“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
My favorite activity when I’m in the train is people watching. The cultural diversity New York City is known for, makes every day in this city more interesting. There you have a Hispanic mom pushing a stroller with her new born baby, not far from her, a Jewish family with shopping bags all over, then the typical group of loud teenagers, and then an African or Haitian man on the phone shouting at the top of his lung as if the person on the other side of the line was within earshot. This city is full of so much more colorful characters, I love it, and that is why I go out way too much sometimes; strolling session around my neighborhood, window shopping, night out with friends, I always find an excuse to go out! One night, as I was sitting in the train, I saw this older man, probably in his 60’s, and he had the saddest expression ever, the sadness on his face was so striking, all I was able to do as we made eye contact was smile, because I was hoping my smile could change his expression, but he looked at me with empty eyes, then looked away with the same miserable look. I too, looked away, and went back to observing other people, but I slowly started to feel unhappiness all around me, and by the time I got off the train, I, myself was unhappy.
I am a naturally happy person, I’m always making jokes and always come up with crazy fun ideas, and my texting buddies love me because I am hilarious! I am not even bragging, I swear I am funny, okay! I like to think I always bring the fun wherever I go, which is no big deal, because I barely go anywhere! My friends always say I’m an hermit because I often cancel plans to go out, or I go ghost on everyone for a couple weeks…or months, or I don’t answer my texts and calls. But the truth is, sometimes, I get sad and I go through these times where I don’t want to talk to people and let them see or feel my sadness, because I feel like they don’t deserve to deal with my sad self, plus being alone help me better in dealing with it, so I have learned my way in coping with these occasional depressive episodes. Because yes, I call it depression.
Depression is such a Taboo in our Haitian society, people barely acknowledge it. I remember when I was in Primary school back home, there was this girl couple grades before us, and she tried many times to kill herself, but everybody kept saying that it was supernatural, (because everything, even the sun rising in Haiti is supernatural! *sarcasm*) but now that I think about it, I am sure it was not supernatural at all (Big Surprise!), because she was always depressed, plus she was dealing with many issues in her personal life, and that could have made her suicidal. We don’t realize the importance of mental health in our society, and it’s a shame that when people are known to have some mental issues, they are stigmatized. I remember having a conversation with some ignorant family members when I was about to graduate from high school. They were asking me what I was going to study in College, and I told them Psychology, because I am fascinated with Humans, and I have always wanted to understand how our brain functioned. Their answer was: “saw prale fe ak moun fou yo pitit?” I was baffled, because first of all, Psychology is not the study of “moun fou”, second, these so called “moun fou”, are people too, and they need us, because they are not crazy, their brain is just different from other people’s brain.
But going back to depression, I personally developed mine, after the earthquake. I had a very happy childhood, I grew up in a very stable family, and until my world was literally shaken in January 2010, the biggest struggle I ever faced in life before, was Official State exam in BACC 1, THAT WAS A NIGHTMARE! Anyway, After the earthquake, I lost a couple friends, but the thing that really messed me up, was the suffering that I saw afterwards. I am a very empathethic person, I cannot stand to see other people in pain, I don’t have to know you, I can just feel people’s energy and it makes me sad. I felt sadness for my high school good friend’s parents who lost their only child, I felt sadness for her because she died so young and all her dreams and aspirations were crushed, I felt sadness for every Haitian mothers who had to live with the loss of a child, I felt sadness for the ones who could not even get a proper burial because their bodies were never found, I felt sadness for them.
I left the country couple weeks after the earthquake, but I left with this burden and I’ve been carrying it everywhere since then. My depression progressed like this, it started with me asking myself questions like: why them? Why was I spared? Why Haiti? Why am I even mourning and crying for people I don’t know? At first I thought I was grieving, and going through Post traumatic Stress disorder, because I would also have panic attacks and anxiety every now and then. But then the feeling of constant sadness would not go away even after I left home, and was in a new and different environment. Plus as time passed by, I then started getting irritable and then I would torture myself with existential questions about the meaning and purpose of life, because it all seems super meaningless whenever I am depressed. As the years went by, it stopped being about the earthquake, the smallest most unexpected and random things triggers my depression. For example, now when I get the most depressed is when I miss my family members, or when I see random people suffering, like this old man on the train!
Most time, I can feel myself sinking in the funk, the usual signs are, lack of appetite, I have no motivation to get out of bed in the morning, I stop enjoying my hobbies, and everything just get so heavy, school, work, talking to people, etc… All I want to do in these moments, is lay in my bed and sleep forever! Usually, this is where I stop the madness. I have different techniques to get rid of my depression but most time, spiritually and positive thinking are what help me. I was raised in a christian family, I have a strong sense of faith, so whenever I feel like I am going deep into the blues, I pray. And it helps, because after I pray, I get more positive, and I go back to doing the things that I enjoy. My mom always says I am mentally strong, and I think she is right because my depression is not big enough for me to seek professional help such as therapy, I can pretty much handle it myself. But not everyone is not mentally strong, plus some people have it deep in their genes, they are always naturally depressed, and that’s why I am writing this article. I am sure many Haitian young people suffer from chronic sadness and depression, and guys, you don’t have to live unhappy with yourself, If you feel like you need help with coping with your depression, seek professional help, if you cannot get professional help, talk to a friend, or I don’t know, Google ‘how to get rid of depression and be Happy’ (I’m not even kidding, I actually Googled that and they have some pretty good articles with tips on how to live a happier life! Don’t laugh!) Do whatever you have to do to be mentally healthy and happy, because we only have this one life, and living it in misery would be such a waste, we all deserve happiness!
Our Haitian society needs to be more open with programs for people with that kind of mental issues. I don’t know if we have centers with therapists to help people facing similar problems in Haiti. If we do, I would feel very proud because it would be one step towards the right direction. Implementing ideas to touch people who might not feel comfortable about going to see a therapist in person could be great as well. For example, we can have anonymous telephonic lines where people can call and speak to a counselor about whatever they are going through. There are so much ways the government and society in general can help, but first, we just need to be aware of depression as an issue, acknowledge it and provide the help needed.
Sometimes, people in our culture tend to see people who are depressed and withdrawn, as just rude, cold or antisocial. It is our job as part of this new generation coming up to be more accepting about these issues. Educate someone about depression today, talk to your parents, grand parents, classmates,
“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen