Mommy, Mrs., United

Mommy’s Mental Health vs. Caribbean Culture

Mommy’s Mental Health vs. Caribbean Culture

How to give voice to an issue that goes unspoken

*Takes deep breath* I was diagnosed with depression in 2010. When I was told I said to myself, I guess I’ve been depressed since I was a child because I’ve always felt this way.  I spent a lot of time alone because I wasn’t sure how to deal with it. I excluded myself from family outings and activities and just decided I wanted to figure this out on my own. I don’t think my parents understood what was going on at the time and didn’t know how to help. (At the time I just thought they didn’t care). Often times, I would lash out and stay out late so that I didn’t have to deal with what was happening at home. There was a lot happening and it was hard for family and friends to understand why I was being so distant.

The West Indian culture…

West Indian parents grew up in a household where if you were feeling a way you just had to suck it up and move on because there were better and more important things to do. No one talks about their feelings and says “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” or “Do you want to talk?”. At least, that wasn’t my experience. Don’t get me wrong, my parents cared about me, but it would have been nice to have those types of conversations. I was told that “Depression was all in your head” and  “leave the past in the past”. So that’s what I did.

The problem was that my relationships with people started to fall apart because I didn’t know how to control my emotions. I also started having panic attacks out of nowhere. Usually I was alone when these things happened so I had outlets to try to relieve the pain. I resorted to drinking to help me sleep, smoking and I was also on anti depressants. I tried to seek help from a professional but again, in the west Indian culture that’s seen as being psychotic, dramatic, and pointless. Also, when things happen at home you don’t talk about it to outsiders. You keep it to yourself. So it was very hard for me to explain why I was feeling the way I was feeling to a therapist. So I gave up and just relied my negative outlets to keep me sane for a couple of years. In the midst of all of this I felt like I was worthless, needy and didn’t deserve to live. So I started having suicidal thoughts. I used to plan scenarios in my head where ever I was at the time of how I would do it. I didn’t really tell anyone because I didn’t want to scare anyone away, and I didn’t want my parents worrying about me, so I dealt with it on my own.

That was the problem. I didn’t seek help from anyone. I had too much pride and thought that I was able to take care of myself. As I got older I came to terms with the fact that I dealt with verbal abuse and sexual abuse and that’s when I broke. I decided to think about the people I had in my life at the time and I realized that some of them weren’t helping the situation. So I had to cut off a few friends and family members. When I did that I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I started to work on things about myself that needed to change. I got off the anti depressants because I became too reliant on them and started doing things that made me happy. My husband played a huge role in this. He just gave me that push that I needed and I took it from there. At the time we were just friends, but he listened to me, and didn’t judge me. I started to realize who I could trust and rebuilt relationships with family and friends that I pushed away.

Growing up in a Caribbean household has more positives than negatives, and my parents have taught me everything I need to know when it comes to resilience and building a strong foundation, but one thing I will change is how I converse with my child. I know she won’t tell me everything, but I want her to understand that she can always come to me no matter what.

I am her protector, and she is the sun.

Desree Shepherd 

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