Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Imade, (pronounced ee-MAH-day), a 30-year-old black woman who deals with severe depression. I grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina.
I’m a writer. After ignoring this for years, I realize writing is the primary way I process my experiences and share them with the world.
I also have a passion for mental health and centering African-American narratives. The black community is often left out by the mental health system through expensive and overly complicated health insurance, insensitive mental health advice, and criminalization as well as mass incarceration.
Personally, I’ve gone through so much pain trying to fit into what a black person is supposed to be. I don’t want anyone else to go through that. I hope my platform, Depressed While Black, liberates black people to be their most authentic selves, even in their mental health life.
What has your mental health journey been like?
My mental health journey has been really hard and it is still hard. I had the toughest winter of my life this last season in experiencing the loss of relationships, the loss of my grandma, and some pretty significant work stress that exacerbated my depression. I was in a really dark place.
Since then, I’ve tried to change my life to make my life worth living. I’m investing in self-care which for me, looks like weightlifting and building skills in areas I want to grow in. It also looks like leaving my job and searching for a career change in a field that is more sustainable for my mental wellness.
So my mental health journey looks like a lot of tinkering, a lot of falls, a lot of mistakes, but also a lot of recovery as well. It’s messy and non-linear. I have not overcome depression at all. And I feel that is my strength as a mental health advocate: to reveal what ongoing mental illness is like as a black person.
What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in pursuing recovery?
Institutional racism to be honest. And it’s not always in your face. Institutional racism can look like a psychiatrist telling you that you’re bipolar because you write in your notebook. That happened to me. This made me wonder if my psychiatrist, who was a woman of color but not black, was unable to perceive my black intellect because she didn’t see black people as being capable of having intellect.
I’ve had therapists ignore the cultural context that I live in. I was told to leave school without them knowing what my home life is first.
There are so many blind spots in the mental health system that ignores what black people go through. That feeling of being invisible when you need to be seen is so painful. I’m so glad for mental health resources like Therapy For Black Girls that connect black people with mental health professionals that see them and affirm them.
What helps you maintain recovery?
I’m in a period of transition right now, but I’m hoping to get a therapist once I move. I need a long-term therapist and some stability because it’s been tough bouncing from therapist to therapist.
I enjoy taking voice lessons. It’s nerve-wracking and weird but when you feel you progressed, it’s an incredible feeling.
Since I’m a writer, I have a difficult relationship with writing as self-care because writing is my job. But I hope to journal more, and in a non-judgmental way. That’s really hard for me but I want to do this.
What advice do you have for someone in the early stages of recovery?
I would say to not be afraid of your rock bottom because you can get through it. The fear of my lowest point made me do a lot of harmful things like act impulsively in my personal decisions. Sometimes you just need to be patient with yourself and realize you can’t always speed up your recovery. Sometimes you just need to do the same small, empowering steps you did yesterday. And with that repetition, you get better. There really isn’t a magic pill for mental illness. Recovery often comes from the mundane things.