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Behind the Heart with Chiadi Ndu: When the Dark Beckons



Most people are currently feigning strength and wearing masks. Very few are strong enough to admit their anxieties, fears and weaknesses. Phrases like, “Are you the only one…” “Is your case the worst?” “Must you wear your problems on your forehead?” resonates. If you come from the same part of the country that I do, you must have also heard “machie uwa George,” meaning use your beautiful ‘George’ (an imported, expensive, luxuriant, dressing- up wrapper) to cover your troubles. Speaking out and seeking help is considered a mark of weakness.

On Sunday 19th of March 2017, Dr. Allwell Orji jumped to his death from the 3rd Mainland Bridge into the Lagos lagoon. Since then, I have read volumes of comments and opinions with people expressing varying emotions and perspectives. Some feel anger and disgust, others compassion and empathy while others incredulity- honestly unable to imagine anyone taking their own life- “I can never kill myself,” they conclude. When asked why anyone would commit suicide I always respond with the question, “Why would a malaria patient have a fever…?” The fact is that one is simply a fall-out of the other, the same way suicide is a consequence of depression.

I have known *Daphne for almost 20 years and in my opinion, she is a strong, vibrant and resilient woman. Though life has thrown her some very hard punches, her ‘bounce-back’ remains remarkable. Daphne’s mum had lived the good life with numerous lovers until she fell pregnant. She made it clear that she regarded Daphne as both a nuisance and a hindrance. Over the years, Daphne battled with feelings of rejection until she learnt to be both abrasive and aggressive. Fighting and anger became both her weapon and her shield. She got on with life and ferociously lived it, leaving no stone unturned in her pursuit of relevance. From every perspective she could be described as a winner and a success story but that dark hole of rejection still beckoned. She spent so much energy being strong she never realized how exhausted she was. She woke up her spirituality and became active in it. Succour and stability came from her spiritual inclination until she encountered a severe financial and domestic upheaval that threw her.

She told me that all she heard was the call to end it all. The pull was strong and overwhelmingly powerful. She didn’t feel that life was worth living. She found herself spending huge chunks of time ruminating over the bliss of ending it all. One day she stared and stared at the knife on her kitchen counter and her turmoil turned into a calming sedation as she imagined the release that knife could bring her; permanently! She got rid of all the knives in the house. On another day she began to salivate, desperately wanting to swallow as many of her husband’s pills as he won’t notice but then she thought “even if he notices… I won’t be here.” That felt good. Thankfully, Daphne sought help and intervention came when she was diagnosed with clinical depression.

Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behaviour, feelings, and sense of well-being. People with depression may feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, angry, ashamed, or restless. They may lose interest in activities that were once pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details or making decisions. They can experience relationship difficulties and may contemplate, attempt or commit suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, aches, pains, digestive problems, or reduced energy may also be present.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 2017 update, depression is a prime contributor to the overall global burden of disease with more than 300 million people of all ages suffering from it. The WHO predicts that depression will be the world’s No.2 killer and form of disability by 2020 and No.1 by 2030. This means that suicide rates are likely to increase.

It is an indictment that in a city of over 20 million people and a country of 180 million, Dr. Allwell Orji could not find someone, anyone to get appropriate help from; even in his chosen profession. For him the most welcoming place was the beckoning and expanse of the Lagoon waters.

To everyone one out there struggling with depression, shake off the shame, it’s a health condition not a weakness. Talk to someone because once you can SAY IT, YOU CAN SLAY IT! Just the same way an anti-malaria drug holds down the fever till the malaria parasite is destroyed, talking dissipates the darkness until dawn breaks.

*No real names or identifying details.

CHIADI NDU was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1987 but has since obtained a Masters Degree in Counselling Psychology. A Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, she runs BTH Integrated Wellness and Therapy. Email: [email protected] BTH provides premium professional counselling services with experts who understand how the mind works; offering a confidential and safe environment where our clients can work on any stressful, traumatic or simply uncomfortable issues they may be facing- ANXIETY, GRIEF, FEAR, TRAUMA, LOSS, FINANCES OR HEALTH  CHALLENGES. Website:


  1. Oma

    March 27, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    All I can say is a big ”Thank You” Been battling a lot lately and when I say, I do not feel anything I mean it.

  2. Truth

    April 5, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    This is so apt and true, we battle so much in our lives daily, that when you feel tired and overwhelmed, you are confined to forming brave or strong, as it is perceived as weakness by people who surround you and constantly judged for being weak when all you want is just someone to listen without judgments. In addition, the worse people go through is the ‘God’ or ‘resilience’ African strong man factor where people indirectly or directly tell you to believe in God which is also valid. However, i do believe in miracles and I also believe that God made medicine for a reason, if you have a fever, you take drugs. I believe the same should apply here. Please I have seen depression at its peak, it usually starts from something small, and then it grows, till it cannot be contained anymore. People seeing shrinks do not have two heads nor are they weak, they are just sick, like every other type of illness that plagues everyone.

    Please seek help #do not trivialize your issues# We all need help.

  3. ttttttttssssaaaa

    April 6, 2017 at 11:14 am

    Thank you so much for this beautiful piece
    Really timely

  4. Ijeoma Nonaifeoma

    July 22, 2017 at 4:42 am

    What a beautiful piece Chiadi.
    Introspection is frequently overlooked and miscategorized as a weakness, when it is in fact a strength.
    It is easy to see ones self as different from others who take drastic steps to change their lives, even choosing horrible options such as suicide.

    However, the great Maya Angelou reminds us in one of her many quotes, which I am paraphrasing, that as humans, nothing another human being does is alien to us. This means that in different circumstances, faced with similar pressures, we cannot say with certainty that we will not respond in the same way.

    I hope this incisive article creates courage within people to introspect within their own lives, to truly live better and happier lives.

    I have found that TRULY happy and content folk do not judge others. They spend time focusing on being the best version of themselves!

    Kudos on this share.


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