A Killer Among Us
Black women are told from birth that they must be strong. They must be strong for their children, their partners, their family, and then themselves. We are taught that no matter what crosses our path we must persevere with our head held high. Whether it be incest, abuse or mental illness, we must come out on top despite. We are told stories of strong women from our history who beat all odds despite the circumstances and reared to walk in their shoes because being Black means being strong. The mother figures within our lives show us how to obtain and cultivate this strength and we in turn teach our young. It is not that the women of other races are not taught how to be the backbone of their families. African American women have an innate responsibility to be strong because our past doesn’t allow for anything less.
But within the confines of our homes, behind closed doors, there is a secret that we have been taught to overlook. At least one person you know has seen their mother, grandmother, or aunt at their lowest level. This is not simply a fleeting moment of sadness but a severe bout of depression that consume everything around them. We have watched these pillars of our family secretly drown their woes in liquor bottles or in shopping sprees. We have learned to lie about why mom can’t get out of bed to answer the door. We know that “a trip” is the code name for that place that one goes to in order to “get better.” But these things are not publicly talked about. Family problems stay at home and aren’t talked about with outsiders. Some of us that are privy to these little moments then see these same women bounce back as if nothing ever happens and we begin to think that this is what being strong means. What few of us every see are the same women reaching for help outside of the family unit. No doctors are called and if any type of medication is taken we are unaware of it.
There is, however, that one member of the family who truly believes nothing is going wrong and will convince you that whatever ailment Madear is suffering from is in her own head and doesn’t exist further than that. And we believe in this false truth because no one has told us exactly what is the cause of the sudden personality change in the first place. And so the cycle begins.
And then one day we find ourselves in that same dark moment. Our minds and soul are riddle with an insatiable sadness that feeds off our being. We pray for deliverance because again this is what we are taught. We don’t have a name for what is happening. It walks and talks like depression but that can’t possibly be the cause because depression doesn’t happen to “us.” Before we know it, we are staring at a bottle of pills or into a barrel of a gun because we want an end to the torture.
Suicide, depression, and mental illness do exist within our community. These things are not selective nor do they discriminate. We are taught at an early age that we can withstand anything. As a result we tend to think that if we do allow these things to take hold of us that it is a sign of our own weakness. For some of us, to give in is worse than death and so death begins to appeal to our senses.
Everyday our women, young and old, are battling depression and some of them take their lives. It is only when they are gone that we discuss the issue and rally to fight against it. But until we vocalize that an issue exists and that it is not our fault, then we will continue to lose our women to this treacherous beast. Depression doesn’t make you weak and it cannot be fixed by ignoring its existence.
It has been said that Black women have a lower suicide rate than other ethnicities. The reason for this is said to be that suicide is sign of weakness within the African American community. At the same time, it has also been suggested that these numbers are skewed because of the stigma of mental illnesses within the African American community. How long will we continue to pretend that this evil doesn’t exist? How long will we hide causes of death or disappearances? How many more of our women will we allow to be taken because of our warped view of what strength truly means?
Suicide and mental illnesses are a plague upon our community that we continue to perpetuate by not addressing. We have gone past the days where we could simply throw our loved ones in an asylum and throw away the key. There are resources available to us that could possibly put an end to the depression and thoughts of suicide. And if we choose to ignore that something is wrong with ourselves or our loved ones then we have signed our name on a death wish to exterminate our own existence.
My name is Spoken Pandora. My mother suffers from depression and anxiety. My grandmother suffers the same as well as her mother. I suffered from depression and every day I must still fight. But I don’t want to die. In order to be strong for my family, I must be strong for me and for me being strong means getting help.
I will take the first step in helping to end this cycle. Will you join me?
- Spoken Pandora
Spoken Pandora considers herself a gypsy that has traveled worlds through the literature she writes. Currently she resides in North Carolina with her daughter and partner. When she is not writing, she publicly speaks at LGBTQ events on sexual related topics. Her work can be found on her website TheEroticDen.com.