For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide (Part I)
The news of Karyn Washington’s death graced my inbox 3 days ago when a dear friend and fellow social media maven forwarded a link to an article sharing the tragic news. I felt a pang of despair and pondered over this loss. I did not know the ForBrownGirls.com and #DarkGirlsRedLip project founder and was scarcely familiar with her wonderful work. Nevertheless, the fact that this generous and creative young spirit decided to take her own life was clearly a tragedy. Here is yet another opportunity to implore Black women…to implore all women of color to speak up and speak out about their battles with mood disorders and other mental illnesses.
Reluctance to Speak Out
I’m not sure if my desire to shy away from this issue was because in the 10 months since I decided to speak very publicly about my own diagnosis of treatment resistant major depressive disorder, a part of me still shirks in fear waiting for ridicule and criticism from my sisters (as sadly some have directed towards Washington). Maybe it’s because in the midst of so many good things happening for me and the apparent remission I appear to have been experiencing for several months, I still fear that I could easily find myself struggling to string together a week’s worth of days in which I manage to be (what past doctors describe as) high-functioning.
Excuses don’t matter. With social media channels set ablaze by the news of Washington’s death, I could no longer ignore this issue. One blog post in particular, I am Karyn Washington: Suicide, Depression and Mothers Who Left Us by GeorgeousinGrey.com lifestyle blogger Ty Alexander really left an impression upon me. I appreciate Ty for sharing her story and telling us about how she became acquainted with Karyn. Her post was very telling. It focused on how we can slip into depression when our progression through the grieving process becomes stalled. Ty also spoke candidly about her unspoken desire to not go on after her mother passed away:
When I heard the news this morning, that’s the first thing I thought. I should have shared my thoughts about living without my mother. And how I didn’t want to. I wanted to join her in heaven. It has too be easier up top.
But I was/am too ashamed to admit it. I can hardly believe that I am even typing it and sharing it with you. But fuck it, I’ve thought about it. Does that make me crazy?! NOPE!
She also opened up about her own tendency to self medicate:
I’m still nursing my depression with cocktails, tears and hugs from my boyfriend so no need to worry (that much). I just thought you’d like to know that there’s a little Karyn Washington in us all!
A voice from within became louder and louder after reading the following words from Ty:
I’ve learned to live through the pain. How? That’s a really good question. I’ve never been to a therapist, and maybe I should have went after my mother died. It’s never too late, perhaps I’ll get there soon. But I’ve found my own comforting rhythm. A beat that soothes my yearn to end it all.
Offering a Helping Hand
I could not help but feel our sisters in pain need more details, more to hold on to, more resources from which to draw. At least that’s how I felt as I continued to scramble in the darkness attempting to cobble together a plan for my own self-care and wellness. Like the different characters in Ntazake Shange’s For Color Girls Who Have Considered Suicide, there may be key similarities between Karyn, Ty and myself, but there are also differences.