Tag Archives: depression

Gift of hope

Whatever you do, no matter the circumstances, don’t lose hope. All other virtues are premised on this one and this is in the sense that desperation makes us do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do. Desperation makes good people do bad things. For instance, hunger could make a person steal if they do not have better means of obtaining food.

Love as we know it, also stems from hope…A person whose heart has been broken so many times will be afraid of falling in love again because they are afraid of going through the pain that’s already too familiar, if things go awry. On the contrary, where someone has hope, they will embrace a potential love because they are hopeful things will turn out fine.

When things are not going on as well as we may want, what keeps us going? It’s hope; hope of seeing better days. Lately I keep reading stories about people who have come so close to taking their own lives because they were suffering from depression. From my understanding, hopelessness is what triggers suicidal thoughts.

While I may not have gotten to that point where I felt the urge to end my own life, I have battled depression before and I know, only too well, the state someone is usually in…one finds themselves in a situation where no single thought triggers happiness…everything feels bleak, and wherever one tries to comfort themselves that the future will be better, all they see are misery-laden days.

When someone wakes up every morning, feeling like they have nothing else to live for, hopelessness engulfs them and the next thing that prevails over them is the thought of ending their own lives. Hope strengthens our spirit to fight through unpleasant situations.

In life we can’t always be on an upward scale, because failure and pain are just an inevitable part of life; and I bet, this is where the saying, ‘it’s not about how many times you fall, but how many times  you pick yourself up’ arises.

My maternal grandma passed on five years ago, and everytime I think about the months leading to her death, I usually suspect she died a depressed woman. A few months before she died, mom brought her home so we could take her to hospital. She had been unwell for a while and her two sons who she lived with upcountry seemed to have neglected her.

Moreover, the two had been fighting over the ownership of her land. Given how peace-loving grams was, I usually imagine those clashes between her sons sent her to an early grave. She abhorred violence and they wouldn’t resolve their disputes amicably. Sadly, when she fell into depression, they didn’t seem to notice.

When mom learnt she was sick, she went for her and brought her home. I loved her so much, and I even had the honour of being named after her. Looking at her, I could tell all was not well with her. Even while sitted next to her, I would get the impression she was miles away because she had this bleak stare. At night I would sit by her bedside, trying to give her examples of all the good things she could look forward to, so despair wouldn’t suck her into its dark abyss.

As days passed, she got better and she started insisting she wanted to go back home. We didn’t want her to go just yet, but we figured she was feeling disillusioned because she was in a foreign place. Since we wanted her to be happy we agreed to let her go. A few months later mom and I visited her at her place and shortly after, we heard she was sick again.

Before we knew it, she was gone! When she was well, she was very lively. So when I think of hopelessness, she comes to mind and I hate what it does to someone. The way I see it, though grams never jumped off a cliff or stood in front of an oncoming train, she died because she lost the will to live.

She didn’t have the strength to fight illnesses when they ravaged her frail body and eventually when death knocked, she just opened without putting up a fight. I usually feel she could have lived for many more years if she had been happy. Hope would have opened her eyes to the endless possibilities that the future held.

The worst part about depression is that it’s very easy for one to fall victim, yet it is relatively difficult to get out of. Hope is that priceless shield which protects us from falling into that chasm. When I’m feeling low, I remind myself of the Bible verse, which says, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, but with prayer and thanksgiving, make your requests known to God”.

From my own experiences, I know it’s very easy to lose hope; but one thing I’m learning, is to look up to the man of sorrows. Jesus would have despaired in life because He already knew the painful death He was going to be subjected to, yet He didn’t. Everytime we feel despair gnawing at us, we should ask Him to help us. Because we too can be victorious like He was.

 

Letter to my husband: Part 4

Experience has taught me a few things. One of them being that there’ll be at least one person who judges someone for some misfortune that befell them; and personally, I’m not big on sob stories. In any case, I avoid circumstances that will make people want to pity me…or think I’m weird. In light of that I figured I couldn’t tell every guy I attempt dating the issues that cause me anguish. I also figured on the same note that if I explained this to anyone, it would be my husband. The man I hope to share my life with.

