A Note to My Therapist, My Major Depressive Disorder, and Myself

Trigger warning: The below adapted excerpt contains mentions of suicidal ideation, major depressive disorder, and self-harm.

In December 2018, I found my absolute favorite forever therapist. Keanu, a Black woman, who matches my sarcasm, has kept me alive literally and figuratively. When I walked into her office for the first time, I saw a framed picture of Beyoncé on the wall; I knew I was in good hands. Suicidal ideation was creeping up again. Since I am an executive coach, I have been able to use my own techniques to get her to share parts of her intersectionality with me. It’s our intersectionality that bonds us, resulting in the most transformative therapy I’ve ever had. She calls me her celebrity client, which I always scoff at, but it is a part of my identity. My new and pending health diagnoses were taking a toll on my purpose in life. She encouraged me to text her when I felt lost or needed help. If I needed to be admitted to a hospital, she guaranteed she would be there during the process. Keanu put together a plan of action to keep me alive.

Her practice was not far from a donut shop, and if I had the time, I would grab one before my weekly morning session. Some sessions, after I walked up the steep steps of the converted home where she practiced, there would be a glazed donut waiting for me on her lacquered mahogany coffee table. I would act cool like it wasn’t a big deal, but inside I was overwhelmed with how much she cared. Keanu saw how much I cared for others and didn’t get much in return. She showed me I was deserving of care all through a donut.

We pivoted to virtual sessions with the start of the pandemic to stay on top of my weekly sessions. When the COVID vaccine was far from being tested, I was lacking human touch and interaction; she saw me struggle through the screen, slowly slipping back into suicidal ideation. The next day there was a donut at my door. Keanu swears it wasn’t her, but I saw her walking—well, running—away in the distance. She has given me hope when I couldn’t even bear to grasp it.

White Supremacy Is All Around: Notes from a Black Disabled Woman in a White World by Dr. Akilah Cadet

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White Supremacy Is All Around: Notes from a Black Disabled Woman in a White World by Dr. Akilah Cadet

Credit: Hachette Go

I am traumatized daily through my company (dismantling white supremacy is not easy) and being disabled and a Black woman in America. Sometimes it is all too much. Now, anytime I am in suicidal ideation, my favorite therapist is there for me. She’s taken a different approach with me. I know once a week I can let it all out. I can be reminded of my value. I can cry and be angry all because Keanu gives me a supportive place in which to do that. Donut or not.

I am traumatized daily through my company and being disabled and a Black woman in America. Sometimes it is all too much.”

I hold so much in all the time to run my business, take care of clients, be my own patient advocate to manage my disability, educate the public to keep going to “do the work.” But sometimes the bomb goes off.

Living with major depressive disorder is the worst pain. It creeps up on me when I least expect it. It knows that I’m happy and wants to take it away. There are thoughts that are so terrifying that I do all that I can to reclaim joy. I’ve been living with major depressive disorder for almost ten years. Some days I’m in a place where I live for my calendar’s obligations. Other days I feel like I am contractually obligated to live. The other part of my major depressive disorder is that it is triggered by my chronic pain from disability. Sometimes the pain is so unbearable that I question how I can live this way. How can I live another day? I write this because I think it’s important people know what it’s like for me and millions of other people who live with chronic pain, disability, and depression.

Living with major depressive disorder means that I’m making a choice almost every single day to live. I don’t think people realize how exhausting it is to live with depression, lacking the energy that’s needed to smile, laugh, and be present. In a way, we have to pretend and fake it until we make it, if we make it.

Thanks, major depressive disorder. Thanks for making my life painfully brilliant. For telling me when I need support. For making me lean into being vulnerable. For making me cry in public. But, most importantly, for making me share my pain with the world—so someone else who is like me knows they are not alone.

Today I cry a lot, but to release the sadness to make space for joy. Today, I’m able to text my therapist right away instead of waiting for my scheduled session. Today, I can tell loved ones I’m getting close to suicidal ideation. Today, I can ask for help. Today, I don’t think about the dark side of major depressive disorder. Today, I lived another day. Tomorrow, I’ll get up and keep being amazing.

If you or someone you know needs support managing mental health, please visit Mental Health America for tools and support. If you need help now, call 988, the 24/7 Suicide and CrisisLifeline. But use with caution. If you are from a nondominant community, these resources might be more culturally appropriate: BlackLine (1-800-604-5841) is a hotline geared toward the Black, Black LGBTQ+, brown, Native, and Muslim communities. Trans Lifeline (US: 877-565-8860; Canada: 877-330-6366) is a hotline for trans and questioning individuals. Wildflower Alliance has a peer support line and online support groups focused on suicide prevention.

Excerpted and adapted from: WHITE SUPREMACY IS ALL AROUND: Notes from a Black Disabled Woman in a White World by Dr. Akilah Cadet. Copyright ©️ 2024. Available from Hachette Go, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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