I remember sitting in my small and dark room that I shared with my younger sister listening to The Smiths’ hit-song, “Asleep.” It had been playing on repeat for so long I had lost count of how many times I had heard the smooth voice of frontman, Morrissey sing the lyrics, “Sing me to sleep/Sing me to sleep/I don’t want to wake up/On my own anymore.”
I couldn’t understand why I was in such a rut. Nothing sparked it, one moment I was chatting with my parents in the living room and the next I was swiftly excusing myself to go to my room tears welling up in my eyes as I quietly shut the door behind me.
I was 17 years old at the time.
Fast forward to my second-semester at my community college and I could feel the same sense of dread wash over me. I was managing editor at my campus’ newspaper and between classes, work and the paper I could feel the pressure bubbling underneath my skin like a dormant volcano.
I sat at my computer staring at whatever assignment I was editing when my vision began to close in on me as if the rolling end-credits to my life were about to begin to start.
My heart began to pound and I could feel my hands getting clammier by the second. I looked slyly to my left and right noticing everyone calmly carrying on with their work.
How could they be so relaxed at a time like this? I felt like I was going to die.
I stood up from my chair, trying to walk as quickly as my legs could bear, without a clear purpose.
Stepping outside, I inhaled hurried gulps of air as if they would be my last. I took out my phone and looked up symptoms similar to what I had experienced and the words “anxiety attack” glared back at me.
I knew that my mental health was in danger from my initial stints as a teen, but a combination of fear and the stigmatization of mental illness in the Black community held me back from opening up.
After my anxiety attack, I slowly began to feel myself spiral. I wouldn’t answer texts, I would stay locked away in my room and I began slacking off in my classes. I knew what depression was but I refused to consider that it was what I was experiencing. It soon became hard to maintain a happy-persona in my everyday life and my friend convinced me to schedule a counseling appointment with my campus psychologist.
While it was nerve wracking at first, as cheesy as it sounds it felt as though a weight was lifted off of me — maybe even a whole bus.
This small step toward opening up allowed me to talk to my parents and suddenly, whatever preconceived expectations that I had in my head of what their reaction would be, melted away.
Slowly but surely I learned to face my feelings head on in the form of journaling and having more sessions with my therapist.
With a ton of reflection (and heavy, tearfilled talks with my counselor) I realized that depression was nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of.
While I still have episodes of sadness I now know how to better manage it without repeating history.