Looking at the events that have happened in my life, this doesn’t even get close to putting it all into perspective. All I know is that after living for more than two decades, witnessing domestic violence, I came out of it relatively wiser; but damaged.

Wiser because now I know many things I didn’t know before; things they’ll never teach in school. For starters, I know what I want in a relationship. I know the qualities I seek in a man; and money and looks aren’t it. If those two counted for anything, my mom would be the happiest woman on earth; but we already established she’s not.

And damaged because, of the things that cause me anxiety, relationships top the list. I have met some men, who would possibly have made wonderful husbands, but the instant they started exhibiting traits that reminded me of my father, I cut loose before it got too real. Such, is the extent of my ‘damaged-ness’.

I could pay a professional shrink tonnes of money for them to tell me what’s wrong with me and how I could make things better, but as I said, I already figured myself out. Relationships are a hard limit for me. Mom’s miserable life makes me dread the sheer thought of vowing to spend the rest of my life tied to someone, because truth is, it’s not easy getting out when things start going downhill.

Unlike the younger, naïve version of me who hoped to be swept of her feet by a tall, dark and handsome guy, now I know what I want; or what I don’t want.

I don’t want a man who will take me for granted. I need someone who will love and cherish me for me, without hoping to turn me into something I’m not for his own convenience. I realized, if mom had her own money from the beginning, her fights with dad wouldn’t have been too frequent. They fought a lot because she was dependent on him; and he was too tight-fisted. I would love to have a career, and for it not to be affected by our family life.

I don’t want a man, who wouldn’t be moved by our children’s grief, when they’re hungry, or crying because he is abusing me. I would want a man who wouldn’t eat or go on a binge-drinking spree when our kids can’t sleep because they are too hungry.

I would want a man who smiles at least, when his daughter tells him she’s graduating magna cum laude, or seem moved in the least when another one tells him she’s done working on her novel. Sometimes people think it’s all about money, when all one needs is just a simple hug. I would want a man who can spare a thought for our children; how his actions affect them.

I don’t want a man who will fill our children’s heads with sad Christmas and New Year’s day memories, because he just couldn’t help throwing punches at me; and on the same note, I would want a man who respects my mother, because were it not for her love and sacrifice, I wouldn’t be there to be his for the taking in the first place.

I wouldn’t want a man, who makes our children develop anxiety disorders and some other stress related illnesses like depression and peptic ulcers because they are afraid he will kill me when they’re in school.

And when eventually we decide to get married, I would be happy to have just a small wedding with just us, our witnesses and the priest.

So, unlike my younger self, I’m not interested in looks and money. All I want is someone with whom I can spend a happy forever with; someone who will give our children the happiness I didn’t have growing up; the lack of which has caused me so much anxiety.

I don’t have any children yet, but when I get them, I hope to raise them in a love-filled home, so they won’t dread marriages and relationships like I do. Truth is, if I had to choose, I would opt for a life of utter solitude, rather than live the miserable life my mom has lived. It’s not one I would wish, even on my worst enemy.

All I want is happiness…and love…and some peace of mind.

My beloved husband-to-be, if you can give me that, then I too will go out of my way to make you the happiest man on earth.

Letter to my husband: Part 3

Why do battered women stay with their abusers? There could be very many answers to that. But I know one woman’s reasons. My mom’s. Most of the time she and dad fought, she would vow to leave. However, when everything had calmed down, she would take back what she’d said in a moment of heart-wrenching anguish. “I want you to have a good life,” she would tell us forlornly. “And right now I can’t afford your school fees. Only your dad can.”

She made it clear that if she left, she wouldn’t leave us behind; but therein lay the problem. She was jobless and finding one wasn’t easy. She never left. But that didn’t do anything to keep my nightmares at bay. In the dead of the night, when everyone was asleep, I’d be haunted by dreams of her leaving. Crying, I would wrap my arms around her leg, pulling her so she wouldn’t leave. Then I’d wake up to realize it had just been a bad dream.

As a child, the nightmare plagued me even in my waking hours. I was always anxious that one day dad would do something so dreadful that would finally push mom to leave. With all that worrying going on, I eventually developed an anxiety disorder when I was thirteen. I’d fall sick often and though at first it was difficult to diagnose, one doctor eventually told me it was anxiety. My life was never the same again. Everything made me anxious and panic attacks became a common occurrence.

