Depression Is a Killer: Here’s How I Survived

by Vivian Bens
6 min read

T

he  subject of depression almost seems like a taboo to be frowned at in Africa, Nigeria precisely because that’s where I come from. A mindset that reigns supreme is that depression is seen as a “White man’s sickness”. It’s strongly believed that it’s not in the black man’s blood to exhibit depressive symptoms. The term—‘Man up’ seems on speed dial, ready to be directed at any individual who seems down and out.

Contrary to this narrow way of thinking, we are all humans with real-life issues. There are phases in life when we can’t help ourselves, and that should be okay too.

Am I sad or depressed?

Sometimes we use sadness and depression interchangeably, and it’s easy to see why that happens. These two are closely linked but are not the same. After a major negative experience, it is only natural to feel sad and even demented, but depression is an overpowering mental health disorder that can drastically influence daily living. What then is the difference? Sadness goes away after a while (ranging from hours to days), allowing the individual to continue with normal daily activities, but depression almost becomes like second nature, and isn’t something that gets “wished away”. The good news is depression is treatable, and with dedication, one can live a normal life again.

What is depression?

Depression is a mental health issue that involves a low mood and a loss of interest in activities.

Mental issues have consistently been ignored. It’s hard to tell if this is due to a prevailing mindset that should be erased, or the fact that it’s hard to diagnose, yet the impact on the affected is far-reaching.

Causes of depression

Depression may be caused by, but is not limited to;

#1. Poverty

Most therapists in Nigeria confirm that poverty is a leading cause of depression. There are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and a life to be lived. When a person is constantly faced with hunger, homelessness, zero education, and all the problems that money can buy, depression is almost inevitable. 

#2. Grief: Loss of a loved one

On a cool Sunday in 2019, my phone rang, and it was my bosom friend, Nma, who asked us to hang out at the beach to catch up on each other’s lives. I, on the other hand, couldn’t make it due to unforeseen circumstances that required my urgent attention. While I sat in bed the next day, working on my laptop and low-key feeling resentful, I received a text from her—she just lost her baby. Shock tingled down my spine as a state of inertia hijacked my dropped jaw and widely bulging eyes.

Nma’s life hasn’t remained the same. The bubbly, energetic lady has been replaced with a sad, cranky, and morose stranger. This is one of the tragic effects of depression.

#3. Health issues

Most individuals in Nigeria are stuck in a hospital bed, waiting for an announcement of their transition to the beyond. This is due to avoidable reasons like poor healthcare facilities and neglect of health workers. Just like Nma, I can relate to the loss of a loved one. A loss that might not have occurred if the health system in Nigeria had chosen to look beyond negligence. I was rushed into the hospital, struggling to hang on, albeit loosely to dear life. The nonchalant nurse on duty seemed to have other priorities until I bled to an unconscious state. Only to wake up to the news of a miscarriage, and of course, sober health practitioners making futile attempts to console my poor broken heart.

#4. Unemployment

As if the news of a miscarriage wasn’t enough to send me crashing down to rock bottom, I lost my job. It’s tough to grasp positivity when it seems like your entire life is crumbling.

#5. A draining marriage

Having to deal with a miscarriage, unemployment, and a draining marriage finally loosened the rest of the knots, holding together my sanity. The rest was history, I was depressed and helplessly so. One thing remains constant with a person suffering from depression—a feeling of worthlessness. Waking up to a new day further dug a hole in my mind, wishing I would sleep never to arise.

How did I get better?

Remember, this is a personal experience that helped me, and I’ve seen it help others around me during depressed times. It’s not necessarily a hard set of rules an individual must follow, but it sure helps.

#1. Exercise

Never undermine the power in an early morning workout routine. Early mornings, I’d dress up in my workout gear, and headphones, and head out for my morning run. The hormones released when exercising help an individual feel lighter and motivated to start the day. On days I lay down on my bed, depressive thoughts seemed to envelop me.

#2. Don’t be afraid to get help

This might sound easy, but to survive depression, asking for help is a step in the right direction.  Whether it’s a caring loved one, a recovery group, or a mental health professional, knowing someone understands and cares is a relief.

#3. Keep a list of things that make you smile and laugh

It might be a TV show, a prayer plan, or a walk in the beach. Whatever things you used to derive joy in, make a list of them and try indulging. It’s true that being depressed has its fair share of discouragement, and that’s why you can have an accountability partner to help on low days.

#4. Know your triggers

To survive depression and live above it subsequently, it’s imperative that we study ourselves and know our triggers. This happens when you’re still strong enough to fight during recovery. Once I was in a better place, it was easier to think. My insides were unclogged, and I figured out my triggers. For the ones that can be controlled, like burnout, make it a point of duty to rest, eat and have a routine that works.

What to do if your loved one is struggling with depression?

●          Number one thing to do is avoid statements like; “Snap out of it, take responsibility for yourself, this isn’t the right way to seek attention. You’re being too weak, it’s all in your head, man up…” These words would not only send them deeper into their shells but could lead to contemplating suicide. Instead, be supportive and offer words of encouragement and hope. A friend usually called me in the evenings to make me laugh. It was therapeutic.

●          Save the chastising and reaffirm of your love towards them and how valuable they are. Very often, this is a matter of talking to the person in a language that they will understand and respond to while in a depressed mind frame.

“We try to hide our feelings, but we forget that our eyes speak.”

Everyone is fighting something, and we need to be kind because many depressed people are disguised with big grins on their faces. People who are depressed cannot simply “snap out of it or pull themselves together” and then automatically get better. They need help, and you should encourage and support them like you would any physically ill friend or family member.

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