Like many members of my family, I struggle with depression. In my family, both of my biological kids, at least one niece, and two sisters have struggled with it. One sister (that I know of) has been medicated in order to recover some degree of normalcy.
My sister takes medication for depression. One of the side effects of her medication is that she giggles at everything she says. Every-frickin’-thing. On a kid that might be attractive. On an elderly person it might seems as if she’s jolly (to outsiders). On my sister, it’s annoying as hell. However, over the years, I’ve become so used to it, I don’t really hear it as much.
Depression isn’t fun. Not that anyone would think it was, but it’s a b*tch to deal with. Onlookers think that all one has to do is to “snap out of it”, but that’s not possible. Ours is hereditary; a chemical imbalance that wasn’t satisfied to stop with the first ancestor, so it carries on down the line.
When life gets really tough, like many people, I fight to keep from just shutting down. Because my mind races faster than I can blink, I quiet the thoughts with television, or reading, or mindless games. Sometimes, however, my thoughts can override anything I’m doing to control them so then I pace. When we had more space, I paced around the house so much I used a pedometer to keep track. I found out that I could put quite a dent in an exercise routine without leaving the house (in Memphis).
When my thoughts trigger my depression and I begin to feel like crying, I do something to distract myself. That distraction keeps me from going into hysterics.
Depression is (r can be) debilitating. It can totally control anything you plan to do and bring you to a standstill. It pisses me off. I fight to control it because I don’t like being controlled by anything. Any. Thing. Period. That’s probably why I never thought about dabbling in drugs. Drugs control people. I don’t like being controlled. Case closed/solved.
Sometimes minor things can bring it on, but it’s mostly major events. An example would be when I was in grad school. Let me preface this by saying I absolutely LOVED school. I can literally get lost in researching a subject and can write a paper in mere hours.
At the beginning of my second attempt at grad school (and after I had one master’s degree), I sailed through my courses with little effort to pass. I had a full time job, a husband and six kids still at home. I juggled practices, plays, rehearsals, and PTAs like everybody else did, but I did it dressed in African attire, and looking good.
Then, I had two asshole instructors; a Black man (the head of his department) and a Japanese woman (he was her boss). I’ve been toted as a good writer since elementary school. I’ve taught English, grammar, vocabulary, keyboarding, communications, 10-key calculator, computer literacy, math, and psychology at the college level. Add to that, every single faculty I had, even all, ALL, my bosses, gave me glowing feedback until…I took classes from these two.
This Napoleonic man who ALWAYS targeted one student ever year, in an evaluation meeting, told me that even though I thought I could write, I wasn’t good at it. He also said that I was moving too fast and he wanted me to slow down. He did this every chance he got over a period of about two years. Just like that. It wiped my slate clean. It was debilitating, defeating because I am, and always have been, a people pleaser. I worked hard to do things the way he wanted, but always failed.
What he said overrode every single atta’girl I ever received about my writing. I mean, I wrote letters for my boss to the Chancellor of the school. No, top that, I wrote letter for my boss later on, who WAS the Chancellor. And all that disappeared behind the nastiness in the shame of a tiny black (small case b) man and his crony, a Japanese (second generation) woman, who was fighting for tenure and a permanent position, which he controlled.
The Japanese woman helped support his analysis by returning every paper I wrote in her class with grammar corrections that rivaled nothing I’d ever gotten. When I, feeling overwhelmed, just gave in and changed everything to what she wanted, she would correct it again and return it with virtually everything worded the way it was in my original paper. This was the most defeating thing I had to deal with.
That period of time was the absolute worst time in my life. My depression was so great the sound was deafening. I WANTED to be hospitalized, just so I could get some rest. I was bullied and harassed like nothing I had ever witnessed. When I got an attorney, the Vice Chancellor suggested I not use one so that we could settle the matter internally. Never happened. The school administrators (where I worked, too) seemed to be afraid of that minuscule as swipe, but I could never find out what was behind it. That was the reason I didn’t complete my doctorate.
Then, I transferred to another school and I, once again, was sailing through my courses. Then, one of my faculty sent me a note saying I was doing great, but suggested I slow down and enjoy the journey. That, albeit innocent statement, was received by me like a knockout punch. It took me a while to connect why it devastated me so, but I literally stopped my dissertation process fearing an unseen danger.
I have been ABD for a few years now. And in that time I have realized it doesn’t take much from faculty to make me fear progress. When I returned back to school last year with a suggestion of my topic, Black hair, one person’s feedback was that my direction wasn’t the way she wanted me to go. It stopped me. Again. Dead in my tracks. Instant depression. That’s a shame for someone my age not to have more control over someone’s feedback. She didn’t say it in a mean way and I’m sure she doesn’t even know the impact her words had on me.
But, maybe, 2014 will be my year and I will gather enough courage and mental armor and charge ahead. Beat depression. And get my PsyD.