Primrose Tinodaishe Miga
Mental health has always been something a lot of people have been afraid to openly talk about.
In our African culture it is a shame in the family for someone to be associated with mental health issues, it is a taboo. The belief is that any illness that has to do with the mind is because someone in the family used juju or something. And when they hear mental health they believe it means someone is mad.
African society has not accepted that mental health is the same as suffering from kidney disease, diabetes or any other condition that needs you to take medication, except in this case mental health is worse because it is our brain that is the engine of everything. It controls our thoughts, our emotions and every aspect of life.
Growing up there was always that one odd neighbour or parent who people did not like because he or she would shout at you at the slightest excuse. We often judged them because we did not understand why they behaved the way they did. We often provoked those people because we knew one small little thing we would get a serious reaction.
There were women who would often do things out of anger and we called it drama without realizing they were suffering a mental breakdown. We have often judged people according to their actions but have never thought of understanding the reason behind their actions. How often have we taken time to understand why people are the way they are? My struggle with depression was an eye opener for me because I began to understand people.
There were people I thought were two faced because they would often change their attitude towards me. One minute they were nice and the next even without being provoked they became a nightmare, until I understood what being bipolar was.
There were people I felt were extremely smart and would make you feel even uncomfortable to enter their house with shoes and often those people would always make sure that everything was so perfect until I began to understand that they had OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).There are people I met in life who could be so cruel without feeling any emotion about what they were doing towards others until I understood they were Sociopaths.
Depression made me realise that mental illness is as real as the sun setting and rising the following day. As a society we have failed to accept that people are struggling and suffering with mental health issues and they are failing to get help because some don’t even know what they are suffering from until it’s too late. Some end up committing horrific crimes while others end up taking their own lives. Medical diagnosis describes depression as a persistent feeling of sadness or loss that you cannot easily shake off. It is constant and can make you lose interest in certain things. Your behaviour changes and manifests physical symptoms. Most people who suffer depression experience lack of sleep, changes in appetite, energy levels decrease, they struggle to concentrate, have low or high self esteem and suicidal
They experience anxiety, apathy, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, or sadness. Physical body changes may include excessive hunger or loss of appetite, fatigue, early awakening or excessive sleep. Some people become slow in doing things and are forgetful. Some people become easily agitated, irritable, restless, and may cry. They prefer to socially isolate themselves and they become unreliable even at work.
I am writing not as a medical expert but from my own personal experience and people I have encountered who suffered from depression as I did. These are some of the signs one can look out for in their partners, families, children and friends, especially when you start to notice a change in their behaviour.
I self-diagnosed for months while I was struggling with panic attacks until it was too late and I had fallen into clinical depression. In the coming few weeks I would like to share with you my journey with depression and how one can be able to overcome anxiety, panic, stress and depression. Depression is real and the earlier someone is able to get help the better it will be for them to survive it.
***Primrose Tinodaishe Miga is a Harare based writer, entrepreneur, church and youth leader, and mental health advocate.