Mental Health Awareness Week 2016

As someone who’s struggled with depression from my teens, I found it imperative that I participate in adding a voice to the #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek2016. I, alongside six other African female bloggers have come together to share our experiences for 7 days, under this year’s theme which is: RELATIONSHIPS. The motive is to hopefully spark a conversation, to change perceptions, to reflect and to empathize not only about our own struggles but of those in our lives as well. Please read below and share your thoughts in the comments section❤

Cover Photo By: Sipho Biyam
Model: Asithandile Mbalu

The pictures I will use this week as the blog post cover photos were taken for another Mental Health Awareness Website. Thank you to both of the creatives for allowing me to use their work❤

There’s this thing (no, silly it’s not an app) that I refer to as ‘dark days’. I think everyone else refers to it as depression, which it is if you go with the saying of calling a spade a spade but I’d rather be a big spoon. ‘Dark days’ does not sound so deep and scary, does it? I mean, it could pass for tumultuous weather or something more patriotic, say a book; Dark Days: 5 more years under M7. Genius, I know pats self on back

One of my closest friends is anti-social and proud. Well, at least that’s what people say –don’t even think about Taylor Swift right now. Okay, you can- but we can just shake it off. If they asked, or cared enough to find out, they’d know she’s autistic. That sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? The countless explanations, I mean. 

Apparently, there’s stigma that comes with these confessions-(I know it’s not apparent. I put the ‘apparently’ there just in case you wanted to dispute the fact.)-But I empathize; I think it’s more of “what do I do with all this information now?” kind of thing. You know, we are quite a religious society. Once my friend told me the pastor banished the autism out of her. It was not strange seeing as I prayed the dark days away and pretended they did not exist for a while. 

Well, guess what? It does not work like that. [cue Double G’s laughter. Double G from Game Shakers, you watch it right? No? Cool, me neither.] 

Depression and autism are part of the long list of mental disorders that we’d rather ignore and pretend do not exist. Or if they do, are happening to people on the other half of the planet. That’s not the way it is. Your vivacious workmate could be anorexic. Your classmate might be having a panic disorder. The thing with mental disorders is that in most cases, there is very little to show for it. It is a war within yourself, and you are fighting to stay alive while being alive… at least that’s what my dark days feel like. And what makes it hard to talk about is that there’s no ‘proper’ explanation for it. It just is. 

That’s why you have to remember; It’s okay not to be okay.  

In accepting that, I have unlearned responding ‘fine’ to ‘how are you?’ For the most part, I say “I’m alive”. It reminds me that I am winning.  Being honest with oneself is one of the most liberating things you can do for yourself. Be honest with yourself, and ask for help if you need it.   

Also; anti-depressants, alcohol, self mutilation… and the many other escapes, do not really deal with the problem. When you’re sober, when you have bled yourself okay, or whatever the pain will still be there. So it is best to deal with it as it comes, taking one day at a time. My more healthy options are poetry and dancing. Oh, and chocolate ❤ 

Astarr

 

Esther Mirembe Astar (Uganda)

Eagle by day, writer by night. She blogs here and tweets at @subtle_royalty.

 

 

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