When Mental Health is Fighting You

Do you get anxiety attacks? She asked me this as we went through the first therapy session, late in 2014, in the leafy suburb of Kynua Estate in Nairobi.

I said No to the anxiety. But Yes to the depression. Saying Yes to the depression was my reason for making the appointment in the first place.

It was the Yes that I wanted to find some answers for the prolonged intense periods of darkness and pain, I had experienced so often over the course of my life.

A month before this first session, I had gone through an intense period that had left me numb and frightened. Up to then, I knew my shadow quite well, but this time it actually scared me.

After this had finally passed, I wanted some new solutions.

Some understanding. A set of tools. And new wisdom on the how and why of this depression.

The monster I knew well. He had reared his head most years but this time, I knew that it was time to talk it through with some professional help.

Sometimes talking is just what you need.

To actually, say whats on your mind.

The tears may be raw.

But that talk could actually be the beginning of something new.

Those six sessions of therapy saved my life. Through them, I learnt specific techniques that worked for me. They were unique and I wouldn’t have thought of them or found them online.

However the therapy wasn’t a magic formula.

That’s because looking after your mental health is a lifelong commitment to yourself. Coping mechanisms and tools need work, improved refining, and a lifelong commitment.

Recently I went through a dark couple of months where a cloud seemed to just follow my every step.

Tears would randomly fill my eyes. Sleeping was difficult. Motivation evaporated. My appetite disappeared. I couldn’t make simple decisions. And I just felt incredibly lost and overwhelmed.

Life just seemed to be swirling around me. Moving forward and accelerating and all I was doing was standing still in the middle of this whirlwind of movement.

Talking actually was the thing I didn’t even know how to do.

I couldn’t articulate what was actually going on. I just felt incredibly low and quite literally at the end of it all.

One morning I pushed myself to go for a run. The run was awful. My mind was beating against all that was good my world. I couldn’t see or think clearly and my eyes flooding with tears.

Then the thought came to me. You’ve been lower than this before. You’ve got this.

From that thought, all of a sudden I had calm and clarity.

The depression didn’t leave all of a sudden, but it was a moment that was unique and real. A realisation. And it helped me think and feel better.

Not a total fix. But a reality check and a truth I could hum. Something I could build on and use as an anchor.

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