“Out of the huts of history’s shame,I rise. Up from a past that’s rooted in pain,I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.Leaving behind nights of terror and fear. I rise..”
_ Maya Angelou.
In the beginning of the year, I stated that the theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day was in relation to depression. So I made a decision to come forward and become vocal about my fight with depression, to show all my readers out there that mental illness is real and it’s manageable. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done but the bravest.
What I have learnt in the line of advocacy is that you can’t be afraid of exposing your weaknesses or flaws. I remember being mocked and scolded about how I shouldn’t expose my feelings too much or let people know my business. My question was and will always be, why not??? How will I reach out to that teenage girl/boy that’s planning to pick up that rope and end their lives or that depressed millennial who has grown up in a society where they were forced to believe that they have to be perfect? How will they know that they’re not alone?
I personally grew up in an environment that made me feel like I couldn’t be anything short of perfect. Everyone around me, my family, down to my neighbors, teachers and classmates. I couldn’t be less. I had to get perfect grades, I had to always be neat, I had to always speak in a certain manner, have good English and etiquette. I couldn’t have too many piercings. That was the Grace that was acceptable to society, I couldn’t be any other person. I belonged to the world. I was of the world, yet, I barely fit in the world. It was a constant battle between who I was ( of which I had no idea!) and who everyone else wanted me to be.
I had crowds of friends and admirers, people who looked up to me. Parents loved to use me as an example but no one knew the emptiness that haunted me as I went to bed every night. The sense of unfulfillment, like there was more to me than I had allowed myself to become and when I experienced my brother’s death, a pain so absolute it destroyed me. Somehow in my pain I knew it was time. Time to be me. You come into this world alone, you leave alone. Buried in your grave alone. I couldn’t live life for people anymore, so my journey of self discovery began. I wanted to be the real me, not a puppet and that came with a lot of tags, a lot of concerns from my puppet masters. “What happened to Grace, she used to be such a nice girl” “What’s with all the piercings?” “Is she hanging around a bad crowd?”….
My parents always expressed how they no longer understood me. They deemed my self excursion as rebellion. I tried to make them see life from my perspective but you know African parents, It’s their way or the highway! You feel me? However, as I was growing up,they had always mentioned that I could do whatever I wanted once I turned 18 years of age. When I clocked 18, I chose to find me. After all was said and done, I thank God that they came to see that my wild card days and so called rebellion was a cry for help. That wasn’t their little girl, I was hurting, I was lost. I had experienced a life changing loss that had taken me years to overcome, I needed help.
I have learnt to speak out when I’m not okay and trust me! It goes a long way. No one expects you to do things you don’t want to do or go to places you don’t feel like going. Simply because you were brave enough to say, you know what? Today I’m not okay and I can’t join you. I have also come to realize that I got to see who my true friends are. Those who check up on me after reading my blog or my social media posts. Some don’t even have to address the issue, they just drop off a funny meme in my DM in an attempt to make me laugh,I acknowledge the love.
To all my friends who have been supportive in this journey, to my mother who’s an avid follower of my social media and my human comfort pillow. To my father who despite of my hard-headed nature tried to understand me as I was and I am. To everyone who has ever just checked up on me. Thank you so much, your love has played a great role in my healing process. I want to mention someone who has literally had to stand the worst aspects of me, dear Laila, my childhood friend. Thank you for just being. You didn’t have to deal with any of it but you did. Because of you I can walk away from people who show me less than I deserve. Because of you, I know God wants me to know I am worth it. Why wouldn’t He, when He gave me a friend like you? To my best friends Sam and Maris. To my sister, Njambi and my brother, James. You are everything! Today I want to say thank you!! Life wouldn’t be the same without you! You are my pillars of strength.
Emotional intelligence goes hand in hand with self-awareness. Knowing what you can handle and what you can’t. That’s how you handle a mental illness…By laying yourself bare and saying, here I am, this is me. To all those battling depression or any other mental illness, You are brave! You are worth it! You can withstand the storm! Now be brave enough to stand up and say you’re not perfect and that’s okay, you’re a survivor and not a victim! and from the merciless throes of adversity… Rise!
With love and light,