This is the face of depression.
Pretty hard to believe, right? Not really. People expect depression to look a certain way, to sound a certain way. And it doesn't. It's taken me a LONG time to write this. I have known it was necessary but I have been hesitant. Because I did not know where to begin. And I was afraid of the stigma.
When Sonia aka Bohemian Babushka told me about her experience with her daughter's diagnosis of stressed related severe depression and she wanted to bring awareness to the subject, especially in the Latino community, I felt compelled to finally open up.
Some days I wonder if this was post partum depression. With everything going on and everything I learned, I realized that PPD doesn't just hit you at the way that everyone expects. I was so busy right after the girl was born. Doctor's appointments with mami, chemotherapy trips, high stress with my relationship oh and the whole new baby thing.
It wasn't until after mami was gone and some months had passed that I started seeing the signs. The extreme exhaustion, the silent despair. I always knew I had to keep it together and for the most part, I did. I never wanted to harm my baby and I never wanted to harm myself. I was in a state of numbness and feeling despondent. I would function during the hours where I had to for the sake of my child and then the darkness would cover me. No amount of praying helped.
I was afraid people would think I couldn't care for my child. That I would be judged. I sought help and my doctor, having known me for over 10 years and having had the discussion with me about this already (because I think she recognized it before I did), created a treatment plan. I did it in the shadows. I got off of my Celexa in the shadows as well. Until 8 months later, when I realized it wasn't done yet so back I went until I felt I had it under control and got confirmation of that.
I tell you today because I know it's important for everyone to get help. Important for us to speak on the subject. But it is also important for those around the people experiencing depression to get educated. Hearing someone that is supposed to love you unconditionally ask "are you taking your meds?" six months after you've weaned off, when you're stressed out about paying the bills and the to do list you have to get through, breaks the spirit. That's the only way I can describe it. And I questioned my opening up then. Just as I am questioning my opening up here because I'm not giving you the entire story. But I hope it's enough.
Enough to inspire you to get help. Enough to motivate you to read up on your loved one's illness. Enough to stop the stigma.
This is Mental Illness Awareness Week. I implore you to get help if you need it or help someone get help if they do. Don't judge. Listen. Educate yourself and others. The way this disease wins is by keeping us silent. I will be silent no more.
Because not only is this the face of depression but it is also the face of one who has overcome it.
According to NAMI's Latino Community Mental Health Fact Sheet: "Women and Latinos are more likely to experience a major depressive episode. Latinos have been identified as a high risk group for depression, anxiety and substance abuse." Ironically, in many cases the substance abuse is caused by not seeking psychiatric help and trying to self-medicate. Also stated in the fact sheet, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Youth Risk Survey found a 10.7 percent attempted suicide rate among Latino youth, compared with a 7.3 percent rate among African-American youth and a 6.3 percent rate for White, non-Latino youth.
Because of the stigma associated with mental illness, most Latinos don't ask for help, and wouldn't know where to go for help once the need is obvious. Education regarding health, local resources and acceptance of treatment -- all are pivotal in the fight to help prevent future suicides among Latinos afflicted with mental illness.
Sonia Guerra is also organizing a national series of events every July, starting in 2014, to highlight National Minority Mental Illness Awareness Month.