By Jacquie Mwaura
So yesterday life decided to hand me another one of its harsh reality slaps. I just realized I’d been suffering with functional depression for the past 10 months. 10 months. Yaani a baby was conceived, carried to full term and came into the world while I was struggling to get by. I was updating a very close friend of mine about a recent conversation I had with a mutual friend.
The irony of all this is that in as much as I’m in the mental health field, I still have stigma attached to seeking professional mental health services.
In this state of high functioning depression, your life seems to be going pretty well. After all they’re people suffering from a lot worse. You may have a supportive network but there’s a little voice that tells you they just wouldn’t understand. Your family may not really know what’s going on deep within. How do you see your loved ones internal struggles yet they are “ok”?
I would intentionally socially withdraw from family events since the question of “What are you up to now?” would always come up. How do you start answering a question you don’t have an answer to? You’re expected to know these things, right? Unfortunately, applicable life skills don’t rank high within the school syllabus.
This week I felt like it all just needed to come out. A balloon filled with air will eventually burst if the air keeps coming. To prevent this, either stop letting the air in, poke a hole and risk the balloon bursting, or squeeze some air out through its only opening. I opted for letting some air out.
Am I by the wave of a magic wand healed? Definitely not. So, what changed? I had a deep no holds back conversation with a close friend. (Haha probably I scared him 😆) I felt it needed to be done. To put it out there. Surprisingly enough it worked. This human mind though. I felt lighter. Like a huge sigh of relief.
Are there times where I felt I hinted I needed help? Of course. But I recoiled when I felt I wasn’t being heard. When I just thought, “You won’t quite understand.” I can’t blame them. How do you begin to comprehend that someone functional would be suffering inside?
On March 3rd 2017, I made this journal entry:
STUCK IN THE MUD
“Feeling low. Things are definitely not going as planned. Certainly, questioning my life’s decisions. All because of hypostress. Having nothing to do. I should not define myself by having a steady source of income but everyone else seems to. I really have to avoid certain situations. You don’t want to meet up with people who’ll ask you the one question you dread. Hence, social withdrawal. I understand why people do it now. The worst part is you can’t even tell those closest to you. Friends and family alike. You feel like a failure in their own eyes. You start questioning everything. Was working so hard in school even worth it? Why do everything (they told you to do) right only to get out and feel betrayed by the system? Starting the 11th month now. It’s crazy to even believe it. It gets really bad to the extent you don’t enjoy the things you used to. Start projects and leave them halfway. Where’s the drive for anything? You see a failure in yourself. A failure to the little girl you were. You have let her down. Her dreams down. She was unstoppable. What changed? How do we move on from here? (Hopefully this won’t be the never-ending cycle it’s been so far?) A part of me still hopes. Still dreams of a better future. Things should look up, right? It can’t all be doom and gloom, right? Would life really be that cruel? Wipe the tears away. Things will get better. I hope. 😔😔😔”
I knew I needed to talk to a shrink earlier on in the journey but I had no clue of where to go. So many of us may be at that point. Also, despite knowing all that shrinks should do, I still felt like they too wouldn’t understand.
So did I just get started with my internal baggage as soon as we started talking? Nope. It took him boldly asking “What’s up with your life?” As I said before, I hinted. Probably a little stronger now. Sometimes you just need to confront the person head on. With nowhere to hide. Perhaps this would have prevented some number of suicides.
I went on to share my insecurities in a world where everyone seems to have their shit together. Where “seeing” how your former classmate is doing is just a page away. Social media gives such an unrealistic perception of one’s life. Despite knowing this, when something is shown to you repeatedly, you start accepting it.
Unfortunately, the response may not be the same for everyone. You may be told, “Just snap out of it.” “You seem fine. Are you sure you’re not just having a bad day?” “Just pray about it. Mungu halali (God doesn’t sleep)” I know they mean well. What we must learn is that sometimes no response is a satisfactory response. Sometimes we just want to be heard. That’s enough. I just need to know you’re listening.
I’m hoping that sharing this at least speaks to one person. Makes them reach out despite knowing the risk. Helps friends not just talk about stuff on the surface but go deeper. Makes someone reach out to an otherwise “normal” looking individual. Repeatedly if need be. Better safe than sorry.
I’d also recommend watching 13 Reasons Why. The acting is terrible. Read the book if you can. However, the message behind it speaks volumes. She didn’t kill herself because of one particular reason. It was a culmination of multiple “minor” events.
I hope that as a society we shall truly embrace empathy. Seeing other’s issues as they see them themselves. This applies to everyone whether male or female. Let’s have these conversations and save lives.
Additional information on High Functioning Depression: