Greetings! I want to start off with a simple truth: About 14 million people suffer from depression in a single year. About one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year as well. I remember that I had to have been about 13 when I first felt that I experienced moments of sadness and confusion. Growing up as a young black girl, I had the “usual” two parent household, brother and sisters. Attended private school and was in activities like Girl Scouts as well as a member of the choir at our neighborhood church. There was always pressure to maintain a positive identity when there was so much happening within me. I learned, as an adult, that I was of mixed heritage. Algonquin Indian, Scottish along with southern African-American roots. I was also told that there may be some Hispanic culture blended in as well. I would like to confirm it so I will try ancestry.com, see what happens. As a teen, I went through stages of frustration, anger and hopelessness. I started some counseling back then but it was still a touchy subject among black folk. There was hardly any talk of feeling “blue”. I attended an all girls’ catholic high school in the “Little Italy” section of The Bronx, NY. Of course, I had a “crew” or close group of girls whom I held dear and honestly felt like more of a sisterhood than high school classmates. I had a talent of masking my insecurities. I used humor and laughed at my pain; in turn I made others laugh at my outbursts and sarcasm. Being the class clown was a natural and comfortable role because it was a distraction from the loneliness and gave me a sense of stability. I had to learn a harsh lesson when years later, those same group of girls teased and tried their form of bullying. I handled it the best way I knew , being straightforward, but it didn’t matter. Many chose not to think for themselves and in return, there was unnecessary drama. Not only was I hurt, I was stunned that because of my disorder I was being treated in such a demeaning way. At the time, I wasn’t ready to accept that being Schizo-affective had labeled me as “crazy” woman. By the time I went through a divorce from a marriage I was not ready for, I realized I was in an internal war. Low self-esteem is a real feeling and it hurts. Depression is not just a “bad day”, it is a battle where you have one side of your mind telling you that you are “hopeless” and the other side trying to declare you must fight this feeling. It can affect thinking and simple actions like eating or taking a walk. Everything becomes a challenge. Most mental illnesses are hereditary and more often, receiving a diagnosis at an early age is a great step in working towards recovery but honestly, it is never too late. My oldest sister was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, during her teen years if I am correct and as a young girl, I didn’t quite understand what she was going through. I remember many different reactions to her disorder, I remember feeling frustrated because I could not help. My dear sister also has a physical scar, a large burn covering the entire left side of her face/body that she had as a baby. I can not imagine the shame, awkwardness and plain discouragement she had to endure and fight with on a daily basis. During her time growing up, it was even more of a taboo to discuss depression so I believe it was extremely hard for this beautiful young black woman to be at peace with herself, to love herself and interact with others. As a family, we never truly talked about major depression and the effects. As years passed and I became an adult with my own experiences, I could empathize and still do. Working on acceptance was the biggest hurdle. Coming to terms with letting go of a fight with reality. It is not something that happens overnight.