As I decided to write this piece, I went in search of a quote I could use as an opener. This quote literally jumped at me and I think it captures the essence of what I am about to address.
“Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It’s the fear of failure, but no urge to be productive. It’s wanting friends but hate socializing. It’s wanting to be alone, but not wanting to be lonely. It’s feeling everything at once then feeling paralyzingly numb.”
—Culled from healthyplace.com
My undergraduate class has a WhatsApp group where we do everything from bonding to fighting to serious debating. Yesterday, someone brought up an issue about euthanasia, which then morphed into a discourse on depression and possible reasons for a person to want to end his/her life. This discourse unlocked Pandora’s box.
One classmate, say Andrew, recounted a lifetime of feeling depressed. How he grew up always feeling insufficient, having to face financial worries for much of his life, plus having a family that made him feel unwanted. This was worsened by self-esteem issues triggered by his 2:1 degree. As if prompted by Andrew, another classmate, say Benson, opened up about his own struggles with life. Benson grew up in a poor home, just like at least 70% of Nigerians, but then while trying to save money for his undergraduate studies, his dad died, and as the first son, he had to assume weighty responsibilities. He became a “husband” to his mom and a father to his siblings. He had been a top-rated student in secondary school and everyone was looking up to him to graduate with a first-class degree. Yet, he was struggling with a 2:1. Andrew and Benson both had suicidal thoughts at different points in their lives. Although the not-really-religious Andrew avoided suicide due to a fear of hell, Benson had some help from his faith.
Let me backtrack with a little overview of my class. The Obafemi Awolowo University mechanical engineering class of 2013 consists of 78 guys and three (3) ladies. A large percentage of the class members finished as “local champions” in their respective secondary schools, with quite a number having attended federal government colleges. With just three ladies in the class, our five academic sessions were more of a display of unbending masculinity. Despite the past glories of most class members, only four finished with a first-class degree, about 30%-40% with 2:1 and the rest receiving 2:2 or third-class degrees.
Back to Andrew and Benson. After they were done, another classmate, say Charlie, who most persons saw as being unemotional came up with his own struggle. Charlie had a girlfriend who broke up with him via a sudden WhatsApp message, was married within three months of the breakup, and had a baby barely two months after her wedding. The class was incredulous, finding it hard that a supposedly “macho” Charlie would stoop so low as to have mere human emotions. Donald came in to talk about the depression a first-class graduate would feel when unable to get a job. Then we had Elvis, Francis, and all the way to Zeal.
The takeaway from the whole discourse was that many persons are struggling and just need someone to talk to. Some cannot talk because of societal stereotypes about strength and a misunderstanding of depression. Here’s a comment from one classmate.
If I say “God is there to help”, some would say I’m being impractical but for some of us, it’s a very practical and real presence. That notwithstanding, it’s good to talk to people. I understand we sometimes fear those we talk to may spoil our names or look down on us, but we have to take that risk. Life is all about risks and rewards. Just ensure you’re talking to someone who at least has some commonsense and decency and who won’t give a bad advice like asking you to indulge in drugs to drown your sorrows.
I’ll also advise us all to live our lives in a way that people around us would see us as being approachable. You will be surprised how much people would open up to you if they feel they can trust you. You may just be able to keep the next person from committing suicide or doing something they and others would regret for the rest of their lives.
As one classmate said, if feeling depressed and thinking of ending your life, please think of loved ones who would be pained to lose you. Life is worth living. There is hope. Just fight!
Image Credit: enkirelations.com