When I was growing up I knew I was going to be successful. I loved school and my grades were in line with my dreams.I imagined having a family, a beautiful house, a nice car, gorgeous kids and taking family vacations, everything looked so real.I just couldn’t wait to grow up.
Last year, as the year was coming to an end, I almost lost my job and things didn’t get better after that, so I decided to quit my job and figure my life out. Everything wasn’t going according to plan. I finished school, got good grades in campus, got a job then another then another and now I was tired of looking. So I decided to start my business. It seemed like a great idea. Now all my childhood fantasies were on the way to becoming a reality. I had a few friends to back me up on the business ideas. Some gave me general advice and others went on to even give me float to start. I was enthusiastic. I was in line of becoming a successful woman and I loved everything about it.
It started like a joke, my friends were having a party, they obviously invited me but I found a flimsy excuse not to go and that was the beginning of everything else that came to pass. You know as you grow up, people become less and less attached and most people will take your word for it and move on. For example, the party, I told my friends that I wasn’t feeling well and that was that. The next text that came in,was a ‘get well soon’ text and life went on as usual. No one checked up after that to find out if I got better, everybody quickly got back to their lives and life went on. My lifestyle slowly became about me and my business. The closest I got to fellow humans was my clients and that’s it.
I stopped going to social functions mainly because it always felt crowded. Dates with potential and non potential boyfriends was a no no. I felt like I was crowding peoples space and I didn’t want to feel like everyone’s pity party. You know the time before your business picks up and you are living from hand to mouth. I hated being in that situation of constantly explaining myself and why my business hasn’t picked up in three months and what I was doing wrong.
My sister called the family for lunch at her place, despite it being a walking distance from my house, I chose to stay in the house and watch a movie. I hated the interrogations and expectations and before you know it, everyone has an opinion of how you should live your life. It was safer to stay home and create a valid excuse not to go.
My family started finding me peculiar and preferred to stay away. “She doesn’t want to spend time with family then I think we should leave her alone because she doesnt need us” my elder brother lamented. It had been four months since anyone in my family had seen me. I never made it to any family gathering not even the casual ones.
I found comfort in spending time alone. I didn’t want to intrude into anybody’s space. Everything was simpler when it was just me. I didn’t realize how I have secluded myself from everyone and how estranged I had become. I talked to myself a lot, I used to cry myself to sleep most of the nights and woke up feeling like I have been hit by a bus and my eyes were so swollen I could barely see. I tried telling a friend what was happening but she said everyone has bad moments it will soon be over. I took her word and hoped that this feeling was just a phase.
My family, friends and anyone else who knew me had given up trying to invite for this or that because it was now obvious I wouldn’t come. Some assumed that I felt superior to them to attend their events, others thought I had developed an attitude and most thought I was being childish.
I wish I had a proper explanation as to why my time alone became my comfort. I did not have a valid reason as to why I wasn’t hanging out with friends, it just felt better that way. I did not have a good answer as to why I felt too exhausted to go for family gatherings. Everyone thought I was being rude but honestly I also wanted to know why? Why do I feel this way?
I started feeling like there’s more to the story than just isolation. My body was always tired and I was always in a solemn mood. I felt sick but if you ask me what was wrong, I did not have an exact answer to that. My body was now working against me. There were days I had canceled on clients because I did not want to get out of bed. Was I sick? No, but I didn’t feel like going anywhere or doing anything. This happened three times to three different clients, I knew something was wrong but I did not know what. How do you get help when everyone seems to think you are being foolish and selfish? Do you go to the doctor and tell them am suffering from isolation and I am selfish.
My alarm clock went off and I didn’t bother switching it off. It went on and on until it stopped on its own. I didn’t move. I stayed still in bed. The sun rose, the light peered through the curtain, there was noise outside, people were now awake.I went back to sleep and woke up at around lunch time. I felt my stomach grumble but I didn’t do anything about it. I still stayed in bed. I fell asleep again and woke up in the evening. The kitchen seemed so far and I didn’t have the energy to get out of bed, so I went to sleep again. 24hours passed and I hadn’t left my bed. I was hungry, I knew I was hungry but I couldn’t get myself to go and make something to eat so I just stayed. At around 1am I felt the urge to go to the bathroom. Something told me the bathroom was too far and I was too pressed so I peed right at the side of my bed and got back into bed. Morning came, the sun rose and still I didn’t do anything but stare at the ceiling and stayed still. By the afternoon, I could smell some odour of someone who hadn’t showered, and the pee beside my bed but that didn’t ignite any emotion to move. I ignored the smell and pulled my blanket and slept. By now my stomach is beginning to realize that its not receiving any food, I felt the hunger pangs for some hours then they finally stopped.
