What is depression?
Major depression is a mood state that goes well beyond temporarily feeling sad or blue. It is a serious medical illness that affects one’s thoughts, feelings, behavior, mood and physical health. Depression is a life-long condition in which periods of wellness alternate with recurrences of illness. It involves some combination of the following symptoms: depressed mood (sadness), poor concentration, insomnia, fatigue, appetite disturbances, excessive guilt and thoughts of suicide.
According to The National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI), depression is a common and highly treatable disorder affecting over 17-20 million Americans annually. Second only to heart disease, depression is the top reason for suicide in the United States. Once identified, depression can almost always be successfully treated (more than 80% of people with depression can be successfully treated). Unfortunately, misdiagnosis and lack of knowledge about depression (unrecognized and overlooked) is common especially within the African American community. Many African American women do not seek treatment because it is viewed as a personal weakness, not a health problem. Another perception in the community and among people suffering from depression is that to acknowledge this suffering brings shame and hinders us from asking for the help we may desperately need. Only 12 percent of African American women seek help and/or treatment. This perception must be eliminated to help persons who live with depression and need support. The most recent edition of Essence magazine [March 2013] is detailing the stories of three women who are/have suffered from depression. The article lends support to the reader that depression is real and there is no shame in acknowledging that “your pain is real.”
Here are 3 sure fire ways to cognitively combat depression:
- Let go of the “superwoman” image: that I must be everything to everyone and do everything for everyone at the expense of my own well- being. Affirm daily: I am caring for myself because I am worthy and valuable. I love the me I was designed to be by my maker.
- Develop a support system. No man is an island. Learn to confide in others who you trust to support you during this very difficult time.
- Do not be afraid to seek professional help. “Tell the truth and shame the devil.” Let go of the old messages you grew up with that told you “what goes on in this house stays in this house.” Shatter those family secrets that are keeping you bound.
Often what we don’t understand, we rationalize and make excuses. Well, my dear sister, this way of managing sadness turns into overeating, anger, health problems such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromylgia, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, and host of other medical illnesses. If you are walking around as if in a daze or a fog, feeling “down” and you can’t pinpoint why, feeling isolated and withdrawn from family and friends, feeling burned out at work, lashing out more often, eating more than you used to, find yourself unattractive, or experience a loss of interest in the things you once enjoyed….you may be suffering from depression. It’s time to schedule an appointment with a professional who can help you sort out the sadness and who can recommend the most appropriate treatment to get you back on track and living your life to the fullest!