1 Year Struggling with Depression

by: Mikael Owunna

Between June 2015-June 2016 I struggled a lot with depression, ranging from mild to severe. On the good days, I felt pretty normal but like a monster was lurking around the corner waiting to plunge me back into sadness, on the bad days, I struggled to even get out of bed and felt completely numb and even detached physically from my body, like I was watching myself at a distance smile at people and pretend to care about our conversations as I wanted to curl into a ball and escape inside myself.

At first this was just a day or two here or there, but eventually it began to drag on for days on days, weeks. At the worst times, suicidal thoughts briefly passed through my head. “Would anyone even care if I died?” I thought. I was already so numb that death didn’t seem like it would be that different than how I already felt.

Even as professionally much of my life was going well, emotionally and mentally I felt like I was falling apart.

At the urging of several friends, I began seeing a therapist in October 2015 which helped immensely, but also surfaced a lot of suppressed trauma from abuse I endured particularly as a teenager. When I thought things were getting better in late 2015/early 2016, I plunged back into depression from my suppressed trauma in spring 2016. I was again totally numb. I didn’t even enjoy photography anymore.

I eventually began to rest more, reflecting on the year and the trauma that I had suppressed before synthesizing and beginning to really recover in a real way in June 2016.

Throughout this whole time, though, starting in June 2015, I had documented my experiences and feelings of depression through photography. 

At the time, I ambiguously titled many of the photos as “Xx”. I knew that the series I was doing was about my depression but I was scared to talk about it. The stigma against mental illness is so strong, especially in black and many immigrant communities and particularly amongst men, that I felt smothered into silence.

I stalled seeking help as long as possible until much of my life emotionally felt like it was in pieces. I suffered in silence much of the time, especially as people shamed me for not being social and more. Mental illness is not a joke and depression and anxiety in particular are incredibly common, especially in black and brown communities that have endured tremendous historical trauma. That is why I find it important that I share my story, as a queer person, a black person, an immigrant, a victim of abuse and more.

We need to destigmatize mental illness so that people can and do get help when they need it and feel loved and supported by their communities in doing so. And if it weren’t for my closest friends repeatedly urging me to go to therapy until I relented, I’m not sure where I would be today.

If you have reached this point in the story, you have now followed my journey from June 2015-June 2016 in (roughly) chronological order from when I first started to slide into one of the hardest years of my life to when I began to truly recover and heal. 

These last two pictures were taken in 06.16 and are meant to be accompanied by this poem I wrote:

swimming in sunshine

in too deep

you paused for a moment

conjuring the beat

When i touched heaven

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