The “D” Word

18 Oct

because she didn’t know any better
she stayed alive
among the tired and lonely
not waiting always wanting
needing a good night’s rest
— Nikki Giovanni, “Introspection”

As a black woman, we will quickly define ourselves with an array of colorful words: strong, assertive, capable, resilient, audacious, and the list goes on.  When things are quite as warm, we tend to lose the ability to communicate quite so aptly, chalking everything up to “going through.”

Why are we afraid of the word depression? What does it mean? Well, clinically depression is a combination of symptoms (described below) that interfere with one’s ability to work, sleep, eat and enjoy once pleasurable activities.

Common Symptoms
of Clinical Depression

There are different forms of clinical depression with different combinations of the following symptoms:


  • Sleep disturbances-insomnia, oversleeping, waking much earlier than usual
  • Changes in appetite or eating: much more or much less
  • Decreased energy, fatigue
  • Headaches, stomachaches, digestive problems or other physical symptoms that are not explained by other physical conditions or do not respond to treatment


  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed, such as going out with friends, hobbies, sports, sex, etc.
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Neglecting responsibilities or personal appearance


  • Persistent sad or “empty” mood, lasting two or more weeks
  • Crying “for no reason”
  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, guilty or worthless
  • Feeling irritable, agitated or anxious
  • Thoughts of death or suicide (UC Berkeley)

Is it because we see depression as weakness? Is it because depression takes us over in a way we don’t understand?  Why are we so afraid to use the D-word?


6 Responses to “The “D” Word”

  1. Cleo Sunshine October 18, 2010 at 4:08 am #

    I think that some of the stigma regarding depression and addressing it stems back to a general fear of doctors and sometimes their methods. Many people dear being dependent (another D word that ignites debates) on mood-altering drugs. This could stem from many things and it increases and perpetuates with doctors who use their perscription pad in lieu of treatment, or as treatment. While yes, pills can help depression can they really CURE it or merely supress it?

  2. jessJ October 18, 2010 at 4:37 am #

    Great point, pills are their own separate post, but they tend to be highly avoided in the black community. As for a lack of doctors, I don’t know how true this is but it wouldn’t be surprising. More specifically the lack of doctors targeting specifically minority audiences. Its easy to get paid from the worried wealthy.

  3. GG October 18, 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    I was depressed and anxious for years and didn’t admit it to myself. Looking back, I don’t know how I survived that. Too many women self-destruct before they are even aware that they don’t have to live this way.

  4. laneeke October 19, 2010 at 3:38 am #

    The D-word is a word I still rebuke even if it accurately described me. I don’t view it as a sign of weakness in others….just in myself. I feel like “it’s ok if YOU are depressed and I’ll support you in whatever way necessary to help you overcome it. But me? Naw I’m cool…it isn’t real in me” Sounds kinda ass backwards, but *shrug* it’s how I feel. If I don’t claim it then it doesn’t exist and I’m cool.

  5. An Athlete's Wife October 20, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    I would have to say that this stems from the black family being really hush hush about anything that goes on in their home. “What happens in our house stays in our house.” We don’t believe in telling our business let alone going to doctor. I went through a rough struggle with depression and even had thoughts of suicide and so has my brother and father, but has our family been to therapy? No?! Have we really addressed it or talked about it openly? No?! The first time I went to counseling I didn’t want to tell her anything because I thought in some way I was betraying my family. I don’t want my kids to have to go through that. I am trying to undo a lot of misconceptions that I have so that my children can understand that importance of having outlets and people to talk to.

    • Jess J. October 20, 2010 at 1:05 pm #

      That’s such an important point! We feel things should be kept in the family, or kept between us and God. The truth is, its like going to the doctor, right? Therapy is not meant to undermine your spiritual relationship nor your relationship with your family. It is meant for you to begin to sort through the things that are difficult in your life and begin to find ways to make them less of a strenuous. Thank you for sharing!

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