On emotional health and being cold- hearted

If you know me, then you’re aware that emotions and I are on different paths. Once in a while we meet and it’s a mess. However, when we get back on our own paths, I am good for a while. Or so I thought.

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What is “depression” in your mother tongue?

I didn’t and still don’t know what it is in my mother tongue . How then do you explain something you don’t have a word for? We’ve all be in those situation where words fail you and you wishing you could crack open your skull and go ‘see!’. You’d want to point ‘here’, ‘here’ and ‘there’ so that people can piece together what you feel.

It’s annoying.

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I come from a long line of men and women who don’t know how to express their emotions or cannot do so appropriately. On my dad’s side, people are cold as ice. Aunt Emily, if you read this, let your siblings know I said so. I’ll tell your brother myself LOL!

On my mother’s side, it is nine women who have a hard time expressing themselves appropriately especially when overwhelmed with emotion. I’ve had extensive conversations with mother and my aunt in Chuka and they tell me I don’t even know the half of it.

My cousin’s aren’t better either. Humor is poured on everything intense with no regrets or care. Opening up to who? Why? For what? Even with those I talk to, it’s clear that they and I don’t handle emotions well.

(Stops to stare at the dirty laundry I’ve typed out. Moves on because I know someone somewhere can relate.)

So I have this ice cold personality coupled with an inability to handle extreme emotions well. I either become aggressive or drink myself silly. Yoga, deep breathing, mindfulness and meditation: Worrathose???!

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I’ve just had a conversation with my life partner* about how I just realized my inadequacies in the areas of emotions and self-expression. Like I would say I love him, but not really meeeaaannnn it even though I did. Like, you get?

It’s like telling someone that you care about them and then that’s it. Sure, you’ll do things to show you care but it’s more of ticking boxes off a checklist society has given you. You feel nothing when doing it; at some point it feels like a chore because your heart isn’t there.

Cold-hearted. And that’s how I’ve been going through life. Sigh.

It sucks to think that I’ve never loved properly because my emotional health was non-existent. But now I’m looking forward to healthier relationships all round. But it’s a journey.

(*If you ask about him, I will ignore you.)

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Friends: I love/ miss you

Me inside: What am I meant to do with that information?

Me outside: Aw! *pauses for several seconds* I love/miss you too!

In essence I am writing this to shed light on the topic of emotional health. Secondly, it’s something I have to work on. Because it is ABSOLUTELY horrible!

How bad?

During one of my therapy sessions my assignment was to go look up feeling words. You know, like words healthy people use to describe their emotions? Because my vocab was wanting in that area (in a lot of areas but you get my point.)

How do I feel right now? Relief. I’m now less shity of a human being.

Grow and bloom my friends,

Cheers

Be kind to depressed people, they are already beating themselves up

Today I was called out. I was not amused. It was basically “are you sure you can handle this new role especially since you were unable to fulfill the previous one?”

They had a reason to say that. Totally warranted. When I thought about it further, I realized the reason I had lost flavor for the role at the time was because I had lost flavor for life itself. Getting out of bed was an issue. What of an official role in a group?

My point is, be kind. Especially if you know the person struggles with depression. I am not saying don’t tell us when we are wrong, just ensure that you do it in private and from a loving place, not with four other people on the table and questioningly.

We don’t stop doing things because we are lazy. It’s, quite literally, we’d rather sleep and not wake up on some days.

If someone has told you they are legit depressed, be kind. It won’t cost you anything. Otherwise, it might cost a life.

You really should go and love yourself

I thought I share this realization I had recently.

Of course this has a lot with going for counselling but I have come realize that the more I love myself, the less space I have for things that don’t make me happy. Once I note that something doesn’t bring me joy, I cut myself from it.

What I’m saying is, if you have a lot of things around you that are making you unhappy, check your self-love levels. It could be that you are allowing pain, disappointment and frustration in your life.

Think about it.

Cheers.

Yo, depression isn’t sexy.

Allow me to show you my thought process.

Me: Why are you writing about this again? You sound obsessed.

Me 2: ….

And here I am. That is my thought cycle for most of the time. They say confidence is sexy. This is not sexy. Being constantly unsure of myself has me bored on so many degrees. Picking the kind of socks to wear to bed becomes a whole thing, peppered with everything “wrong” I did and said over the weekend.

I am getting better at not obsessing about my thoughts but overall, battling and managing depression is hard. Taking a shower is right up there on the list of achievements along with brushing your teeth. When I write here, I do so to educate people through my experience. I want people to know they are not alone if they are going through depression, and secondly, if you know someone who’s showing signs of depression or they’ve verbalized it, it is as bad as they show and say it is.

I am glad that the media is bringing it to light, but I, like many others, are irritated by some narratives that are out there about depression. We are just getting over ‘wewe ni mwenda wazimu’ (your are crazy) stigma yet here we have people glorifying it. “I’m sooo depressed, like omg!”

Stop.

