I intentionally decided to make this blog post today because I have been observing this notion we all have that mental health issues are to be whispered about.
There is absolutely no reason at all to stigmatize someone who suffers depression, anxiety, PTSD, schizophrenia etc. The same way Cancer and leukemia can affect anyone is how any or more of mental health disorders can affect just about anyone.
The same way you would sound really silly trying to stigmatize someone living with HIV/AIDS in 2017 is the same way you, an educated person, would sound stupidly silly when you stigmatize against someone because they suffer from a psychological issue.
So I’m putting it out here👇👇
First of all, depression and sadness are two different things.
Sadness is often triggered by a loss, a problem, a disappointment, or any other difficult situation. It is a normal human reaction to feel sad over a bad state of things.
In such cases, these feelings of sadness go away after an interval, and life goes back to normal.
Depression on the other hand is a mental illness that affects your mood, the way you understand yourself and other people, the way you react to issues, and the way you relate with things around. It is much more than sadness. Way more than that. A depressed person may feel worthless or hopeless. Some may even harbour suicidal thoughts. Depression can actually be triggered by absolutely no reason at all.
The most important thing to note is that depression is a real illness, and it is quite treatable.
Having cleared that, below are the five things dealing with depression has taught me.
• People who haven’t suffered from depression have a tough time understanding it.
If you sat down and explained what depression is to an average Nigerian three times a day (like a doctor’s prescription) for the next three months, they still wouldn’t understand it.
This doesn’t necessarily mean they are being insensitive to your plight, it just so happens that we all find it difficult to understand something we have not gone through ourselves.
I still strongly feel that the worst mistake I made was talking to my mom. I know her reaction was out of love and worry(after all, I happen to be her only surviving child) but trust me, it added to my problem. The poor woman just didn’t understand how I could be depressed.
I mean, we are talking about La Crème (her pet name for me) here. La Crèmè who is usually bubbly and full of life. La Crèmè who was always looking for an excuse to go out suddenly became an introvert who would lock herself in for days.
“La creme, ki lo sele gan gan?” She would ask me.
“Depression keh, iwo omode ara e. Ki lon ro? Tin ba ni ko lo si church wa ni wahala mommy e ti po ju. I don’t like the fact that you don’t go to church. It was bad enough when you were going to Dominion City abi Dominos city de ni. Now you don’t even go to church again. *Sighs* Ani ko ka lo ni Power must change hands. Lets go to Power must change hands.” She would rant, as if my not going to church was the reason I was battling with depression.
When she heard I was seeing a therapist, she exclaimed worriedly. “Ha therapist keh? Iran mi o ya weyrey ri”.
And then, the story of the man who jumped into third mainland bridge broke in the news. She kept crying and asking me if I was feeling suicidal. You know how Nigerian mothers are wont to blow things out of proportion.
Bottom line was she couldn’t grasp it. At a point, she had me worrying about her worrying about me.
Even the few people I talked to while seeking help (including Mr. Jay my ex) just didn’t get it. People more often than not mistake sadness with depression.
‘So you were sexually abused 10 years ago? Get over yourself. I mean out of every 10 women you see on the streets, 8 of them were sexually violated as kids.’ ‘What on earth is the problem?What are you thinking of? There are lots of people going through worse than you are going through.’ ‘ You have a shitty job that you hate? Trust me, 70% of Nigerians do not love their jobs. Its called survival baby. There really isn’t any need for a pity party’
If you aren’t careful, they would have you feeling like you are just looking for who will indulge you in a pity party.
I have however come to realize that I can’t expect people to know exactly how I felt/feel, just like I can’t rightfully expect to know how somebody battling with leukaemia feels. The only thing I can offer is my love and support and that’s all I should expect from someone else.
• Alcohol is not my friend
Omuti gbagbe ise.
Nothing felt better than drowning myself in a bottle of tequila or vodka at the time. I was this close👌 to becoming an alcoholic. At a point, I couldn’t even take a nap without drinking myself to sleep.
However, I have come to realize that those temporary moments of high were always followed by desperately low moments of darkness.
The next morning, I was often worse than the previous day and my already broke ass was well on the way to becoming even broker. Double wahala for deadi body, huh?
Trust me, that feeling of numbness at the time the alcohol is working its results, is just a temporary anti-depressant. Take it from someone who has been there, done that.
• Being a lone wolf isn’t always a good thing.
I often pride myself as a ‘one-woman mopol’. Taar!
Depression turned me into something of a recluse. I didn’t want to go out, or even see or talk to people. Even getting up from my bed to take my bathe was such a huge chore for me.
I remember one of my desperately low of lows when I had been indoors for more than three days. I locked up my windows, drew my curtains and just stayed in bed, eating, sleeping and eating again. I wasn’t taking any calls. I’m totally grateful that my friend Amaechi got worried enough to come look for me after having not heard from me in over 3 days. Only God knows what would have happened.
Yorubas say that ‘Ko ni buru buru ko ma ku enikan mo ni’. There would always be that one person you can lean on.
When you are battling with depression, you might feel the urge to withdraw from people and just stick to yourself. Especially if you get the feeling that no one really gets you. Don’t do it. It doesn’t help any. Really, it doesn’t.
These days, rather than lock myself indoors, I often force myself go out and do things I used to take pleasure in before depression came calling. Even on days when I feel like being alone, I just look for a cool place where I won’t be totally alone to chill. I am that lone girl you’ll find in one corner of Millenium park with a laptop seeing a movie or just watching children play.
• Social media can be quite toxic.
Looking at pictures of other people partying and having fun might not be such a good idea when you feel the dark clouds closing in on you. I remember how I used to end up feeling more depressed after looking at the pictures of my classmates or friends who seem to have it all going for them.
As entertaining and educative as this space might be, it can also be quite toxic. Take it or leave it. The kind of comments some trolls make online, you begin to wonder if the smart phone they use isn’t smarter than them. Some will even come inbox on your social media pages to cuss you out. Some people are just so insensitive, they can push you over the edge if you aren’t careful.
If you regularly experience long spells of depression, it might be best if you kept off social media anytime you feel a spell coming on.
• Don’t be shy to seek help.
It’s okay to ask for help.
I am eternally grateful to my friends, who noticed that something wasn’t right with me. They recognized that it was much more than sadness and even when I was wallowing in self-denial, they paid for my sessions and literally dragged me to see the therapist.
If you are battling with depression, the best thing to do is seek medical help. Talking to a psychiatrist/therapist might be your best option.
Going to see a psychiatrist doesn’t make you a mad person. It’s only a step in the right direction.
Do not let the stigmatization of ignorant people make you suffer in silence. There is no shame in your pain. Talk to the right people.
Get help to beat it!
It is doable. I am doing it.
You can too!!
Photo📷 credit: Pininterest.
Thanks for reading guys. The above list isn’t exhaustive, it’s just me sharing my experience about what dealing with depression has taught me.
Are you battling with depression? How do you cope? Care to share? Please drop your comments.
La creme, ki lo sele gan gan? -La creme, what exactly is happening?
Depression keh, iwo omode ara e. Ki lon ro?- Depression? Aren’t you too young to be dealing with depression? What are you thinking of?
Tin ba ni ko lo si church wa ni wahala mommy e ti po ju. – If I ask you to go church, you’ll say your mom worries too much.
Ha therapist keh? Iran mi o ya weyrey ri. – Ha therapist? No one in my lineage has run mad before .
Omuti gbagbe Ise- A drunkard forgets about his poverty when drunk.