"He's cheating again," I whispered into the phone, fighting through the brain fog that my newly prescribed depression meds gave me. "He's trying to leave me for another girl after I lost our baby."
It had only been 4 and half months since I'd lost my son, and as I sat staring at pictures of my man smiling and kissing another woman, the reason why he'd become so mean and distant, I began to tremble. In a calm voice, my best friend Keisha said "I'm so sorry, Nikki. I know this hurts. You don't need him. I'm here for you. Come home." "But he's my son's father. He's all I have left," I told her, unable to imagine leaving my man's home in Cali and returning to my apartment full of maternity clothes in Chicago. "He is not all you have left," Keisha said. "You have me." I didn't know in that moment how much Keisha loved me. So it hurt her pretty bad when she got a call from my man the next day telling her he'd found me unconscious after I tried to kill myself.
By Nikki Lynnette*, AFROPUNK Contributor
It would be another 3 weeks before I was finally diagnosed with postpartum depression. Before I fell in love and got pregnant, Keisha and I used to travel. We went to comic book conventions, we went to the Grammys. She even came and sat in on some of my studio sessions in New York when I first started writing for labels. I supported her career and she supported mine. We had a fun life together.
Then everything changed. When my mental health first began to slip, I was secretive. Very few people knew that I was in a toxic relationship with a man who had serious issues of his own, issues for which he refuses, to this very day, to get help resolving.
I'd put my music career on hold to have this family, I had spent my savings trying to have this family. The further I sank into depression, the more I withdrew from my relatives, friends, and fans. And even after confiding in a few loved ones, the stigmas around mental health issues led to some of them distancing themselves, leaving me reliant on my depressed, angry, unpredictable man. For the first time in my adult life, I experienced what it felt like to be unimportant.
At the time when so many people stepped away, Keisha stepped up. She cried with me over the loss of my son. She confronted my man and demanded he be accountable and stand by me while I navigated my recovery from depression. She communicated with my family on my behalf. She rallied the friends of mine who were concerned and kept them informed, making sure I knew they were there for me, too. She hustled and found ways to help with money when I was so broke I could barely afford co-pays when I went to the doctor.
When my guy sat in our home and barely said two words for weeks at a time, Keisha would talk with me on the phone for hours about everything from my therapy sessions to my desire to get back to making music. And after I left him and immediately started caring for my mom, Keisha was supportive, bringing to the hospital everything from groceries to brand new thigh-high boots during my long stays with my mom. She even took a few days off of working to sit in her apartment with me to binge watch TV shows during the days after my mom died. I could go on and on about how great of a friend she has been and it still wouldn't express it properly.
Depressed people have a tendency to be selfish, unable to see a world outside of our own pain. There were times when Keisha felt helpless, scared, and unappreciated. But she stayed. And with her help, I rediscovered myself.
Keisha told me that being suicidal did not define me, and that one day my story would help people. And through my ups and downs, my progress and setbacks, she kept it all private. Nobody knows all we have been through. I still can't talk about it all. Nobody knew she had done so much to help me, until now.
Nowadays, Keisha and I laugh and joke around a lot. And we have plans to travel soon. People tend to back away when someone has depression. But my best friend coming closer saved my life. She crawled into the quicksand with me and pulled me out. It would be great if everyone dealing with mental health issues had a huge supportive network of people who had their back, but most of us aren't so lucky.
The good news is, it's not even necessary. And many of us couldn't even allow ourselves to let those people be there for us even if they wanted to be. And many people do want to help a struggling loved one and feel like their efforts just won't be enough. But they can be. I am living proof that one strong person can make all the difference in the life of a person battling depression.
*Nikki Lynette is a rapper, singer, producer, songwriter, visual artist, blogger and on-air personality. And a goddess with real locs. Follow her on Twitter & Instagram @NikkiLynette