By the time I was finishing high school, the anxiety was slowly morphing into depression and ever since, I fall in and out of depression with ease. Dad has never changed and the situation in the house is pretty much the same. Once I’d considered running away from home, but I thought against it, realizing I would only bring myself more harm because I didn’t have a backup plan. I figured maybe I would end up homeless, with a child I couldn’t take care of. Stomaching the violence at home felt like the lesser evil.

I have thought an awful lot about this man I call my father. He’s done outrageous things, but somehow, I can’t bring myself to hate him. Sometimes, when things get too intense I say it my head. I even tell my sisters what I feel. But I constantly ask God to help me, so there never comes a day when I shout, “I hate you so much,” to his face. I would be lying if I said we didn’t have some good moments in the past, but those ones have slipped into the background as they’ve been overshadowed by all the bad memories.

I have watched the relationship my parents have and honestly, there is nothing about it that makes me want to be in a relationship. The last time I tried explaining that to a guy who I liked and who was so interested in me, it didn’t go down too well. Everytime we talked, I had the feeling he was going to ask me if I was raped or something.

See that’s the thing. It’s difficult explaining this life I have lived to anyone because if I don’t delve into the details, it’s just another shallow story about a girl who grew up in family plagued by domestic violence. Normally, instead of talking I just clam up completely until I’m confident the issue won’t come up again.

That guy for instance, couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to be in a relationship with him simply because I had grown up watching my parents fight. I don’t blame him though. I never gave him a detailed account because again, it’s not easy telling it. Digging deep into a past that has turned me, into this damaged woman I fear I am, isn’t something I relish.

Letter to my Husband: Part 2

Most of the Christmas eves and New Year’s eves I remember were sad ones in our house. They were tear-filled. We would attend mass on Christmas and New Year’s Day with our eyes red and puffy from crying so much the previous night.

Dad would go out and come home drunk, unleashing hell on anyone he could get hold off. One time he got into our bedroom, where my late grandma was sleeping, and he brashly pulled her out of bed, so she could see how her daughter was behaving. He’d found out we had gone to visit one of his female cousins earlier in the day. I was only ten at the time and I remember panicking at the sight of it. Grams was only in a sheer nightie and he was shirtless.

In catechism we were taught to respect our elders, but what he was doing seemed anything but. I was traumatised; and the memory remained with me for a very long time, until he gave me new horrifying things to ponder over as I grew up. He always out did himself, sinking lower and lower at every turn. And it has been so to date.

I would wish the memories were good, but they’re far from that. Growing up, we cried more than we laughed. Mom has always been a social woman, friendly and all. So she made friends easily. Most of the time these friends would come to visit, but dad found fault with that. He couldn’t stand the thought of finding guests in his house. It didn’t matter that those guests were priests or nuns. All he saw were intruders in his house. In a bid to change that, he moved us to a very tiny house, so mom would never be able to host guests anymore.

As it is, they say one only knows her true friends when they’ve hit rock bottom. When we moved, very many things changed. Apparently most of those friends were not real because most of them stopped visiting. We became loners. I was always introverted, so I never socialized a lot really, but then the loneliness that ensued wasn’t something we chose. It had been imposed on us by a man, who was too selfish to care about his family’s well-being.

Given the unfavourable location of the house, mom and my baby sister developed a dust allergy. Everytime mom would visit some nearby clinic and the doctors would give the same diagnosis; allergy. I often wondered why dad didn’t care enough to move us back to a nice neighbourhood.

When all that was going on, mom and my sister falling ill constantly, friends ditching us, dad getting more violent… dad’s relatives, who had always considered us paupers, as apparently everyone else was pretty much moneyed, would show up just to see the kind of hell-hole we lived in. The sadists they are, they enjoyed every minute of our suffering. It wouldn’t have hurt as bad as it did if I knew dad didn’t have money; but he had.

Every time schools were re-opening, mom and dad would always fight. I was never sure why it always had to be that way every damn time. The fights would start in their bedroom, with them exchanging bitter words (that I slowly picked up on and used later to insult kids who rubbed me off the wrong way) and ended up in the living room or our bedroom, when mom fled, afraid he was going to hit her.

