My Mental Health Journey

I always wondered how anyone could be so moody! How are you not laughing and just enjoying the beauty life has to offer? Why are you always so mad?

Until I got depressed… and everything changed! I clearly understood the phrase “Experience is the best teacher” and how tiring it can get to constantly explain why and how you feel the way you do.

Everyone who has experienced depression has a different experience with this epidemic and I’m glad I got myself out, to an extent.

2017 was my first real encounter with depression or any form of mental illness.

Of course I felt sad once in a while over the years, hated life and had multiple thoughts of running away or whatever, but I’d never felt that sad and alone my entire life!

The beginning of the year was filled with a rough couple of months and multiple emotions I kept running away from, but come July things were better. I had a great paying internship, I could finally afford all the things I loved to do, and I was progressively healing from a toxic situationship… just good vibes all around, going with the flow and living my best life.

Until one week it all came crashing down on me. I just couldn’t stop crying! Every time I took a taxi to and from work – which is like a 30 min commute – tears would just flush out my eyes like I was cutting onions.

This was new to me. I am not a crier, I laugh at almost everything. I thought it was that sad song I kept listening to, James Arthur – Let It Go, so I stopped listening to it. I prayed about the feelings and they stabilized. Because where I come from, prayer changes things!

A few days went by and nothing really changed, I got sadder, bitter, and less effective at my job. I had zero motivation to do anything and I just couldn’t enjoy life! I remember one morning, I came to work and sat at my desk for like 5mins and the tears just came rolling down “Make it stop! Make it stop!” I whispered to myself in between sobs.

I decided to take the day off. When I asked my supervisor if I could go home she said “What’s wrong? Were you dumped? I don’t see why you’d be crying at 8 am,” well, neither could I Susan! I got the day off either way.

All these feelings of worthlessness had gone on for about a week and I couldn’t tell anyone! Because I laughed a lot in all the pictures I posted, my friends often asked how I got the job in the first place; “Eh mama! Who connected you? Some money! Nga you look nice!” How was I going to explain to someone that I’d been sad for one week straight for seemingly no reason?

I’d made a friend at the bank; he often asked me how work was going. So I told him about these feelings, and he said “You young people! Always focusing on irrelevant stuff! That’s just life!” I remember thinking to myself; this is not how life should be! I can’t be crying in a taxi every day for absolutely no reason! I obviously couldn’t ask my mum because I was not so close to her at the time. We hardly ever had deep conversations. And I was the one who kept my friends laughing so talking about it with them wouldn’t help…or so I thought!

I had one last option, Google! I didn’t know what it was called so I typed how I felt in the search ‘endless tears, zero motivation, constant sadness, not excited about life’ and alas! The feelings had a name! “Depression”! What I read scared me at first. Suicide?! The causes are genetic, or not doing the things you used to do, routine work, etc.

This all made sense because it was my first internship/ employment; I worked 5 days a week from 7 am to 7 pm. At the hostel – a university students’ residence – I hardly attended school and woke up whenever I wanted to, and now I was waking up at 5 am so that I could be at my internship on time. I was usually so tired, I could hardly see my friends. I just needed to sleep at the end of the day. And I hardly got any sun.

Knowing the causes, I adjusted my habits and let loose more! I started walking out at exactly 9 am to get proper Vitamin D, scheduled lunch dates with my girls so I could hear them laugh at my jokes more, said yes to dates, and took breaks.

I was back on my feet in no time after realizing these hacks and read extensively about mental illnesses, its manifestations, causes and treatment options. I literally became my own therapist so that I didn’t have to open up to anyone about my feelings ever again or have to feel that vulnerable in my life.

The thing with depression though, every break down is worse than the last one!

I’ve had a series of terrible lows from that point on, inclusive of suicidal thoughts, insomnia, and headaches and sometimes I’m unable to get myself out of bed because my legs won’t move!

It got so bad I couldn’t be my own therapist anymore, I needed help! It’s hard for me to talk to someone about it because I hate pity parties, having to extensively explain myself and no one ever has sustainable solutions.

This one time I was in dire need of support and just called my mom, obviously expecting prayers and “I know this is the devil” exclamations. But to my surprise, she listened to me carefully as I narrated my different ordeals of being tired and frustrated with life. She said, “As you start to mature, some of these thoughts happen and it’s ok. I’m shocked you’re experiencing this at such an early age and I’m very happy that you’ve spoken to me about it. I love you and I will always be here!” She has been my biggest support system from that point on, and I’m lucky my mum understands.

I obviously didn’t say “mama I’m depressed,” I spoke to her in a way that she’d be able to comprehend. I used words like “I’m stressed” which I think is easier for the older generation to conform to. Effectively communicating how I felt has gone a long way, African parents understand stress and frustration about life more than they do depression. It is therefore important to break it down in a way they best understand so they can effectively support you i.e. ‘help them help you’

The one thing that has kept ringing in my mind from the beginning is how nobody knew what it was! I was 20yrs old at the time and wouldn’t have known if I had not had my own personal experience. I would probably still be wondering why some people just can’t laugh.

Mental Health awareness is not only for persons with mental illness but also for the people around them, to understand how best to support each other.

 

Writer

Agatha Christie Akello

Twitter: @madtequilashot

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