In 2008, I was on top of my game. I was the deputy editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar, the first Black person to rise so high on a venerable fashion magazine masthead. My first book, Get Yours! How to Have Everything You Ever Dreamed of and More, had come out the year before and the paperback was on its way to bookstores. My then-2-year-old son was healthy and happy. And a huge media company was recruiting me for an important new job. All was well in my world.
When I got a formal job offer from the media company, I told Harper’s Bazaar I would be leaving. Then on the day I was expecting my new employer to send me the executed employment contract, I got a call from the CEO of the company. He had just received some terrible news about his firm’s recent financial performance and decided he needed to rescind his offer.
I was devastated. I had already told my current employer I was leaving, and my last day was in a week. Under normal circumstances, it’s easier to get a job when you have one, but this was a recession—so I knew I was really in trouble. Companies were laying off employees, not hiring new ones. Unable to get a job and facing a new financial reality, I had to give up the place I’d secured for my son at a wonderful private preschool and sell my beloved New York City apartment. We moved to cut expenses, but it wasn’t enough, and my emergency fund was soon depleted.
And that’s when it hit …
At first, I thought I was sleeping all the time because I was just tired. But then I stopped leaving the house, had trouble getting out of bed, cried several times per day, and I couldn’t shake the terrible hopeless thoughts that flooded my mind. After a few weeks, a friend suggested I might be depressed, but I dismissed that notion. I, of all people, couldn’t possibly be depressed. I had just written an advice book on how to be fulfilled! How could I admit I didn’t have all the answers in my own life?
I stayed in that state for months, until another friend insisted I see a doctor who promptly gave me a prescription that may have saved my life. After six months of therapy and soul-searching, I felt well enough to go off the medication and began to rebuild my life. Right when my energy became more positive, fabulous opportunities began to flow my way, culminating in the exciting call I received from Johnson Publishing Company to run EBONY.
The Rev. Otis Moss III’s story (page 79) about his sister inspired me to share this difficult period in my life. In the Black community, there is a debilitating stigma attached to mental illness. So often, we brush off serious emotional trauma with a “pull-yourself-together” or “pray-it-away” attitude. But I know firsthand that depression and other mental illnesses are serious and can affect anyone at any time. If you recognize the symptoms in yourself or someone you care about, please take action immediately. Your emotional state is just as important as your physical health; there is no shame in admitting that you need some help. You are not alone.
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