Depression and the Strong Black Woman

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akusua_akotoIn my family, we were taught that emotions were messy and dirty and unnecessary. After all, if you were a “strong black woman,” you could handle anything, including a mother with paranoid schizophrenia.

On a Saturday night sometime around midnight, my life rearranged itself when my mother tried to kill herself with an overdose of medication.  She was also intending to take me out. I escaped by running into a spare bedroom and locking the door. I remember her being taken to a psychiatric hospital and came to find out was that mental illness was the dirty piece of laundry that no one wanted to touch. I ended up going to school the following day, again, showing no emotion.  This is how my depression started.

I grew up with forced silence and shame about my life and my mother’s. Around middle school I was bullied, and began to have a suicidal ideation. Because I had come so close to death, and suffered immensely with life, I felt a profound, though sad kinship with those who had escaped to another side.

I no longer speak to my family; I have decided that if I am going to go from fragmented to being whole, I need to accept their unwillingness to understand my truth. I have gone from the silent and invisible little lamb to being an advocate for my illness.  My vulnerability and naked honesty about my life is my strength.

--Akusua Akoto

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