On Mental Health – Depression, a Personal Testimony

On Mental Health – Depression, a Personal Testimony

Saturday, May 18, 2019 2:41 pm

Tunde Asaju


By Tunde Asaju

CAVEAT: Okay, so you need a bottle, tea or coffee for this one, I bet you, it’ll be jumbled, incoherent and maybe boringsomely long. You don’t have to read, but perhaps if you do, it may change you.

In the past couple of days, I’ve asked for grace to touch someone’s heart and change someone’s perception. I’ve asked whether we are overreacting because social media has bridged the information gap. In the past, a student committing suicide would be known to his mates and his immediate family. He’ll be buried in shame and not mentioned even at family gatherings. Indeed, in some cases, s/he’ll be buried in the ‘evil forest’ without prayers. That person was already doomed to hell, so why bother asking for forgiveness or wishing a peaceful rest.

I don’t know about you, but this is how it is perceived where I was born and raised. We were born with insane perceptions.

I was born to instinctively believe that every town, city or community must have a roaming ‘mad man’. A town without one is odd and almost uninhabitable. After all, when the scriptures asked us to give alms, who should it be given except people with disabilities and the almajirai? Right? Wrong!

Just look at this ‘dry tree’, in three weeks it’ll be back to life, in full bloom

So, I carried that background to “the habroad” and instinctively looked around for mad people. I didn’t see a single one in France where I spent a year. None in England where I spent a similar time. I have seen the homeless in these places, but majority of them had only fallen on bad times. If they had the opportunity, they’d pick up the shitty pieces of their lives and live like everybody else. Very often they do. Some don’t.

So, are more people committing suicide? Yes and no. Yes because life has continuously divested us of the usual social cushions of the extended family system. There is insane competition, then there is change in our way of life leading to insane competition. Then the “kóko” of the matter – a system of government that doesn’t care for the people that elected it.

I have been accused of running away from Naija. Of doing work that is AU dessous de mon standing or below my qualifications just to stay in “the habroad.” All those allegations are true. I don’t regret any step I have taken so far. In the process, I have learned a lot.

Depression is a mental health issue. One out of five of us would suffer from it in our lifetime. It’s the blues and it would get us. When you’re hit, it could be as a result of someone’s disappointment. It could manifest as the failure that comes from inability to meet your own standards or what you perceive the societal standard of you. But also, it could be triggered by a flurry of other issues such as the loss of a loved one or disappointment from a failed relationship. For some, it could be triggered by inability to get that childhood or adult crush.

To the depressed, the day could start with incredible sunshine – singing, cooking or jogging or loving. In a twinkle, the world around you suddenly seems dark, sullen and irredeemably sombre or totally dark. Why? You have absolutely no clue. Just that life and living seem totally useless and death seems the best alternative. This sudden change of mood could happen to Dangote because he lost one bag of cement as it could happen to me or you because we are not Dangote or because we did not get that pay raise or promotion.

This is the real world we live in. A man could show up at the mosque or church, dance and smile and then plunge into irretrievable darkness the next moment. Most of those who lose control and take their own lives are like people in a dream or a trance…they just lose control.

Yet, if they could reach out to someone who understands, if they could take a walk or go to the gym, if they could call their doctor or nurse, calamity might have been averted. If they had someone to confide in. That’s all some need, a shoulder to cry on. Others need more, they need anti-depressants. Most of the but-naked ‘lunatics’ roaming the streets would’ve been active members of their societies with medication that costs less than the price of a cup of tea. But their illnesses remain undiagnosed until its too late.

The second group would rally if the found love. But all they see are zombies drugged on their own self-righteousness and unable to see the inner pain of those depressed.

These are the people who blame greed, avarice and karma for other people’s weaknesses. These are the people who are incapable of sickness. These are the people quick to point out that a person taking their lives for mental health have gone to hell.

Our society is in a state of incomplete metamorphosis – not yanked off tradition and not totally modern. A tradition that criminalize what it doesn’t understand. We are destroyed by religion – one that helps us think we know who is a candidate of hell and those going to Otedola’s mansion in heaven. We’re holier than the rest. Then, there are the ignorant, who bask in their own lack of knowledge unabashedly to the whole world. Your ignorant posts reflects on the rest of us, very badly.

Unfortunately, we live in a country where we only brag of two illnesses – malaria/typhoid and accidents. We are ashamed of any other disease, there’s a stigma attached to anything else. To ask anyone to go see a shrink is to condemn their entire lineage. Nobody suffers from diseases that the world has named. It is not our portion!

We all should have a diary, a true diary of how and what we feel different from what and how we want others to see us. You will be shocked that I am writing this from a municipal parking lot because I just want to be alone. You will be shocked that I woke up this morning singing and chanting “ijala” (hunter’s lyric).

You’ll be surprised that writing is my best medication but that sometimes I am so dry that I can’t string a sentence. We all should share our bad moments. We all should look out for each other. We all should stop condemning those who fail or fall through the cracks of the bitch called life.

We all should know that behind the screens of our gadgets, there lies a human being. A human being with needs, not necessarily monetary or filial love. That sometimes all we need is someone to tell us that it’ll be alright in the end. We all need each other. #Mentalhealth is real. Don’t feel anymore ashamed of it than you do with malaria, you didn’t invite the mosquito to come and lace your blood with faciparun; in the same way the depressed didn’t infect their mental state with depression. If we adopt this attitude, I bet you that things will improve.

And for God’s sake, if you know nothing about something, instead of displaying your ignorance to millions of people, stigmatizing the rest of us in 2019 and leaving a bad record for posterity, just shut the fuck up and enrol with Google.

It is NOT well, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be. When in doubt about anything – find out. If anyone reading this is feeling the blues, please reach out for help. You’re not alone, we’re in this freaking shit together. Now it’s weekend, a shot or two is in order.

Just look at this ‘dry tree’, in three weeks it’ll be back to life, in full bloom.


-Tunde Asaju writes from Canada

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