I’ve experienced symptoms of clinical depression on and off since I was 9. Sometimes it was just benign blues other times it was sever enough to paralyze me. I would stay indoors and pine away for days. Getting up, having a shower and going to school or work would be a massive chore. Sometimes the work wouldn’t get done at all and I would fall behind. I declined or passed on invitations to go out and be with people.
For a time I just thought that I was an introvert or shy. As a young girl in the village I read compulsively to escape my overwhelming misery or played really loud music to drown out the sound of the miserable voice in my head. My constant companion was the radio. I would fall asleep with the late night music show on. Barry White and Isaac Hayes crooned me to sleep. Then as a teenager I discovered rock and roll. It matched my angst perfectly. I used to think like an ogbanje child. “If I die they will all be sorry.” Maybe ogbanje is just how my father’s people described dissatisfied/depressed children.
When I moved to Lagos at 21 I became ‘a club girl’. No, not that type of club girl, I just went to the club every night and danced all night. I loved to dance; music transports me totally and has a profound effect on my mood. I wanted to be a dancer once upon a time but growing up in 70s Nigeria the only professional dancers I knew were Fela’s girls turned wives. I did not find it an inspiring picture.
I’ve also used alcohol, food and a variety of drugs to anesthetize my feelings. Valium and Librium used to be available without a prescription. Prozac and Zantax still are. Sex is also a common escapism to depression. Makes you feel something other than your misery for a little while. None of it is a cure for depression, I know. Hell I didn’t even recognize what I had as ‘depression.’ I just thought I was really really really sad and I thought that living in Nigeria was what was making me really really really sad. Maybe that is a part of it but it’s not the whole story. I’ve had depression while away from Nigeria too. Depression comes and goes or just gets chronic. When the episodes pass it’s as if they never happened. The sun comes out and all is well with the world.
No one wants to admit depression, you just know that the natives won’t get it and will probably make you feel even worse. So why am I admitting it now? Because there is someone else out there feeling just the way I do and I want to reach out and say ‘Hey, I get it.’ We can support each other even if we can’t get professional help around here. Admitting it is also so liberating. I’m not going to walk around making excuses for my life because of it but I feel better knowing there is a perfectly good scientific explanation for what I feel sometimes. I can forgive myself.
I’m compiling a list of resources in Abuja. If you know any, counselors, shrinks or sufferers get in touch.
Love and power beautiful people.