“You don’t look depressed to me.”
I’ve heard this one, two, about five times too many times in my life. What does depression look like to you “regular” people? Well, let me clue you in; there is no specific look for depression. It even looks like me; a young Black woman in her twenties, who is seemingly happy, posts happy pictures and is walking proof of Black Girl joy… for the most part. Many on the outside don’t understand that for many of us, we’ve learned to function because the world doesn’t stop or even pause because we are struggling. That, I know all too well.
Having suffered from Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD for years, I was finally diagnosed as an adult who was coming to terms of being a Sexual Assault Survivor. For years I had covered up my Depression by sneakily acting out, lots of personal attacks on myself mentally and my personal favorite, making myself too busy to be depressed. Anyone reading this who knows me well may notice this pattern in my life.
Since I was in middle school, being busy “helped” me get past my depression. I’ve always vied to be President or some title role in my school extracurricular activities and throughout Elementary, Middle, High School and College, I seemed to always get my wish. I wanted to plan everything, preside over everything, handmade it all if I could and then I would have zero time to focus on my emotions; splendid. Well, once or twice (x10) that hadn’t worked for me. Years ago I wasn’t as vocal or open with my frustrations or happiness as I am now and bottling it up truly caused issues.
Because I wasn’t expressing those emotions, staying too busy to address them and refusing to find healthy alternatives, I found myself “crashing” more than once. My last major “crash” was in 2014 and from then on, I knew I had to find something healthy that would ALWAYS allow me to not escape, but relax, retreat and reflect. Now, I didn’t find that in 2014, but I did begin to search for it.
In my search, I found that treating myself was always nice (I know, that’s a no-brainer right?) but slowly I began to see what treats were truly worthwhile and what happiness lingered. Material possessions have never brought me much joy although everyone loves shopping right? I found that great food, great wine, great skincare and a great day at the spa seem to take me to that happy place without regret… but what more?
In 2017, 3 years after that last major crash, I found my happy place.
When I joined my SISTUHS in Jacmel, Haiti in December of 2017, I didn’t know how pivotal the trip would be to me. Preparing for this trip, I was so delayed and late af in everything I did. I don’t think I realized at the time that it was my first real trip as an adult. The Spring Break vacays didn’t count, as a broke college student, I wasn’t doing much traveling. And as a broke, depressed college student, the idea of traveling never, EVER crossed my mind. My mindset was, I can barely convince myself to survive and strive in my everyday life, what makes me think I can do so in another state/country/continent? I initially missed the entire purpose of traveling but luckily, I was so open and willing at this particular point in my life, I was ready to absorb all that Haiti had to offer and I’m so grateful that I did.
There were so many things about Haiti that I could go on and on about as it was one of my most beautiful destinations so far, and will probably remain at the top of that list. But it was the feeling that came over me as I sat on my hotel room balcony with my Best Friend and big SISTUH, Katia. I had never in my life seen such a beautiful sight. As we looked upon the Jacmel Bay, I asked Katia, “Can you believe that God made ALL of this?”
At that moment, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more at peace, as I simply said a silent prayer under my breath.
As a daydreamer, I had only fantasized of beautiful, glistening, flowing water that met my eyes in Jacmel. I had never seen a waterfall like Basin Bleu that allowed me to wade about its cool waters. Never seen the wild pigs that strolled about the deep clay that bordered the rivers that we trekked through on our adventures. To see these things… I found myself with fewer questions, more appreciation… and I haven’t looked back yet.
For so many, traveling is just an everyday thing. There’s no frills, no anticipation or child-like giddiness. For me, every new trip is an adventure I’ve been dreaming of while seemingly trapped in my own mind. The things my depression whispers that I could never do, I take on with zest & passion that I reserve for only my special treats. I push the envelope a little further than my parents may prefer, I hesitate ever saying no to any new adventure. I embrace the NOW that I’m living in because, at one point, I didn’t know if I’d be here.
So cheers to the wonderful treats that make you happy, that make you smile, that make you seemingly feel like you’re in a daydream although everything around you is oh so real. 🙂
If you are someone you know are suffering from depression, please take care of your mental health by seeing a mental health specialist.
You Matter. We Matter.