We’re only a week away from the seasons officially changing. Spring is coming and the sun’s energy and warmth is finally pushing through. With this change it feels like I’m being dragged out of that deep, dark tunnel I’ve unfortunately had to dwell in these past few months. This tunnel is figurative of course. It exists purely in my mind, but as we all know, it’s not so easy to escape your mind.
Some might refer to my “tunnel” as the “winter blues”, but medically what I have is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD (quite an appropriate acronym). Seasonal Affective Disorder, or seasonal depression, typically comes around as the seasons change, most commonly from warm to colder weather. Seasonal depression is a sub-type of depression and bipolar disorder but is oftentimes overlooked and not taken as serious because it comes and goes. Four out of five people who have seasonal depression are women, with the main ages affected being between 20 and 30 years old. As a mental disorder, seasonal depression presents itself differently in all those affected. The timelines aren’t always the same, and sometimes it’s not even the same seasons. Due to the different aspects of this disorder and the stigmas it has, some people might not be aware of its presence, this was the case for me.
There were several reasons I was reluctant to even allow myself to think that I possibly had a mental disorder. I was aware that I was in a very dark, and sometimes dangerous place but there were so many negative stigmas surrounding mental health within the Black community when I first recognized the severity of my condition. Due to this, I ignored my condition which in the end did me absolutely no favors.
And I mean, absolutely NO favors.
Growing up, I didn’t really hear about mental disorders within the Black community. Unless the disorder could clearly, and most times visually be discerned it wasn’t something that needed to be talked about, let alone evaluated. Then of course, the stigma of a woman’s “fragile” mental state was applied any time a discussion about mental health was brought up. For a long time this patriarchal society disregarded the voices of women and black people in regards to their mental health. The stereotype of a black woman being emotionally “volatile” was accepted in not only society but within the community itself. So as a black, young lady seeing all these instances of shaming and ignoring coming from all sides, how could I possibly think to or want to announce my pain. It took me literally hitting rock bottom and having to have someone else pick me up, because I couldn’t do it myself. They told me that I first needed to accept, then educate myself and those close to me about my condition. I needed to educate myself and others on seasonal depression so that I could try and eradicate the stigmas surrounding mental health within my own community.
It had to start with someone, might as well be me.
It’s been two years now. Two years of being aware of the dangers, knowing the symptoms, and getting the help that I need. Writing this blog on this beautiful day, I know I’m almost out of my tunnel. I refer to my Seasonal Affective Disorder as a tunnel because there’s a way in, and will always be a way out. There’s the entrance, which I can’t avoid. Sometimes I don’t even realize that I’ve entered the tunnel because I still see light, but the deeper I go, the darker it gets and I have to keep going. Then I see the exit. And as long as I acknowledge the need for help and treatment, regardless of the stigmas surrounding me as a black woman going through this, there will always be an exit.