Depression in Nigeria

In last post on the depression series I shared basic symptoms of depression. Please find it here

“I lost my well-paying job in 2000. It was a real shocker for me then. I had no prior warning. No plans for my life after work. But I had 3 children and a wife. The eldest of my children was 7 years old.

On that fateful day, I got to work and couldn’t login to my workstation. Several attempts were made but remained unfruitful. I must confess it never crossed my mind the issue could have been HR related. How could it be, anyway? I was promoted 3 months prior. I was the branch manager in charge of a thriving section of the company. I felt I was doing well with the organization.

I had thought the state of my mind that morning made it difficult for me to remember my login details. My wife and I had a disagreement earlier in the car on our way to work. So I wasn’t in any of my best of moods.

Not long after this event, my fellow colleagues were helping me have a relaxed atmosphere, especially since I had related to them what had transpired between my wife and me. I remember how one of them even teased me jokingly saying “call madam to release you o!”

We all laughed. I felt better to try another login attempt. Suddenly, just as I was about typing my login details again, I heard my name from a distant within the office.

I was summoned in by my senior manager to his office. Though he had not been present with us as my colleagues and I tried to unlock my workstation, the look on his face seemed pitiful towards me. So I thought he must have heard my several unsuccessful attempts at unlocking my office system, and was therefore sorry I had to go through the ordeal.

My thoughts had not gone too far into my head when he said the words I replayed for weeks later:

“I am sorry, Jide. The company no longer needs your service. I had tried my best at ensuring this didn’t happen. But there was nothing I could do. I have senior bosses too, you know. Please take your discharge letter. The head of HR assured me that all the benefits due to you will be paid as soon as possible. I am sorry.” He stood up almost immediately as if afraid I may do something harmful to him at that point.

I said nothing, collected the letter and left.

Two bad events happening same day at short intervals. My wife wasn’t happy with me before I got to work, and now this. I had planned calling her as soon as I was settled down in the office.

It took me real guts to drive home that morning. Worst still, was how to call my wife and relate the matter to her. I was home alone. The children had gone to school. I remember thinking of all sorts of disaster that could happen as a result of that incident. And for weeks, I couldn’t eat well. I lost my body fat like magic! It was terrible.

Because of the negative state of mind I was in, I found it hard to even step out and look for another job. I would ruminate over how unlucky I was to have been sacked, and in such a terrible way, too. I didn’t touch my wife during this time. My frequent play with the children was halted. My wife tried her best to encourage me to stand up and do something rather than throwing pity party round the issue. I thought she was becoming intolerant of me. I added her to my blaming.

I remember how friends would call me and I’d never pick their calls. I stayed away from most people and families. I thought I was unloved and unlucky. At some point, my marriage began to suffer. Sleeping with my wife was out of my mind. I didn’t want to change the feelings I was having. I thought I should really “think” out my life well enough rather than allow some love making change the “issue” at stake!

I was a shadow of my usual Self. The worst part of it then was how I didn’t understand what was even going on until later after the period of the event. There were days I would forget to have my bath. I would just stay in a position replaying the last words I heard from my senior manager.

I assumed that I must have been inadequate and not useful to anyone. I reckoned that as the reason I was sacked. The more I thought about these things, the worst my morale became. The more terrible I felt. Worst, I would never admit to being sad. I used to give the excuse that I was only thinking about what next steps I should take about my life. Both my wife and extended family members tried to get the help of a therapist for me. But I wouldn’t move. I told them I was okay. That nothing was wrong with me. Their decision got me even angrier. I thought they were thinking I was useless and weak. Thus confirming my own feelings of inadequacy.

Until my wife could not take it anymore and threatened to leave me with the children if I would not “get up and act like a man!” I don’t know if those words were right at the time she said it to me. I only remember thinking how I may lose my family if I remained that way.

Throughout that day, I thought of my children. And for once, I heard the sound of their laughter during our play times together. I smiled for the first time in over 8 weeks. That smile became my glimpse of hope to do something.

Although I still remember her apologizing for those words by the evening of same day when she returned from work, I am glad she said them, still. The thought of losing the most important figures in my life helped me to seek for help.

It took me the next 7 weeks to get myself up again.

I have a new job now and a thriving side business which my wife now co-manages. I still feel down sometimes since 8 years ago this happened. But I am no longer that same Jide who would allow the continuous thoughts of failure overcome him due to an event. I have learnt to take charge of my emotions, especially during unforeseen events. I am more open-minded now to talk about issues bothering me. This had a good effect on my marriage. My wife and I tend to communicate more now with no holds barred. I am a happier man!

Prior to this time, I had never thought I could be depressed in my life. I used to think it was only something that happened to some suckers, and people who didn’t have the will to live. I guess I must have overrated myself. I think we do that a lot as humans. I am grateful to the professional counsellor who really helped me out and all the family members that supported me.”

Like the story of Jide, one of the major issue that can lead to being depressed is life’s event such as a job loss. Thinking about the causes and consequences of the unfavourable event that happened can lead to a state of learned helplessness – a passive state where the victims think they cannot do anything about their situation.

For Jide, replaying those last words from his boss was a form of negative rumination. It is meditating negatively on the issue when he could have moved on by talking it through with his supportive spouse every time those thoughts came at him. But he would not talk, but rather isolated himself. This is common among men. It is one of the major causes of their depression.

Another common thing some sufferers of depression do is trying to convince others that they are well by their attempt at continuing with a failed goal they had been working on. Unfortunately for them, this rarely turn out well.

Because of their already negative state of mind, their energy is low, making it difficult for them to think clearly and do the job successfully well. They may fail again at this goal and then dwell on this failure again.

This may further reinforce their already depraved mindset about how inadequate and useless they think they are; worsening their mood disaster even more.

It is therefore necessary to PAUSE during this period in one’s life. If you feel yourself acting up and getting worked out emotionally due to unforeseen circumstances, it is advisable to take some time off the situation, at least for some brief period.

You have nothing to prove to anyone about your life. If you feel things aren’t working as anticipated over some long period of similar negative occurrences, please take some time off, and pause. This will help you get energized and refreshed to try again with the right mindset.

One thing you should know is that depression isn’t a one-time single disorder. Usually, it is the combination of other issues over time but with a first symptom like most illnesses.

The best bet is talking about your mood changes once you feel any slight disturbances in them because of any life events. That way, you are not tempted to keep them to yourself while playing worst images of the situation in your mind. Which is usually what leads to a depressive state, eventually.

Remember, always learn to pause.

Doing so doesn’t mean you are a weakling trying to run away. No. it shows that you are in charge of your emotions, and you can take the time to respond to shock without being reactively helplessly.

If there is anything that has helped me maintain my sanity over time in the midst of some sad events, it is taking time off from all of the issues at that moment. This timeout usually give me the moments to borrow joy from my triumphs and beautiful memories from the past. That way, I am able to put my mind on a positive pedestal with a re-energized strength to fight the new storm.

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To your sucessfully evolving life.

Joy Iseki

The Counsellor

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