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Caleb Somtochukwu Okereke: Tough People Are Made of This



dreamstime_l_36975798I recently suffered a major setback that just quite had me disbelieving of my much-loved school of thought that I was more than enough. And in between drowning myself in Kari Jobe’s Forever and trying to reckon what route led to the imminent tomorrow. I wrestled with the muted voices of self doubt dedicated to reminding one about how much one could have done differently and not how much one has already done, fanatical about spotting the loose edges and skipping the fine-looking ones.

Of course, this does not mean that I woke every morning with teary eyes and a heavy heart, skipped meals, phone calls, suddenly loved Amy Winehouse more than before and left many messages unanswered (some of these were indications as well). This does not mean that I did not scroll through Facebook and Twitter or write for countless magazines (sometimes about depressed people too), skip the escalator in twos to see a new movie at Ozone, have long conversations with friends on the phone, and take smiling selfies of happy me. It does not mean that I carried the slumping weight of dejection like a backpack around with me, or that you could possibly tell even, if I did not write this now.

However, I have come to learn that the problem with self-doubt, the problem with depression is that you do not know you are depressed, you are oblivious of it. Perhaps it is because depression, like the devil, is the prince of lies; it is aware that knowing would have made it easier to overcome – because the first step to surmounting a predicament is acknowledging its presence. It masks itself with contentment.

You find yourself in that place that the pleasing counsel “Life goes on” has consigned you. And as much as I used to harmonize with all of this mantra that endorses the flippancy of things, that reminds you of how impertinent things are rather than how important, I do not anymore. Because, life does not just go on, this levity of issues is an appealing way to approach life I know, but it just does not go on.

I like to imagine life in terms of impediments, to be as wearisome as Lagos traffic when you have to meet an appointment. There are two kinds of people in this scenario. There are the ones who honk and curse and meander along the narrow slices between cars, annoyed and tired because the appointment (future) must be met. And there are the diplomatic ones, peaceful, rolling down their car windows to buy Gala and Lacasera, acknowledging that they have a problem but resolving that they would not be bothered by it.

Because there is a necessary healing process for every set back, necessary time for the tears to fall freely and for you to listen then hush the voices of self-doubt.

I recently realized that perverse to what the world thinks about tough people as being the ones who do not grieve, as rigid, inflexible, swayed by nothing, the ones who drink away their sorrows. The tough ones are not the ones who forget hindrances, they are not the frivolous ones for whom life is cheeky, but the ones who remember yet carry on.

I am a tough person. We are tough people. We remember our struggles. We live with them… but we carry on. We recognise that life does not just go on; that there is a huge difference between acknowledging a problem and being bothered by a problem, we recognise that depression is not a cheerless subject, apparent only in its obvious instances, as Books, Movies, and life generally has taught us.

We recognise that it occurs in seemly small amounts too and that these trivial quantities because of our inability to identify them are just as or even more dangerous.

We are made of tears and remembered failures, of our favourite Bible passages and realization that the Lamb always would overcome and we are happy too, we are happy. We are depressed and we are happy, because we know, we would heal, we are not moving pieces of denied and piled up depression like most others. We are depression, acknowledged, remembered, but not impeding our life’s journey.

Because we realise that trying to forget only makes it even more difficult (Impossible) to forget, but the gift of remembrance is that it recognizes hurt, it reacts to it, it carries it in mind, but it moves on.

So today, for setbacks here and the ones to come, I vow to take time to heal, I vow to acknowledge that I am hurt, to accept that I am depressed. And I do not mean to the world on Facebook, or to friends or to family even, but to myself, for every stumbling block I encounter in life, I would acknowledge I am hurt to myself. It is the only little parcel I can give me.

Tomorrow, I would listen to Fun’s Carry On and be happy and mouth the lyrics as I stare at my copy of The Thing Around Your Neck.

If you’re lost and alone
Or you’re sinking like a stone.
Carry on.
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground,
Carry on

Because I know that crying as I write this does not completely mean I am over it, it does not mean that I would suddenly heal and become fitted with a new- fangled resilient spirit. But it means I would be, because I have recognized and acknowledged it and because we are tougher people than we think, I would be.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime


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