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Just an Ordinary Pain: Living With Persistent Depressive Disorder

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A self-portrait of a woman with persistent depression. Somehow, it always pulls you back.Photo: Courtesy of Maiysha Kai

Editor’s note: Until recently, mental health and illness were taboo subjects in the black community. But thanks to the efforts of those brave enough to speak on it, that’s changing. In that vein, The Root team is taking this week during Mental Health Awareness Month to write about how mental health has touched our lives. Read previous posts in the series here and here. 

“It’s not normal to be like this. You should really see someone.”

I fucking hate it when A does this. He’s one of my best friends, but he’s also a gotdamn “fixer,” rarely content unless he can slip on his know-it-all helmet and superhero cape. He usually comes to the rescue with advice, lavish pick-me-ups like vacations and seven-course dinners, and the occasional much-needed cash infusion (and, once, a replacement iPhone).

Yes, these are also all reasons he’s one of my best friends, but at this particular moment, I’m also pretty sure it’s why he feels entitled enough to tell me I need fixing. And I fucking hate it when he does this.

Besides, it’s my fucking birthday; I don’t want to be told I’m broken (again) on my fucking birthday. It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to … which, of course, I then silently start to, right there in a booth in the middle of the Four Seasons dining room, smack dab in the middle of Manhattan.

That was April 16. A month ago today. I’m not always like that—well, not always like that. I’m told I’m also witty, attractive and charming, well-read, creative, intuitive and frequently hilariously funny. I’m supposedly quite the draw when I’ve got it all together (but who the hell ever has it all together?). But if I’m honest, I’m always six degrees of separation away from this—actually, far worse than this.


I was 12 the first time I felt anything akin to what I’d heard described as “depression.” I instinctively knew that I had it—almost as if I’d been destined to, and had simply been waiting on it, like my first period. I’d always been known as an emotional child—“high-strung” or “dramatic” was generally how I was described (I was also a drama geek, which didn’t help). So it wasn’t


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