Saturday, 28 November 2015

For Nma, without whom I may never have written this . . .

Nsukka, 27 – 28/11/2015

From the earliest part of my life I can remember till now, I’ve occasionally, almost daily, ‘suffered’ depression. Heaps of heavy wet dune on my heart; my head, thoughts, some stirred murky water; my lips heavy and clumsy, don’t impulsively fall apart again to utter some human sound; my deep husky voice strained (Celine – we became friends when I was around twenty – is the one who made me aware my voice betrays my depression: This one your voice is this way, has depression come?, she always guessed right.); countenance like shit splashed on a wall (people always wondered, by scanning my visage, whether I was fine).

For a greater part of my childhood days, almost daily, my heart dimmed with the dimming of days. My limbs lethargic, I would sulk and prefer to lounge away at the black-brown railings of the balcony of our floor at Onitsha, watching the street, missing my mum, hoping for her arrival from her shop at Affar Street, sometimes thinking morbidly some reckless driver had knocked her down. People’s near presence, voices, their prying whether I was well, their attempts to begin a conversation, irritated me at those moments and I easily took offence. It didn’t matter if these people were my dear siblings.

I felt something akin to these bouts of burdened hearts when, for instance, I broke a glass pane or a light bulb while we, my brothers and I, played football, against my father’s and other adults’ instructions, in the wide passage of the floor. I would sulk, my heart heavy, till my father or one of the adults found out in the evening. My heart bled, too, the day Brother Amechi caught us smoking just rolled lighted paper, no intoxicant inside, in the wide passage and said he’d report us to our father.

But especially of note, because the bleeding now lasted for days for the very first time, was an incidence that happened when I was almost ten. I was seven or eight when Ngozi (she lived on the first floor with her family), who should be a year or two older, and I discovered the bliss of toying with each other’s sex organs, humping with our clothes on. Even at such an early age, she turned wet down there when I touch her, I swear. Under the steps, along the steps, upstairs at our floor, downstairs inside their bedroom on Saturdays when she was busy with house chores, anytime and anywhere where we both found ourselves alone. Two months or less before I clocked ten, we had to open up to our instructor at the Catechism class for Holy Communion during the retreat. The retreat was held differently for the boys and the girls. We had only to admit yes, we’d touched some girl (or boy), judging by the question the instructor put to the boys. But somehow I and Ngozi were singled out before the whole class a few days after the girls’ retreat, which held last. I didn’t know whatever happened, perhaps she divulged more, perhaps the instructor had pressed on because she was one of the prefects. It became known to all the prefects and instructors and, of course, all those that had anything to do with them I enjoyed some dirty thing with her, and the depression, for the first time, lasted for days.

But perhaps we all feel these acute worry over some incidence, perhaps my reaction to these incidences can’t be called depression at all. But my brothers seemed perfectly calm after the smoking and football incidences, Ngozi seemed calm too after the singling out. Perhaps they thought I was calm, too.


When, at fifteen or sixteen, I discovered the word ‘depression’ on the pages of Tim LaHaye’s Why You Act the Way You Do, I immediately knew I’d eventually found a name for this lifelong inexplicable emotional turmoil. LaHaye helped me somehow, in that at least he gave me a name for that hitherto confoundment, made me begin to understand to some extent why I’m that way, made some attempts at proffering some solution to it, which worked, still works, even if a bit.

Around that time I began to visit my friend, Kene, anytime I felt depressed (not LaHaye’s prescription, just my own way of – I’m ashamed to admit it – running away from myself). My therapy worked for the time I spent with Kene, but the depression always returned with a more forceful freshness as soon as we parted ways each time. I still look out for some special friends to spend time with when I’m depressed, but staying alone in hope for it to pass, assuring myself that it’d pass, that it’s only a matter of time before it passes, and striving – because I prefer to, and mostly do, laze away whenever I’m bombarded by such bouts – to carry on with my normal routine always prove more efficacious.

Writing, though, seems most efficacious; it has proved a never-failing therapy for the very few times, as now, I have tried it.

My depression, like I’ve said, are sometimes caused, sometimes not. From experience, it seems the caused ones take longer to peter out. Perhaps what I suffer, especially when it’s caused, isn’t even depression, perhaps true depression is uncaused. Or perhaps mine isn’t the kind of acute cases that need series of therapies with some trained psychoanalyst, doesn’t need some anti-depressant. But I believe I need no medical help, believe medical help – or any therapy whatever – can’t put a stop to it for good. I believe it’s just what I have to live with all my life, like my stammering and my impairment with the sounds /l/ and /r/.  Perhaps what I even suffer isn’t depression at all, acute or not, but let’s just tentatively call it so, at least till we’ve found an apter name.

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