The World Health Organization estimates that about 121 million people worldwide have some form of depression, although less than 25 percent have access to effective treatment [source: WHO]. To some of us, depression is a reality.
In a Capital Lifestyle Magazine exclusive, Mumbi, a Kenyan woman struggling with depression, shares her personal experience with our readers.
I was introduced to the extreme end of depression more than 20 years ago when my mother took her life. Although we didn’t discuss it, even we the children recognised that something shameful had happened.
We never talked about it, I never talked about her until the tail end of my high school years. The topic around my mother was taboo; a no-go area! 17 years later, I would have my own personal encounter with depression.
My daddy died.
I thought time would deal with the grief as it had done with my mum. It didn’t. Turns out it hadn’t dealt with my mum’s either. Just buried it. And then began my journey with this debilitating illness. It still goes on.
S is for Spirituality.
If an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, then a depressed mind is the devil’s playground. Any person who has suffered from depression will tell you of the accompanying sense of hopelessness. As a matter of fact it is the hallmark of this illness. One will need a deep reservoir of faith to dip into when you are depressed because your spirituality is the first and most devastating casualty of this disease.
You feel like black walls are caving in on you. It feels too like you are drowning and every time you come for air, this force is pushing your head back in. You have no way out. That statement ‘feeling blue’ is real.
But perhaps the biggest problem with depression is shame. See depression is a mental illness and when one thinks mental, they think mad. Indeed the phrase go mental has nothing positive about it. And because most depressed people can function normally – and in some cases like that of Abe Lincoln inspire generations- we learn to live with it. Suffering in silence because better that than to be a social pariah, right? We live in a perfect world, where everybody is so ‘perfect’. Any imperfection is therefore not tolerated and often vilified.
This shame has therefore led many depressed people to suffer in silence and manage somehow. Before my mum took her life, she talked to many people about how she was feeling. She soon became a burden. They shunned her, she shunned them back. She took her life. To be fair, people didn’t understand what was going on then. I believe neither did she. When I started slipping into my own episode, I lost friends. Many who labelled me a drama queen. Some openly shunned me. Suddenly I was no longer getting invites to social events. For those who stuck by me, their exasperation with me was palpable. They urged me to snap out of it. I couldn’t, because in an ironic repeat of history, I didn’t know what was happening then. I got many things from my mother: my body, my face, part of her brains, her temperament. I also got the depressive gene. Some inherit cancer, others diabetes while others get HIV. I got depression. It is my cross to bear. One that is conquerable but a cross still.
Everyday, I have to contend with the fact that mine can never be a normal life. Of course my friends would find this hard to believe. I am jovial..seemingly make friends easily..loud; but an introvert with a penchant for hiding from the world. I am a Cancer, see, and our symbol is a crab. In the last 10 and something years, I have lived more in my shell than outside – hiding from the world and its accompanying heartache and rejection. Nothing is more painful to my kind than rejection. Yet ironically, it is the one thing that we face more than anything else. Oftentimes, when I tell people I have depression, they don’t know what to do with me. They look away embarrassed. .murmur their sympathies and then slowly pull out of my life. So I don’t talk about it. Depression is not as set as other illnesses. So people don’t talk about it. I hope to get more people talking about it though. To save a huge section of a normal looking population that is dying silently in our midst!