Nov. 6, 2019

The Depressing Truth

The Depressing Truth

In episode 1, The Depressing Truth, Elaina, and Tracy discussed some common fallacies about depression in the African American community, which is crippled by mental health stigmas preventing those who need support from seeking it. Elaina and Tracy also shared their personal experiences with depression and anxiety.


"There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds." - Laurell K. Hamilton

African Americans are living with carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. They are vulnerable, stressed, and anxious. Depression does not discriminate. 

In episode 1, The Depressing Truth, Elaina, and Tracy discussed some common fallacies about depression in the African American community, which is crippled by mental health stigmas preventing those who need support from seeking it. Elaina and Tracy also shared their personal experiences with depression and anxiety. 

They took a deep dive into the world of depression and discussed their personal experiences and challenges. They discuss the consequences they both have faced as being black and depressed. Their journeys have been long and often challenging, but they have found ways to cope through it.

Elaina addresses the stigma and attitudes around depression when it comes to African Americans communities. And what she hopes to see going forward in the future.

They discussed the implications and impacts of racism, prejudice, economic issues. 

It seems like carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. Now that's not to say that there aren't other races and ethnicities and religions that are out there that experience some of the same things, but there's only so a person can handle. And it is stressful when you can't go to a corner store without being fearful. That's stress, that's anxiety that we are facing daily.

Going to therapy is a real challenge for a lot of African Americans, as this is not how we do things. Like you don't lay on somebody's couch and go whine about your problems. You're taught that you will handle it.

Prayers give us the strength that we can get through it or the hope that we really can get through it, but we still need to take action. We need to cope with this situation with a strategy.

Elaina and Tracy express how we are not alone and reference the book "Black Pain" by Terry M. Williams.

Their message to the African Americans communities is that depression and other mental health impairments do not discriminate. These disruptions don’t care about your age, your race, your religion, your gender, your gender identity, your sexual orientation. None of us are immune, and none of us must suffer in silence. 

We are a community together. And we can learn how to support each other, and we can be there for each other. Sometimes you need somebody that gets it, and so I encourage all of you to learn more and be a resource for someone else. Be a support for someone else, be an advocate and a warrior for yourself.

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Transcript

[00:00:00] Tracy: Cope Queens episode one The Depressing Truth. This is the first episode in our eight-part series Black and Depressed. In this episode, we discuss common misconceptions regarding depression in the African American community and share our personal experiences.

[00:00:20] Elaina: You are listening to the Cope Queens podcast where every Wednesday co-hosts Elaina Jones and Tracy Hampton challenges mental health stigmas through sharing personal experiences, storytelling interviews, and round table discussions about everyday life challenges. This podcast in no way is replacement for mental health treatment. To learn more, please visit copequeens.com. Now, without further ado, let’s cope together.

[00:00:53] Elaina: Hey everybody, thank you so much for joining us today. I’m Elaina.

[00:01:07] Tracy: And I’m Tracy.

[00:01:08] Elaina: And today we are diving into the topic of depression and we’re going to talk about being black and depressed and we want to just share our personal journeys with depression and talk about the stigma and attitudes around depression when it comes to African Americans in our communities. And what we hope to see going forward in the future. So, let’s just dive right into the conversation. So, Tracy, I know that you and I have been friends for many years, and we’ve been very open and honest with each other about our personal journeys and struggles and challenges, and we’ve both experienced depression. And there’s definitely. Different levels of depressions and different categories of depression and symptoms and treatments and everything looks different based on your personal situation. And I know that for me, The first time that I can honestly say that I recognize that I was suffering from depression, getting out of bed was a chore and it was the last thing I wanted to do that day was to get out of that bed. But being a single parent, I don’t have a choice. I have to get out of that bed. I have to get to work, I got to bring home, that bag so that I can take care of my family and, other things were happening during that time too where I just lack motivation. I lacked focus. I was isolating myself and I always say I’m a person of self-preservation and so I will withdraw and kind of internalized so that I can kind of work through what I’m going through. And I will isolate myself from others cause I don’t want to be a burden anyone else. And so, I was starting to notice that I was doing that more often, it started off as a couple of days. I’m just feeling kind of down feeling blue. But depression is not just something you experienced for a moment.

