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Chinonye Valerie – “Untitled”

At 2 am, my dad would search for me with his torchlight around the house and find me in a dark corner holding my Bible, uttering words even I couldn’t comprehend with tears rolling down my face

I never in a million years thought I would be diagnosed with Mixed Anxiety and Depressive Disorder. No, not me, not Valerie. I didn’t deserve to have a mental health issue, it is abnormal and crazy, so I thought. I always felt I had it all together, my traumatic past couldn’t stop me from laughing so hard, and being the goofiest in the room. Little did I know that my situation could be likened to that of a person who had an accident, physically alright but bleeding internally. It was only a matter of time before the worst came knocking.

I can still hear my screams that seemed to have no end to their depth, like an endless pit of pain, the feeling of being caged and trapped within the walls of my mind, my heart pounding ceaselessly, the psychogenic pains and sweat dripping from my body every night I lay on my bed. Was this the hell I read about in the holy book?. I was going insane gradually, no one could tell me otherwise. My running thoughts made my chest heavier by the second. The room was spinning, or was I the one spinning? I needed some minutes to catch my breath.

The main question on my mind was “How long will I keep enduring this mental torment?”. I was too scared to live, yet too scared to die. At 21, I had graduated and was done with youth service. I had my whole life in front of me, I was supposed to be so happy, I knew getting a job wasn’t going to be difficult. I’ll admit that I am physically attractive and friendly and never had to worry about getting people like me but in a flash all that seemed not to matter anymore, I had friends but I gradually started isolating myself, even I didn’t understand what I was doing. Everyone just thought I needed to chill out and just get it all together, but in my heart, I felt hopeless, lost, and trapped. Maybe my past sins had caught up with me, I would say aloud as I tried to recollect all I did wrong. Although born into a Christian home, I lost my footing after being sexually and emotionally harassed by two men of God. I still know God exists somewhere deep in my heart but I was angry at him for letting me go through it all.

When all the mental and emotional crisis started, I tried finding my way back to God. It seemed like the right thing to do, but the long, empty, painful nights and bad dreams continued. As the night terror became more intense, my parents knew It wasn’t just an emotional breakdown. At 2 am, my dad would search for me with his torchlight around the house and find me in a dark corner holding my Bible, uttering words even I couldn’t comprehend with tears rolling down my face, then he would take the Bible, read a passage to me and encourage me. Some nights, my mum would hold me through it all as the pain intensified. I had the love of family, not everyone gets this, I should have gotten over it all, right? Of course, no doubt I was lucky, but it wasn’t so easy. The guilt of depriving them of a goodnight’s rest, the thought of the silent tears my siblings shed, the attention they gave me, and fear of me committing suicide was evident on their faces. I felt the love, but I could see through their eyes they couldn’t comprehend my pain. Going from one hospital to the other, taking medications for months, trying to go through the next minute of the day, living a life I could have sworn months back that I would never experience, was a painful roller coaster ride.

 One day, I remember asking my dad why I had to go to a psychiatric hospital for a checkup, nobody in my family ever had to go there. I asked with hot tears dropping from my eyes. And he said something that stuck, “Our paths are different, don’t ever compare yourself with anybody, you are special, this is your story embrace it and overcome it”. I remember very well that it was the last day I cried about my predicament, I stopped feeling guilty for being raped or having to be pressured into having an abortion while underaged or having to be abused emotionally and physically by men I trusted and respected. I decided to find the smile I lost years ago.

Writing this, I can’t say when the panic attacks or the anxiety would end. I am still taking my medications faithfully and feeding my mind with inspirational stories of trauma survivors and positive daily affirmations. I have learned people have had it tougher and if they can find happiness, I can too. I now understand that the mind is a powerful place and what I feed it can affect me in a powerful way.

Mental health issues aren’t as scary our society portrays them. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Don’t do it, please. Make peace with your past, face your thoughts, manage them, and fight them if need be, the world needs you. I don’t live just for myself anymore but for so many others that may need to hear me speak one day and find hope again. This is my purpose.

Photo by shayne carpenter on Unsplash

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