Age at diagnosis: 27
Brief outline: Myra (age 27), as a child was abused and bullied by peers, but her parents did not believe her. By age 14 she was seriously depressed. African American stigma about depression was a barrier to treatment. Medication and therapy since age 23, music, and her fiancé help.
Background: Myra is a musician works as an aide to older adults. She lives with her fiancé. She is African American.
As long as she can remember, Myra was anxious. She had separation anxiety and would burst into tears when she was dropped off at daycare. She was depressed, abused and bullied throughout her elementary and middle school years—being called out for acting White because she liked to learn. Her parents dismissed her complaints early on and so she stopped asking them for help. “Unfortunately”, says Myra, “in the black community there is this stigma that there is no such thing as depression. If you are depressed then you just need to turn to God and pray”. Myra’s depression and anxiety persisted through middle school despite her constant prayers. Her parents finally sought counseling for Myra when they found out that “I was dabbling in cutting myself”.
But the counselor “planted the idea in my parents’ head that I was a Satanist”. The next psychologist seemed to help. About that time Myra transferred to an arts high school, which was a somewhat “more understanding environment”, compared to the school where she had been bullied. But she soon found that people “didn’t focus so much on the art”, and thought that “science and math and just knowing how to take standardized tests was the most important thing”. Myra was again socially excluded; feelings of depression persisted. She notes, “Once again, I was silenced by my parents and by the stigma” Much of her high school years were spent alone making music and writing a “lot of sad poetry”.
Therapy combined with her introspective and inquiring nature have given Myra a keen insight into herself, the nature of her depression, and how to work with it. From therapy Myra learned that her tendency to ask questions is normal. “Part of the point of life is to question things and to forge your own way.” In that vein she has developed a sense of purpose. “If you’re just floating through life then there’s not really a point in living. …I feel like everyone…can do something that betters the world”. For Myra this translates break the stigma of depression in her community. She wants people to know, “Depression is not a white people thing. Depression is not necessarily something you can pray yourself out of. Depression is not something that you can think yourself. It’s not something that you can necessarily cure with diet and exercise and all these other strange theories”. I’m one of the people who’s tried them and they didn’t work. I needed something classic and solid to get to this point. And for Myra medications are part of the mix. “Zoloft helped me actually finish things and finish sentences”.
Depression, Myra says, is like laundry in the dryer, just tumbling and just tumbling and just tumbling …and it never finishes a cycle” But she finds it’s easier to “get out of a funk nowadays” Maturity plays a role in in this. “Now that I’m pushing 30 it’s easier to see that these problems are temporary. You know, this won’t last no matter how long it seems to be going on”. Myra “promotes music as therapy. It’s really helpful to pound on a tambourine or a drum or to just sing or scream if you need to. So um, yeah, I would ultimately turn to music a lot if you feel like no one is there for you or you feel like you can’t talk with anyone”. She has learned the hard way that “being prideful can really hurt you. …I suffered for so many years, partially because of pride and partially because of me thinking that I could handle it on my own. So if I had known that, that pride can kill you, then I would have kept speaking out. I would have been like, I need something”.
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