“My Mental Health and Me, is a series of personal essays written by real people in their 20s and 30s who have or are currently battling with broader or more specific mental health challenges. It is important to gather around people with similar struggles to talk candidly about our journeys, the little triumphs and the reality of living with mental health challenges in a country like Nigeria. This is an important dialogue that needs to continuously be had.
The aim of this series is not to seek pity but to articulate difficulties that many of us are also going through. It is a message to you, informing or reminding you that you are not alone. It is my hope at by engaging this conversation, we are able to humanise those with mental health challenges and debunk the myths. As a country, discussions like this are still often condemned as western babble, with many people being dismissed as “mad”/”crazy” and sometimes exiled into the wilderness
of a ward that has no intention of helping them. Two wonderful volunteers kick things off with the hope of humanising mental health challenges. It is our wish to empower ourselves and others to come forward and seek help where they can. You are not alone.
BEWAJI ADENIJI IN HER OWN WORDS
I can’t really say when it began or when I first felt that emptiness but what I do remember is a point in time when I didn’t want to exist, and I questioned life as it is continuously. I spoke to many, but none gave me the answer that I was truly looking for. I was a Nigerian stuck in Nigeria with no one to talk to about how I really felt because it was either taboo or a ‘white people’ thing. Depression is not something that was considered a topic of conversation nor something that was important in family life. Just something you needed to get over because you were just being sad/moody/seeking attention.
From the first time I tried to articulate my feelings out to anyone, it was something I was very apprehensive about. I didn’t know how best to share what it was that I was feeling, nor did I think they would really understand. With so many thoughts and emotions I began to cut myself and my cousins that I went to school with noticed. That’s what started the first conversation. I explained the best I could and hoped they would understand. They shared this information with their parents and some other relatives who tried to have hush hush conversations with me to try to deter me from a path they thought I was heading towards. It didn’t really feel good to share, and I didn’t want to talk about it.
Years went by, I had moved to the States for university. I met and found people that were like me, with whom I could share my intimate thoughts without feeling judged or accosted. I could talk to them about almost every feeling and they encouraged
me to go see a therapist. Seeing one made things slightly better. At least I could talk to
someone constantly about how I felt but after a while it felt too mechanical. It also didn’t help that my therapist had now
diagnosed me as being bipolar disorder and put me on Prozac. Now my uncertainties had all come true. I was certifiably crazy!
This article was first published in the Genevieve Magazine May Issue, to complete the My Mental Health and Me Series, purchase the e-magazine HERE