After a very confusing and frustrating conversation with a friend during a manic episode…I want to talk about a subject that’s very taboo in the African American community. A subject that is ever so prevalent but quite often swept under the rug. I want to talk about mental health. Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Personality Disorders and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are probably a few of the most undiagnosed impairments in the African American community. We often laugh off the symptoms “ignore her, you know she’s crazy” or “be careful around him, you know he’ll snap.” We label them as difficult or combative. We chalk up their behaviors as personality flaws, when in actuality they are more of a chemical imbalance.
If I’m honest, dealing with a person with one of these impairments can be challenging, because often times it’s never just one diagnosis. It’s often 1 primary impairment compounded by a secondary impairment. It has been my experience that because their impairments have gone undiagnosed, they don’t know what’s going on. This in turn causes them to either lash out or shut down. They either go through life feeling as though no one understands because their brain processes things differently. Or people give up on them because they always seem to go from hot to cold instantly. They either push people away because they know they’re different or people walk away because the communication barrier is so great.
Now, I’m definitely not claiming to be an expert on this subject. My degree is in business. However, as a military brat I’ve done a lot of research on PTSD and while working for the social security administration for the last 9 years I’ve dealt with my fair share of depressed and bipolar claimants. I’ve been around long enough to notice a heart wrenching pattern when it comes to the African American community and treatment. Either we get the diagnosis and decide to self medicate (drugs, alcohol, cannabis) or we avoid the diagnosis all together due out of fear of being labeled. Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m not a fan of medicine. I feel like pharmaceutical companies are constantly pushing pills at us. I dealt with migraines for 6 years before my doctors convinced me to take medicine. However, I do feel like with proper medication and therapy coupled with prayer these impairments can be overcome.
It’s 2017 and there’s no reason these men and women should have to continue to suffer in silence. There’s no reason why there should be a stigma attached to going to see a therapist. There’s no reason why there should be a negative connotation associated with taking antidepressants or antipsychotic medication. Just as we don’t judge people for going to see a cardiologist for a heart condition or taking strong dosages of radiation and chemotherapy when battling cancer, the same should go for “silent disabilities”.…So this year I commit to being more understanding. I commit to not laughing off the warning signs. I commit to not letting them suffer alone.
I was hesitant about posting this because again, I’m no expert. However, after a true heart to heart with a friend battling two of these impairments, I felt it was only proper to show them that they’re not alone. And while we may not be able to fully understand their day to day struggles we will be here to try to help them through it.