Whispers: I am Haitian and I Suffer from Depression

This post is also available in: Kreyol

This post is also available in: Kreyòl

“Whispers” is a Woy Magazine series where Haitians can anonymously share their stories, topics that may be considered too taboo to discuss in the open. Stories that deserve to be heard. We are starting this series off with a very important discussion that needs to be started in our community: mental health.

Trigger Warning: this post contains content about suicide and depression

I am tired of fighting to survive… but I dream of being able to one day testify with you, even if today I am empty and weary,  I WANT TO HOPE WITH YOU!

I realized that I was sick not too long ago. Let’s say it has been about 2 years. But, until then, I had no idea that I was suffering from an illness and that it could be treated. I just knew that I was not “normal” that I was not made for this world (I continue to think that). I suffer from depression ever since I can remember, and right now I am at my umpteenth relapse.

I admitted to my family that I had suicidal thoughts in 2013, because I was scared that I would no longer be able to hold on for another year. The immediate reaction was to have me see a doctor, a psychologist, and to give me all of their support.  When I say family, I speak only of a few members. To talk to all of them would be wearisome because people are predisposed to not understand and/or to judge those who suffer from a mental illness.

I pretended to be well for so long that lately, when I am asked how I am (or when I go into silence) or when I don’t answer positively, people in my surroundings find it weird. I have tried the best I can to hold on to the idea of the person I would have liked to be, but was not: a girl who adores life, who is happy, but is slowly dying inside. She did not dare speak about it, because to her, every little girl should be happy and since she was not, she was cursed/unlucky. As time went by, the illness took another level. I have gone from some short periods of sadness, to gray days to then fall into complete darkness where all that’s left to do is disappear. Yes, death seems more beautiful, lighter, and I dare even say happier.

When alcohol and fake laughs don’t take away the pain in the soul, all that is left to do is to give up. I have had to fight everyday for a while against these urges. At times they come too strongly and at other times too often. And fatigue sits heavily on my soul. I am tired of holding on, tired of looking for the smallest little detail that could keep me here. I often say, it is the love of my family and the love of a few friends that has saved me. But, the question remains: how long will their love continue to save me? Will I hold on until the next breakdown? Can I really fight this evil with medication?

At times, the sunny days do come, and I can finally rest my body and soul. With time, depression also attacks one physically: back pain, joint pain etc. In the past, I have gone to see a doctor seeking treatment for the physical pain until I realized that they were linked to my depression. The worst is that because of my pessimism and lack of confidence in myself, the good days are never one hundred percent good. I don’t know how many projects I have abandoned because of this. So, I live with it. I no longer try to make others feel comfortable, especially around the holidays (the HORROR!) and I don’t impose my mood swings on them either. I withdraw into myself, to better protect myself and regain my strength. I am lucky to have a group of people in my life who understand and are there for me. This is life’s gift to me.

people always remind you that being Haitian is synonymous with being strong and that we cannot afford to be depressed because we were born to fight. Well, myself and so many others, we would like to tell you NO.

For the sake of helping (I think), people always remind you that being Haitian is synonymous with being strong and that we cannot afford to be depressed because we were born to fight. Well, myself and so many others, we would like to tell you NO. We have the right to not feel good, the right to talk about it and the right especially to find the help and support needed. We are humans, and it is normal for humans to have moments where things are not going well. In my opinion, to live the good and the bad parts of life, is a part of maturing. And to tell us to make an effort, as if we were responsible for what is happening to us does not help any, if anything it riddles us with guilt.

If you really want to help, learn to listen, pay attention to the small details, to the gestures, to the unspoken. Let the person tell you if he/she wants a speech to boost her/his morale or if he/she would just rather you BE THERE. Most importantly, help them find support. By support, I mean a psychologist or psychiatrist. Some days therapy will be horrible because it will require that you open up some wounds to help find where it all started; all of that is necessary and that’s when the moral support will be needed the most. Be present! That’s how you help. And keep your judgments and undesirable comments to yourself!  For you who are like me, wen t hings aren’t going well, try to do something that will make you happy, or that can bring some light to your day. Do not pressure yourself and do not let others pressure you, give yourself time to recuperate. If you do not wish to be alone, or wish to talk, find somebody you can trust. And if you cannot find such a person, write. Write down what is hurting you, and try to turn these thoughts around.

To you who suffer in silence, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable, that there is a place for you in this world, that you are more than these terrible thoughts, that you are not alone and that according to what they say, it can be treated, and together we can overcome it. I am tired of fighting to survive and tired of my suicidal urges, but I dream of being able to one day testify with you, even if today I am empty and weary, I WANT TO HOPE WITH YOU!

And to you, who have left us because of this illness, rest in peace <3

Woy Magazine: We searched for resources in Haiti for people who are possibly suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts, and came up with very little. If you are feeling depressed and need help, please do tell your loved ones how you are feeling. If you know of any resources that are available in Haiti for people suffering from depression, please share with us in the comments

If you are in the United States, the national suicide prevention hotline is 1 (800) 273-8255. Please do not hesitate to reach out for help, and do not hesitate to help a friend who may seem in need.

Preventing suicide frequently asked questions

How to find help (USA)

  1. Thanks much for sharing. I’m passing this article on to our counselor, who regularly sees students who fight depression, and he very well may be able to point to other good resources here. Thank you again for the article.

  2. Till this week, i usually think that i’m the only one who feel like that. For me life doesnt have sense and two things that prevents me from puting an end is my mother and what could pass after death.
    Years ago, when i was still in Haïti, i passed all my days crying and crying causing a lot of stress to my mom for not being able to explain her why i’m just tired to live.
    Getting alarmed because of my physical decline, she looked for a psichologist, but we couldn’t pay and when she talks to my father he said that i probably know what i have, so i can overcome alone.
    And i tried, i’ve tried alone wrtting, doing social activities, reading, trying to think positively but now i’m just done.
    I’m so scared because i could loose my scolarship in Mexico…..all my mom’s hope.
    I only would like to be the person that i was an eternity ago.

  3. I applaud you for sharing your story and for making others aware that mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. In the Haitian culture ‘mental illness’ has always been and continues to be stigmatized. Education is key in order to help silent sufferers know of the symptoms, as well as the effectiveness of treatment (psychotherapy and medication).

  4. Dear anonymous, your story is familiar to me. Once I had feelings like yours. There is a philosopher, Eli Siegel, and a philosophy he founded, Aesthetic Realism, whose work you could look into. Eli Siegel identified the cause of depression as the disposition in every person to be for themselves by making less of the outside world. This is opposed to the deepest desire every person has, to know and like the world. I learned that the world has a beautiful structure, and that I could honestly like it. There is a website aestheticrealism.org with more information. Through the study of Aesthetic Realism, my depression ended and I feel I am in a friendly world! Best wishes to you, Mary Fagan, NYC

  5. As a first generation Haitian-American, your story resonates with me. I have always suffered from depression but didn’t have a name to attach to it. While still in high school, I’d called a suicide line a few times before I actually attempted it. 20 years later, I have a name but no less pain. I take my medication faithfully and keep waiting for the moment when everything will be sunshine and rainbows. I heard it said before and it certainly is true for me. The only thing that stops me from giving up is the pain my family would go through. Hopefully, that will always be the case.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I’m a second generation Haitian American, and I suffer mostly from anxiety but also depression. Across the African diaspora we consider mental illness taboo. I’m so happy that you are at a place in your journey where you are able to share. My sister and I are both in the social science field working to address these issues within the Haitian community and Black community at large. I’m so proud that more people are saying this is not anything to be ashamed about and raising awareness.

Comment on this article