Often times people who give so much to others, find themselves hoping/needing someone to pour into them.. We are the ones who people look for guidance, encouragement, and that positive energy… However when our cup runs low.. we need someone to pour into us!! No longer silent to me means that I’m not afraid to say HELPME, ENCOURAGEME, MOTIVATEME, POURINTOME… It’s not easy being “that” person who everybody expects not to have a bad day…
I share my story in hopes that it will encourage others around the world to band together to support, uplift, and encourage others to no longer stay silent about their struggles with depression. My story is real and so is depression. Depression has no preference and it effect others from all walks of life— it seeps into the minds of the young and even our elders. Depression has a tendency to hurt the ones we love most— and in my case, I watched as it took ahold of someone that I love deeply and that’s my mother. I hope by no longer staying silent and getting others to start the conversation about mental health and the effects of depression that it will save a significant amount of lives.
My story has a few factors, as with most people who suffer from any type of depression. For me I feel like it began as a kid, growing up in Downtown Newport News. My father has never been a part of my life, at least that I can remember. Fortunately I had a step-father who was there for me, but I feel like we never established that undeniable father-son bond, something I can only imagine unless I have a son of my own. To this day, I feel like I have issues establishing and navigating through friendships with other males because it was really something I was never able to naturally do. In my household we didn’t interact much as a family either. Everybody kind’ve just did their own thing, which as a teenager you would love, but as a kid it managed to plant seeds of loneliness that never seemed to completely go away.
I was also somewhat of a misfit. My Mom pretty much kept a leash on me until high school because she didn’t want me to be influenced by the other kids in my neighborhood. I love her for it, but it still made me feel conflicted at the time. She made sure I focused on my studies and eventually I got into a program for gifted students in elementary school. For years I would go to class with mostly white and Asian kids, and then go home back to the hood. I made friends in both environments, but never truly felt like I belonged in either.
This made it hard for me to really have confidence or feel good about myself as a person, because I could never be completely comfortable with who I was wherever I went. I always felt out of place. Once I got to high school, I managed to become popular somehow (I even won the stupid superlative my senior year lol) and I think it basically gave me a false sense of confidence. I also started getting into music at the time, so it was like for the first time I felt like people were really admiring me. Problem was I still didn’t admire myself enough.
As we all know, high school popularity doesnt last forever and can only do so much. Same goes for college, or social networks. As I got older and introduced to different communities where I wasnt as popular anymore, especially as an artist, it would make me feel less valuable as a person. It took me a long time and deep reflection to realize I had been basing my self-esteem on my perception of how other people saw me, most likely a result of years of worrying whether or not I was fitting in or doing the right things socially as a kid. Once I was able to accept this realization I was finally able to just let it go; to learn to enjoy and appreciate myself and my life, no matter what other people think or how “successful” I am so far. No longer silent to me is all about vocalizing that acceptance and freedom, overcoming the battles within to give others the same opportunity for peace.
I’m just tired. I’m just not hungry. I’m just not feeling social. This is what you tell yourself in the beginning. This is just what you tell those who you somehow let get close enough to you to ask questions.
This is just what you tell yourself…until two weeks pass, then four, then eight. This is what you tell yourself until you’ve slept for over 13 hours every day and you’re still tired. And you’ve lost over 15 pounds and you’re still not hungry. And you haven’t put on clothes or left the house in weeks and you’re still not feeling social. Something WAS wrong and though I didn’t have the language for it then, I look back on it now and know exactly what it was. It was depression. Even though the mere writing of that word brings back traces of the feelings of shame and doubt and stigma that I once had, I am choosing to be “No Longer Silent”.
The road to reclamation can seem long but you are worthy of every step. You are worthy of your best self. Your journey is more than any single step you’ve taken, but you are worthy of every step you will take.
