A Depression Story
Updated: 3 days ago
My name is Afam and I'm depressed.
There I said it. Weight lifted. Yippee kai yay!
That right there is a lie. There's no weight that's lifted. It's just meh, bleurgh and what the fuck. Some of you reading this will immediately go, "What a cop out! Does this nasty little turd actually expect us to believe this shit?" I'm right there with you. When my therapist told me I was confused. She said, "Don't you feel better now that you know what's wrong with you?" I looked at her like she was retarded.
My mum called later that night.
"Mum, I saw a therapist. She says I'm depressed."
We ate silence that night. She stayed on the phone but the confusion was palpable.
How the therapist came to the conclusion that I was depressed?
I'm not really sure how to write about this but I'll give it a go anyway.
First off I did not walk into her office and scream, "I am depressed Dee! SAVE ME! SAVE ME! Save me from my mind."
When I walked in, I was quiet. I was thinking.
Afam: Why are you here?
Afam: You're just seeing what the options are you know? You're almost definitely going to bonk yourself, so you owe it to yourself to see if there's anyway that you can get out of offing yourself.
Afam: Fair enough.
Afam: How would you do it though?
Afam: We've been through this before. The options are:
Poison - If you don't die, you'll be both suicidal and medically fucked. Also, your parents can't find out about this, it's embarrassing.
Pills - Nothing screams suicide better than a stomachful of pills. I don’t want people to know about this.
Gun - Impractical. Closed Casket. If I must die young then I must die beautiful.
Jump - Scary. What if you don't die? You'll be paralysed from the neck down and suicidal, only, you won't actually be able to kill yourself because you’d be paralysed. It's the worst.
Slit wrists - Messy. No one wants to deal with that.
Hanging - Embarrassing. You'll die from the shame of it. Your ghost would look at your dead body and your ghost will commit suicide too.
Drowning - You'll take a train to some impossible coast and swim as far as you can, and then die. Brilliant! You'll fly to Lagos, take a swim, and you'll be dead in no time. With any luck your body will never be found. It'll be better for everyone to think you ran off to Grenada.
Of course all of that happened in my head, she didn't know it, and I wasn't going to tell her. The best way to not kill yourself, is to tell other people about your plans to kill yourself. There are two Is in suicide for a reason. It's a lone mission. I was going to skirt around it.
I walked into her office looking very bad indeed. I mean, I was a mess. I looked like I smelled bad, and I did smell bad. I noticed this from some far off place in my mind. It didn't matter.
"Your name's Afam?"
"I'm Dee. Before we begin, I want you to do a quick survey for me."
She pointed at her computer screen. I didn't mind, but then again, I didn't mind much.
The questions had me laughing internally. They were questions like, do you try to avoid dealing with people? The answer to that one was simple. At the time I saw my friends once every two weeks. Putting on the I'm good face was too much work. We'd meet up in the library and then I'd retire for two weeks. I needed the time to charge my batteries.
Have you lost or gained weight without dieting? I had lost a couple of kilos. I looked ill.
Do you often feel that life is not worth living? I did. I saw how other people who weren't me could be happy to be alive, but I suffered from a tragic unsuitability to the land of the living.
The survey went on like that. I answered each question honestly and confidently. I was rather decisive. I was more honest and decisive about that questionnaire than I had been about anything in my life before it. In hindsight this was a little bit daft. I should have lied about it. If I had, chances are that my therapist would have kicked me out at the end of the session, and I'd be dead.
She printed my results and looked at them, then she began with the questions.
Dee: I've looked at your answers and they show that you're incredibly unwell, and that you have been for some time. Why are you here?
Afam: In a moment when I didn't feel as shitty as I normally feel, I owed it to myself to see if I could be fixed.
Dee: And what are you hoping to fix.
Afam: I want to not feel like I'm a fraud. I see other people, and they aren't like me. I want to be more like them.
Dee: Why do you feel like you're a fraud?
Afam: On the surface everything's alright. My friends don't know anything, and my parents are even worse.
Dee: What don't they know?
Afam: They don't know anything about how I can't actually do anything. Everybody can do something. Everybody does something, apart from if they're poor, or ill, or daft, lazy, useless and ambitionless like me.
We'd just touched on the vicious cycle of depression and self loathing.
The Vicious cycle of depression as experienced by Afam in 2012.
Get out of bed. I can't.
Why? I'm sad because I can't get out of bed.
Why? I don't know. Just can't.
There are people with cancer that can, why can't you? It's not like you have any real problems.
Yeah. You're useless.
I'm the uselessest person in history.
