I used to give my whole check in the offering plate at church. I was a teenager and had little financial responsibilities except myself and my car. I was taught that if you gave money, God would give you more money, and if you gave more money, God would give you even MORE money. So many times, I gave it all. I hated it, but if that’s how God worked, who was I to question it?
Around the same time, I volunteered in my church’s youth department. I think I had the same mentality about my time that I had about my money. I gave away all my free time to help others. Don’t get me wrong. In some ways, it was a beautiful time. I met some of my best friends there. I learned a ton, and I think that was where I really figured out what I was good at. The main problem was that I just felt off emotionally. At one point, I “served” so much I couldn’t remember when was the last time I sat down and listened to a sermon for myself. I felt drained, but in some ways, I felt proud of myself, thinking, “I’m a real Christian. I’m doing this to help my church.” I was unhappy, but I was proud. If I wasn’t suffering a little bit, I wasn’t doing it right.
This is how I grew up. When my mom was alive, she was the most loving person I knew, but she was also the most exhausted person I knew. My fondest memory of her was after her cancer diagnosis. She had to quit her job to work on her health, so she was forced to rest. She picked up complex puzzles at the dollar store and spent hours putting them together at home. She’d listen to sermons, eat snacks and just do something she enjoyed. Sometimes I joined her. Sometimes I didn’t. It was boring to me, but to her it was relaxing. It made her smile. In the years after her passing, I’ve gotten better about taking care of myself, in part because of her story, but it’s been a slow process overall . . . until last year.
Last year I made a decision that changed everything. I stopped saying “yes” when I really wanted to say “no.” I don’t know what made me make the switch. I probably read something that inspired me, or heard something on a podcast. Who knows, but the point is that I tried it. At first, I felt SUPER guilty when I could do something but said no because I didn’t want to do it. I felt selfish, but I said “no” anyway. Over time, it’s gotten easier.
About a week ago, I looked up and realized I was doing a ton for myself. I've been emotionally and physically recovering from the last acting job. I've been prioritizing self-care. I even went to a small beach town for a couple days to celebrate my hard work. I’ve come a long way. In my new normal, I feel full. And for the first time in a while, I’ve had the urge to do something for someone else, just because.
The other day, I took my husband to the grocery store and told him to pick out magazines about stuff that inspired him.
The husband: "How many do I get?"
Me: "It's not a matter of quantity. It's a matter of quality. What do you really want? What speaks to you?"
The husband loves surprises, so this experience was particularly fun for him.
The son: “"I meed (need) to get the cars!"
My son was asking us to buy him more toys, but he doesn't need more toys. He has plenty.
Me: “Today’s activity is about daddy. We aren’t getting any toys right now. You can play with your toys when you get home.”
Even at three, I want him to be comfortable with the idea of supporting someone else’s moment.
We bought magazines, glue and snacks, and when we got home, we had a vision board party just for my husband. It was all about his thing. We ate snacks, freestyle rapped to some low-key beats, cut and pasted images of his dream. I didn’t do it out of duty. I didn’t do it hoping he would do something spontaneously fun for me in return. I did it because I wanted to, and it was a blast!
In this next season of life, I hope to be more like this person: the woman who does loving stuff for others because she wants to, not because she has to. I want to be generous but not depleted. I want to be both energized and giving. I believe it’s possible if I keep checking my motives, following those generous instincts and saying “no” when I need to say yes to something else.
“Babe, what’s wrong?” My husband asked me this question off and on all day. My answer was that I was just quiet, trying to relax or some other variation of, “nothing.” As I was getting ready for bed, he asked again. This time demanding that I take a second to check in with myself. I paused, seeing the concern in his eyes. I tried to think. A teardrop trickled down my face. My response? “I don’t know.”
The whole week after closing night, my emotions were a hot ball of confusion, and I didn’t know what to make of them. I felt mentally and physically exhausted, and I tried to knock out my responsibilities early in the week. The game plan was to get the icky stuff done, so I could take a few days off. Then . . . adulting. Doctors’ appointments, business obligations, parenting emergencies . . . Stuff just kept happening. It wasn’t a hectic week by any means. It just wasn’t the completely restful one I’d planned.
Every night I felt some type of frustration or sadness. Frustration that my house was a mess after two months of focusing on my work and not caring about how my place looked. Sadness that my body felt funny, and I wasn’t 100% sure what was going on. Frustration that I had a crap ton of business ideas that I didn’t have the energy at the moment to structure or pursue. Sadness that had nowhere to go now that I didn’t have somewhere to ball my eyes out every night. Frustration that I didn’t really celebrate my accomplishments my way, and I didn’t know why. Sadness just because. Every night some version of the emotional rollercoaster would happen until the night my husband asked me what was wrong and actually expected an answer.
After I told him I didn’t know, I went into the bathroom and had a mini meltdown. I silently prayed, “God help me. I don’t know what’s going on, but I need your help.” Then it hit me. This was depression.
I’d been spending so much time trying to push past my emotions that I didn’t even recognize I was being pulled back into depression. It’s been almost a year, and I’d honestly forgotten how that downward spiral feels at the beginning of it. This time, I didn’t catch it at the beginning. I recognized it once I was fully in it. I’m thankful for my husband for not letting up. I’m thankful for God for whispering the answer when I needed it. I’m thankful for my willingness to get help months ago, so that I knew what to do.
I was still sad when I walked out of the bathroom, but at least I was clear. I told my husband the truth. I was dealing with depression, and I wasn’t sure what triggered it. It could have been that I’ve been working on an emotionally taxing show, and my body was responding in anger about the trauma I put it through over the last couple months. It could have been that I was just emotionally depleted and needed to fill back up again. It could have been that I expected to feel amazing after the whole thing was over, and I was disappointed that I didn’t. It could have been a combination of all of the above. But what I needed more than anything was patience, kindness, rest and a partner that wouldn’t freak out on me.
Over the next two days I focused on all of those things. I stayed off social media. I organized some of my house while listening to sermons. I went to a comedy club with my best friend and laughed until my face hurt. A took naps when I needed them. I spent time with my guys (hubby and the toddler). I acted and got some of those negative feelings out, and I didn’t pressure myself to be perfect. I went to church for the first time in weeks and heard exactly what I needed to hear from God. I am loved.
I’ve had a few good days following my bathroom revelation, and I hope to stay on this path for weeks to come. I’m not pressuring myself to be anything in particular. I am caring for myself and slowly reintroducing my routine. The whole thing may have just been post-event blues. In which case, that sudden bout of depression was completely normal. Either way, it’s okay that for almost a week I was emotionally down. I’m thankful that I had faith to lean on and tools to help me pick myself up. I’m not sure that I’m 100% back to normal. But as of today, I’m feeling more joy than sadness, and that it is progress.
About me . . .
I'm Cyrah Hill. I'm a woman of faith, an actor and an everyday black girl.