Nothing Lasts Forever
At 6:30pm on a chilly Wednesday evening in September 2016, just as I shoved open the door and was happy to be finally in the warmth of my house, I received a call that numbed me to my core. My sister, my always cheerful, always coming through for everybody, extremely empathetic and thoughtful sister, was on the other end of the line.
“I have been diagnosed with depression and I have to be admitted in a mental institution with immediate effect.” She said.
Her statement was as cold as ice which made me realize that it really was not an April Fool’s Day joke. I froze.
She was 25 years old then. What on earth would depress a 25 year old?
“Where are you?” I asked.
“In my crib. Came to pack a few things before I check into rehab tomorrow, but I have been advised not to be alone tonight.”
“Of course, you shouldn’t be. I am coming for you.”
Luckily, the kids were upstairs having a bath and the mister was at work, so I just did a U-turn back to my car. Much as I had one million questions in my head, I did not want to upset her any further given her fragile state. So, I called a friend who has always amazed me by his ability to ask the most unnerving questions while also making a most uncomfortable situation seem like commonplace. I picked her up, then picked my friend up and we all sat down for a drink at Explorer Tavern. She was at ease and constantly giggled at his jokes. I saw nothing depressive in her, except that her eyes looked tired-like she was either hangied or hadn’t slept for days.
My sister Brenda unfolds her narrative below:
My depressive episodes started early in 2015 but it was towards the end of the year when I finally acknowledged that something was wrong, and almost a year later when I sought for help.
It was a slow and alarmingly progressive state at the same time. The event that triggered the downfall was a heartbreak I seemingly couldn’t get over. Much as I tried I couldn’t find an outlet for all the anger I was feeling. The thing about suffering heartbreaks is that you can’t rush the process. You have to hurt before you heal. I did not have time to hurt, so the next option was to ignore it.
I was fortunate enough to land a job a few months after my graduation. The salary was a dream! We were paid on commission which was always hefty. Life was amazing the first year (2014). But that wasn’t to last. The commission structure was scrapped off. I would now earn a third of what I used to get. The worst part was that we weren’t told in advance, so I obviously wasn’t prepared. Being the big girl I am, I wasn’t going to waste time weeping over spilt milk, so I did what I did best: ignore acknowledging my situation.
To add on to my career life, I didn’t feel fulfilled in what I was doing. To put it simply, I felt like I was just floating through life. Like, I was living on someone else’s time. I couldn’t figure out where I fit. Neither could I make peace with my situation. I didn’t even like what I did. I didn’t know what alternative I could choose. All options came down to going back to school to start afresh. Starting afresh meant school fees; money which I didn’t have. So, I was stuck where I was-so it felt.
When I first came to Nairobi, I didn’t imagine I’d live in Kileleshwa. The first time I heard of the place was from Vioja Mahakamani when Ondiek Nyuka Kwota would brag about his numerous apartments in the area. At first I stayed with my older sister but she moved out when she got married. Our house was spacious and equipped enough. I loved it there.
When she moved out, I had to as well (the house was falling apart and the land lady couldn’t care to repair it). She (my sister) left behind all of the furniture, which I had to move with, of course. The SQ I moved into was not as spacious as our previous one, so I had to cram everything in there. I even left some furniture behind. It felt like a hoarder’s house. To say I hated the place is an understatement. It felt claustrophobic and stuffy. In the four years I lived there, aside from my sister and mum, only four other people visited. I couldn’t fathom someone else seeing the hovel I was living in.
So, here I was in a situation where I couldn’t find an escape from my woes. I hated work, I couldn’t just chill in my house for peace of mind since that was another cause for stress, my love life was ancient history. To top it all, seeing as I am not a very outspoken person, I didn’t talk to anyone about these things. Whenever I wanted to bring it up, I’d convince myself that it wasn’t so bad that I’d tell someone else. My sister was always the first person that I’d think of confiding in, but then I’d tell myself that for someone with a husband, a kid, an 8-5 job and a side hustle, they already had enough on their plate without my non-issues. And there went my chance(s) of opening up.
All the harboring I was doing would manifest itself in various ways. I stopped having regular sleep patterns. Actually, I didn’t have a sleeping pattern at all. I resorted to either drinking or smoking or both so that I’d at least blackout and have some semblance of sleep. I’d drink Monday to Monday, alone in my hovel. Sometimes crying, because drinking and high emotions happen to be friends. There was always alcohol lying around somewhere. When I went to rehab, I left behind a whole litre of Vodka in the house. It’s like I had a small wine and spirits in my house.
In the event that I’d lack sleep, I’d cry my eyes out for however long, until either dawn breaks or I pass out from fatigue from all the crying. One day I cried for three hours straight. That deep, painful, teary crying that emanates from deep in your core. I’d be sad that I can’t even hack at sleeping and I’d start crying. Then every other reason that would make me sad would surface. It was always thoughts akin to what I can’t do right. Would I be in this same position forever? If not, how I’m I going to get out of it? I need money for that, but even the proverbial church mouse had better luck with that- so it felt. That is where my engaging thought process would end. From there the negative thoughts took over and they would ‘talk at me’ It was never a discussion. My mind was giving me its 2 cents: What makes you think you can make it out of this? I wouldn’t be surprised if this is all you amount to. What are you good at, even? If you were asked to talk about something that you are passionate about for 5 minutes, what would you say? Nothing, because that’s what you know”
That and more negative talk really pushed me to the dark side. I didn’t have the willpower to fight those voices. For one, they sounded right to me. Second, I just didn’t have the energy to waste on issues I felt I couldn’t solve. It felt easier to just give in and numb the pain. I felt that at the end of the day, one of us would have to give in: my issues or myself. All I lived for was making it through the day.
