An anonymous series where real people share their interesting life stories and experiences.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. What makes mental health struggles and mental illnesses scary is the fact that unlike physical conditions, it can be hard to tell who may be struggling. In #RealAfWith21 today, we hear from a 20 something year old woman who got real and open about her mental health struggles, being diagnosed with depression, how it has affected her daily life, her journey to overcoming and the lessons she has learned along the way.
As much as I would like to say otherwise, I spent my pre-teen and teen years heavily depressed searching for happiness, meaning in life and honestly, myself. Growing up, mental health was a very unfamiliar term and for the most part, unheard of. In Nigeria where life is all about “packaging” and putting your best foot forward, having problems particularly mental health issues was almost a taboo as it was equated to madness. At the time, I knew something was wrong but had no clue they were associated with mental health issues and as much as I tried to shake off these feelings, they never seemed to go away. I did not know how to speak up, and the times I tried, words failed me.
“Depression”, a mental health condition is characterized by persistently depressed moods or a loss of interest in activities causing significant impairment in daily living. In 2020, my depressive moods reached an all-time high and for the first time in years, thanks to the lockdown, I could not escape nor ignore how I had been feeling for years. I felt like I was about to lose my mind and it pushed me to consult with a therapist who diagnosed me as depressed.
There is a popular saying which declares ‘Night is darkest just before Dawn’. I found this to be true in one of the craziest years recorded in history. Going through 2020 for majority of the year was excruciatingly painful. It physically hurt waking up and feeling like my life was not worth living. I had reached the point where I whole-heartedly believed that nothing good could come out of me. I am sure I cried enough tears to fill up a river but having been through it all, I am grateful for every experience, hurt, disappointment and unanswered prayers because I would not be who I am today without them and I am in-love with the woman I have become. Although it did not happen overnight and I still have days when I struggle with my mental health, I can confidently say for the first time in over seven years, I no longer identify myself as someone living with depression.
Everyone’s experiences and battles with depression are completely different and as someone on the journey to wholeness and wellness, here are a few lessons out of the many thing’s depression taught me about life, love, and family.
It Is Okay To Not Be Okay
I learned the importance of allowing myself to feel my emotions and realize that my feelings are valid. I used to be against letting people know I was sad, hurt, upset and so on and would suppress everything because I believed my feelings were not important, but this is so untrue and unhealthy. The key to an emotionally stable mind is simply learning to control your emotions and contrary to popular belief, controlling your emotions is not dismissing how you feel but rather acknowledging every emotion and channeling them to something positive and productive. This could be through communicating how you feel honestly or turning to healthy coping mechanisms if it is something beyond your control. We are only human and are bound to have days when we are not feeling our best and yes, that is okay.
You Cannot Love Or Receive Love Properly Until You Love Yourself
I learnt this one the hard way. As human beings, the desire to love and feel loved is innate to our being and I fell into the trap of searching for anything that looked like love when in fact, I did not believe I was capable of love or worthy of being loved by those around me. My constant critiquing of myself, my life, the way I looked, how I was treated by others led me to a seemingly never-ending cycle of self-hate and self-sabotage. Take it from someone who knows, harboring hate for yourself is like choosing to self-destruct and learning to love yourself is the starting point of a more satisfying life.
There Is Beauty All Around You, Just Open Your Eyes
Appreciating life while battling with depression is difficult and annoying to say the least. It was hard to look past how I felt. I couldn’t get past the constant sadness and dissatisfaction with life and simply enjoy life but the truth is, even behind the madness lies beauty. Some days it is difficult to find joy in the little things like skincare, or being around loved ones, but the beauty of our existence starts with the appreciation of this thing called life and all its highs and lows. I believe we owe it to ourselves to find joy and beauty in our everyday life.
Your Loved Ones Do Not Want To See Your Suffer
Family is a sensitive topic for people especially when it comes to mental health. In my case, at the times when my depressive moods would peak, it put a lot of strain on my relationship with those around me, especially my nuclear family members. I never knew how to articulate my feelings to the people around me and honestly at the time, the thought of being so vulnerable felt a little embarrassing, so I pushed them away thinking they would not understand. It was not until 2020 when my family saw me at my worst and held me up and supported me the whole way through in big and little ways that I realized that despite our disagreements, I have a haven with them and they want nothing but the best for me.
I Am Responsible For My Happiness
This was a bitter pill for me to swallow. After going through a point in my life where I was heavily depressed, I redefined my mindset around the term happiness. I used to think happiness was something I could acquire perhaps with the right clothes, the “perfect body” or the “perfect life”, and in my strivings for what I thought would finally make me happy, it only made me even more miserable and dissatisfied with life. I still struggle with this mindset, but I have come to realize that I am responsible for my own happiness, not my clothes, my body type, friends or significant other. I do not always agree with the saying, “happiness is a choice” because there are times in life when it is not as simple as that. If I am not happy and content with who I am, the life I am currently living and the progress I make everyday in becoming a better person, then nothing else can truly make me happy.
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