[00:02:58] Tracy: I think everyone feels sad, everyone feels lonely, and I think everyone has just those moments where you just have those normal struggles with self-esteem where you may not want to be bothered. But I think depression is something totally different. I really don’t remember when I first felt depressed, but I think the first time I had the symptoms and I was able to put a name to it, has to be on my twenties but I experienced similar symptoms as you did. I didn’t want to get out of bed, but I couldn’t sleep. I had insomnia. I was feeling guilty about just any and everything. Things from my past. Feeling guilty about normal interactions I would have with people that I would play back in my mind. But, just really being pessimistic about a lot of things, trouble concentrating.  Unfortunately I wasn’t losing my appetite, which would have been great around that time, but there was this, a lot of our symptoms were similar, Elaina, and I know that isn’t the case with everyone because depression doesn’t look the same for a lot of people. And maybe that’s why it took me awhile to really realize that I was suffering from depression because I believe, and I don’t know if you’ve ever thought this Elaina, or if it was just me, I felt like if I don’t feel like killing myself, I’m not depressed. I thought that’s what depression was. People who were just at that point where they were suicidal or had suicidal thoughts, and because I personally haven’t experienced that or didn’t experience that, I didn’t know or feel like I was depressed even though I had all the other symptoms.

 [00:04:38] Elaina: Yeah. I think that’s a good point you bring up. So, I don’t know if I ever linked it to if I don’t feel suicidal that I’m not depressed. I think I looked at it as I didn’t have anything to be depressed about. Even if we look at, , the lives that you and I have created, for ourselves, I think for a lot of people, on the outside looking in would look at us and say, well, what do you have to be depressed about?

[00:05:02] Tracy: Yeah.

[00:05:03] Elaina: But you don’t know my journey. You haven’t walked in my shoes. You don’t know my past; you don’t know my fears for the future. And so I think a lot of times when I think back to my past and, and when I first started to be able to name it, like you said, I don’t think that, I thought that I was depressed initially because it wasn’t something that I, we talked about in our family. We, it was like, Hey, if you are going through a struggle, pray and leave it up to God and don’t worry about it. But then I was noticing all I did was worry about it and those feelings never went away, because I also do suffer from anxiety, and I know that, I think for the most part, many of us have anxiety and we’re anxious feelings at some point. So, when we’re talking about depression and anxiety and things of that nature, we’re not talking about, singular moments or incidents where that happens. We’re talking about a prolonged feeling of being anxious or depressed, and those can truly, set the tone for your relationships, your outlook on life. Like my worldview was not a good one when I was in that place and I, I’ll be honest, I did at some points of my life have some of those thoughts of maybe the world would be better off without me here. And it wasn’t anything that I acted on, but it was something I thought in that moment.

[00:06:32] Tracy: You brought up a really good point and just about the impact of depression on your worldview and even on your relationships. I think it mainly impacted my relationships, especially at a young age, because one thing that I, suffer from was just wanting to detach myself from people. And it wasn’t so much because, i just didn’t want to be around people, but it was just at that time, I wanted that isolation and growing up I think people will put those labels on you. Oh, she’s funny acting, or she’s this or she’s that. Not really understanding that. Yeah. It’s a little bit more to it, I’m going through this right now, and at the time I didn’t really understand it, but I do believe it did have an impact on those relationships growing up. Yeah, that’s a good point.

