“You can’t be everything to everyone, some aspects of your life will have to bear the brunt.” I’ve paraphrased, because, comprehension. This is a statement said by Rama, a father in a Kenyan YouTube Family channel called “The Green Calabash”. Many a times he’s said this statement on his socials but on this day, as I was going through his “Ask me anything” fatherhood edition stories on Instagram, this really jumped out and struck me real good, in a positive, filling, light and loving, fresh-breath-of-air-out-in-serene-nature type of way.
I often went through life wanting and feeling the need to be there for everyone in my life, all the time. What nobody tells you about this self-proclaimed Superman syndrome is, the inevitable is giving from an empty cup heavily coupled with emotional fatigue and a large serving of mental burnout. Which I experienced numerous times, more than I can count. This was my norm. This what defined me, at least then anyway.
See, I’m an empath, a deep one for that matter. I feel and empathize a whole lot. Because of this, then, I didn’t know how to find a healthy balance in my life and silence the voices; which by the way, the huge gag is, good sis here went to school and came out with a Psychology degree. Make it make sense! Loll!
Hear me out, isn’t it sort of normal, rather expected that when you go to school, by school I mean tertiary learning, the skills and/or units you learn, study, you ought to put them into practice? Well, no! For me that wasn’t the case. You’d think because of what field I chose to pursue I would apply the lessons in the school of life? I. Would. Learn!
I sit back with older versions of myself and have a good laugh with them because what was that? Really? I knew better. I learnt better. Did I do better? Not always. Heck, not all the time and life made sure I paid for this, gravely.
During the onset of being an adult those waters can be extremely murky, I know mine were. I’m a firstborn. A lot of things in life, to date, I learn and learnt them through proper baptism by fire. I didn’t have someone to sit me down and tell or share with me lessons, experiences they knew would have helped me. So I ended up learning things my way, the hardest way possible.
All cards on the table, I messed up a lot. I’m also quite reserved so anytime I’d mess up, I’d feel like the worst human being on the face of the earth. I had a pattern. I’d mess up. Lose a piece of myself. Call myself in for a meeting. Say “I’ll never do this again”. Withdraw. Come back. Shrink a little and my self-confidence would drop. Safe to say, I wasn’t true to myself for so long as I navigated through adulting because I hid a huge chunk of me from people, especially the messy and unlovable bits of me.
Now that you have a bigger picture, we proceed.
Heartbreaks! Oh my dear heartbreaks. Some say the first heartbreak from your first love is the most painful one. Life says, utajua hujui. I am such a lover. I love wholly, truly and specific to each person. If there were Heartbreak Olympics, I’d be getting gold almost every time. It is important to note that when I say heartbreak, I don’t mean only those caused by romantic emotions, mine were from all over. Though, truth be told, the most painful ones did stem from a romantic ground. What. Are. The. Odds.
The first time it came to me that I am going through a depressive episode, I had spent days on end in my room. I had messed up in a major way! Like, major. I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t interacting with my family. I just slept for days & would occasionally freshen up. That was it…I can’t recall how I got out of it. To add on, naturally, I blocked and suppressed those emotions. Then one day, while having a heart to heart with someone really dear to me, they blatantly told me I’d been acting irresponsibly. Now, what hurt the most was how that information was expressed. I really felt that.
You guessed it, cue in episode two. Again, I withdrew. Made lots of promises to myself, apologized. I almost always apologized, then I cocooned myself.
Episode three, was just waiting for its turn to show up. This one was fueled by being in a toxic relationship where, my then partner, had gone through some political drama at their former place of work. Not only did they blame me, but I paid for it, majorly.
Shock on me!! I was the type of person who was loud in the “a man can’t touch or hit me” front. Eventually, it happened. For this one, I introspected, deeply. I wasn’t happy in that relationship but I stayed because “it was my fault that he had lost his job” and also fear of starting over. First time he got physical, was that he pulled my hair because I wasn’t listening. I told another good friend of mine, she said it wasn’t okay that he did that, I said, it won’t happen again…HA!
Good people, it always happens again. It did. He had anger issues and his boys knew. I’d seen the same but always cushioned myself with “As long as it’s not directed to me, I’m good.” This anger eventually finds you. One time, I slapped him, properly. I had never laid a hand on anyone’s child, ever. I felt terrible. Toxicity is shared. It rubs off on you and you don’t see it when it does until it erupts.
We’d talk these things out; not properly, and the quick fix would be sex. Of course, one day, things would blow up & they did. On this fateful night, I was physically abused and almost killed. I remember him lunging for my neck and what I saw in his eyes was quite chilling. Prior to this, we’d had another fight, alcohol fueled, as all our fights were.