Once, when they were arguing, he threw my school fees at me and the notes scattered all over. I left the money and went to sleep, crying and traumatized after what I’d seen that night. In the morning, before I left for boarding school, I woke up to find the money and I couldn’t help the choking lump that rose in my throat as I realized some notes had fresh blood stains. I didn’t know where the blood had come from or whose it was, but the very thought was horrifying.

Every time our parents fought, my sisters and I would intervene, breaking them apart. Sometimes we even got hurt in the process. That had me wondering what would happen if we weren’t there to stop it. I always feared the worst.

Letter to my husband: Part 1

My beloved husband,

I hope this letter finds you well.

This past few days I’ve been thinking a lot; about everything. The life I have lived so far, and the life I hope to have in future. I contemplated seeking a professional’s help so I can put all this into perspective, but turns out I did good just on my own. As I find writing very therapeutic, I figured I could write to you because my final discoveries wouldn’t be of any use if I didn’t share them with you. So here goes:

Every little girl has a dream; an idea of the kind of man she would wish to spend forever with. Most wish their shining knight will be the life version of Barbie’s Ken, or one of those charming men from the numerous fairy tales. After reading too many of those stories and watching movies of them, they hope for grand weddings. In most cases, the average girl’s ideal husband is Mr tall, dark and handsome, as the cliché goes. Well, I can’t fault them because I was one of those girls.

However, as I’m growing up, I’m slowly realizing the stories we read in books are so different from real life happenings. When writers are writing the books, they omit some very crucial details, for fear of planting bad seeds in infantile minds. I’ve read some original versions of these fairy tales children love so much, and honestly they are a bit depressing. So I understand why.

Some of those omissions are the fact that Mr tall, dark and handsome may be an alcoholic, a pathological liar, a wife beater, or a serial killer, or a paedophile… I could only think of so many nasty things. Point is, young girls look at the physical attributes of their potential husbands/partners, but now I know that is myopia at its best; and how do I know that, you ask?

It’s simple; my father is a very handsome man (and I say this with absolute filial love), he is tall and dark and earns a six figure salary. In my books that’s the perfect definition of prince charming. Sadly, I have never known a more miserable woman than my mother. Everytime I look at her I sympathize with her; I wonder if this is the happily-ever-after she signed up for. Judging by the high levels of misery she’s enshrouded in, I doubt she ever contemplated the life she is living now. No one in their right mind would.

Love, they say, conquers all; but guess what, sometimes love could sink someone. Ask my mother. She will give you a litany of the suffering and privation she’s put up with in the name of love. I will say it from my perspective though.

Growing up, my two sisters and I went hungry a lot. Most of the times we survived on one meal a day. That’s not a big deal though, because I know there are people who don’t eat at all. Problem is, while we were going without food, my father was club hopping, spending whatever money he had on booze and roasted meat.

My baby sister, who was a little young at the time when we started realizing what was happening, would tell mom, “He smells of meat and beer.” She was around four years old. When walking on the streets, her tiny hand in mom’s, she would see a man loading shopping bags in the trunk of his car then she would look up at mom and ask, “Mom, can’t we get another dad?”

I understood why she asked that. We envied the lives normal families had. A life where the father would lovingly teach his kids how to ride bikes, buy them small gifts for small achievements… I know this could sound like we hoped for too much, but it was only because we were aware our father could afford it.

Mom wanted for us to have this life, but she’d been rendered financially helpless when she quit her job. When she got pregnant with me, she was working as a chef in a five-star hotel, and when she went on maternity leave, she never went back. Dad had requested her to become a housewife and gullibly she had accepted.

That however, (in my opinion) was one of the worst mistakes of her life; because ever since, she was subjected to his mercy. He only bought food when he deemed it fit, which was rare, so mom had to run some small businesses that didn’t flourish so she could feed us. She suffered so much, and we struggled a lot, but somehow we managed. It was hard.

Then in the midst of all that came violence. Mom’s tall, dark and handsome man, became an incorrigible wife beater. Sometimes I would go to school crying because shortly before I left home I would witness him hitting her.

