Standing in my Truth

Living with depression and anxiety is one thing, but add a disability to it and you have what some would call a recipe for disaster. This is my life as it stands! Before you ask, nothing happened. I was born with the inability to walk, and you know the crazy thing? I love it! Yes, I have my days, but overall I would not have it any other way. I am growing to be the opinionated, big spirited and unapologetically smart-mouthed tomboy I was born to be. After two suicide attempts, a long history of self-harm, and struggling to live according to everyone’s standards and expectations of me, I have had no choice but to be me.

I am not here to prove myself to you or glorify how great my life is because that would be a lie. I am here in hope that you seek some solace in my words because growing up, all I wanted was for someone to make sense of what was happening to me; tell me that I was not crazy and that there was possibly a deeper reason to why I would come home from school to cry for hours then proceed not to eat for hours because nothing was appetising to me, or I just could not move from my bed. Most of all, I just wanted someone to tell me it was okay to be me in every sense of the word.

I am here to take your hand. You will feel me cry through my words. I swear to you, it is the simple act of writing that has saved me one too many times. So, if you are reading my words, know that you are providing me with a release, and in a sense, you are saving me from the demons that depressions and anxiety have forced me to see. I know it is a confusing place to be in because at times I struggle to explain what is happening to me, but know it is fine not to understand. The thing to never forget is to speak; either to someone or getting it out in the correct way. Go for a run, sing, listen to music, or even breathe. Just do not let it lock you in. I say this from experience as someone who stayed mute for eight years. I cried silently at night (I actually mastered the art of making tears fall, but not making a single sound), starved myself repeatedly, and went to the gym and exercised to the point where black spots were behind my eyes and I was close to passing out. I even stabbed myself on numerous occasions and had violent meltdowns to the point that I forgot where I was and did not know who was around me. Strangely, all these happened secretly for eight years and I ignored it, playing it down like it was normal.

It will catch up with you, I promise. Oh no, I am not saying this to scare you, but simply because it always happens (it happened to me).  Depression sees no age, gender or ability. It sets up shop and grows till it blows and by that point, it is unavoidable. It took me owning the situation to fight it so all I say is, find what works for you and conquer it slowly. That might include taking drastic steps like I had to when I decided to take a gap year from university and restructure my life so I can breathe, or taking smaller steps like spotting signs and coming to terms with it. I am here to make sure you know you are not alone. Whether you are new to this, been living with a mental illness for a while, or know someone who is suffering from it, I am here to tell you it is okay and there is light at the end of the tunnel, even if it is dim. The year 2016 could very well have been the finish line for me, but I am somehow living to tell my tale.

Oh, and do not get it twisted, you will definitely laugh with me too! This journey is not all doom and gloom, as I am known for getting myself into questionable situations. So, prepare for tears of laughter too. We will smile through this.

Stay beautiful.

ABOUT BLESSING ODUKOYA: On all fours is how her life began; Growing into a young adult in the past is where she remains; Occasionally sitting on two wheels; She saw life through a different lens but her strive to be the same was almost her end game; Failing to see past her self inflicted pain; They undoubtedly became best friends; Only to realise society didn’t live up to her standards anyway.

Mental Health Matters: Let’s Break The Silence Africa

As part of the run up to World Mental Health Day, Aware Africa, a Nigerian owned mental health awareness platform, ran a social media campaign – #MentalHealthMatters #LetsBreakTheSilenceAfrica – calling all mental health enthusiasts to lend a voice to mental health in Africa. Our founder took to our Instagram page to lend her voice.

Here’s what she had to say –

My name is Hauwa and I believe #MentalHealthMatters. #LetsBreakTheSilenceAfrica.

I choose to speak because I know firsthand what it means to live with a mental disorder. I know what it means to be misunderstood. I can relate to anyone who is in denial or confused with the voices they hear and things they see. I know what #psychosis, #delusions and #paranoia feel like. I have had my fair share of #panicattacks and extreme #mood cycles. #Suicidal? You’re not alone.

Most of all, I know what stigma feels like and the many forms it comes in. Your judgment being questioned, your opinions discounted and utter derogatory statements and actions towards you. Mental health is not an easy topic, but how can we continue to swear the oath of silence when suicide rates are spiking and more and more people fall into the troughs of #depression, #anxiety, #bipolar, psychosis and the likes.

I speak for everyone like me and everyone who chooses to damn the consequences. #LetsBreakTheSilenceAfrica

I Am Suicidal, But I’m Not A Coward

I never really understood what it meant to be suicidal or have suicidal thoughts. Why and how would anyone try to end their life? It just didn’t add up. Life cannot be that bad.  Well, that’s one way to look at things. Frankly speaking, that is the way many of us have been conditioned to look at suicide in relation with mental health.

Maybe that was why I panicked when I started hearing voices in me telling me that perhaps dying was the best solution. Just before you try judging me, know this. Why would I panic if I was the one simply telling myself? It should be no news for me then.

You see, when you panic by the very thought that something in you is considering death as a way out, it can only mean that the thought did not truly originate from ‘you’. Are we still together?

So I panicked! Had I reached that point? That very unfathomable point? Were things that bad? Yes and no, things were not/extremely bad.

So I jumped off my bed that cool January afternoon and I began to cry hysterically. I kept pacing and pacing. Minutes passed, hours passed, but I kept pacing. These thoughts had somehow been lingering for about six months but the voices were getting louder. I remember telling a friend that, ‘I don’t want to kill myself, I just wish I had a car accident and died’. You can imagine his response. He was angry at me? “Why should you wish such on yourself?”

I didn’t know. I (still) don’t know.

Suicide is such a complex conversation that might require me truly and deeply having a one on one with anyone who chooses to be cynical about it. Thing is, I was once like that person. Insensitive, with a complete and utter lack of empathy. I just couldn’t understand why you should want to end your life, and yet I once did, and maybe I am still trying to save myself from suicidal thoughts.

World Suicide Prevention Day is such a personal day for anyone who has felt suicidal and anyone who has lost some to suicide. It’s a mix of liberation, acceptance and confusion all at once. So pardon me if I still stutter when speaking about suicide, I barely escaped it. Pardon me if it’s hard to listen to cynical comments from bystanders on social media pages.

I know too well what it means to fight against yourself every day. I too have seen and dwelt in the darkness. I am still suicidal. I can’t explain it so please don’t ask me to. I want to live so badly, but something keeps holding me back. So I fight through every day. Some days better than others, but I fight. Simply existing is hard for me, and I know that may be hard for you to comprehend.

So no, suicidal people are not cowards, they are fighters. They make it through everyday crying and fighting their way through. Those who we have lost to suicide are not cowards either, they fought the good fight, but we don’t win all battles.

If you are suicidal, I won’t bore with the whole “it gets better speech”, I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that you don’t have to be alone in this. Let me share in your confusion. Let the mystery daze us all. But let us do it together. Don’t walk this lonely road alone. I want in.