Yeah. You're a nasty little shit. You're not poor, or starving. You've never had to suffer a day in your life.
I'm so bloody useless.
Yeah you're the prime example of uselessness.
I'm really sad now.
Because I'm the prime example of uselessness.
Why are you the prime example of useless?
Because I was sad about being useless, and my uselessness made me sadder and the sadness made me even more useless, but the sadness is making me particularly sad because uselessness is not a legitimate reason to be sad.
You're so useless and sad right now that it's making me ill. Do something! Go to class.
I can't go to class because I'm sad and I'm useless. Useless people don't go to class.
But if you don't go to class you'll fail and then you'll really have a reason to be sad.
Okay. Get out of bed you nasty little turd. You're wasting your dad's money. You're ruining the family. You're letting everybody down. You're literally a walking embarrassment. Move! Move! Move!
Sadness knock out.
That's one of the reasons why you can't really talk yourself out of it. Telling someone that's depressed to motivate themselves out of it is like telling a person without arms and legs to walk. The depression was and is sadness x sadness x sadness x sadness to infinity. The only thing that I've left out is the suicidal impulses and I'll address those immediately.
Look at you. Just look at you. This is shameful. It's not normal. You shouldn't be like this. It's inexcusable. It's unforgivable. So much has been given to you and sacrificed for you but here you are wasting away in a pool of your own sadness. It's sinful. You should be shot.
And that was it. I had my motive. Of course the motive created its own vicious cycle, and by the time I walked into my therapists office sadness was equal to DIE! DIE! DIE! I don't want to say that I was crying all the time because crying means something. I cried when my grandmother died. I wailed and moaned and ugly cried until I slept. My eyes were leaking. I wasn't hysterical, I was just weepy.
Back to how the therapist came to the conclusion that I was depressed:
Dee: In the survey you said that you'd thought about self harm? Have you ever harmed yourself physically?
Afam: When they find my corpse with marks all over my arms they'll know that I killed myself.
Dee: And you don't want them to know?
Dee: Who are the them?
Afam: My family.
Dee: How do you think your family would feel about you dying?
Afam: My dad would be alright with it I think. My mum would be upset about it at first but she'd get over it. My brother would be alright as well, I think he's a little surprised that I haven't done it already. My sister...
I hadn't thought about my sister. I start ugly crying because she's the only person in my family that won't know who I am underneath the melancholy and that's sad. I wasn't always this mess of a human being. I used to be funny. I used to laugh like a banshee. I used to be a fun person. Dee hands me a box of kleenexes. I'm a little surprised that I'm crying in her office. I had been swimming in a sea of sadness apathy. I didn't do spikes of emotion.
Dee: How would your sister feel about it?
Afam: She'd be gutted.
Dee: Why wouldn't your brother be surprised about it?
Afam: He knows me very well. He's seen me get sad for no apparent reason before.
Dee: So has this happened before?
Afam: Not like this. I've always been able to do the things that really mattered whenever the situation called for it. Now I can't do anything.
Dee: Is that the main reason why you're here?
Afam: Yes, if I could work then they won't say I killed myself because I failed my exams.
Dee: I'm sorry but I can't help you like that. I'm not a witch, and this isn't Harry Potter. Nothing I say to you will make you feel that different from how you feel now. I'll be able to help, but it won't be immediate, and you're going to have to go to your GP as well because you need medication.
I was starting to wonder if the session was a good idea. She was supposed to be a magician. She was supposed to zap me with something and send me on my way with a completely different personality.
Afam: Oh. Okay.
Dee: You're severely depressed and I think that you have been for some time. I wish that you'd booked the appointment sooner because if you had things might not have got so bad.
Afam: Is that what it is?
Dee: Yes, it's an illness.
Afam: You're joking.
Dee: No. Whenever, you think that you need to die because you aren't good enough to be alive, or that you're useless, or that you're a fraud, that's the depression talking. It isn't the real you.
I didn't have anything to say so she went on.
Dee: Do you feel better now that you know it's an illness and that you won't always feel like this?
The no was premature. At the time I didn't see that if the sad, suicidal me, was an illness not some permanent infestation then some day in the future I would be alright. I wouldn't be tired all the time, and I wouldn't sleep too much and then too little. I would be able to get up and live. I wouldn't spend the rest of my life wallowing in my inability to live.
Afam: I can't imagine it being an illness.
Dee: But it is. 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem this year. It's more common than you would think.
Afam: I suppose I do feel a little better.
Dee: That's good. Our session's over but I don't want to let you go.
Dee: How do I know that you won't kill yourself before our next session.
Afam: I'll fight it off. It's not yet time.