Remember the fateful night? I didn’t hit back, I had vowed to never equalize physically or otherwise, after the first time. I took it all in. The dragging, the shoving, all of it. Then he kicked me out in the middle of the night and I packed my shit then left. Don’t be fooled, there’s lots more to this night & what happened after, but it’s not something I want to fully share. Upside is, I left. Yay me!!
Episode four now checked in, *cue in panic attacks* I couldn’t leave the house, I couldn’t be in the same space with unknown men & any other that I knew were quick to anger. It was a lot. This one lasted longer. I suppressed. Met someone else, kept it strictly casual but lo and behold, feelings!! Plan was to be strictly casual, Lahaula!! There’s a whole story to this one. The best story is that this was the beginning of me turning my life around, emotionally & mentally.
As was my M.O in life, this one also bit the dust. Thank God it did though. Wasn’t pretty either, emotionally and mentally, but thank heavens it did. I began to actively work on myself, the whole “I am loving the woman I am becoming” was a mantra. I really was. I had chosen to embark on a new journey towards, believe it or not, my life goal, to be self-actualized. Seriously, that’s my end goal in life. Everything in between, tied to my goal, will be such a huge win for me.
I digress: Nyambura on brand!
Life after this was a little kinder to me. Then, different levels of comparison and imposter syndrome checked in, nay, moved in. People closest to me were making major moves, Nyambura was stuck. It’s like I was super glued to lack of no progress. Visually at least.
For the first time in my life, in all my years of living, this was the first time I battled with, was almost fully consumed by, suicidal thoughts. I recall one time they were so intense, I had mapped out 3 ways to take myself out. The fastest one was to jump off a bridge onto a super busy highway. What stopped me? I don’t like pain & I wasn’t going to let my loved ones see my mangled body. Even when I thought of ending it all, I still was worried about the people I care the most about. Soooo me!
Second time, within the same year I battled with these thoughts, two of the people who occupy huge space in my heart were also going through the same. So, we made a pact that on days you have no more strength to fight and you feel the need to silence the voices completely, don’t end it all. That’s not the story in your autobiography. Speak out & we’ll figure out how to keep going, together. Luckily, I’m still here. We all are.
The second last and most recent depressive episodes both crept in. Please note, I’ve been keeping tabs of my moods, feelings and emotions ever since the first time, but one of the two caught me super off-guard. Thankfully, I do know why. On both occasions, I had serious emotional breakdowns, such that it’s really hard for me to cry these days.
One episode still has waves as we speak, manageable, but on some days it’s really in the pits. Heck, because of the waves, even this article opened up so many wounds, which is okay. Imposter syndrome had me thinking it wasn’t good enough, I can write better than this. I’m better than this. I’m not sharing my story the right way and as a result, I submitted it late. I am a lady who keeps her word for sure. However, I wasn’t prepared for any gut punches. I took them like a champ, almost!
That’s the thing with depression episodes, the signs and symptoms are not and will never be “one size fits all”. Just like your fingerprints, your episode(s) will be unique to you. The upside? You are never alone. Took me a while to learn this but I take comfort in knowing that there’s someone out there who can relate, who is probably nodding, wants to hug you, because they know only too well how this feels.
It’s not every day that will be a good day, there’s bad days and at the end of every twenty four hours, it’s all just that, still a day. And so we keep trying. Why? There’s no limit to the number of times you can unplug and recalibrate, for you can never give from an empty cup. You owe that much to yourself. You, yes you, have come from so far.
These days I am extra keen on tracking even the slightest change in my moods, regardless of the situation at hand. Uncomfortable as it may be, I make time to sit down with all my negative emotions, listen to what they could be telling me, allow them to run then take the next step. My mantra? “Baby steps tu”- Everything you are feeling is valid and normal. Be kinder to yourself, protect your space & peace and always uphold your boundaries.
It also helps that I have such a supportive partner, this is huge for me (if you know me, then it makes sense). I also have a very solid support system, one of the pillars has to be my therapist, a colleague. At first, this was change I didn’t take well. Now? Anytime I need to debrief in a professional way, I reach out to them.
I ran to sex. I drunk a lot. I withdrew. I lost myself, parts of me that I can never get back. I did the absolute most- all at different times of my array of episodes. Eventually, one day, pre, post, and through all the pain, tears and lies I told myself, I created a safe haven & found peace. Though if we’re keeping it a hundred, over and above everything else I put myself first, put in the gruesome work & then opened up to the vulnerability in being able to share my story so that someone somewhere doesn’t feel alone. Take it from me; you aren’t.
I have seasonal depression & it gets to me, a little too much sometimes. However, where I was then & where I am now, tell you what, own your story and let no-one tell it without your permission.
Progress not perfection: is the code that I live and love by. So far, we’re doing alright.