Ever since I was small, I understood the importance of keeping the family’s dirty laundry away from the public’s eye, so I never told anyone. Except this one time; it was too much to hold in, so I talked to my class teacher. I was eight then, but the teacher didn’t do much; just the usual pep talk to help me get through the day. In the late afternoon I went back home after school, to my warring parents.

Young and heavily laden

Life ain't always beautiful

This past Sunday after mass, instead of going back home I passed by the salon to get my hair done. I found my hairdresser fixing another lady’s hair so I even had time to go to a fast food restaurant for a quick lunch. By the time she started doing my hair it was already getting late. Mom called to ask where I was and later she came so we could go home together. She showed up with a neighbour’s baby, who is only nine months old.

Minutes later, a lady, who I assumed was the hairdresser’s acquaintance-based on how free they seemed with each other-passed by to wish her a good evening. When she saw the baby, she gleefully said she had twins of the same age.

Mom asked her how old her babies were and she said they were slightly over a year. Mom then told her the little girl was only nine months old. The lady nodded understandingly. “She’s younger than mine,” she said.

“It’s not so hard raising twins especially if one has someone to help,” mom said comfortingly. Again, I believe she said this because the lady seemed so young.

“I don’t have a nanny,” she said, seeming completely unperturbed.

“So who did you leave them with?” Mom asked, sounding a bit surprised.

“One is asleep and their older sister is taking care of the other.” The lady looked so young; it was hard to imagine her with an older kid. I’m assuming it’s because of her physical appearance that mom asked her how old her eldest child was and she said she was seven. The lady went on to say she had gone to buy food and needed to get back home soon. “I didn’t feel like going out today, but I had to because if I didn’t my children would suffer as I’m the sole breadwinner.”

“Don’t feel discouraged, babies are a blessing,” mom told her reassuringly.

“I consider them a blessing. It was hard after their dad got locked up but I still think of them as a blessing.”

“Why was he locked up?”

“He wasn’t even guilty of the offense they accused him off,” she explained nonchalantly. “He was arrested for illegal logging and since he could not afford the bail, he was sentenced to six months behind bars. When I went to see him some officer told me to sleep with him in exchange for his release but I refused. I wasn’t going to compromise my dignity for his freedom.”

“Couldn’t his boss bail him out?” Mom asked.

“The licence is too expensive. Since his boss knew that he just hid, letting him take the fall.”

That’s just so unfair. I thought. His boss let him take the blame when he was perfectly aware he was innocent. “You know, women are so bad,” she continued, a far off look in her eyes, as if in retrospect.

“Why do you say that?” Mom asked.

“They keep asking me how I can go for this long without getting laid… if I don’t miss it. But I tell them I’m too busy fending for my kids to even think about it. When my husband comes out I’ll be here waiting.”

“You are a strong woman,” mom applauded her.

“Life has been so difficult, especially after he got arrested. When I was giving birth I temporarily lost my mind.”

“Did you check into a mental facility?” Mom asked, a concerned look on her face.

“No, by the time I left the hospital with my new-borns I had already recovered.”

I was only looking at her through the mirror, but I could clearly see she didn’t seem bogged down by all the misery she had been through. I even thought she was too calm for someone who had three kids, a partner in prison and struggling financially, and with some mental illness.

“How old are you?” Mom asked smiling. I think talking to that lady and listening to her poignant story had her awed, like I was.

“I’m twenty seven.”

“You’re so young,” mom said, completely taken aback. I was shocked too. “And you’ve gone through so much.” The smile on her face faded away, and in its place was a forlorn look. “But don’t worry, life is like that sometimes. We only need to persist. Problems were not meant to last, right?”

“Yeah, it could be overwhelming. But I have my God with me. So I know things will be ok.”

The lady’s attitude really impressed me. She had gone through so many difficulties, yet she still remained optimistic; managing to laugh, even when I thought life had dealt her tremendous blows.”

Her attitude inspired me. When we go through traumatizing situations we become so negative, but this lady wouldn’t let tough moments drag her down. She was resilient, willing to overcome whatever challenges that sprung up in her life, including a mental illness, which I deduced had been triggered by too much stress.

