Depression Has Been Kicking My Ass for Over a Decade …

I don’t know about y’all but I was a timid kid. I was agreeable and I didn’t cause much trouble in school. I was labeled as a “good kid.” I got great remarks on my report card and praise from teachers. At home, I was either quiet or had spurts of talking too much. For as long as I can remember, maybe around age 7, I had spurts of sadness that lasted days or fits of irritability that lasted for days. Of course, growing up in my household, “there was no reason to be sad.” I was a child and children were supposed to have one emotion- happiness. I did my best to keep up with that, although I had my first thought of suicide when I was 8 years old. I thought about shoving a knife into my stomach- childish, I know but I didn’t tell anyone. I learned pretty quickly to not speak of those things; I learned to mask what I was feeling. I used to play with Barbie dolls, and oddly enough every time I played with them, I ended up mentioning something related to sadness or suicide. That was unintentional.

In school, I was labeled “weird” and “smart.” I was also accused of having an attitude problem because needless to say at times I was moody. Something was always wrong but I didn’t know what and I wasn’t sincerely being asked either. I just thought I was weird, like everyone said. As I grew into being a preteen and teen, my “weirdness” grew with me. In middle school, I was rather shy and hid myself. In high school, my 10th grade year in particular, I noticed something was way off. There were days when I felt extremely upset. I didn’t want to get out of bed and I just felt like I just couldn’t that day, whatever that was. I had teachers who were obnoxious, peers who were annoying, friends who I didn’t want to bogged down, and I’m sure there was some boy that was on my kind. My school work made me incredibly tense. I stressed everyday about something. I was asked, “how and why could someone your age could be stressed?” But by this time, I thought I as just going through teenage girl mood swings. I was pushing my “weirdness” and “sadness” to the back of my mind to pursue other things that made me feel happy for the moment. I graduated. I started college. The beginning of college was one of the hardest times in my life. I felt so miserable. I felt so drained before my classes even started. I was not enthused or anticipating this newfound journey. I watched as the girls bounced happily around the campus and there I was, watching them bounce around me. This was the second phase in my life when I started to randomly cry. The first time I ever cried randomly was when I was 6 years old.

Bouts of tears has become normal by the time I was in college and it was here that I became addicted to working. It was here that I realized something was off and it was here that I discovered therapy. After that moment, my spiral into therapy started but so did the spiral of my life. I learned after 2 therapists and 2.5 years that I was depressed. I have major depressive disorder and of course, it invited its friends: anxiety and a form of PTSD. I was surprised slightly. I had small glimpse of my life leading up to that moment, starting with childhood. That was in 2014-2015. Here I am now, on the brink of 25, still battling and still hoping. Hoping that when I have my highs, they last forever. A high is when I don’t have to nestle the sheets and cocoon myself in the morning. A high is making plans with my friends and following through with them. It’s making jokes, waking up on time, being somewhere in time. It’s going to the gym. It’s looking the mirror and smiling. It’s planning my outfits. It’s planning effective lessons- yes, I’m a teacher. It’s saying, “hey, my days wasn’t so bad after all.” It’s not feeling life the world and life is just happening around me. It’s a lot of things that don’t always happen.

So what does depression look like for me? It’s:

  • Forgetting
  • Being irritable
  • Not writing
  • Not reading anything
  • Wanting to stay in, all the time
  • Not doing my usual things
  • Extremely upset
  • Extremely sad
  • Waking up late
  • Waking up but not getting out of bed
  • Getting to work 15-20 minutes late
  • Feeling inadequate
  • Wanting to sleep all day
  • Crying
  • Not meal prepping
  • Not putting effort into my work or assignments
  • Not seeing my friends
  • Over eating
  • Not eating
  • Not talking
  • Crying after almost every conversation

Depression and the lows I have look like a lot for me. They can last for days, up to a week. Then comes the high. I envision myself as a scale. I’m trying to find balance but it’s very delicate. A lot of things throw off the balance. A lot of things are triggering.