I think the issue is lack of knowledge. Not everyone- actually only a handful of people- will sit down and read the DSM-5 so they won’t know what it actually means to say you’re depressed or suffering from a mental illness. I suppose I am also ignorant in some ways like when I say that my period cramps are hell while another person will end up in hospital for the same.

In that regard I’m finding that I have to be more sensitive to people who are going through something I cannot relate with. As a good friend said, she doesn’t understand mental illness, but she can only try and listen and support me instead of assuming and trying to relate, because she can’t. And that’s what we need more of.

Another example of how NOT to glorify mental illness: I’ve had panic attacks but I cannot say I suffer from anxiety because they happened all of three times. Sure, they were bad, but it would be pretentious of me to throw in “I also suffer from anxiety,” never mind I don’t have a diagnosis for that. And yes, I’ll get a second opinion on the diagnosis of bipolar II and questionable singular sign pointing to psychosis. If you’re seeing a psychiatrist, I suggest you do the same.

I’d be so happy to come here and say “something is definitely wrong with my neurotransmitters but thank God it’s just a bad case of depression.” If it’s not… oh well!

We soldier on. Not because we feel like it, but because we are warriors.

Of mental illness and good bosses

I always fancied myself a freelance writer until I was told I can get a staff rate on a website if I wanted one. And here we are.

I thank God for the boss I have because this was the conversation

one ring later

Him: Hello

Me: I am having a shit time. Can you please reassign the work?

Him: No problem. Lemme give you two days. I will call you on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.