[00:07:23] Elaina: Yeah. And I think too, that, hindsight 20-20, when I look back at it now, there are a lot of friendships that maybe I didn’t foster or cultivate, that probably would’ve been phenomenal friendships now, but back then it was just like, what? I’m not feeling this. This is adding to my stress. I’ll just separate myself from everyone else. And I think a lot of that came from that feeling of guilt. Like, why do I, I don’t have the right to feel bad. And there’s so many other people in the world that are enduring things, worse than what I’m enduring. So, I should be happy, but I’m not. Why am I not happy? And I think a lot of times we put this expectation and these pressures on ourselves that, we’re supposed to just in the embrace the good. And ignore the bad, but don’t ignore the bad. I think we have to address those insecurities and those concerns and that worry and get to the root of it. And often I find that we find, maladaptive coping mechanisms that kind of mask those feelings. So, from smoking to drinking to risky behaviors like sex and drug addiction, will you turn to those things? And. We are only masking those symptoms. We’re not really addressing the issue. And the interesting thing is, recently I was taking a look at, Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s website. And they have a few statistics on the site, and I know I’ve seen, other organizations kind of, repeat the same sentiment with that [00:09:00] African Americans are 20% more likely to experience, a mental health impairment. Over everybody else. And you’d, so you question like, well, why is that? But if you think about, just the stress from racism, prejudice, economic issues. We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. Now that’s not to say that there aren’t other races and ethnicities and religions that are out there that experience some of those same things, but there’s only so much people can handle. And when you can’t go to a corner store.

[00:09:36] Tracy: Yeah, yeah.

[00:09:37] Elaina: And buy a bag of chips. And make it home.

[00:09:41] Tracy: Yeah.

[00:09:41] Elaina: The reason why you didn’t make it home was because you were black.

[00:09:44] Tracy: Yeah.

[00:09:45] Elaina: That’s stress, that’s anxiety.

[00:09:48] Tracy: Yeah, absolutely, and I think you’re absolutely right, Elaina. You think about just what African Americans experience, and there’s no denying right now there’s a heightened [00:10:00] level of stress going on with African Americans being killed in their own homes. African Americans being killed on their way, like you said, so the store. You’re driving in your car. At this point in time there are so many situations that we find ourselves in where we don’t know if we’re going to leave that situation safely. I think I was reading somewhere where they had an African American youth who are exposed to violence are at a greater risk for PTSD by maybe over 25%. So, you look at that and you look at pretty much. African-Americans, not really being able to put, not even African American people in general, not being able to put the signs and symptoms to some mental health issues together and realize and say, Hey, this is going on, maybe I am suffering from depression, or maybe I am suffering from PTSD. When you’re not able to make those connections, then you’re not getting the help that you need. and I think that it’s really important that, that’s why I’m really glad that we’re. Just doing this podcast. Just bringing awareness to what depression is, what PTSD, what anxiety looks like. Because I think the more that people are aware of what it is, what the symptoms are, it may help people seek help and realize what symptoms they have, or, or things that they’re experiencing and help them go out and get the help that they need.

[00:11:25] Elaina: Absolutely. And you made me think about something when you were talking about that we don’t, we don’t name it, and, and some of us don’t even recognize that that’s what we’re experiencing. But if you think about, I know in my family that was not a topic that I can remember being discussed. My mother and I, we talk even to this day and cause my father passed when I was nine and I wish that she would have had the resources and the knowledge to have gotten me grief counseling so I truly wish that that would’ve been, my path and journey. Because I think I would have learned earlier on how to deal with a lot of this. And I think that’s a challenge for a lot of African Americans is this is not how we do things. Like you don’t lay on somebody’s couch and go whine about your problems. Like that’s what you’re taught. You’re taught that you handle it.

[00:12:18] Tracy: Yeah.

[00:12:19] Elaina: Like just figure it out, handle it, leave it to God. But what happens when those feelings don’t go away? Like, I can pray and my mother and I, we have these conversations and I say I can pray about it, but prayer gives me maybe the strength that I can get through it or the hope that I can get through it, but I still need tools to actually get through it. I have to take action cause I feel like if I just pray about it, nothing’s going to change. but if I don’t have the tools and the resources to even know where to begin, how do I take action. what do I get the knowledge from the even know what I’m experiencing?

