It was approaching 11:30 am. I could tell it was sunny outside from the thin rays of light that filtered through my bedsitter curtains. I tried to lift my head but my whole body felt like one huge mass of rock – very solid rock. The clutter that filled up the room and the clothes strewn on the floor expressed the darkness and turmoil that was brewing within me. The questions running through my mind, over and over again were the same:
“What had I achieved in life?
What was the point of living?
Do I even have the strength to push on to live through another day?”
I was approaching 32 years of age. I was unmarried (with no prospects of a date nearby), had an auctioned company, I was in debt and I had no prospects of being employed which meant I couldn’t pay for rent or food.
I watched the leftover bread on top of the table; looking at it, but not really seeing it. I had bought it yesterday with the last 50 Kshs I had, and because I had to be economical with food, I had had four slices for lunch with tasteless tea, four for supper, and the last pieces are what I was staring at. My stomach grumbled but I did not have the strength to eat. I had the strength for almost nothing. My teeth felt like they weighed a tonne; why brush them, I thought to myself, when the day brings nothing bright with it.
In this darkness, my only companion was alcohol. It regulated my moods, made me feel alive, helped me disconnect with my current state. It’s the only thing that I longed for during this long and torturous days.
The thing with depression is, people can feel the sadness, but they are too absorbed in their own darkness to be your light. Sometimes you need to go through the valley to get to the mountaintop.
That alcohol, as aforementioned, become the way through which people realized that if I don’t get help, I was going to die in alcoholism. My sister realized that I was going deeper into a hellish hole. She suggested therapy and I obliged. And so the journey of recovery begun.
Therapy for me represented asking the why questions. Why don’t I like myself? Why don’t women see me? Do I have some hidden defect God created me with? Why can’t I succeed? It represented bringing to the fore suppressed emotions that I did not even know existed within me. At times I could tell where all the sadness had its origin in. I knew I was getting old and my pals where doing way better than me. So there was that frustration of being left behind on this journey of life. It’s during therapy that I was able to confront the elephant in the room.
You see I grew up well. We lived middle class in a lively neighborhood. On the surface, our family was what people aspired to be; yearly trips to Mombasa for Christmas, numerous toys, a large three bedroom house.
But, there was a family secret hidden deep in shame.
While on the outside we were a family to be envied, on the inside it was a home marred by domestic violence. My parents fought. In fact, they’ve fought since my first coherent memory. And it wasn’t just your usual couple fights. These were deep fights, with blood, broken dishes and broken windows. He had a temper, my dad, and you just would not know when it would explode on you. I grew up predicting his moods. If he was happy, then I knew he wouldn’t pick a fight and hit her. If on the other hand he was in a foul mood, then that night would be a trip to the gutter.
Therapy brought all this to the surface, but healing took the very hand of God.
First, let me say recovery is a lifelong journey. You don’t get to a certain destination/point and say ‘I have overcome depression completely’, rather it is a daily battle to fight off the negative emotions that paralyze your mind and life. I went through therapy but I was not there yet. What I had are the tools to make a better life for myself. I was still battling with alcoholism, promiscuity and self-loathing and at times it felt that for each positive step that I made there were ten negative ones pulling me back.
Goal setting really helps in rebuilding your lost self-esteem. After therapy, one of the things that really helped boost my confidence was making personal goals. I visualized where I wanted to be in the next 5 years and broke them down to years, then months. Each goal I accomplished spoke back to me that I mattered in life and I could overcome the challenges that bedeviled me.
Overcoming depression is different for everyone. There are those who can boldly testify that travel, change of work, ending a relationship, practicing yoga/mindfulness or relocating to another city helped but for me what really worked was my journey of faith. I was once a born again believer, so I had a grasp of the Holy Scripture. My rededication to God really helped me overcome the stressers in my life.
I have attempted suicide thrice and failed. I drank for the last 13 years, tried counseling, prayers and I was still an alcoholic, but one day God just let loose of everything that was holding me back and I have been alcohol free ever since. I reconnected with my God, started going for prayers, church, having daily devotions and generally reconnecting with my spiritual self. I understand some may be skeptical about the role of God in overcoming depression, but He has a way of healing brokenness that is very personal to you. He created you and that means you matter in life.
In life there will always be challenges that are beyond the ability of self to overcome and that is where God comes in. I am not there yet in this journey, but I am also not self-loathing, filled with negative energy, and wanting to die.
He rescued me. He can do the same for you.