Mental Health Awareness Month – Wanjiru Mugenda

My name is Wanjiru Mugenda, a 20 year old chubby girl who has fought depression for the last 3 years and here’s my story.

2017 started as a very exciting year for me especially because it was my last year in high school. The plan was to finish school with a bang, until February 2017 when everything changed. It’s funny how life can take such a drastic turn.

It all started with extremely excruciating migraines that would not go away no matter which drugs I took. I had always been a very bubbly and jovial girl, but here now was a silent, distant, easily irritated girl who was more broken than she cared to admit. I really didn’t think there was a deeper meaning to the migraines then, up until my midterm holiday on 22nd February when I had my first mental breakdown while doing my work at home. I was mad, angry and in pain so I threw a plate at the wall in dire need of relief. But that just led to the realization that I wasn’t okay, though I couldn’t even explain to my parents what I felt. All I could do is cry.

The next day I was rushed to hospital full of hysteria because of the migraines and also due to the fact that I was agitated. It felt as if I was going mad and I had to be sedated to calm down. That’s when the doctor decided I had to be admitted on account of the migraines and my emotional state. A few days later I was given a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with depression after test results came out. I remember how funny it was to me. I mean I’ve been admitted in hospital for you to diagnose me with a “feeling”? Well depression isn’t a feeling. It is a biologically proven disease. I was also told I had a nerve problem in my brain and from that day everything changed as I literally became a new human being. That year I was admitted in hospital 5 times all with durations of almost two weeks. Being in my final year my learning was obviously disrupted and I had to move from being a border to a day bug because I had too many mental breakdowns.

With all these things happening I decided to tell my friends and classmates what I was going through. I ended up having so many people tell me how my story helped them to open up and seek medical attention. From this I got friends who encouraged me to start a platform to talk more about mental health and share my story. So around June 2017 I started FREE YOUR MIND, a platform to show people going through mental illnesses that they are not alone, and also to make people who have loved ones with mental illnesses be able to understand how to deal with them. I would give talks on different platforms and it became a way of talking about what I felt. It was everything to me.

Unfortunately even with support from family, close friends and doctors, I had a total of 3 suicide attempts that year. I constantly felt alone, unworthy and ugly, and the voice inside my head would always convince me I was better off dead. Every time I think about that time a wave of sadness overshadows me. Who knew that a girl who was once in love with life would one day want to end it herself? I have gone through a lot in life but I can confidently say that depression is the hardest thing I have had to deal with. I was on a cocktail of antidepressants that made me add a huge amount of weight, 20kgs to be precise, which made me develop more self-esteem issues than I had before, considering I was already a big girl. I preferred being alone and I didn’t want people to see me. At one point I stopped telling people how I felt, not even my best friend, because I felt like such a burden, a feeling I still deal with to date. But in spite of my mental illness I managed to do my KCSE and didn’t do as badly as I thought I would, hahaha! But by the end of 2017 I was a broken girl who blamed herself for everything and I always believed every problem that arose, especially in my family, was my fault.

At this time I had seen three psychiatrists, not because any of them was bad, but because I wasn’t feeling like I was getting any better. This is something I like to tell people so that they know it is normal to not feel comfortable sometimes, and if you feel you need a change you should go for it.

2018 was a better year for me, but before I could even celebrate feeling better 2019 brought its own demons. I remember starting 2019 with so much joy that I stopped taking antidepressants in February. So lol it was going to be “my year” until April 2019.

At the beginning of April 2019 I started having terrible period pains and at first I ignored them even though I never really used to get cramps before. But it got to a point that I couldn’t walk whenever I had the pains so I decided to see a gynecologist. Long story short I ended up going in for surgery right after my birthday in July. Mentally I thought I was okay with the whole illness and procedure, but in September I started having more frequent mental breakdowns. I was in constant pain but the doctors couldn’t figure out what was happening. I could bleed for weeks and was being admitted in hospital over and over again.

In no time my mind sank into a dark place but I was scared of telling people how I felt cause it’s like I was weak. I felt as if I was a bother because I was okay at first but then felt broken. How could I explain to the people I love something that even I could not understand?

I had to get back on antidepressants and this time I was mainly being treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I also started weekly therapy that I still do to date. But due to being so silent with my feelings I found myself in a hole I couldn’t dig myself out of and I was tired of life. On 23rd February 2020 I tried committing the last suicide attempt. I had never felt so worthless and pointless in my life. I was in hospital for 3 weeks after that and here I made a BIG decision in my life.

I decided to do Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). It is used as a treatment for patients mainly going through major depression or bipolar disorder that seems not to be responding to other treatments. This was major decision because to start with, the side effects are intense such as bad headaches, memory loss, just to mention a few. It also felt like I was giving up on trying to fight this on my own but I was tired of medication. I was tired of getting better and then relapsing and going to an even worse mental state. I didn’t want to put people I love through pain any longer so I chose to go through with ECT. If you see me now you will see a girl with a smile but to be honest I’m far from my end goal but every day I keep pushing, knowing that if I did it once I can surely do it again.

It has been a hard journey and for sure it still is. I have lost friends, cut out family, I have faced stigma even from loved ones BUT in the midst of all this I have found grace and the will to keep fighting. I will spread the word on mental illnesses and I always share my story in hopes of reminding someone that they are never alone. Every time I get a text or DM or call from someone saying I helped them, my heart warms up because all I aim to do is make a change in the mental health world.

Lastly I have been blessed with an amazing family, boyfriend and friends who have been there for me through it all. Even when they did not understand they never let my hand go.




Love ~Ciru~


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