Hi Friends, Jem here! Welcome to Depression, Let’s Talk About It (Part Two). In part one of this series, I discussed receiving my diagnosis and the specific events that triggered my depression. If you have not already, read Depression, Let’s Talk About It (Part One) before reading this post. In this post, I will discuss my experience with medication, dealing with suicidal ideation, and provide a brief life update. I pray that this post reminds you that you are not alone, and I hope that it encourages you to seek the help that you need!
Starting Medication (Grab your note pads for this, saints!)
On Christmas day 2018, I went home to see my family for the first time since graduation in 2017. I helped to cook, ate, and then went to bed in my sister’s room while my family danced the night away. The next morning my mother came into the room and said: “Jemeia, you are not well. You are not yourself; you need to get on medication.”
Since my depression was severe, my therapist recommended antidepressants, but I was hesitant because I did not understand that clinical depression is a medical condition, and I was afraid of experiencing side-effects from taking antidepressants. My African mother was the LAST person on God’s green earth that I thought would encourage me to get on antidepressants because of the stigma surrounding depression in African and Black communities. But, my mom works in a psychiatric unit at the hospital. She treats patients with mental illnesses every day, and she never thought that her daughter would suffer from clinical depression.
I saw a Primary Care Provider, and he said something that stuck with me. He said this: “Sometimes we want to think that we are strong enough to fight this illness on our own, but the truth is that there is a neurological chemical imbalance causing your depression, and you need some help to balance those chemicals out. Medication is not a happy pill; it just helps balance the chemicals in your brain so that you can feel like yourself again.”
I started antidepressants on a relatively low dosage, but I had to increase my dosage when I began to experience suicidal ideation, and my stress levels increased. Now, I know what some of you are thinking- “Medication for depression!?!? Yikes.” But, hear me out. Antidepressants have been one of the most powerful factors in my healing process. I don’t know how, but after a month or so after increasing my dosage, I was able to think clearer, fall asleep easier, and I had more energy at work, to exercise, and be around people. More importantly, I realized that my ability to cope with hardship improved. Instead of waking up and dreading the day ahead, I woke up and felt an immense amount of gratitude for life and health. I would wake up, turn my morning routine playlist on, and prance around my apartment as I got ready for work. I even looked outside, the sun was shining, and the birds were chirping again. I was like, “Wow, Is this real life?”
Can I be honest with you? If it were not for Jesus and antidepressants, I honestly do not know how I would have coped with being unemployed this summer. I could have seriously hurt myself or, even worse, attempted suicide. But, praise God for His grace AND PRAISE HIM FOR ANTIDEPRESSANTS, WHICH HELPS YOU THINK CLEARLY AND MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS WELL.
The first step in being open to antidepressants is recognizing that clinical depression is an illness. It is not a feeling. It is not something that you choose over joy. IT.IS.AN.ILLNESS. Period. Take about five minutes and let that sink in. Let me know when you are done letting that marinate.
Are you done? Great, let’s move on. According to Princeton Brain, Spine & Sports Medicine, the brain is the most important human organ. It controls and coordinates our actions, reactions, allows us to think, feel, and have memories. These are the things that make us human. ** Sarcastic tone** Soooo if you have a Mental illness….that affects your brain…don’t you think it’s going to affect your ability to control your actions, emotions, and feelings? Open your third eye.
LOL, why am I so funny?
I really don’t understand why this is a complicated concept for people to grasp. Listen, if you would not think twice about seeking medical treatment for cancer, hypertension, diabetes, an infection, or a physical injury, keep that same energy with depression and at least consider medication as a viable option for clinical depression. There is NO shame in seeking medicine for depression, just as there is NO shame in undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer or taking antibiotics for an infection. It does not mean that you do not trust God. Antidepressants do not make you crazy. At the proper dosage for you, antidepressants are proven to be effective for treating clinical depression. I am living proof of that! We will discuss medication more in-depth in a later post, but I am done preaching for now.
Work got harder, and I began to study for the GRE again. Despite my efforts, I was still hurting and heartbroken. Although the therapist that diagnosed me was wonderful, I decided to try seeing a Christian counselor instead because I was so angry at God and thought that I needed to speak with someone who could integrate faith into our sessions. That did not work. I began to feed into the lie that I should take my life away. I felt like I was not competent enough for my job, not smart enough to take the GRE or get into grad school, and that I was not worthy enough of a guy choosing to love and commit to me. I felt alone, isolated, and weak.
Two distinct moments saved me:
- One night I broke down while studying for the GRE and started to entertain thoughts of suicide. As soon as the thought crossed my mind, my childhood friend texted three simple words, “I love you.” I called her crying, and without knowing details, she began to speak words of encouragement and truth.
- Another night, I was having my quiet time and broke down again. As soon as the thoughts of suicide crossed my mind, another friend texted me and said: “Jem, you are such a gem!” I told her that I was struggling with suicidal thoughts, and she told me that she felt an urge to text me just as she was about to study. She felt like if she did not text me at that very moment, she would not be at rest.
It was as if God said: “I love you; I am with you even though you feel forsaken. Maybe you will hear it from them if you won’t hear it from me. If you take your life away, you rob me of the chance to complete my good work in you.” Those words have stuck with me ever since.
He is Faithful
A year later, I have experienced tremendous healing, and I attribute my healing to God, therapy, and medication. Don’t get me wrong, depression is not of God, and it is spiritually-rooted. However, it manifests itself as an illness. Therefore, you need to employ a holistic approach to address depression. The notion that one can pray the spirit of depression away may be true for some people, but it has not been true for me. Even Paul talks about the thorn in his flesh:
2 Corinthians 12:8-10:
“Concerning this thing, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Sometimes, the very thing that we are so quick to cast away and rebuke is the same thing that God wants to use to show us His power, glory, and grace. People often say, ” God will not give us more than we can handle,” but that’s honestly not true. God will indeed allow you to experience more than you can handle because His power is made perfect in your weakness.
Battling depression is terrible, and I am sure that God could have taken it away instantly, but He did not. Instead, He met me in my despair. When I felt like I was drowning, He kept me afloat. He held my hand in the valley and carried me up the mountain when I did not have the strength to keep walking. He laid me down at the mountaintop and taught me to rest in Him, even when the storms came again.
Through dealing with depression, I received a revelation of God’s love that promises me that no illness can separate me from Him and that ALL things, not just SOME things, but ALL things work together for the good of those who love and obey Him (Romans 8). Depression and suicide do not have the final word because He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
Nobody. Like, not even a soul:
Me: Soooo, here is my life update!
I have a new and fantastic job with an excellent salary. I am thriving at work, exercising 4-5 times a week, training for a half-marathon, and I also found the courage to put myself out there again and experience the world of dating. However, dating in 2019 is tragic. A disease called niggagitus has become endemic. All my sisters need to stay prayed up for God to bring our soulmates ‘cause it is getting real ghetto out here! But, at least I’ve healed, and I am better able to deal with any form of disappointment. Anyway, I am thankful to Jesus because He makes beauty from ashes.
Thank you for joining today’s TEDTalk!
If you believe you may be struggling with depression or any mental illness, please reach out to someone and look into getting a therapist. Please utilize the resources that God prepared for us. They are life-changing! Visit Psychology Today or Therapy for Black Girls to find a therapist near you. If you are concerned that you may not be able to afford a therapist, don’t fret. A lot of the therapists on any for the sites, as mentioned earlier, charge based on your income. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
Stay tuned for part three of this series, where we will focus on understanding clinical depression. Until then, remember that you are loved, seen, heard and that your life matters. Please do not hesitate to reach me via my IG, @kjemeia, if you need support.