My Story: “Depression Is Not A Battle To Be Fought Alone”

Ruthie HawkinsI am a strong Black woman and I suffer from depression. I recall at a very young age feeling like something was “off.” While in early years, I attributed my emotional roller coaster to abandonment issues associated with adoptive children. It wasn’t until my senior year in high school that things took a toll for the worst. I began the year off on a real high. I had just made the varsity basketball team, met a few college coaches that were willing to come see me play – the world was filled to the brim with opportunity.

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But then it all came crashing down. I was soon after cut off the basketball team due to an error made by my school counselor. Despite a petition letter to the school board, a pathetic personal plea and my parents going to bat for me, the outlook was gloomy. Here I was, coming up on my 18th birthday and everything I had dreamt about since middle school had been ripped away from me. Before I knew it, I had cut myself off from everyone, even my teammates. School took a back seat. I even dropped out months before my graduation. Oddly enough, I felt as if I had no control over my downward spiral.

Family stepped in to the best of their ability but I turned on them. Friends extended a hand and while I wanted to take hold of it, there was a piece of me that was just so overcome by sadness and a loss of interest that I had no reaction at all. Once a bubbly girl full of life, I slowly transitioned into a broken little girl. All the while I thought, ‘this is just a stage… I’ll grow out of it.’ Needless to say, due to a lack of education regarding depression, personality disorders, and my birth mother’s medical history, things began to intensify.

Depression: Family Ties

During the summer of 2003, with the help of my parents, I reached out to my birth mother. In fact, I moved to Chicago to build a relationship with her, as I thought she had all the answers. ‘A location change is all I need to get me out of my funk,’ I thought.

READ: The Strong Black Woman: The New Face of Depression

But I was wrong.

Upon meeting my birth mother, it was like looking in a mirror. Things started off great, but like the year preceding, the London Bridge came tumbling down, without a warning. My birth mother began exhibiting irrational behavior and using. It was then that I learned that my mother suffered from manic depression, a personality disorder that stems from a combination of genetic and non-genetic factors.

It was like a LIGHTBULB. I saw ME, only 25 years later and I didn’t like it. I imagined what life may have been like under her roof, everything I had taken for granted growing up, but more importantly I saw that without help, my future may not look any different. Like my mother, I suffered with spats of rollercoaster emotion with periods of normal mood and energy in between, thoughts of suicide and attempted suicide. Only, I chose to seek out help. While I was not diagnosed with manic depression, in 2005, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, an identification that has since been reduced to seasonal depression.

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Journey Into Healing

Needless to say, it has been a bumpy road. While I admit that every day is a battle – as I feel I must wear the face of a “strong Black woman” to make it through, there are many things that have aided me over the years. From finding faith to counseling to exercise, here is list of ways I manage depression.