by Dami Odiachi
There are days when my temperament is abysmal and getting out of bed is impossible. I don’t like labels and what they do to one’s sense of self so I try not to use any. I know that my therapist would call what I go through depression, but I can’t let myself believe it. The diagnosis is limiting. Instead of fighting to get out of bed, forcing myself to shower, to write, to accomplish, I find refuge in my brain’s torment, lean into it.
Depression, the ultimate excuse to do nothing. I was depressed so I took time off work to be depressed. I let myself rest in it. I didn’t fight it as hard as I could. Or maybe I did. Maybe that’s why I’m still here and not sleeping next to my late grandparents in Badagry. What caused it? Was it a chemical imbalance in my brain, or was it the stress of life?
Dealing with my parents and their lofty expectations, dealing with work and its unending pressures, dealing with my then partner, and the tangle of emotions? And if I had died, as many people do, in the throes of this mental torment, who would you, the people that know me, the people that don’t know me, the people that know my parents, the people that hear my story, blame? Me? My parents? My ex? My boss?
People fall ill. It’s a fact of life. Malaria, Typhoid, Covid 19; they happen to us all. Who falls sick? Who doesn’t? It depends and it will always depend. What is it that makes some of us susceptible to disease, and others, resilient? Some people get exposed to HIV, and don’t get it. Some people live with Malaria without ever succumbing to its symptoms, fever, shivering, and vomit induced dehydration. For some, it’s like the flu, and for others, it’s fatal, resistant to quinine, or other anti-malarial drugs.
The same is true of Covid-19, for some it’s a flu, for others it’s death. The same is true of addictions. I’ve heard people say, “Oh! I won’t try x, y or z, because I’ve got an addictive personality and if I try it, I’ll get hooked.” Those people know nothing of addiction, the illness that’ll make you do anything, and I do mean anything, for one more line, one more sniff, one more smoke, one more injection. I’ve heard it said that the answers to who gets what lie in our DNA, and our genes, a subject that humanity knows pathetically little about.
Who gets cancer? Some smokers, some drinkers, some sunbathers, but not all of them. Some people live vice free and still end up with it. Some people do all the bad things and get away scot-free. What is it that makes some of us susceptible to disease and some of us resilient?
Who knows? Who cares?
But what we do know is that we are all fools of fortune. No matter what you do, or how you live, shit will arrive at your doorstep.
This is how I tend to think about Mental Illness.
Dami Odiachi is a writer/multimedia journalist. When he’s not having fun with friends, he’s building his media platform, The Roam.
Joy, Inc. is a teaching and media company mainstreaming the research and evidence on human flourishing and positive emotions to transform the culture and build a new generation of Africans focused on the greatest happiness for the greatest many.