Being a woman is the juggling act that never ends. School. Work. Kids. Partner. Bills. Parents. Friends. Spirituality. Hobbies. Fitness. Fashion. Health. Pets. Politics. Advocacy. Social Media. And Menstrual Cramps. Whether it’s a matter of challenging societal “norms” or doing whatever the hell you want while trying to preserve your sanity, it’s hard–life is hard–and I think we tend to downplay that sometimes. While men are groomed to be strong and brave (which is not without its own fundamental flaws), women are raised in a society that demands perfection. As a result, we walk around pretending we have it all together when we may very well be hurting and screaming for help on the inside. So I’ll take this moment to say, if there is anyone out there who has this whole life thing figured out to a science, please contact me immediately–I have some questions.

While I truly believe that women are the most powerful and invincible beings on the face of the earth, that does not negate the fact that we are also precious and fragile. Just because we are single-handedly raising entire communities and leading revolutions, does not mean we don’t need to invest in our mental and emotional health.

I’m by no means a mental health expert but I can read and interpret numbers, so let’s look at the stats as reported by Mental Health America.

  • Approximately 12 million women in the United States experience clinical depression each year.
  • Depression occurs most frequently in women aged 25 to 44.
  • Women experience depression at roughly twice the rate of men.
  • Twenty to 40 percent of women may experience premenstrual syndrome and an estimated 3-5 five percent have symptoms severe enough to be classified as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.
  • Married people have a lower rate of depression than those living alone. However, unhappily married people have the highest rates of depression.
  • Approximately 10-15 percent of all new mothers get postpartum depression, which most frequently occurs within the first year after the birth of a child.
  • Research shows a strong relationship between eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia nervosa) and depression in women.
  • Although men are more likely than women to die by suicide, women report attempting suicide approximately twice as often as men.
  • Depression in women is misdiagnosed approximately 30 to 50 percent of the time.
  • Fewer than half of the women who experience clinical depression will ever seek care.

Women across the globe suffer in silence daily. But if we’re all going through it, why do we continue to do it alone. We should be joining forces and sharing the burden of our pain. When weight is evenly distributed, it’s harder to find a breaking point. The same goes for community. If you have the support of trusted individuals around you, you’re less likely to break. We’ve been lied to and taught that vulnerability is a flaw when it’s actually one of our greatest strengths. If you can find it within yourself to expose your flaws, pain, and hardships with a safe and trustworthy soul, you are exhibiting courage far more powerful than that of your problems.

Although asked over a million times a day, the question “how are you?” is actually a pretty heavy question, not to be taken lightly. It’s two-fold really. There’s the person who asks the question, and the person who answers it. Pretty simple, right? No, not really. We’ve gotten so busy in life that even our human interactions are on autopilot.

Person 1 – “Hi, how are you”

Person 2 – “Good, and you?”

Meanwhile person 1 and 2 have already gone their separate ways before the “conversation” was even completed.

To all the askers:

Don’t be a robot. Don’t ask if you don’t care. There are plenty of other greetings besides the auto, “Hi, how are you?” If you’re going out of your way to ask someone how they’re doing, be sincere about it and take the time to hear them out. And when they do respond, be open to hearing the ugly truth. If the response is less than favorable, don’t just brush it off with a “You’ll be okay!” You don’t actually know that. Be thoughtful about your response, even if sincerely listening is the only care you can offer.

To the responders:

Life isn’t roses and sunshine all the time, so why should we pretend like it is? Be willing to share your true emotions. Obviously, not everyone you encounter throughout the day needs to know the intricate details of the challenges you’re facing, but if the cashier at the grocery store asks how you’re doing, and you had a shitty day, say you had a shitty day! Don’t pretend to be okay if you’re not–it’s not healthy. Plus, by living in your own truth, you unconsciously give others the encouragement to do the same.

For everyone:

Given “Grey’s Anatomy” is basically on season 75, I assume everyone has seen at least a few episodes. Remember how Meredith and Cristina used to refer to one another as the each other’s “person”? Well, we all need a person; we all need our people. Find your person, and check in with your them on a regular basis. Be there for them and allow them to be there for you. If you don’t have a person, consider joining a church, networking group, association, or volunteering at community centers to meet people and potentially find your person.

As I was writing this article, I found out that a classmate of mine from my undergraduate studies at Howard University had committed suicide. In times like these, you’re reminded that everyone is fighting their own demons whether we see it or not. We owe it to ourselves to support one another through this wild, difficult and sometimes painful roller coaster we call life. So the next time you ask someone “how are you?” really mean it and listen to the answer.

Rest In Peace, Rob.