I think about my battle with depression because a new decade is starting soon and I’m turning 25 next month. Depression has been kicking my ass for over a decade and I am tired. I don’t want to see myself as the confused, sad 7 year old I was. I want to move forward optimistically but also realistically. Living with depression is not easy. Living with anxiety or PTSD is not easy. It is not something that you can ignore- I did that all my life and it got worse. (I have stories about that. I’ll tell y’all that later. Whew). It’s not something that you can just “pray” away. (I am a Christian and understand the complexities of being a Black Christian. However, I am a realistic Christian.) It’s not something that you can smoke away- didn’t try that and I really don’t want to. You can’t drink it away- fell down that rabbit hole. And you can definitely not sex it away- no comment here.

So the question becomes, what’s am I going to go after being beat up for over a decade?

I have to remember to ground myself. But I also have to remember that in a way, I just started confronting these things. 2013 until now seems like a long time but it really isn’t when you’ve ignored the issues and the root causes for so many years.

Yes, depression and it’s friends have acted like lunch money bullies for most of my entire life. Yes, I have been stifled and made regretful but there are some lessons that came from this. So, I’ll be a work in progress for some time but that’s okay too. I’d like to apologize to my friends everyday, but I’m sure they would get tired of hearing , “I’m sorry for…”.

With a couple months left in the year and a birthday on the way, I am going to make strides try to alleviate stresses, triggers, and whatever else I can. I am going to work hard to focus on what make me happy and what makes me smile. It’ll be hard work but not as hard as living with depression for about 18 years.

The Jig is Up, Santa!

I believed in Santa Claus until around age 9 or 10. I had gathered enough evidence over the previous two Christmases to prove that the old Saint Nick was indeed not the one delivering my many, wonderful gifts. The first time I ever questioned the magic of Santa, I curiously asked my father how it was possible for Mr. Claus to get in the house and leave gifts under our tree if we didn’t have a chimney. We lived in a row house in the middle of the city, so the story just didn’t add up. He quickly explained that Santa had a magic key that could get into any house in the world, including those without chimneys. That time I was satisfied with the answer, and my joy and belief in Christmas remained intact.  I happily went on to leave Santa some saltine crackers and milk, as we were out of cookies that year.

It was not until I realized that Santa’s handwriting on my gifts was eerily similar to my mother’s that I grew suspicious. I knew that no one else in a 25-mile radius signed anything in a French Cadel style. When I asked my mother if she was the one labeling the gifts, she simply said “No, I didn’t.” From that point on, I was looking to disprove Santa’s existence and let my parents know I knew they were lying. Putting the clues together was almost more fun that actually believing. Another year, I noticed that my father (I know it was him) left the Walmart labels on my Bowwow CDs. I asked him why the CD’s said “Walmart” if they were from Santa. He told me that in recent years, Santa had outsourced from the North Pole to Walmart because kids were asking for too many toys or something. I was not at all convinced, but I needed concrete evidence to prove my case.

The year after that, I just found one of my sister’s gifts behind the couch. They didn’t even try that time. I went to my parents and let them know the jig was up, and they told me the truth. There was no Santa, no Mrs. Claus, no Rudolph, no magic elves, and while reindeer may have been real, they definitely did not fly. I remember being very satisfied with my little detective skills, and promised not to tell my younger sister about the fake Santa until she was old enough. That was the end of the innocent, childish joy of Christmas for me, but it was fun while it lasted.

I will forever appreciate my parents for their selflessness in letting their children believe. I understand that many parents hate the idea of “working all year and letting some strange white man take all the credit,” but your kids simply do not care about your financial struggles. Also, if it means that much to you, you can show them the many images of Black Santa. No 6-year-old cares a bit about how much you paid for their bike or dollhouse as long as they got it. They just want to have fun and be happy. Trying to force them to appreciate your hard work will not make them appreciate your hard work.  It does children a disservice to deny them a part of their childhood for selfish reasons. It is not your child’s fault that you will be in a tight spot until February because you wanted to give them a nice Christmas. I understand not wanting to celebrate the holiday altogether for religious or spiritual reasons, but if you do, let the kids be.

If anything, believing in Santa teaches children a crucial lesson: that they will be held accountable for their actions by entities outside of their loving parents. They learn that they can be rewarded for being polite and responsible, and miss out for being nasty and reckless. They will be judged by something that they cannot manipulate as easily as they do their parents and family members.

Regardless of what you do or don’t believe in, have a safe and happy holiday season with your friends and family. Stay safe, stay warm, and don’t leave your presents in the back seat of your car. How did you learn about Santa growing up?