[00:12:57] Tracy: Yeah. Yeah. And I grew up in a similar household, Elaina, where it wasn’t discussed, it wasn’t talked about, and I didn’t, experience, the death of a parent. But I. And we talked about this before. I wasn’t raised by my biological dad, so there was that loss, that situation to deal with. But again, I grew up in a Christian household, still consider myself a Christian. And it was that feeling, you take it to God you pray and then you have faith that he’s gonna work it out. And I feel like. Yeah. You have that faith you take it to God; you do pray, you do pray and, but like you said, faith without works, you have to do something. I feel like, yeah, you take things to God, you pray and you do what you need to do, but at the same time, you have to have just that awareness to know when you need to reach out and ask for help. What things are abnormal, or what things, cause you distress. Cause sometimes there’s some things where it just really internally, like when I was going through depression, I didn’t want to be in the bed, I didn’t want to be isolated from everyone. But I. I felt like I couldn’t, I felt like I didn’t have the energy, so it was causing me that internal distress, and that’s when I should have been like, Hey, I need to call someone. I need someone to help me through this.  So. Yeah. I really just wanted to just follow up on that point because I think a lot of us, a lot of African Americans probably grew up in similar households as we did, and when that isn’t a topic of conversation or something that’s the norm, it’s something that you don’t know what to do with once you’re older and you’re facing those or similar situations.

[00:14:48] Elaina: Absolutely. Yeah. I know. Even when I decided to, Get more involved. I, I searched out like resources, like where’s the education at? And I was a little bit disappointed that I didn’t find. A lot of what I was hoping, like if you just Google depression, you find all kinds of resources, right? But I think in order to get the message out there, we as a culture, we as a community, specifically for African Americans, and even I will bring my Latino brothers and sisters into this as well. We need a different type of awareness and conversation because it’s ingrained in us that it’s just life.

[00:15:33] Tracy: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:15:34] Elaina: But life is not about just being sad and depressed and anxious all of the time. That’s not living.

[00:15:42] Tracy: Yeah. And I earlier we talked about just pushing through it. It’s not okay to just push through it pushing through. It isn’t a badge of honor, those unhealthy coping mechanisms, the smoking, there were some people I knew growing up as, I don’t know if you experienced this, or, were around people like this, they had to be high constantly, like from morning to night. And that’s an unhealthy coping mechanism where people are dealing with things and they just feel like they just want, want to disconnect somehow, but yeah, you get so used to just, dealing with depression or just mental health period and coping with it, in a healthy manner. that it becomes the norm.

[00:16:25] Elaina: Yeah. And you bring up a good point, about the, the coping, and I think that we could probably, for the most part, track a lot of drug addiction, a lot of different addictions, and link it back to some type of mental impairment because  we’re self-medicating.

[00:16:44] Tracy: Yeah.

[00:16:45] Elaina: You’re self-medicating to make the thoughts go away, to make the pain go away, to make the emptiness go away. And we’re not doing anything but masking that pain. I recently came across a book and I have not finished it, but I am very excited to finish it because it talks a lot about, it only looks like we’re not hurting because. We do have an amazing skill of putting on our, our best foot and getting through the day. And I promise you, and during my worst time, most people who encountered me would have not known that something was wrong.

[00:17:20] Tracy: Yeah.

[00:17:21] Elaina: But the book is called black pain by Terry M. Williams. And I am definitely excited to continue and she kind of shares her journey, but then she also, there’s a lot of other, African American professionals from politicians to people in entertainment that also shared their journeys. And I think that’s the one thing that I will say that we do very well, and that is we put our best phase four when we face the public. I mean, think about social media.

[00:17:48] Tracy: Yeah. 

[00:17:49] Elaina: recently having a conversation with the crew over at hope warriors, and one of the things that came out as we talked about, , how we sometimes represent ourselves on social media, like some of us are living our best lives on social media, but that’s not our reality.

[00:18:04] Tracy: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s a really good point. and. Both of us are right now, we’re getting our masters in mental health. And one thing that was brought up in and when I was in class last week, which was really interesting, was just the rise of depression and anxiety because of social media. Because you have people who are maybe suffering from depression and you’re looking on Facebook or Twitter and you see people Quote, unquote, living their best life. And you’re internally battling or dealing with things, and that just adds on to that. So, we live in a world where people compare themselves to other people and what other people are doing. not really knowing that a lot of times people are only showing you what they want you to see.

[00:18:49] Elaina: Exactly.