I used to be overly emotional over anything and everything. I’d get very agitated at people and situations for no reason- especially if things didn’t work out in my favor. It felt like the world was conspiring against me. I was so mad at the world and everyone in it. I’d feel better if I was just angry instead of trying to rationalize the source and cause of the anger. I also realized that if I appeared angry, people wouldn’t bother me unnecessarily with pointless engagements. I used the anger to mask everything that was going on inside me. I was one sad person. At some point I forgot how happy felt like. I was bordering on somber and pissed.
My social life died too. Whenever I wasn’t at work, I’d be in my hovel either getting high or blacked out from having gotten high. I’d leave work on Friday and lock myself in my shoe-box size house the whole weekend. I’d leave on Monday for work. I would only leave the house to get more alcohol or to buy food. At work, I’d do my due diligence: arrive on time, do my part and leave in the evening. Up to this day I always wonder how I managed to keep my situation under wraps while at work. Aside from like two colleagues who’d sensed something was up, the rest were shell shocked after they learnt I had been admitted for depression. How!!? I think that’s another thing that helped encourage this downward spiral: the fact that I could hide it so well. My family was shocked as well. My sister almost had a coronary. She learnt everything on the eve of my being admitted – only because someone had to know. I believe if the nurse I’d talked to hadn’t insisted I get admitted, I still wouldn’t have told anyone.
Nothing lasts forever, someone wise said. The night when things came to a head was one September night. I had been in this situation for close to two years then. That night I had my usual drink and passed out. Normally, I used to ‘sleep’ late so that I increase my chances of blacking out till morning. On this night, however, it wasn’t to be like that. I woke up from my stupor four hours later with three hours to spare till my rising time. I woke up drunk still and I couldn’t coax myself back to sleep. I lit a joint and got as high as humanly possible. But I still couldn’t pass out. So, there I was, heavy pounding in my head, bloodshot eyes that couldn’t even see clearly and a mind so mucked up I couldn’t even think straight. On top of that I am as high as a kite but my mind had reached the end of holding on. This was the night I cried for 3 hours straight. I couldn’t believe the bad, bad world couldn’t afford me sleep for 3 hours at least, so I started crying. Then I couldn’t stop crying. You know the crying that gets you so worked up and out of breath that you take a break? Yea, that was the situation. Eventually, I got tired of all the tears. But those tears refused to be tamed. So I gave in and just cried away. You don’t want to know the headache I had that morning. It was that night that I decided I’m never having another night like that. Never again was I going to be crying unnecessarily instead of sleeping.
About 3 months before, I’d admitted to myself that I needed help. I had Googled all the facilities that I’d heard of. As luck would have it, there was one right next to my workplace. I had never noticed it before. After my emotional spell that night, I decided to pass by there after work: which I did. In my mind, I figured I’d just be assigned a therapist whom I’d be seeing occasionally. It was around 6 in the evening and the resident therapist had already left according to the nurse I found. She advised that I go back the next morning. That wasn’t what I was expecting. I was hoping that at I’d atleast talk to someone who’d prescribe sleeping pills or something. I wasn’t prepared to go back home as I’d left, so I just broke down in tears-tears that I’d been balancing the whole day at work. The nurse sat me down and asked me to talk to her. That was the beginning of the end. Haleluya? Amen!
In rehab, I got the much needed rest I was lacking. I had time to think back to when things went south. My coping mechanisms were clearly wanting. Since high school, I used to write my diary every day, or almost daily. That was a way of acknowledging whatever was going on with me. When the period around the onset of my depression set in, I’d only write it once or twice a month. That was a sure sign that something was wrong. But I wasn’t looking for a sign. Those one or two entries were so negative it is no wonder I didn’t write much-because my mind can’t bash me then I validate it by writing it down.
I was assigned a therapist and a counselor, both of whom were great assets in my healing journey. I credit my counselor more since he equipped me with the coping mechanisms I so badly needed. My therapist did more of prescribing drugs.
The counselor said to not entertain negative thoughts. Whenever I have one or more, he advised to ask myself whether it’s a fact or a conjecture. It’s always conjecture. I had to always be on the lookout for them since, at that time, it was hard to counter them as soon as they formed. I started journaling again; writing down everything I felt and thought, however mundane. I still do. My diary since then reads like a whole discussion.
[Another upside to journaling is that it helps me be honest with myself. In my diary I acknowledge what I’m dealing with and what I’m ignoring. I find that as much as I still ignore some things, I atleast admit that they exist.]
He also said to avoid negative situations like sad movies, negative people, sad jokes as that would be a trigger.
On top of all that he advised on having a solid support system of friends and family. Mine came in the form of family. There was no judgment, only love and support.
The motivation I had was the reminder of that fateful night. By the time I was stepping into that rehab I had already made up my mind that I would never be in that situation again. If you are in such a place, where you are fighting for a reason to keep on, you need a personal one: one that has meaning for you. I believe mine is what pushed me to want to become better. There was no way I was going back or looking back.
It has been an arduous journey of staying on course and checking in with myself every so often. I am out of the woods and slowly venturing into open air.
The mind is a powerful thing. Once you set it on something, it shall work with you. For anyone struggling, just believe in yourself. And if you feel like there is no end to your troubles, just remember that nothing lasts forever.
Mental health is a serious issue especially among the youth- more so among the male youth. I urge anyone that feels they need help or need to talk to someone to reach out. Not necessarily to someone you know. It could be counselors in (but not limited to) any of the below facilities.
Chiromo Lane Medical Centre ,Chiromo lane
Bustani (affiliate of Chiromo Lane), Lavington, Muthangari Drive
P.S. We’ve been nominated for BAKE Awards once again under the Lifestyle Category, 19.b. If you think we deserve it, please vote for us here and let’s take this baby home.