Editor’s Note: If you struggle with suicidal thoughts or self harm, the following story may potentially be triggering. You can contact Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741 from anywhere in the U.S.
As a young African-American girl, born in the Southern United States, much of my struggle with mental illness was colored by silence. The daughter of a minister and a would-be pastor, my parents always gave their best efforts to "cast out the demons" that plagued me, calling on prayer warriors and oils...
I was told to stop misbehaving for attention for accounts of bruting and crying on the floor. I was called disrespectful when my pain turned to rage or on the few occasions where I was brave enough to write my mother letters about how unhappy I was.
I was called ungrateful.
Feeling unheard and unseen, I started cutting as early as 6th grade. I was screaming inside.
I didn’t know what was wrong with me.
By 7th grade, my English teacher had noticed a complete mental absence in me. She phoned home to say… “She zones out, she doesn’t pay attention, and the readings she once loved… she seemingly refuses to participate in.”
Time marched on. High school came and I begged my mother to pull me out of public school and enroll me in a recovery center for teens that allowed them to continue their studies while focusing on recovering from their respective mental illnesses.
“Mom I just think this could help…”
“There’s nothing wrong with you, Keturah.”
Sermon after sermon about leaning on God eventually gave way to me sitting on the window sill of my freshmen dorm room with my Bible slumped neatly on my desk, minding its own business, as I sat in the window crying and asking God why he refused to save me. If God is peace, maybe I should just meet him. My roommate was at her boyfriend’s so I knew I had all the time in the world to deliberate on what seemed to be the only form of healing.
I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket, mouthing to the universe, “one last chance” and before my eyes a Twitter notification from my friend appeared. I don’t remember what it said, but it broke me and my response to it sent him directly into my inbox.
I wasn’t happier, but I felt like I could stay.
It would still be another year and a half before I was hospitalized and officially diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but that was the beginning of me starting to think a little differently.
I would never discredit anybody’s faith. The power of belief can do and move all things. But my greatest mission in life is to remove the scrutiny around mental illness in the church community and in the Black community. I want to have conversations about therapy and medication and ways that, whatever God you believe in, you can work through these avenues to heal.
I’m tired of watching children who could be saved, die because they were shamed into suffering in silence.
Written by Keturah Brown