[00:18:51] Tracy: So. Yeah, I really felt like mental health or social media has really had an impact on mental health.

[00:18:58] Elaina: Yeah. And that’s why I think that sharing our journeys and sharing our stories connects us, and I applaud those who. Openly say like, yeah, I may look like I’m living the high life, but it takes a lot to be me in a day. and not that I am living the high life for, for those of you who are listening, I absolutely am not. That is definitely a goal, but that is not what, what’s happening. But when I pitched doing this podcast with you? one of the things that I had just watched, so I am a reality TV junkie, I watched black ink Chicago. I watch all the black inks, but in this particular one, one of the artists, his name is Phor, he’s also Chicago rapper. He experienced, depression and he had something that he needed to work through him, and the owner Ryan, we’re on the Steve Harvey show, they talked about, what Phor went through and how Ryan supported him through that. it was one of the things that Steve brought up that, we’re just told to handle it, but no one tells us how.  I applaud those, I know that in entertainment at least, we’re starting to be more open. more books are starting to come. More people are starting to speak out. I think the more that we all just say, you know what? I’ve experienced depression, or I’m dealing with depression, whatever it is, if we’re open about it, I think more people will be able to connect to in a realize,  I’ve felt that way, or maybe I should look into this. And it’s not to say that if you just lack motivation one day, I’m not telling you that you’re depressed. I’m saying pay attention to it. Don’t ignore it. And our bodies and our minds have a way of slowing us down. A couple of weeks ago, I had a couple of weeks where I wasn’t sleeping for three days straight, and that was, you got on me, my mom got me.

[00:20:57] Tracy: I had to get on you.

[00:20:58] Elaina: So much anxiety and so much stress of what was going on.  I was working myself too hard and then I was becoming stressed out and I wasn’t doing anything. That I was trying to accomplish well. I had to take a step back even for my friends and family that I was connected to on Facebook, I just reactivated my account. Like I was off Facebook for a whole year because I had to work on me, and I had to do that without the distraction of what everybody else was going through. May sound selfish, but like I said, I’m a person who is self-preservation and sometimes you have to put yourself first, in order to be there for everybody else.

[00:21:39] Tracy: Yeah, absolutely. I really like what you said and I, I have to echo just really thanking those people who are transparent with what they’re dealing with, celebrities or even everyday people. I know, a lot of times. It’s necessary to put on that mask cause you, you have to go to work, you have to survive, you have to do what you have to do and put on your mask to get through the day. But a lot of times people don’t realize what another person is going through because they’re looking at that exterior. And even with me, I’m just not to the point where I feel comfortable sharing that with people. And I don’t go around as soon as I meet people, Hey, my name is Tracy, and I suffer from depression. No, but it’s like where people that, and it’s cause I’m a private person just by nature. But if, if you’re someone and we’re having a conversation and I feel like I can be my authentic self with you, then I’m going to share. Yeah. I do suffer from depression, and I think the more that we talk about it, the more than people realize there isn’t a face to it, it doesn’t only affect this culture or this socioeconomic class. It doesn’t just affect the particular group that anyone is subjected to it. Then I think that people will look at it differently and I just think it’s really important that people share their stories so that other people know that they’re not alone.

[00:22:58] Elaina: You are absolutely correct. And so, we’re going to end there and, I hope that you all have enjoyed our discussion today. And if you take anything away from today, just know that depression and other mental health impairments, they do not discriminate. They don’t care about your age, your race, your religion, your gender, your gender identity, your sexual orientation. None of us are immune and none of us have to suffer in silence. We are a community together. And we can learn how to support each other, and we can be there for each other. Sometimes you just need somebody that gets it and so I encourage all of you to just learn more and be a resource for someone else. Be a support for someone else and be a support and your own advocate and a warrior for yourself. if you are interested in learning more or finding support, please visit copequeens.com.

[00:24:02] Tracy: You’ve reached the end of another episode of the Cope Queens podcast. Thank you for coping with us today, and we hope you’ll join us for the next episode until then, connect with us on Twitter @CopeQueens.

Tracy Hampton

Learning and Development Consultant