Susan L. Taylor: “I Was Dying On The Inside”
Susan L. Taylor, the beautiful, flawless face of Essence Magazine for 25 years was synonymous with beauty, intelligence, grace and even as some may describe now, “black girl magic” before the term was ever thought of. Susan was the editorial director of Essence for six years, and before that was editor-in-chief for 19 years. In her monthly column, “In the Spirit,” she used the platform to speak to millions of black women on a personal level. And her message to all was simple: “Love yourself.”
But little did the general public know that the now 72-year-old Taylor’s journey success and self-love, was filled with her own personal struggle: a deep-rooted depression that crippled her as a child and continued into adulthood, even while being the face of Essence.
“I began spiraling downward, downward, downward and further and further into a depression that I couldn’t pull myself out of,” says the former executive.
“I felt like everything coming out of my mouth was incorrect. I’m out there speaking in front of thousands of people with a smile pasted on my face but dying on the inside.”
Depression affects between 17-20 million Americans a year. Data from a study published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that women (4 percent vs. 2.7 percent of men) and African-Americans (4 percent) are significantly more likely to report major depression than whites (3.1 percent).
But the CDC also finds that just 7.6 percent of African-Americans sought treatment for depression compared to 13.6 percent of the general population in 2011. Fear, embarrassment and the stigma in the Black community against counseling (outside of the church, that is) keep many of us who actually need professional services from seeking them.
Writer and former colleague of Taylor’s, Linda Villanova sums it up best: “Success can come with a price. We’re the first to arrive and the last to leave as we grind through 10-hour work days. We’re the ones everybody relies on—first at work, then after hours during the second shift of home and family time. We work ourselves almost literally ‘to death’ especially now during this economic storm. Or for some of us, we ‘feel’ like we have to continue to be the ‘superwoman.’”
“My sadness and depression came out of giving myself to my career before I would give myself to myself,” says Taylor. “Everything for Essence; nothing for me.”
How many mothers, caregivers, guardians…