It is very ok to not be happy all the time.
I hear people say they wake up every morning with a conscious effort to be happy no matter what. While this is somewhat commendable, I do not associate with that league.
I think if you have to make a conscious effort to be happy, perhaps you are already border line, if not ‘crossed line’ depressed. Emotions of anger, sadness or grief are as normal as that of joy, pride or content. Both are to be expressed. So if you loose a dear one, it is ok to grieve. It is ok to cry for as long as it flows. No you don’t have to pull yourself together if you are not ready yet, and you don’t have to toughen up or “be a man”.
In secondary school I did quite well. I wasn’t the best student, but I always did well. Got a couple of prizes here and there and my teachers liked me. However, in my first year at University, I got my first F in a course that I really liked. It was also the year that I lost my mom. I was sad. EXTREMELY sad. Being a very private person, I didn’t tell many people about my mom’s passing. Infact we were graduating by the time some people in my class found out. I went for my mom’s funeral in the middle of exams and went back to school like nothing happened. In my class, only my dear friend till date Oyinkan knew. A few others in my hostel and church. God gives and God takes when he likes I was told, so I had to toughen up.
When my F’s began to pile up in semesters to come, especially in courses that were my forte, my worry grew. But again, my seniors said to toughen up.
“An F is too small a matter to be fussing over”, get over it they said.
So I did, or so I thought. I started to live in denial. I didn’t get an F, the professor gave me an F. So it was his problem, not mine. I started taking F’s with a pinch of salt. I didn’t care anymore. I’ll see a big red F before my name and say words like at least I’m still alive to be able to get F. I had learned to stay positive.
Apart from once, I never cried over my mom’s passing. In the months leading up to her death I had cried a few times mostly because I couldn’t do anything about the pain she was in. As a matter of fact on the morning she passed, at about the exact same time she passed, I dreamt that she died, but I didn’t cry. I prayed.
At her funeral we rejoiced and celebrated her life. That was the christian thing to do. Mourning was not allowed. So I went on with my normal life. By my third year, my normal life was one of retaking courses and having the hardest time of my life that I can remember till date. Having daily migraines and body pain. But I told myself I was alright. I was rock solid.
In all of these, I was NEVER a lay about. I studied freaking hard
Usually, around noon everyday, I often felt a bout of anxiety and sadness over my grades and my mom’s passing, but I was always quick to dismiss both feelings. Instead, I bounced quickly into this cheerful girl that I hardly recognised. I gave myself treats, I bought new shoes, redecorated my room space. I paid for a random person’s meal. I anchored many school events for free just because I felt I needed to be in a happy place, doing what I liked. I didn’t want to address the issue. I kept doing these things so I didn’t have to think about my many F’s. I was depressed and I didn’t even realise it.
Many times I wanted to die. I didn’t have the courage to slit my wrist or hang myself, so everyday I hoped for some calamity to befall me, to just slump and die or be hit by a car, so that I didn’t have to worry about F for another day. I was suicidal.
There was an Indian movie: 3 IDIOTS that was popular in school at the time. In the movie, one of the characters was so depressed because of his grades that he hung himself. And someone, while analysing the movie after watching said the character’s portrayal was unrealistic.
“It is not possible to be depressed that much, let alone kill yourself because of bad grades” she said.
So I started feeling like a looser, one who was capable only of unrealistic thoughts.
A lecturer asked me once to check myself cos he felt I was a bit off and I remember muttering to myself “I am alright in Jesus Name.”
I tried hard to suppress the evil thought of dying, but it didn’t go. I have always been skinny, so no one noticed I was skinnier. I wasn’t eating and I wasn’t sleeping either. I woke at the slightest noise and couldn’t sleep back.
I was a leader in my church, and I remember telling my friend Ayo that we needed to have more leader’s meeting than we had then. Truth is, I just needed an escape and those meetings provided it. No one who saw me would have ever imagined I had been thinking of death. How can a girl that anchored big school events want to die. How can a girl with all these nice shoes want to die. There was a little fire incident in my room once, and on one of the days I had this horrible bouts of emotions I wished the fire had escalated and something had happened to me. I was a mess. But I told no soul.
My new mom, who God blessed me with saved me. Literally. I always say that if I didn’t end up living with her in the years after my mom passed, I may have lost it completely. She emphasised inner peace more than anything else.
Healing for me began the day I decided it was ok to not be happy always. I quit using the christianise line; it is well. All was not well. I decided that if I failed, or if I was hurt I had every reason to grieve. I wouldn’t wallow in it but I wouldn’t live in denial. So one night, alone, in the middle of the night in my room, I mourned. I cried my eyes out and told God I was really sad he took my mom away. I told Him I blamed Him for all the F’s, that if my mom was still alive perhaps I would have had C’s atleast. It was the exact thing I was feeling and I let it out. I told Him he owed me, big time. Then I laughed. Till this day, I have never been able to describe the feeling of comfort I felt afterwards.
I decided that to be happy was more of how I felt and less of what was demanded of my feelings.
Thereafter, whenever I felt the need to cry, I did. If I needed time to be alone, I took it. If I didn’t feel like going out, I stayed in my room. If I wasn’t ok with something, I said NO. If I was, I said Yes. And if I wanted to go out to have a great time, I went whether any friend agreed to go or not. I no longer escaped into anyone’s world. I expressed genuine emotions whenever it hit me and that for me was happiness.
*Depression is not an oyinbo thing. It is real. It destroys your mental state and makes you who you are not.
*If you ever have bouts of anxiety, worry, sadness, or the wish to die, please speak to someone, you are not alone..
*In the same vein if someone tells you they are depressed, hold on on whipping up the let us pray line. Please ask them questions.