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John Ogba Ifeakanwa: Young People Get Depressed… I Know I Was

My mind was my safe spot; there, I turned the bad thoughts into inspiring songs. It was my therapy.

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A friend of mine once said to me “I wonder why people even get depressed”. I remember when I blurted out the same insensitive words, oblivious of the fact that I would one day experience it first hand.

A study by the World Bank reveals that 22 percent of Nigerians (mostly family heads) suffer chronic depression. In my opinion, it is way higher than that because I have met some very depressed young people who – I’m guessing – weren’t really accounted for.

People ask: “why would young people be depressed when they’ve got their whole lives ahead of them?”

Well, I’ll tell you my story. And I hope it makes a believer out of you.

I’ve realized that real-life experiences help other people heal because it tells them they’re not alone.

My journey with depression began a few years back after graduating from the university and realizing that I still had an outstanding course to pass. That meant I had to pay all my fees like in the past year. Typical of many Nigerian families, everyone washed their hands of it. According to them, I had no business failing a course. So it became my cross to bear. Did I mention that my major wasn’t entirely my idea??

Years after writing the exam, I have struggled to get cleared from school to no avail, this means I’ve had to search for a job without a degree certification. Call it bad luck or whatever, I say I have a folder of sad thoughts lodged somewhere in my head.

I remember trying to work for a relative and not meeting their requirements. I recall them saying, “No one will ever hire you. I recruit people for a living so I know no one will hire you”.

I also remember walking home that day and forming the words to this song “If I wrote a song for all the times I’ve lost it, then my albums would say ‘fight… I’m dancing in a black light but I’m not gon’ hit a wall”.

My mind was my safe spot; there, I turned the bad thoughts into inspiring songs. It was my therapy.

That actually worked because I, later on, started my own blog and began applying for student internships. Did I mention I prayed a lot too? A little while later, I got contracted to work as a social media manager for an entrepreneurship website. I guess I wasn’t so useless after all.

Well, I did that till it was time to move on, still not letting my lack of a university certificate hold me back.

I think I hit rock bottom in 2018 when I went back to school to follow up on my pending clearance. Each day, I’d stand outside offices until anyone had my time, or even showed up. After three months of being there, I realized one of my results was missing; the one I had to pay the fees for by myself. About a month later, it was found but I couldn’t access it. Why? Because the lecturer had to prove it was mine – even after my course advisor wrote a letter affirming that. By the way, she’s still proving it till now.

For a really long time, I was in a bad place. There was this one time when all the bad thoughts came rushing in at once, and it felt like the walls were too close and I had to kick a door really hard to assure myself that I was still sane. I remember lying on the floor and weeping my heart out. Memories. How I got out of all that, I can’t explain. But I think the people I surrounded myself with had so much to do with it. They were always willing to listen and I had so much to say – so much to vent.

I learned so much about myself in those moments. I learned how easy it was to give up, to just throw in the towel and let yourself drown. I learned how much your own mind can turn on you; how it can paint very distasteful pictures and make them so real that you succumb and live in them.

I taught myself to write stories in my head – new stories, – and also paint brighter pictures. I realized that the same treacherous mind could repent with a little ‘gospel’. I realized I could put my fears on paper and do with them what I pleased. What’s the worst that could happen?

I had control. I always did. Why did I forget it? I learned to cry when I had to and to wipe those tears up and still push. Push, until everything felt right again.

I don’t blame the people who teach children to follow one path to success. If that worked for them, it means it’s all they know to teach. Then again, success has got many pathways – they are just hidden in tall grasses. The hard part is when you have to cut your way through a new path when the first one gets blocked. You’ll still get there.

I’ve learned to make friends with people who have different journeys from mine and are always willing to talk about it. I’ve also learned to let go, and try new strategies. I live to fight again. Shouldn’t we all? After all, what good are we dead?

Everyone can get depressed. When it comes, it hits hard and becomes all you’ll see. But you must learn to snap out of it and never cozy up to it. I clap when it gets too loud – that’s my own snap. You should try it too.

Well, this is my own story. What’s yours?

John Ogba Ifeakanwa, professionally called John Ogba, is a Nigerian writer, singer and songwriter. He believes in the power of words; written and sung. He wishes to reach the world with his many talents.

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