Coping With Depression in Nigeria

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.



43 thoughts on “Coping With Depression in Nigeria

  1. I’ll admit I’m a sufferer too, and know what a handicap it. can be.
    There must be a competent psychiatrist at the National Hospital in Abuja who can assist or offer links to colleagues in private practice.
    I’ve also found religion useful in getting through bad patches.
    People should be made aware that this is a common problem for which help is available. Best wishes.

  2. Very brave post Les. Like you said it would be an uphill task trying to get Nigerians to understand the concept of mental illness. Dare I say, almost impossible. Still you’ve made a move. That said I saw this somewhere and thought I’d share

    “Mental Illness is not what we think it is. Our society is so afraid of everything that whatever is out of the ordinary is quickly demonized or shunned. It is a great loss for all of us. I can tell you that I suffered depression my entire life until the day I understood it was a gift from the Creator.

    It made me slow down. It made me quiet. It made me thoughtful and compassionate for the suffering of others. This so called illness taught me to live an authentic life. But I had to see it as a gift first.

    I had to train myself to recognize and understand it. I had to learn to embrace it instead of being overwhelmed by it. It is a very sharp blade and I am still learning it’s complexities.

    How much suffering would I have been saved if it was in our culture to teach and share with empathy and understanding? If I hadn’t had to discover this unknown knowledge on my own? How much suffering could we end for our children who are lost, scared, rejected and alone?

    Mental Illness is a very mysterious gift and we treat it like the Plague. It is why I am able to create. More important it’s why I love so deeply.

    The path to understanding is lonely and overgrown, but the path is there. Follow all your deepest truths and love everyone and everything with gentleness and you will find it. Love life, love challenges, love joy and suffering, war and peace. Never despair. Turn that cry of fear for the world and for the little souls into a focused silence and create. Make a vision of strength and beauty out of it.

    Swim in dark seas and you will drown. You’ll lose the light. Always strive for the brighter shores and you’ll find peace on the edge of existence. You’ll find supreme balance on that blade’s edge, but first you have to learn silence. You have to learn to give yourself the gift of discipline and patience. Create with intention. Breathe with your whole body. Be grateful. Be actively grateful for hours at a time.

    There’s so much more, but it’s a start, a way to look at it in a different light. Your illness is a cure for the madness of the world, but it does no good if you don’t first learn to walk in peace”

    1. There si a lot that our society have termed mysterious that are not. Thanks for the boldness to share and working in the field of sexual violence and having being a victim and now survivor I can understand and quite deeply. Creativity is spurned out of depths of madness, if I may say so… Love has conquered all for me and that springs forth from a discovery of God. This journey is taken daily, giving a little everyday and learning to open up to enjoy that.The pain I still carry is for the future, how do we make the system take a grave look into making available mental and psychological services particularly for persons who have gone through sexual violence of one forma or the other and other trauma. I hope deep in my heart that the stigma associated will be a thing of the past….

  3. I know this is a late response, but please understand there is hope! Continue to speak out about the stigma of depression.’s 10,000 person facebook community and is helping erase the stigma and helping people with anxiety and depression. I talk with people from all over the world about it, so contact me at any time. PS – I don’t get paid, so this is not about money at all.

  4. i just saw this too, i have a group on facebook i just started. check it out

    i have felt the grip of depression,though brief it was horrible and i never want to experience it again so i make my self happy all the time even when disappointed.

    the truth is people in Nigeria dont get it. no one deserves to suffer in silence cuz thats how the suicidal thoughts start to process.

    thats the reason i created the group.

    we need to support each other. i dont know any shrinks at the moment but i am a counselor in my own way because i researched deep into it and helped myself get out of it.

    when the group expands and grows i will hold talk therapy and forums. for now i am trying to reach out to sufferers.

    i wouldnt wish this on anyone.

  5. My brother is depressed. Have been battling with it for years. Any advice on where to get a professional counselor that handles specifically that.

  6. This is a great read. It is sad to know that you do not know who you can talk to in Nigeria if you are depressed. Even the regular doctors won’t refer you. They believe you are just forming. Please send me the list you are compiling, I will also share it if you do not mind. Keep up the good work,

      1. Hello,

        Kindly share the link. It’s started again and I’m sure I don’t want to go through it again. I’ll end up hurting myself and the people around me. My colleagues are already beginning to notice it.

  7. I just came across your post and it’s interesting to know I’m not the only one with this issue, well I have been suffering from depression for a while, On and off for almost 18yrs and it’s been hell on earth, my last episodes started this march 2014, I actually start contemplating suicide, well a friend link me up to a psychiatrist who gave me a drug to take,amirtyptiline and it only made my case worse, it’s like my brain has gone to sleep and I don’t even have a real though process anymore, I don’t even know who I am anymore, and I feel indifferent to everything in my life, I will give the world to jst be able to feel alive and happy again, jst like depression, everything in life means nothing to me, my family can’t even help me now, please I will love to have the list too as I jst relocated to lagos, and pls I also need tips on how to feel atlest happy for even a moment

  8. Interesting read, it’s good to know am not the only one with this issue,I have had depression for 18yrs ,on and off, at a time I even contemplated suicide, but I didn’t go tru with it, a friend introduced me to a psychiatrist who gave me an antidepressants ( amitritypline) and dat only made it worse, I was as if my mind was alseep cause I had to thought process or even emotions, I feel indifferent about everything, I don’t even know who I am anymore, pls I will need that list also, I just relocated to lagos now, All I want is to feel alive again and happy even if it’s jst for a moment, I jst feel lost, and with my blank mind, I don’t know how long I can carry on, my family can’t even help me now, and am jst 27yrs old, I will also like to know what I can do to atlest feel happy for a while, thanks

  9. This is a super late post because I honestly just saw your piece and I must doff my hat. I guess I have either always blamed others for this or just never admitted to it. I am mostly uninterested in everything or people…I them mask it and if you really check it…I only mask it in hard work, extreme jokes, but I am uninterested most times…coupled with the fact that I am bachelor and living alone as well…this is really encouraging. I read somewhere tonight that hope is having control over issues…this is hope because I finally I am not alone at the end…not just as close as I would have preferred to be.

