In Her Words: Prioritizing My Mental Health
Written by Derin Oduye
This March, TN celebrates Women’s History Month with a series of member-authored articles entitled “In Her Words”. While we celebrate the contributions and achievements of women during this month, let us ask them to prioritize their mental health.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression is defined as a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how someone feels, thinks, and handles daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on people in different ways. For me, the past two years have exacerbated my depression. I spent my formative years living in silence because I did not know what I was going through and couldn’t articulate it to my family and friends. Often, when I am candid about my struggles, a common response from others centers around how happy I look and how my life seemingly looks put together.
I am so grateful we are living in a time where discourse about mental health has become more mainstream. We still have a long way to go in terms of de-stigmatization. Society has ascribed “strength” to women, particularly black women. We are told to be strong to take care of our friends and families but never ourselves. First, depression is not sadness and it does not discriminate, you can have a great job, family, friends, etc, and still struggle. It doesn’t make you weak to let people know you are struggling.
Depression for me is having friends and not wanting to socialize or having a busy schedule but no urge to be productive. I often struggle with discussing how I am feeling with my friends and family because it’s sensitive and oftentimes people are not equipped with the language to have a conversation about it. I can have incredibly good days and the next my body becomes numb.
Here are signs to pay attention to from the National Institute of Mental Health if you think you are experiencing symptoms of depression
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Moving or talking more slowly
- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment
Over the years I have developed coping mechanisms for self-care such as going to therapy, logging off social media, working out or attempting to workout, and getting my nails done. Self-care is not templatized and can differ from person to person.
This is your reminder to let you know, you are not alone. You don’t have to live in silence. Take care of yourself and if you can, talk to someone.