What I Wish I Could Tell my Younger Self About Depression & the Things I Still Need to learn.
In Cameroon, you can be depressed for months without your roommate or neighbor being aware.
Most likely this is not something limited to Cameroon, depression- emotional and mental health or the lack thereof is often overlooked in many countries around the world. But I can only speak for mine.The truth is you can suffer from depression without knowing it yourself, you may know something is different, something is wrong, you feel off, but you do not know what it is unless you have been made aware of such a thing being 'a thing'. It is life, you’d say. There are phases like that, you'll be told.
As I considered depression of recent, my own experiences with it and those of my friends I thought to do a post on what I wish I had known, what I am still to learn. I hope it helps someone, in some way.
I wish I could tell my teenage self that:
I wish I could tell my teenage self that:
2- The fact that you feel hatred for yourself and feel others hate you does not mean you deserve it. Your self-hatred is taught, and you will need to unlearn it. You will need to question its root, why and where it stems from, you will need to examine the legitimacy of the source. You should not hate yourself because of the message you have imbibed from lofty sources. Your love for self is necessary for anything and everything else.
3- Having suicidal thoughts does not make you a coward. Contrary to what those around you think, thoughts of taking your own life are rooted in an uncommon amount of pain. That few people have the strength to bear or the valor to address. Be proud of every time you overcome.
4- Talk to your friends, write yes, read books yes, listen to music yes, pray definitely. But talk to other people. Expressing your feelings is not enough, you will need to learn empathy, gain wider perception to overcome. Your diary cannot talk you off the ledge, you will need other people to show you why you shouldn’t be there at all. The right people. You will find them when you search without prejudice.
5- Do not blame your people for not understanding you. For not understanding depression. Emotional pain is often felt only after the most basic needs of subsistence have been addressed. Not all can see the hunger of your heart and mind, most are too busy trying to address the primary hunger of the stomach, basic needs of shelter, security, clothing, schooling. Things you often take for granted because they are overshadowed by the other pain you know.
6- Knowing your purpose will ground you. You will know you are needed, you are valued and you are meant to be alive. The sooner you find it the better.
7- You have baggage and it makes you a pretty complex person. Your complexity is as beautiful as it is difficult. Your baggage will give you an edge over others in some ways, you will be able to empathize where some cannot, you will be able to perceive in ways some cannot. Your baggage, the pain of past experiences may eventually help you do what you are destined to do better.
I still need to learn:
1- You do not ‘get over’ depression. Like cancer, it likely returns, the tumor in a different place altogether. Also like cancer, it is not a death sentence, there will be good days and bad. It is not merely a matter of feelings. It is very scientific, hormone imbalance. While you play a role in his (understand your depression but do not wallow in it) it is not merely you.
2- You do not need to prove your worth. You are enough as is. You do not need to pretend you can do it all on your own. Seek help. Read. Pray.
3- As Mariah sang, love takes time. Same applies for loving yourself. To love yourself does not mean liking every bit of cellulite and stutter in your speech. To love is to see the flaws, weaknesses appreciate honestly, embrace and engage. Because you are more than the flaws no matter how glaring on the bad days
4- Do not be shamed by your pain, do not let others project their misconceptions on you. Your sensitivity is not a fatal flaw, it takes more strength to show your weaknesses than it does to hide them. In the words of Brenne Brown, vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.
Not everyone will get it, mental health isn’t given as much regard as it should be. Try to explain if you can, but if you can’t that is just fine, you are not obligated to. Seek those that do understand how debilitating an anxiety attack might be, or how certain incidents may trigger binge-eating.
6- Knowing your purpose may have grounded you, but life will still knock you off your feet. The senseless death, the hate, the injustice will have you remembering why you once thought suicide made sense. Being knocked off your feet does not mean you remain there. Cry, pray, do something positive for you, do something positive for someone else. Practice self-care, be intentional about your emotional health, just as someone with allergies would be intentional about what they eat.Invest in your happiness, read, listen to music, talk with a friend, rest. Repeat till you feel better. Repeat again the next time you get sucker-punched by life. Again, this too shall pass.
7- You have baggage. This baggage makes you a complex being. Your complexity is as difficult as it is beautiful. Be patient with others, do not expect them to understand your complexity in one go. You are still learning to love you, what more of others?
In my opinion, Cameroon may be the best and worst place to have depression.
Best because, unlike in western countries where corporations and marketing exploits emotions and often excuses the inexcusable using mental health, we in Cameroon don't put that limelight on it, leaving you to address your feelings as you see fit without the talk shows and magazine quizzes suggesting you do this or buy that for that "newly discovered" form of crisis.
Worst because unlike in other more developed countries our health care systems are ill equipped to properly help the depressed person when they cannot help themselves. Our educational systems fail students with the lack of properly trained counselors, our society equates talking to your pastor/priest as psychotherapy.
If you are a Cameroonian reading this and considering depression for the first time, I hope you look at your neighbor. a family member or friend with a bit more concern. I hope you consider their mental and emotional health more.
And if you are going through depression yourself. I hope you can take something from this piece and I hope you reach out, if (as we often do) you need help