Experiencing a mental illness such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder was very frightening to experience as a teenager. As people of color we aren’t taught to talk about or seek help for Mental health because most don’t believe it’s real. After seeking therapy I learned that Anxiety was genetically inherited from both sides of my family. #NolongerSilent to me means letting go of shame and recognizing that my mental illness is not a defeat but it is triumphant. Triumphant because I am an Anxiety survivor who fights everyday to have health, mental health.
When I was 5 years old, my father died from suicide. It was hard for everyone, especially my mom, who was left to raise 2 young children at only 28 years old. For 5 years, I was going to see a doctor, so that I wouldn’t do the same thing to myself, but the support from family and playing sports helped me move on, and almost forget what happened to my father.
After his death, no one in my family spoke about suicide. EVER. Suicide is a sensitive topic for anyone, but it’s even harder for those are directly affected by it. In my family, in particular, the slightest conversation about my father’s suicide could trigger memories of that tragic day, so we said nothing. But as I got older and matured, I realized that I would NOLONGERBESILENT and that I’m going to use my story to help someone and hopefully prevent anyone from experiencing what I have to live with.
- John P.
I know what it feels like to look in the mirror and see nothing. To search for answers at the bottom of a bottle hoping to drown my sorrows. To hear my twin sister say “I just want my sister back” and to realize that I need help. I know what it feels like to beg God for answers to WHY? But I also know what it feels like to trust him in the midst of confusion. The week of my college graduation, a moment I couldn’t wait for, ended up being a week I would never ever forget. I remember it like it was yesterday, receiving the phone call, my mothers hesitant voice on the other end telling us to sit down for some news, and revealing to my twin sister and I that our cousin committed suicide……… it’s been a difficult road. I followed in her footsteps and I wouldn’t be a photographer today if it wasn’t for her, so every image I create is an ode to her memory. This project is near and dear to my heart because for years I feared sharing my darkest secrets, and I struggled to talk about losing my cousin. It wasn’t until I realized that speaking out not only allowed me to cope, but I began to realize this journey doesn’t have to be taken alone. I choose to be #NoLongerSilent hoping that my story will impact at least one life.
Mental depression is something that I never quite understood until I was forced to deal with my own trauma in college. After experiencing a series of family related deaths I slipped into an unhealthy psychological space that left me own the brink of suicide. Had it not been for the love of empathetic peers and the care of a few passionate professionals I may have never been able to share my story of near defeat and triumph with you all.
A little over five years ago I was experiencing what some would call a dark night of the soul. Depression felt like a heavy invisible cloak I was always wearing. Even on my better days I could still feel it on my shoulders. I was sleeping most of the time and I felt like I was numb and outside of myself. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be here. At my lowest point, a friend encouraged me to take a big step and I checked myself into a recovery center for several days. I had time to reflect, center and get on the path to becoming functional again. I met some extraordinary people in that place with all kinds of labels, a whole lot of heart and great wisdom to share. One of the most powerful realizations for me was realizing that I wasn’t alone. It was deeply healing to hear someone share something about their struggles that until then I had only heard in my head. I realized I the power of vulnerability and sharing when it comes to healing. When I left I took a low dose of citalopram for a couple of months to help me get balanced and saw a therapist. Then I focused on the healing modalities that called to me the most such as journaling, making vision boards, reading Harry Potter, watching inspirational YouTube videos, practicing yoga and meditation and perusing my passion of acting. Today I am immensely grateful to have a tribe of dear friends, cherished family and an amazing new husband who all support, encourage and love me. From time to time I still experience dark days when all I want to do is sleep. But in those times I remind myself that “we are on a planet that is spinning though space” (this is a trick I used during a the toughest times of my life to give myself instant perspective) and I am somehow immediately comforted. I have come to believe that the depth of pain I’ve felt is the indicator of the heights of joy that have also been a part of my journey. Perhaps this is the gift depression has given me and perhaps my story will help someone who reads it.
I had the opportunity to document 10 individuals that were courageous enough to share their stories in hopes that others will realize that they’re not alone, and that their vulnerability will empower them to share their own stories. #NoLongerSilent