Me: Thanks.

~~~~~~~~~~

The reason why I am transparent about my mental health journey is because I never want anyone to feel alone because I have been there. It is a dark place. I thank God for the solid friends and ever after I have that have my back in the face of what I am going through.

I went for a follow up on Wednesday last week and after talking to the psychiatrist I might have an early symptom of psychosis. I am scared as heeeeellll because of that. And the only thing that is keeping me in check is that we caught it early.

The depression is still there. The loneliness is still there. I am currently struggling with finding my voice because for so long I have been taught to be ashamed of being strongly opinionated. The worst part about mental health is that you are taught to be soooo ashamed of it because “you are crazy”. I am not crazy, my brain just has a problem. Thanks.

I get how this looks like putting my business out in the streets, but I am here for the people who are lonely and don’t feel like they don’t have a community. If this is gossip fonder for you, well…. you need to see a shrink also.

wambairemaureen@gmail.com.

I got you. We’re in this together.

If you read this, share the email at least. You don’t know who you could be helping out.

Sh*t not to tell people on antidepressants: A handy guide

I have kept this post in my drafts for perhaps two months. My worry was that society is now making mental illness “cool” and “the kids of these days are weak, entitled brats.” I didn’t want what I have to say getting lost in the noise. I don’t want that pity that comes with speaking your truth about your struggles. I just need you to listen. For a change. Then let’s have a discussion.

The conclusion of my story is that even after overcoming this suicidal episode, another stormed in. This time I had a plan. I didn’t want to be rescued, I just wanted it to be over.

God/ Higher Power, of course, had other plans and an uncle of mine (such a beautiful soul), after a coffee date that had me in tears for an hour or more, told me we needed to check me into a psychiatric ward. I might tell you about it one day. Right now I’m still traumatized.

I was tired of life people. I’d wake up wanting to be dead. And that is where I will begin this handy guide of sh*t not to tell people on antidepressants.

Keep in mind as I write this, I’m UNDERSTANDING you MANAGE depression. More on that in a later post.

#1 You just have to think positive thoughts.

B*tch. I’d tried that. I had done that. I had Smiling Mind as a meditation guide. I am the among the most self-aware people you’ll come across. I was looking for ways to turn my dark thoughts into positive ones. I had prayed and fasted and even tried to exercise to lift my moods. That was before my mind said “what’s the point, you don’t want to be alive anyway.”

I had talked to people to try and help change my thoughts. I had been seeing a therapist for more than six months. And yet the oppression, the hopelessness, the hating every morning I woke up persisted.

Advise to non-experts: Shut up and listen. We’d tried this already.

#2 You just need to change your environment

There’s a phrase for that; running away from your problems. I see the logic in getting a fresh start somewhere like in the movies. But let me break it down for you why in my context it was not feasible, at least immediately.

For one, if you are a woman moving out on your own, getting rapped is something that’s at the top of your list of fears. As for someone it happened to in a room with someone I perceive to be my friend, I’m not keen to have a repeat, this time with strangers with a master key. Sure there are a tonne of women who haven’t had their houses broken into, but I NEED to move to an area I FEEL secure. My mind has the ability to take one negative thought and turn it into a series with eight seasons that has more horror than the Game of Thrones. It’s torture. And I hadn’t saved up enough to move into a place where I don’t end up obsessing when a drunk neighbor trips over my welcome doormat.

Secondly, the things that you are moving away from do not change just because you’re absent. In my context it would have meant cutting off the family entirely. I am not wired like that. So what I did instead was develop coping mechanisms and set boundaries, that way I don’t find myself dealing with a circus monkey that’s not mine.

Advise: Shut up and listen. Unless you’re a sponsor, because we’d thought of this already. The math wasn’t adding up. It is likely the case in another person’s context. How do I know this? They have a thinking brain like yours. And if you had their brain, you’d arrive at the same conclusion.

#3 Stop thinking too much

This is different from thinking positive thoughts because it is asking you to suspend thoughts that you cannot control in the first place. It is like using ‘not thinking too much’ to regulate your insulin production when you’re a diabetic, to stop a runny nose when you have a cold, or to eliminate the spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body.

You cannot say ‘mental illness’ and drop the ‘illness’ all together when you’re thinking or discussing the topic. It is a illness of the brain. The wiring was off and I seemed not to be producing enough dopamine and other happy hormones as a result of genetics and environment.

So please, don’t tell my ailing mind to stop thinking too much. At this point I’ve mentioned I had tried prayers, a shrink, exercise, and meditation. But the chatter in my mind would not stop.

Advise: Shut up and listen. You’re more helpful that way.

*There’s one ninja who told me to do yoga. I appreciate the advice but if I don’t wanna trade lives with you, I’ll pass on the advice.

And yes, I am roasting people along the way.

#4 You shouldn’t depend on meds to change your thinking

Here is where I ask people to produce their psychiatry degrees and masters. I understand that there’s a problem in the States and even here where doctors are more concerned about keeping you coming back than getting you better, but assuming that’s the case all the time is inaccurate.

I’d personally slap someone who came and took my meds and told me to get back to trying positive thinking. For the FIRST TIME in my LIFE I can be present without thinking a tonne of other thoughts at the same time. I can hear the birds, I can notice colors, I see people, I notice the road and constructions going on, I remember conversations… I am seeing, hearing and feeling. I had my first ulcer attack at 9 years old. Please. Don’t.

Before I wasn’t able to do all I’ve stated because ‘nobody’ was home. My body was on autopilot as my mind ran scripts on breakups, murders, loosing jobs, being raped, being attacked, being shamed, being arrested for something I didn’t do, all the sins I’ve committed, how my efforts are doing nothing to change my life, how I am 28 and still don’t know what my purpose etc. ALL THE DAMN TIME. Not to mention that all these fears made me do some dddduuuummmmbbbb stuff.

I have a fantastic psychiatrist who’s main aim, in his words, “is to keep you alive.” He asks the right questions and even adjusted dosages, reducing one and adding another because during the review I still sounded like I was just alive and not living.

Advise: Shut up and listen. Unless you’re a psychiatrist, and even then listening would help you arrive at the same conclusion.

#5 But you come from a good home, why are you stressed?

The idea that money = to less stress is exhausting. Let’s put that out there and if you’re still having an issue comprehending such factors let me help you. How many artists have died from a drug overdoes? Why do you think they were taking drugs in the first place? How many celebs have committed suicide? What about stories of middle and upper class families being in the media spotlight for gruesome murders or suicide? What about all of them that you hear are secretly in and out of hospital because they’re unwell and suffering. Let’s talk about the dead, what kind of chaos do they leave behind as children and spouses fight over the inheritance?

What makes you think people who are more well off than you don’t have problems? How entitled, selfish and judgmental are you to think that you and people like you have rights to the pain that the world dishes out? What, should the rest of us not complain because we use St. Ives body lotion and not Nice and Lovely? Because what we adorn our bodies with, what we feed it, and the kind of shelter it stays under is meant to erase emotional, psychological, and physical pain?

What’s worse is the people who ask me this question know NOTHING about what goes on in my life. The close friends that do understand and know why I was nearly an alcoholic at some point trying to cope with the pain I was going through and they support me. The rest of you, please lets not assume my life because my camera clothes are deceiving you that I go to Woolworths.

Advise: Shut up.

Conclusion

Yes, this is another post on your timeline about mental illness. But please note, I am tired of the ignorance. A lot of us are. We are in real pain because of this illness that we did not choose, so please, put some RESPEK on it.

PS: thanks for the images and gifs Google.

PPS: Please read a book. Or several. Before you talk. Thanks.

Cheers.

Of suicide and life’s substance

*email updated. Just for you…

I have talked about suicide here before, but there is an awkward space that one enters after when you choose to fight for your life.

You’re very aware you cannot kill yourself no matter how well you plan it or merely think it is the way out. But then you also look at your life and are in limbo, you know it has meaning but the details are a bit sketchy- and we don’t like sketchy. You have a lot to be thankful for but you’re super sad- it’s weird, right?

If you read this and you’re in that space, know that you’re not alone. We are legion. I don’t have an answer but I find that a burden shared is sometimes lighter.


wambairemaureen@gmail.com. If you have absolutely no one to talk to, I am here for you. I promise to never air your business. I do also hope you understand that we are our own savior because we have God within us. So, if you do share, I can only listen to the best of my ability and share whatever wisdom I have picked up along the way. But above all, see a professional therapist or psychiatrist. They are equipped to help us out- I am a testament that they work.

If you’re absolutely fine and you know someone who isn’t, share this with them. It just might help.

Don’t despair.

Cheers.