Real life is stranger than fiction. Olivia Pope seems to have the answers to it all. Just when you think she is down and out she rises again to face another day without so much as a smudge on her white trench coat. But in Washington, D.C. yesterday Miriam Carey was shot several times by police and she will never see another day. Reports that she suffered from post-partum depression, which in many circles, especially corporate ones and especially non-white, working class ones, post-partum depression is not even considered a “real” illness. Even today, we hear or say, “Oh she just had a baby. So she’s out of it, she’ll get it together in a few months.” or worse, “Girl, snap out of it, you’re a mother now. You need to hold it together for your child!” Depression is not readily discussed in spaces that I dwell. Sometimes I hear it whispered. Sometimes, but even then I am sworn to secrecy because no one can ever know about the anti-depressants, the therapy sessions, the tears, the thoughts of ending it all. So today when I hear that they found Miriam’s meds to treat schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, I am not surprised. Her boss says she was happy all the time, but her mom and boyfriend talk about her being hospitalized a few months after her daughter was born due to “sadness.” Not all of us are gladiators and certainly none of us are everyday. For those of us without a Huck, secret pass codes and a father to fly us off to the Maldives, what do we do to keep from ramming up against the barricades of life? And for those of us who are wearing our white hats, how can we help our friends, significant others, business comrades and siblings who are struggling with depression and delusion?
Personally I’m not interested in debating why the Secret Service didn’t shoot her tires out and whether she would’ve been shot at all if she had not been Black. I’m interested in talking about how a young woman gets to the point of recklessly ramming the White House barricades after driving for over three hours from her home state of Connecticut with her 1-year old in the back seat for the entire ride and pursuit? Where was her support system in her time of need? How can we help someone who is mentally ill? I don’t have all the answers.
Real depression isn’t being sad when something in your life goes wrong. Real depression is being sad when everything in your life is going right. -Kevin Breel
I do have a friend who is schizophrenic and often times can be delusional. It is very hard to help someone who on occasion thinks you are spying on them or trying to sabotage them. Because of her illness she is often homeless and off the grid. So very often I feel it’s my responsibility to try and help her, which as of late has been impossible, but yet I try. About two years ago she wanted to stay with me, but and it was the hardest thing for me to do, I had to tell her no. As my mother quickly responded when I asked for her thoughts, “Nicole you could wake up in the middle of the night with a blade to your throat because she thinks you’re a spy.” So I told my friend that I would instead take her to a rehab center and she of course refused. Vehemently so. I was out of solutions. I’m not ashamed of her. I don’t make excuses for her. Sometimes I just can’t reach her. I couldn’t reach my cousin who was only one year younger than me when he committed suicide his junior year at MIT. That incident, til this very day, tears me all up with frustration sadness and shock. When I heard certain family members and the press say that he had an accident and fell from the law building it angered me because some folks didn’t feel it was appropriate to share that he jumped. There was shame, backlash, silly pride. Even as I write this now my heart is pounding, anxious from what may result in me speaking about it here. But I’m trying to break through. I can’t help my girlfriend if I’m too afraid to talk about my cousin’s depression and subsequent suicide. I can’t talk about Miriam Carey and finding ways in which to address postpartum depression, if I’m too scared to talk about the writer, who inspired so much of how I do what I do, and why she took her life last summer. And so I wonder are we doing the best we can for young women and men who suffer from mental illness when we keep their and our own experiences so hush-hush? How can we be gladiators and make a difference in their lives because I’m tired and find no use for this blanket of shame. Too many people are dying. Let’s talk about it. Let’s handle it!
- For starters, check out this great book by Terrie Williams, Black Pain, where she courageously gets the conversation started on Black folk and depression by talking about her own pain.
- Also this article, “How Can I Help a Friend Who Seems Depressed?” is a great read!
- And lastly, another heartbreaking story of depression and sucicide that no one is talking about: Bonita Spence– a 27 year vet in the sports world who made history as a referee and before that as a point guard.