Dee: You have a date planned?
Afam: June 27th.
Dee: Why then?
Afam: I was meant to fly back home on the 28th, but I changed it to the 27th. There'll be no one expecting me at the airport then. I'll take a taxi to a beach I know quite well and go for a swim. I won't make it back.
Dee: Why that way?
Afam: My body will probably never be found by anyone looking for it. My parents won't be the parents of the guy that killed himself. They won't be blamed for it. I'm the one that should bear the brunt of it. It isn't really their fault. I don't deny that I've got some issues where they're concerned but there are people who have worse parents than mine, and they're fine.
I told my mum about it that night. It wasn't a great conversation. I'd been putting off talking to her for a while so she knew that something was wrong. I felt really bad after that, so I spent the rest of the night and a good chunk of the morning staring at a knife on my desk. I started the blog like a week after that. I needed a way to leave the good bits of me for anyone that might miss me. That's one of the reasons why I can't quit the blog. I'm still Afam, probable cause of death suicide.
I effectively withdrew from school some time after that. It took the pressure off. I had sessions every week for about four months, and I was prescribed an antidepressant. It didn't make me feel that much better but there was a limit to how sad I could get after. I couldn't wallow as much when I was on it, so I did stuff instead.
I'm not on the antidepressants anymore. I haven't been for a while. You mustn't think that I'm fine, because I'm not. I'm doing my best to get on with it. Sometimes I do quite well, and sometimes I do really poorly. The big difference is that I look forward to the future. I have things that I want to do, so setting suicide days isn't something I spend my time doing.
I want to be free of the story. If I'm free of it, maybe it'll be easier to move on from it. This is what happened to me. It is still happening to me. Sometimes I doubt that it's real, but then I remember that I told a friend of mine who was dying of cancer I was depressed. Can you imagine the conversation?
Mekso: I don't think I'm going to make it.
Afam: I'm depressed. I don't think I'll live to find out.
He died soon after that.
If this helps anyone else then that's brilliant. If it makes you feel less alone, and if it gives you hope, or a way out that isn't a grave then that's even better. I want to help, but, I'm not exactly comfortable with talking about it so I'm not going to open a hotline.
I don't want sympathy and I don't particularly want to talk about it casually. If you think that any of this is wine conversation then you better be ready to be knocked out with the bottle of wine.
Our experiences may not be exactly the same. I don't know what the answers are, but I know what works for me. Talking helps. Not living alone helps too. If you're a friend of mine and you didn't know don't apologise for not being there or here or anything like that. You're not my depression friends, and it's alright. My family knows, and they're supportive, and this helps lots, they've mastered the art of motivating without completely obliterating.
There's one more thing left, and that's about why I sign off with happy days. I suppose I don't need to answer that. It should be clear by now. Today's a good day and I'm grateful.
The events of this article happened in the summer of 2012. I wrote about it 2 years later in 2014 and published it on my then blog, The Ramblings of a Madman. It’s the story of what I’d call my first major experience with sustained low mood. I’ve had another since then. The second started halfway through 2018 and the worst of it ended in 2020. I’m still finding my way back to what I’d call normalcy. The second was worse than the first. It’s like the story in the Bible where the initial demon leaves, finds seven of its nastiest friends and comes back to party. I’ve referenced it in a couple of my pieces on this blog, most notably: Must love dogs: My journey to mental wellness
There's a line in the piece. This one: "I'm still Afam, probable cause of death suicide."
It is not true, not anymore. I will be here to the bitter end, no matter what happens.
I no longer refer to my dances with depression as “My Depression” I am not the owner of the illness. It happens. I will not claim it. I reject it entirely. It is an illness I suffered from twice. I beat it twice. I am determined to see that it does not happen a third time.
I’m more open about my mental health now so I talk to people with low mood and other struggles from time to time via email. If you need someone to talk to man to man or something… just a chat, nothing serious, definitely no medical advice. Shoot me an email: email@example.com.
Now, if you feel that something gnarly is happening in your head: a bit of low mood, tiredness, suicidal thoughts, anxiety… symptoms of mental illness, here are a couple of resources you could use.
The Samaritans: They’re a suicide helpline, and they respond to emails, wherever you are in the world. Jo@samaritans.org
Mentally Aware Nigeria: This is more specifically for Nigerians I’ve referred people to them. It’s what I do when I come across someone that seems at risk on social media. I typically ask them to reach out to the person in question. I don’t do this publicly. They do very good work. They are @MentallyAwareNigeriaNG on twitter. You can email them too: firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can call them: 08111680686.
Happy Days, all day, everyday since 2012.