I was tired, hungry, smelly and almost out of strength but this was my comfort zone. Two days passed, no phone call, no text, everyone was used to my silence and had given up on trying to have conversations by this time. I didn’t expect anyone to call me, and the silence was music to my ears.
My hungerpangs came back and my strength diminished little by little. I had no reason to wake up and face the day and that was the day I knew what my mind wanted. I wanted to die. I had given up eating, I peed right next to my bed until there wasn’t much to pee anymore, I wasn’t drinking anything, I hadn’t showered in 5 days and my body stunk like a dead rat. My lips had cracked, I could barely see clearly anymore, I could hear noises from afar, my body was frail, my back was aching and legs could hardly move.
As I was closing my eyes not sure if my death had finally come or my sleep was still holding on, I had the door open. “Who could that be?” The next thing I know is I heard a loud scream and before I knew it, my eyes finally gave in.
I woke up and found my mum scrubbing my back with my flannel sheet as she bathed the rest of my body. She noticed I was awake but she didn’t say anything. She finished bathing me like a one year old and carried me to the bedroom. She wiped me and put some clothes on me then left and came back with some porridge.
She didn’t ask me anything but she started talking. She told me stories of the countryside and how my uncle has married a 17 year old girl. She went on about church politics and chama differences and all I did was listen. It wasn’t a forced conversation, her stories were interesting, I knew her characters in each story, I had questions but I could barely utter a word. She finished the porridge and fed me some mashed potatoes mixed with spinach and some beef soup. I didn’t have energy to chew so all I did was swallow.
Mum was at my place for almost a month. She didn’t tell anyone anything. She bathed me, fed me, talked to me until one day when I gathered my strength and whispered a thank you and she melted and went on her knees and cried. She cried like a young girl whose doll was stolen, she cried then rose up and hugged me like her life depended on it.
The next month, my strength was back. I was doing everything on my own again. My mum never left but she helped get things done. I was now talking and even laughing. She had a lot of stories and theories about relationships and life. I listened most of the time and shared my opinion every once in a while.
She knew what had happened, she felt sad and ashamed to talk about it but she knew she saved me and she was glad she did.
Months later, mum received a phone call from an aunt. My cousin called Brenda was found dead in her house. My mum hang up and wiped her tears before she told me the news. We knew what had happened. We knew how it would have happened. However, no one said anything to the other and we just moved on.
Days later, my mother and I left to go to the funeral meeting. Most people were still in shock. Everybody seemed perplexed that Brenda would do such a thing.Her friends were in shock most of them hadn’t talked to her in a long while. Some say she never showed up to their club meeting. Others mentioned that she stopped answering their WhatsApp and others said she stopped going to church. They looked sad and you could see some wished they knew, they would have prevented this from happening. As for the older generations, most didn’t understand why a young lady with no grown up responsibilities like children or a husband would amount to killing herself. They all something to say…
Person A: “some kids are so selfish, does she know the pain and ridicule she has left her parents with?”
Person B:” Now why would someone take her own life, isn’t that being stupid”
Person C: ” And the way she was a beautiful girl, now what would she have lacked to make her do this”
Person D:”Maybe its because of a man, girls have become very stupid nowadays!”
I listened to all the negativity going on around the room as people spewed insensitive comments as to why they think commuting suicide is selfish and that Brenda was very stupid. That was me a few months ago. I was there. Giving up on life but my mum saved me just in time.
Depression is a mental illness. Being mentally ill doesn’t mean you only speak funny incoherent words, or go outside the house naked or walking around throwing stones and cursing people. In Kenya, its very hard to discuss depression or mental illness amongst each other. Most people expect cure from depression to happen overnight. My mum understood what happened, she did what she had to do to get me back first, then we can talk about what happened when am ready.
When your friend stops hanging out, visiting, showing up, picking up calls, secluding themselves from people, go an extra mile and just check up on them instead. Maybe they just need to find a reason to fight again. Show them the reason to fight again. Help a friend with depression. Hold their hand until they can walk on their own but never stop caring it can come back and it is amongst us.