It is going to be a long one people!
Today I thought I would touch on a very vulnerable topic.One that many of us suffer from but we tend to shy away from. I think this is due to the negative stigma that is attached to depression and mental health in general. I don’t want to speak for everyone but I feel as an African it is almost shameful and unattractive to accept depression.
Truth is many of us go through a lot of down periods and sometimes we just downplay it or even suffer in silence. Depression comes in many forms and it’s more than a feeling of ‘sadness’.
I always thought depression was when I felt sad, cried, and couldn’t get out of bed. Yet, there are times when I am out of bed. I clean, cook and go about my usual routine and still have these overwhelming feelings of emptiness, sadness, isolation, guilt and just blah. Blah. Do you know that feeling? It’s like ughhhhhhh.
But before I continue I wanted to share a little bit of my background and experiences with depression.
Picture this: A 20 years old ‘Christian’ pregnant out of wedlock with a pastor’s son. Many can relate to the seriousness of this situation. Starved of support and judged by many. I had no idea my experiences was going to have an impact on my mental health.
Six weeks after having my first child and with what felt like the world on my shoulders, I went back to University. Looking back now, I would’ve waited a year or two and then gone back.
However, I had an internalised pressure to be perfect and keep it all together. I didn’t want to feel like I failed or that I failed everyone.
I spent the next couple of years trying to secure a suitable home, keeping up with a toddler, uni with barely any income and desperately searching for a job.
I was living in a temporary accommodation with tiny hairy pest, yes mice and oh rats.
Life after university is challenging enough, add on a baby, sleeplessness and it becomes punishing.
How did this become my story? (possibly due to my poor choices, but life really slapped me in the face!). I kept trying to keep going but then I hit a wall. It was almost like a game, I had lost all my lives and needed to start over.
I had no desire to complete the most basic hygiene. I was just mombieing (mom + zombie= mombie) through life. I went to see my doctor and was referred for therapy but I didn’t go. I was too coward to accept what I was feeling. I felt ashamed to admit it because I thought I was defeated. Even so, the idea of walking to a place and speaking to a complete stranger was extremely daunting and intimidating for me.
So I took it on myself and I wrote my feelings down on paper candidly and I felt more in touch with my thoughts. Then I got rid of it. It kept me going. However, I still had this large hole in me. It was as if I was an empty case. Proverbs 22:6 says Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. This is so true. My aunt in Ghana was a devoted Christian. Also, the majority of Ghanaians believe in God. It was instilled in me from the very beginning. The seed was sewn, and in order for me to allow it to grow and flourish, I had to open up and allow it to blossom.
Feeling overworked, isolated and stressed, I looked to God. I began to slowly take my faith seriously. I was reading the Word. I prayed like how Hannah prayed for a son. I was broken and desperate to be saved. Before I knew it I felt a deepened connection to God. I began to heal. I thought that my new choice of life was going to be restrictive. I have never felt so free. My wings are not wet anymore.
Now I can say proudly that I am a Christian and not a ‘christian’. Am I making sense? That’s not to say that I am perfect. I am no saint.
This was the beginning of my fight against depression. Believing and trusting that there is an anchor holding me that will never let me go, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I was excited about life again. I cared about ME again. I felt my burdens, although not disappeared into a black hole felt so much lighter. I trusted in the Lord and his mercy is the reason I am here today.
The way I cope with depression usually depends on the situation and the depth and length of the depression.
After giving birth to my daughter, the health visitor came for the usual check-up. All she asked was ‘how are YOU doing?’. Tears were flowing from my eyes uncontrollably. I was so confused. I really thought I was fine. The good thing is on this occasion I challenged myself to focus on what I could control. There were situations in my life that were just beyond me. So I focused on routines and making sure that I was staying on top of things domestically. This, I feel was like a life vest to help me float till I start swimming again.
Last year, I went through life-changing experiences that I thought would have broken me. Yet it didn’t. I kept pushing. Sometimes I’m inspired by the people around and they don’t even know it. I watch my son’s school’s deputy headteacher, with two young kids under 5. I wonder how she keeps it together. I’m not naive to believe that there are no struggles but she does so gracefully so I pick up on that. When I feel overwhelmed at times I think, she struggles but she keeps going so you can too.
I look at some of the women at church. Many have been through so much yet things turn out good for them in the end. It gives me hope that life does get easier and many of us experience the same feelings and struggles.
I read many blogs and listen to celebrities who have been open and candid about their struggles with depression. Prince Harry. PRINCE Harry has spoken out about mental health. It’s amazing to see public figures be honest. It almost validates your feelings somehow. Sometimes you just need to hear other’s experiences so you don’t feel like an alien from Mars with an emotional baggage.
When I had work commitments, I learnt to stick my poker face on and roll with the punches without a single soul knowing the turmoil that was in my head. At times it is necessary because the reality is in many workplaces depression is your problem and not theirs.
On the flip side, there have been times the most simple tasks in life seem completely impossible. Simple things like calling the council for a repair seems like a huge task. Times like these are usually triggered by death, financial situations or just when I feel overworked and stressed.
Sometimes you just feel crippled with emotions. When it gets that deep, I do the bare minimum. I take the super mum hat off. I take it very easy. I take my son to school. I feed the children, be it a takeaway as long as they are fed. I go easy on my military routine. They can watch TV and play computer games
for long periods as much as they want:-). Just so I have a moment. I allow myself to feel the feelings.
The difference between before God and after God is there is hope. I don’t feel like I’m in a black hole with no light or direction. It’s like snakes and ladders, depression is the snake and my faith is the ladder.
Practical tips to overcome depression
I have gone a very long time without feeling depressed because of the simple changes to my lifestyle. In my experience, these tips work once I was out of the zone and used to keep depression at bay. So in other words, telling me to run on a broken leg is difficult, same with depression, once you’re in a state and you get advice to exercise and eat healthily is a joke. I’m struggling to open my eyes…exercise who?
Having said that, I have noticed that when I take care of my eating habits, walking, spending time outdoors and staying connected all contribute to my positive outlook on life. I eliminated toxic relationships. I surrounded myself with positive people and people who build me up.
I am in a really good place in my life right now. I used to wish that I could delete those moments out of my life. However, I know I would not be the woman I am today. I wouldn’t be saved.
I know that the battle is over but the war goes on. Depression I believe stays with you forever. I think you have to face it and deal with it as you would any other illness. You wouldn’t play football with a broken leg, same goes for depression.
For me my faith saved me. However, there are other treatment options. Therapy is something that I will definitely consider because sometimes you just need to speak and have someone listen from a non-judgemental angle. The point is don’t ignore it because it can have a catastrophic impact on you in the end. Be good to yourself. Seek help. All the mummies: to help your children you need to help yourself.
I am not afraid of depression. I am not ashamed to admit I have suffered from depression. I know I am not alone because depression does not discriminate. Let’s normalize depression.
Lots of love