Mental health: Depression is not rudeness

2016-03-21 14:49

I fainted in a club two weeks ago. A bad place to faint, especially if you are trying to get laid. I felt judged, and worried that everyone would think I was a coke addict (not unusual in Braamfontein). What I remember (or what I am told) was that I asked for water and, the next thing, I was on the floor twitching. What people do not tell you is that fainting in front of other people is like vomiting in public; your ego never gets up from the floor.

Just like someone who is falsely accused of a crime, I wanted to explain myself. I wanted the DJ to stop the music and ask me: “Why the hell did you faint, bra?” I was first going to apologise for being a party pooper and then testify. I had not eaten for two days; I had locked myself in my room for two days. I was there hoping to “snap out” of my hopelessness. I had hoped that the company of familiar faces and the cadence of music would bring me back to my body.

Unfortunately, the proceedings did not unveil themselves as I had wished. This is partly because I was drinking and smoking on an empty stomach. Attempting to induce happiness via a gulp of cider, asking each sip to tell me that I will be okay. Requesting each puff to induce a trance of cheerfulness. After all, I am Thabiso who greets everyone with a smile and is a jovial fellow. I cannot be out of character. I do not want to be.

I have been living with depression for over a decade. Each day, I have to remind myself that depression is not rudeness. It is a chronic medical condition that I suffer from. If you ever feel like you have symptoms of depression, you should seek help. They include, and are not limited to, the ones I mention here. The feeling of hopelessness, loss of interest in daily life activities, self-loathing, sleeping pattern changes, obsession with suicide, loss of energy and pain. Negative reactions are normal when we are faced with a loss of a loved one, or when we have failed a test, for example.

Depression, however, will visit you anytime. It’s a state of being. It does not care whether you have just won the Lotto or signed a book deal. It is a mental disposition.

Revealing that you are depressed is challenging because many people still do not believe that this mental illness is real. This is startling, considering that many people in this country are oppressed minorities and there has been research about the links of systemic oppression and mental illness.

One piece of research that corroborates this claim is a study done by University of Michigan scholar Dr F Graham. Graham and his colleague found that gay and bisexual black men experienced depression and anxiety at a higher rate than heterosexual men. The report attributes effects on their mental health to racism and homophobia, even for out, “confident” gay men.

One way I take care of myself is by drinking tea. In a conversation about anxiety with sangoma Nokulinda Mkhize, she mentioned imphepho tea as one of the remedies for anxiety. I researched it and found out that it was used, and continues to be used, by many Africans, especially the Khoisan. It is not a cure for my depression, but assists as one of the ways in which I cope with this illness.

Regular exercise is a great habit to form. Exercise assists our mental health. In one of my most hectic depression episodes in 2014, where I could not bear to see anyone for a month, I would sneak out at night to go for a run and would feel better about myself. I believe I survived that moment because the streets were welcoming and my body could just breathe.

Some days, I want to be left alone. Solitude can provide safety, but is no longer useful the moment one considers suicide and self-harm. In that case, one must find outlets to speak about this.

  • The SA Depression and Anxiety Group has an emergency suicide hotline (0800 567 567), and it is recommended that one sees a professional for advice, counselling and medication if needed.

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