An encounter with my younger self

If you met up with your younger self, say in another dimension, what would you tell him/her? Like in the Disney movie: The Kid, starring Bruce Willis, where his persona-Russ Duritz, a highly sought after image consultant, meets his younger self, Rusty Duritz, played by Spencer Breslin.

In the movie, Russ is impolite and has a very strained relationship with his father. Then he meets Rusty, who asks him if he is already become a pilot, if he has a dog named Chester and if he’s already married, to which he replies no. He tells young Rusty that he can’t be able to handle dogs because of his constant travelling, and he is not a pilot but an image consultant and he doesn’t have a wife yet. Rusty tells him he dislikes his future.

When Russ’ assistant, Amy, meets the young boy she sees so many similarities with the two so she assumes Rusty is Russ’ son but later they tell her the truth. Russ mocks Rusty because of his weight and he finds him a bother, ever afraid that the boy will embarrass him. However, Amy likes Rusty and tells Russ he should try to learn more from him.

Russ finally decides to make time for Rusty, deciding it was time he learned why the young boy is there and if there’s something he needs to fix from his past. He recalls a fight he had on his birthday and that takes them back in time. Rusty has a fight in school where he was being bullied but because Russ had taught him how to ward off bullies, Rusty wins the fight.

Afterwards they go back home, where Russ meets his embittered dad, who admonishes Rusty, manhandling him and the boy starts crying. Russ comforts him, telling him that his dad was only scared because his mom was dying and he was afraid of raising a young boy alone.

They then go to a diner, where they talk about the fight earlier; how Rusty beat the bullies and they congratulate each other. While they are still talking a dog walks up to Rusty and they hear an older Russ call the dog Chester. They both run out and find he has a red plane. Rusty and Russ learn that in late middle age they will become a pilot, have a dog and marry Amy, who will be the mother of their children. Excited, they realize they both changed the future, after which old Russ and Rusty return to their own time.

That’s just a fictional story, but today when I woke up, right before I said my morning prayers, I wondered what I would tell my younger self, teenage Aly, to be precise. Because the things I did/didn’t do as a child somehow shaped my life into what it is today. That’s how I remembered the movie.

As a child I was just introverted, never divulging much. Everyone who knew me branded me ‘the quiet one’. When I wasn’t being ‘quiet’ I had very violent outbursts. Even teachers and fellow students in school knew I was a walking time bomb. As I got into teenage hood, I started experiencing panic attacks and since then, they have always been with me and honestly, there’s nothing pleasant about it.

For the better part of my teenage years, I spent most of my life in and out of hospitals, getting treated for anxiety-related illnesses. If I knew what I know now, chances are I would have sailed happily through teenage hood.

From how I decipher it, all those times I spent in solitude gave me so much time to analyse everything, the good and the bad in depth. I wasn’t talking much, so whenever I had anything troubling me, I internalized it and from that stemmed a deep sitted fear, which eventually morphed into an anxiety disorder.

Most of my thoughts and my perspective of things in general leaned towards pessimism. Because of that, I found myself battling constantly with a racing heart and frantic thoughts…it was chaotic inside; I was always feeling restless. Sometimes I wished my body wasn’t mine, just so I could enjoy some peace of mind, some tranquillity, even if for just a short while.

When I was away in boarding school I would always wonder how mom was doing; if dad was hurting her, and when I went back home during the holidays the situation at home didn’t help either. Mom and dad would be caught up in regular fights. For someone struggling with anxiety issues, that only aggravated my disorder.

If I met my younger self, I would tell her not to worry too much. Parents fight sometimes but it doesn’t always mean they hate each other or they will kill each other. Sometimes I look at my parents and I get the impression they love each other a lot, it’s only that sometimes they seem to have so many conflicting interests.

I would also ask my younger self to go out more and interact with people. This is because I feel I spent too much time alone, mulling over things and that’s how I always managed to get so anxious. It is indeed true that a problem shared is a problem halved.

Most importantly, I would remind her she is not alone. I would tell her that God is always watching over her and even though she may feel things are not going the way she expects, He only wishes the best for her. I would ask her to trust Him more, and to live in the moment, taking one day at a time, without worrying about the future.