    1. I just found this post,with tears in my eyes as i write this,please i need assistance with my depression,i think i might loose this battle soon,m desperate, please anyone out there,help me pls pls.if u can recommend a doc.

      1. Resources in Lagos – Fammed Services, 15 Agard St. Sabo Yaba, Lagos (opposite White House Canteen) Dr. Famuyiwa. His number 0807 665 9140. Please report your experience if you use him. Good luck

    1. Resources in Lagos – Fammed Services, 15 Agard St. Sabo Yaba, Lagos (opposite White House Canteen) Dr. Famuyiwa. His number 0807 665 9140. Please report your experience if you use him. Good luck

  10. Dunno if this is stilll ‘live’ given it’s dated 2012, would be just my luck if it isn’t , but at least one person gets it Be well

  11. Resources in Lagos – Fammed Services, 15 Agard St. Sabo Yaba, Lagos (opposite White House Canteen) Dr. Famuyiwa. His number 0807 665 9140. Please report your experience if you use him. Good luck everyone

  12. Sending a powerful wind of healing to everyone suffering from depression. I suffered from childhood to adulthood too, in fact, it manifested into physical pain that no doctor could rightly diagnose what the problem was until someone said, hey, this looks like a mind problem and asked if I was unhappy about anything in my life. Of course, I thought my life was an absolute joke, a heap of shit and there it was. I didn’t believe I was having bodily pains because of it but yeah, my body had emaciated a great deal, lost all appetite and not sleeping at all any more (zero sleep for months) I was on the verge of losing it or maybe dying but in those days, I never considered suicide cos I was raised it was the greatest sin but I do confess to having some insane thought like when you’re done tormenting me, feel free to cut me off. A doctor without my knowledge placed me on Ativan and even with the smallest dose, worsened my case after completing the dose as I had severe withdrawal symptoms but to cut the story short, I feel lot better these days. These days have been the best days of my entire life.

    First, I turned to God for healing.
    Second, I cut out all medication to as little as possible so I do not depend on them.
    Third, I ate well, exercised, slept on time.
    Number 3 didn’t come easy so I needed to address the root cause of my depression. Mostly stuff beyond my control, I stopped obsessing over my failures and learnt to you know make the best of the life I have, like they say, if life gives you lemon, make lemon juice.
    And most importantly, fight for yourself because you matter. You are your number one greatest fan so do not let yourself down. Love yourself to a fault, spoil yourself with positives, fast delete the negatives, indulge yourself, go out, talk to people, help those in need and never take things too seriously. Life when you really think about is a joke and nobody really gets it. Let’s all just try to enjoy it as best. Nobody’s life is perfect. It may appear some people are a lot more fortunate than others but look around you, you are a lot more fortunate than a lot of people too. You are here, alive and healthy. Do not take these things for granted. Many people wish they were you. When I wasn’t sleeping for months and experiencing the chronic pain, I envied everybody I saw even beggars on the road side. I just wanted to sleep again, wanted the pain to stop at least partially. Thank God for everything.

    sorry for the long write -up. I just hope this can help somebody.

  13. Hey…..My name is ibrahim selimat..I will like to talk to you personally/chat,If you don’t mind…This is my…I will be very glad if you can reply..thank you

  14. Hello, I’m an only child and I’ve constantly been surrounded by people who don’t understand what being depressed means. I have honestly never admitted to being depressed and it really took time for me to accept it. It gets exhausting pretending you’re happy, in times that I’m down, I have no one to talk to and no one understands what I’m actually passing through. One timei thought I could talk to my parents-Biggest mistake of my life- so not only has it dawned on me that there’s actually no one there but the fact that the ones around cannot understand me and can never percive when something is wrong with me. I feel so fake walking around and smiling an just pretending. I’m really unhappy with myself and I need help. Thank you so much for this post because I believe I can relate 100%

  15. There is an outpatient psychiatric clinic in abuja when my sister was going though depression we contacted them and the doctor was able to treat her without us even traveling….the doctor (a US trained psychiatrist) was communicating with her via phone and skype…that is something they use at their center they call it telepsychiatry so that they can help people across Nigeria…their website is it was really convinent since she didnt have to leave lagos.

    1. Just seeing all the posts on depression. And I can identify with all the points because I have also been there for a long time and no one ever seems to understand. The journey to my healing and self discovery began in coming to Christ. Depression, worry, anxiety all deals with the mind. As one of the writers above said, this so called illness can be viewed from the position of seeing it as a gift from God. People in this category have tremendous and rare gifts and talents that they are not even aware of, most times veiled by fear or past traumas. Recognising this helps a lot to bring the mind back on track and live the life that God originally intended. Of course it involves a lot of work, repentance, a lot of letting go, a lot of forgiving, a lot of trusting and standing ones ground and refusing the lies through the word of God, staying thankful at all times and focusing on what is important and so much more. It’s a step by step but sure process. Stay blessed

      1. Thanks for being so honest about this condition. I have suffered from depression for pretty much all of my 22 years on earth and started contemplating suicide since I was ten. I have come close to killing myself severally but due to God and my moral upbringing I have managed to stay alive this long. I am dying inside and it has become a physical pain in me. I feel like dying but I really don’t want to. I live in Abuja and I really need help.

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