HelloBeautiful contributing writer Kamela Fleming recently overcame a debilitating struggle with depression, which is plaguing scores of Black women across the country. In the first of a two-part journal series, she shares how the losses that so many of us experience — the end of a relationship and a lack of financial stability — sent her into the darkest place of her life before she took back control of her happiness.
It was mid-December of 2015 when I knew that it was time for me to seek help or else I wouldn’t be here for much longer.
I remember vividly being in the car when I began to break down randomly – or maybe not so randomly. It was then I knew that I’d finally hit my breaking point with my depression. Waking up literally and physically hurt me and I found myself asking God why I was still here everyday. I constantly told Him to take me, desperate to be at peace and consumed by the thought that there is no way a person should feel like this. I was ready to stop fighting for my life and my sanity.
The memories of those dark days came back to me recently on a flight to D.C. as I listened closely to the words of Solange’s “Cranes in the Sky.” Her words mirrored my cries at one point; her song a checklist for every effort I’d made battling this disease and coming up completely empty every time. And I knew at that point it was time for me to open up about my struggle.
I can pinpoint my depression to the month and year — January 2013. The man I’d been seeing for months had been arrested on a serious charge and was facing at least 10 years. Although we were in a long-distance relationship, he in Ohio and I in Kentucky, he was something special and I was devastated at the news. He was the first man that I’d ever dated – hell, the first man I even liked – who made me feel like I was a treasure. I had been clueless about who I was and why I should love myself since childhood and suddenly I was with a man who reminded me of how great I was everyday. I’d never had that and losing it was earth-shattering.
The news came with the fact that I was finishing college and had no idea what I was doing or where I was going. I vaguely remember staying up late at night applying to any and every job, caught up in the routine of fixing my resume daily and still feeling helpless.
Fast forward to late summer, when I moved to New Jersey with my mother. I was excited to be close to New York City, a place I’d always been in love with. In my mind, it was my big chance to make it shake.
But instead of thriving, I found myself bouncing from job to job. First came Red Lobster in Times Square, which I quit in 3 weeks. Next was an Urban Outfitters on 5th Ave, where I lasted two months. I began to spiral as the last bit of hope I had was dwindling before me, drowning in an over-populated city where, in spite of bumping shoulders with hundreds of people a day, I was completely alone.
On the suggestion of my father, I moved back to my hometown in Maryland since it was cheaper and I had more of a base. But after about three months of zero luck on jobs, depression became my entire life. It was January of 2014 and I felt like I had nothing — no car, job, money and about two friends in the area. I made sure to sleep until 2 p.m. or later just so I didn’t have to face the day. I drank constantly to calm the pain, if only for a few hours. My speech was toxic. My friends began speaking to me less and less because I was unrecognizable. My family hurt as they watched the most vibrant person they’d known disintegrate into this sad human they couldn’t help.
Later that year, I connected with a man who was also struggling with depression and pain. We reveled in it together and it sent me spiraling into complete chaos. There I was, an educated woman making pennies as a receptionist at a car dealership, dealing with a man who had also lost his job and was living in North Carolina. A match made in heaven, right? Without delving too deeply into that memory, mostly to avoid resurrecting too much of my own pain, I will tell you that he did a number on me. He broke me down, stepped on me and dragged me through the mud until I was numb. I did not trust anyone; not even myself. Crying became a twice-daily routine, along with more drinking and clubbing to divert the attention of my ever-crumbling life. By March of 2015, after moving for the second time within the year, and finding a “better” job, I could not face myself. I was an absolute mess. I was going through the motions of being a functioning adult. Happiness was temporary and if I was lucky, I would laugh once every 24 hours. My pain was not only heard but also felt and received.
I felt like I was wasted space.
That November, the week before my 24th birthday, I went to the doctor and I saw that I had lost 23 pounds within a month. I was living on just a few bites of food a day, stuck in the routine of coming home from work and sulking in my tiny, crowded bedroom until the next work day. I was diminishing before my own eyes. By December, I couldn’t even make out the days of the week. Life was surreal. I could barely laugh anymore. I had surrendered myself to random anxiety attacks and crying spells and it hurt to exist.
I tried to be happy for everyone around me. I prayed as I’d been told to do. I tried to be “positive.” I smiled and faked it in hopes to make it. I went out and met people. I had exhausted every option other than therapy.
And so, I made a call from a number I found on a psychology website and found this amazing woman who has forever changed my life. Within weeks of speaking with her, I felt brand new. I began coming out of my depression around April of this year. I discovered things about myself I couldn’t have imagined and now I can’t believe who I am. I quit my job as soon as I felt happy become a part of my daily regimen and since then I’ve become a woman who I couldn’t have dreamed of becoming.
I found a job in my field making great money, and I started a Master’s program. Since then, I’ve met a chain of wonderful friends and moved back in with my dad and step-mom to save for a house.
Most importantly, I am joyous beyond words. I wake up with peace; even on my low days, I know I will triumph. I feel like I am here for a reason and that my life has purpose in this world. After three years of depression, tears and pain, I am finally happy and at the best version of myself.
Check back next week to read Kamela’s tips on overcoming depression and how you can implement them into your own life. You can follow her on social media @Coolwitha_k.