“Black people don't go to a psychologist."
That is what I told myself at sixteen when I had thoughts of wanting to sit in my room all day and create master plans disappearing from society.
Six years later, those same words landed me an open spot in the Psychiatric Emergency Services section of Grady Hospital for twenty-four hours, and nobody knew of my whereabouts, but me.
I am in the midst of telling my story, but before I continue, I am going to introduce myself.
My name is Kandice Hill. I am a native of Miami and recent graduate of Florida A&M University. I love matte lipstick, Jermaine Lamarr Cole, boyfriend jeans, giant Polar Pops at Circle K, binge-watching episodes of Power, and just about every thing else that a young woman in her early twenties loves. But there is something slightly different about me that very few people notice from the outside: I suffer from Depression and Anxiety Disorder.
Unlike most people, I did not enjoy my time in grade school. I would go to school, complete my homework, and go to sleep. I was naturally an introvert, and I had no reason to be because I had a loving family and supportive clique of friends and a decent boyfriend.
My mother grew concerned of my excessive sleeping and she set up an appointment for me to see a psychiatrist. There, I found out that I suffered from depression and that it was genetic (my father and paternal grandmother suffered from it too). At the time, I thought that being depressed meant that I was crazy. I thought it was a White thing. I thought I could just go to church and pray about it and it would go away. Naturally and irresponsibly, I decided not to treat my depression. My mother ordered me a prescription of anti-depressants and I would lie about taking them. I went on with my life as if I was never told I had a life changing condition.
I graduated from high school and completed college in expected time. I was just fine. I never experienced a mental episode or anything. I even graduated with honors! But one day while doing an icebreaker during training for my first job, years of not treating my condition finally caught up with me. Out of nowhere, my heart starting beating really fast. I was in a panic, but I did not know why. I was in a new big city teaching high school English to children that I loved dearly. I had new friends. I had an Atlanta boo. I had to ask myself, what is the problem? Why is your heart beating?
I drove myself to the nearest hospital because I was concerned. As I arrived, I was sent to a nurse who had asked me of series of health-related questions. In a matter of minutes, I began to cry. Suddenly, I started hyperventilating and I passed out.
An hour later, I woke up in a bed. I had no idea why I was there. I was a twenty-one year-old recent graduate confined to a room with older people who were yelling and screaming and talking about how they had plans of killing themselves. Later, a nurse came up to me and asked me why I was there. She said I was young, and that I looked out of placed. At that moment I knew I had to make a change in my life. It was clear to me that I did not belong there and if I did not treat my condition, I would be coming back.
I requested that I speak with a licensed social worker that could refer me to psychiatrist to receive medication for my depression. The social worker advised that I return to my hometown and seek treatment there.
I was crushed. I had a job right out of college and that was taken away from me because of my own personal misconceptions about suffering from depression. I went back home as advised, and I spent a month using intense therapy and finding myself.
When I was younger my grandmother would always tell me, “In life you either gonna pay on the front end or you gonna pay on the back end. Just know you gonna always have to pay. So pick one or life will pick it for you."
I was indeed paying on the back end. For a month I had to put my entire life on pause. I had to remove myself from social media, which was contributing to my depression, and really take responsibility for my mental health. During the day, I took my medicine, sat on my front porch, and occasionally volunteered at the neighborhood food bank. Sometimes felt like a failure because deep down I knew my classmates were somewhere posting pictures of their news jobs and children and spouses on the Internet. But at the end of the night, I filled myself up with aspirations to assure me that I was doing the right thing.
Now, I have a job that I love (I'm a Retail Intelligence Agent for New Balance and ThirdChannel). I grew up thinking that medication was for white, crazy people and I missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime.
There are millions of African Americans suffering from depression that aren't even aware of it. Often times the signs are there but we're afraid to admit that it may be more than just a fleeting moment, and instead of getting the help that we need, we wait until it's too late. I hope that after sharing my story, the numbers will decrease and people will see that there's nothing wrong with admitting that you're hurting. What's more important is being able to get the help you need in order to live the life that you dream of.
If you suffer from depression or have overcome it, let me know below! I'd love to hear your story.
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