My heart breaks a little when I think of the many people suffering from severe depression and anxiety who haven’t sought help because of the stigma our society has attached to mental illnesses and disorders.
I sometimes find myself asking why it is so. If I can go to an orthopaedic doctor over a broken bone, why can’t I seek a therapist over trauma or thoughts that overpower my mind and reduce my quality of life?
I pray for the day where issues concerning mental health will be brought to the table and addressed with solutions that are available to even the indigent in our society. As of now, it appears that a lot of people only scratch the surface when these topics come up, and a serious education on mental health remains absent. That is why the same people that tell you to be whole and happy also most times cannot relate when you try describing the struggle of doing life daily.
You speak to someone about the struggle of getting up in the morning or the thoughts that keep you awake and it either becomes a struggle of who has the toughest life or how we are all suffering in this country and it is not about only you.
Because, to the average Nigerian, why would you ever be in a constant place of sadness if your village people aren’t pulling strings behind your back?
For every 5 people you see, one of them suffers from chronic depression. Nigeria is ranked 5th on the suicide list and millennials are reporting the highest levels of clinical anxiety, stress, and depression than any other generation at the same age.
Yet something so widespread isn’t seen as a problem. “What have you seen at your age that you are depressed?” is the famous sentence from those who are not well educated on mental illness. “I loved him, he should have told me,” they say each time someone loses a battle to this very mean sickness.
I can’t tell you how many times in the past week I’ve heard people say, “I’m exhausted.” The number of extremely aggressive people I’ve seen clearly trying to share their pain. It’s all around us daily, on our streets, on the bus, on social media and even at home.
Beneath the Instagram filters and vanity we share are years of unhealed anger, pain and more. A lot of people have created coping mechanisms, but how far can coping really take you?
Let me focus on depression and anxiety.
You see, depression and anxiety take over your whole life. A day turns into a week, a week to a month, and before you know it you’re a shadow of yourself. Depression secludes you, creates physical and mental exhaustion, makes you irritable while reducing your quality of life and making you a shadow of yourself.
You tell yourself that all you need to do is change that job and you’ll be happy, so you resign. You tell yourself that all you need is a promotion, so you work extremely hard. You tell yourself that all you need to do is lose some weight, so you try several fad diets. You tell yourself that you need to go abroad so you’re reading this article from outside Nigeria. But no difference. “Oh, if I just find love and get married,” but baby girl its been 5 months after your grand wedding and you’re still not happy.
Because depression and anxiety love to control your life, making you feel like your healing is in the next drastic decision. But it’s not.
I’ve seen people spend their savings looking for happiness; I’ve seen them marry the wrong person just in search of wholeness. I’ve met people who left their dream jobs, left their families, and still couldn’t navigate through life and operate at the capacity that they were put on earth for, all because of this disease called depression.
Oh, it sneaks up on you! No invitation, no announcement. An unwelcome visitor that turns your house into it’s home. And before you know it the sound of people around you irritates your very being. Ycancellingceling plans with the girls last minute because how dare it allow you live your best life? Using all your saved money on clothes because if you’re going to be in a battle with your mind it’s better to look cute doing it, right? It decides your timetable, your feeding, your facial expressions, everything!
And so you seek validation in a few likes on social media. Because we’ve somehow all convinced ourselves that it is better to show perfection than to reveal our scars and struggles.
I woke up today, moved to write this to you. Just you reading, yes you! Get the help that you need. As tired as you are, as ashamed and as confused as you are, take one step to speak up. Don’t speak up because you require validation or sympathy. Speak up because there’s a whole life to be lived outside mental illness. Speak up because it’s unfair to go down into the statistics of suicide cases.
Speak up because you are loved, yes, you. You are enough, and you were placed on this earth for a purpose.
Speak up because you deserve to know what it means to get up every morning energetic and hopeful, you deserve to make decisions that are not fueled by alcohol or drugs. To internalize emotions like love and self-confidence. To walk into a room and not want to shrink. You deserve to see incoming calls without your heart racing faster. To make mistakes and not replay them a thousand times over in your head. To live without a food disorder or constantly being on a fad diet.
Speak up, because the help of a professional can bring you to a place of peace you never thought was possible. Speak because that sickness will never win when you have a team of supporters around you.
You deserve to live life. Whole, hale, and hearty. But you’ll only be able to do so if you seek help today.