Courtesy of Sonia Stewart
“…… depression for me isn’t smudged mascara and crying into a boy’s chest and acting romantic and reckless. It’s honestly just staring at the wall and not showering for days and not going out with friends and feeling so fucking disconnected from everything that I can barely breathe. It’s not pretty. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Stop trying to make a mental illness aesthetically pleasing, as if it’s something I should be proud of.” (Skinnymeme)
Less than a week prior to this photo, I contemplated swallowing an entire bottle of pills.
SPEAKING UP saved me, as it has EVERY TIME.
Yes, it’s true. A week prior to this photo of me smiling I had a moment of panic where a wave suicidal thoughts clouded my brain telling me I wasn’t good enough to live on this earth. The severe symptoms of immense mental/emotional pain that I suffered from in high school come back in waves, creeping up and releasing themselves when I am least prepared. These times are the scariest times of all.
As I’m sure many of you know I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety around 5 years ago, and if you have followed me for awhile or know me well, you will also know that I have lost two twin cousins to suicide. In fact, according to the Association for Suicide Prevention, just today alone in Canada 11 people will die by suicide and 210 will attempt to end their lives. The majority? Young people. Here in Ghana, the situation is unimaginably worse.
All I think about is how speaking up saved me and has allowed me to continue to enjoy the beautiful aspects of life that I would’ve missed out on. I’m not saying it’s the only solution but it’s a beginning, as recovery and coping takes many combinations of things to find the right solution.
But listening and learning and talking is a start. I’ll be first to admit I didn’t understand suicide or mental illness since it never was a part of my challenges in the past. I had my own view and opinion on something I didn’t really understand. I find that society can be the same way. It is so easy to judge something you don’t understand or haven’t experienced. But if you’re reading this, you have challenged yourself to listen with an open mind, and it may completely change opinion on not only mental health and suicide but other matters as well.
Going forward I dream that one day, all Africans, especially the youth, will be educated enough that they can recognize when their own is mental health going down. I dream that one day, young Africans will be able to feel comfortable accessing the resources they need and talk openly about their struggles without being judged. I dream that one day, young Africans will not have to jump from service to service repeating their story over and over again, just to get nowhere. I dream that one day, mental health will be treated as equal importance to physical health.
Whether you have a mental illness or not, your brain MATTERS and needs LOVE and CARE. We need to not only start practicing physical first aid but also emotional first aid. So when I had those thoughts of ending my life around a month ago, what saved was having someone say “I care about you and I’m listening”. Spread positivity and kindness because you never know what battles someone is fighting or what a smile is hiding.
Let’s start the conservation 🙂