daily workouts, lots of prayers, reading the Bible, and being surrounded by all things positive. I'm a survivor because of the love and support that I received from my family, friends, my church, and God. I feel today that God himself stretched his hand down to me and held me close. The voices that once told me I was worthless were now saying you are fearfully and wonderfully made, you are blessed, I love you, your family loves you, they need you, your children need you, your husband needs you. I share this story because I personally know people that have not been able to conquer this disease called depression. I too was an unbeliever. I thought that if you suffered from depression, then you must be weak, need to go church, or just pray harder. Prayer combined with a village of people (therapist, doctors, church members, family, friends) helped me.
SHAME is one of the biggest reasons that people don’t seek help. In the African American community, we shame those who are depressed, tell them stories about how we handle our issues, and look down on those who consider talking to a therapist. We must put an end to this cycle.
Five years later, I’ve changed careers and received my M.B.A. I live each day as its own. I try not to overdo it or to take on too much. I cherish every moment with my family. Life is not perfect, things happen that we can’t control but we must live each day one second, one minute, one hour at a time giving only what we can give and no more. I learned so much during my struggle about myself and about the people who are genuinely my support line. It brought me much closer to my loved ones and God and I hope that my story encourages someone and saves a life.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call 1-800-273-8255