How Issa Rae Inspired Me During My Depression
Two years ago I was diagnosed with major depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Honestly, I didn’t know what that meant but I remember waking up one morning feeling debilitated and as if I had a ton of bricks on top of my body. I felt a lot of things. I felt anger, confusion, frustration, emptiness and I found myself questioning God. I was constantly drained and doing simple tasks like showering and eating were like climbing a mountain. As I learned more about my mental illness, it provided me with a sense of peace because I didn’t feel well for years. In fact, since I was in middle school, I masked my pain by staying busy in dance school, pageants, drill team, modeling, choir, band, praise dance, Girl Scouts… You name it, I did it. While I had a genuine passion for the arts, I also loved meeting new people and it provided me with an escape from my difficult home life. I hid behind my bubbly, outgoing and funny personality. I hid behind being a workaholic and my commitment to inspiring others.
Yet, I neglected myself and this eventually led to my suicide attempts. I was forced into the hospital and did not understand why I was there. I am educated, have my own apartment, a car, a career and I help people. I thought, “How could I be here? I am not crazy.” I remember telling one of the counselors, “I have a Bachelor’s degree from Howard University and a Master’s degree from Georgetown University. I don’t belong here.” And she said, “People with degrees get sick too.” That’s when I realized the brain can become sick just like the body. I also had a misconception about what mentally illness looked like. I thought it was only people who talk to themselves or heard voices without realizing it is also everyday “high-functioning” people like me. During this time reading and writing helped me cope with my illness and became vital in my recovery.
After finally getting to a place where I felt like I was getting better, I went into another depressive episode. But this time, I discovered the amazing and talented Issa Rae. I read her book, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” and stumbled upon her YouTube channel. I immediately became fascinated by her because she learned to embrace her awkwardness as a black woman. She never felt like she fit in and was often made fun of. As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety disorders, I could relate.
I was embarrassed and felt awkward because people would say things to me like, “What do you have to be depressed about?” without realizing depression is not always associated with a life event such as a job loss or breakup. I was still learning about mental illness. People who don’t understand depression often think depression is a choice when it is truly a sickness that requires medical treatment. Issa Rae shared her truth and it encouraged me to do the same. I started writing articles and doing Facebook live videos on mental illness, and mental health to help educate the black community and encourage others not to be ashamed.
Issa Rae also told her story in a funny way which helped me through my depression because I found myself laughing at a time when everything seemed so dark. She opened the conversation for mental health on her HBO TV hit show “Insecure” when her character Issa suggested therapy to her best friend Molly. My heart was overjoyed because we do not see many TV shows where black women are discussing mental health or therapy. Therapy is for everyone whether you have a mental illness or not. We all have emotional wounds and often carry baggage at some point in our lives, and therapy is a safe place to begin healing.
"Issa Rae, I don’t know if you will ever see this article, but I want you to know you have been helping me during the darkest time of my life. Thank you for your courage and strength, and showing people like me to live in their truth boldly and proudly. In my case, that happens to be with a mental illness."
P.S. My dream is to meet you and work with you. You are truly an inspiration.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.