Dealing With Depression
Sometime in the year 2011, I went to see a certain psychiatrist in downtown Nairobi accompanied by my father. That was after I messed up at the University of Nairobi. As we waited to see the psychiatrist in a reception room, I saw a poster glued on a wall. It had several symptoms of mental illness beautifully printed on it. I found the poster so eye-catching that I was tempted to steal it, in those days before the fear of God sank deep in me.
Because I didn't get a chance to steal the poster, I have forgotten most of the symptoms of mental illness that were printed on it. The only one I remember is that if you keep on searching for something repeatedly in one place, that's a symptom of mental illness. I recall that symptom because I have observed it in myself at times.
Over the years since 2011, I have learnt more about such mental illnesses as schizophrenia, manic-depressive disorder and depression. Today, allow me to talk about depression whose symptoms include:
- Oversleeping in the morning
- Loss of interest in life and in hobbies
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Failing to observe hygiene
- Excessive guilt
Personally, I have had my own share of struggle with depression. There are some days I have found it difficult to get out of bed in the morning even after having been asleep for more than eight hours. I have also at times lost interest in such hobbies of mine as reading, writing and playing the piano.
While most of us suffer from depression once in a while, for some, depression can hit them so severely that they contemplate suicide. It can be that serious.
You may ask: what causes depression? It is triggered by such setbacks as theft, divorce, conflicts, criticism, rejection, career failures, loss of a loved one or break-up with girlfriend/boyfriend.
Now that I have mentioned the symptoms of depression and its causes, what now remains is for me to discuss how you can deal with depression and overcome it. Here are my suggestions on how you can achieve that:
- Finding something you enjoy doing and doing it regularly: It could be writing, singing, designing websites or playing a musical instrument.
- Doing physical exercises: Such exercises as walking, jogging, riding a bike or playing ball games improve mood and outlook. So if you are depressed, I advise you to go out there and do some physical exercises instead of sitting indoors bemoaning your fate.
- Laughing: Use the power of laughter to kill the demons of depression. Laugh at old jokes and try to look at the sunny side of everything.
- Talking to a friend: If you feel overwhelmed by depression and you can't muster the will to laugh, engage in a hobby or do some physical exercises, you can talk to a close friend about your feelings. It could cheer you up.
- Praying: If you are a believer in God as I am, I suggest you also pray to God when depressed and share with Him your sorrows. That could alleviate your depression because as I heard my friend Peter Daniel say, depression is the scientific name for demonic oppression.
- Consulting a doctor: If depression persists even after taking the above steps, then maybe you can humble yourself and see a doctor (a psychiatrist to be precise) who will counsel you and give you medication to ease depression.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on depression, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometimes back on "How to Get Your Mojo Back". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Part 2: High School Memories
I extracted the photo above from a website I created in 2006 for my high school class, the Mighty 4F Class of '05. Recently, I have entertained in my mind memories of my interactions with my classmates during our high school years at Starehe Boys' Centre. And today, I thought it wise to share with you those memories.
My high school classmates were very bright boys back in 2002 when we were in Form 1. At one time that year, I heard one of them discuss about a Swahili novel we were studying in class. From the way he was talking excitedly about the novel, I could tell he was finding it interesting. But imagine I wasn't understanding anything in that novel. Poor me!
So bright were my classmates that I had to read a lot to catch up with their brilliant minds, often waking up as early as 5.00am to do private reading while most students were asleep. But even with my heavy reading, I still ranked in the bottom ten of my class during our Form 1 year.
And because most of my classmates were too bright to defeat academically, I resorted to cheating during some tests when we were in Form 1. This is what I would do: If, for instance, we were having a Biology test, I would put an atlas on my desk and the teacher distributing test papers would think there was nothing wrong with me placing a Biology test paper on an atlas as the two are unrelated. Then during the test, I would put my answer sheet in between two pages in the atlas and raise one end of the atlas in such a way that the teacher supervising us would think I was doing so to prevent my deskmate from having a peek at my answers. But guess what! In between some pages in the atlas were bits of paper in which I had written Biology notes for referring to during the test.
As luck would have it, I was never caught cheating, even by Fr. Joseph Carriere - a stern and strict elderly Canadian priest who sometimes moved from class to class to catch students cheating in exams. Looking back though, I think doing such kind of cheating probably confused me as I had to be cautious not to be apprehended. Little wonder that it didn't help me fare well in the tests during my Form 1 year.
Another form of cheating I tried in Form 1 was during English lessons that we were taught by an American called Mrs. Susan Moore. Well, I noted that whenever we read a passage in a textbook called Integrated English, Mrs. Moore would ask us to write down the meanings of vocabularies in the passages. She would then mark our answers and record our scores as part of continuous assessment tests.
So when we broke for one half-term holiday that year 2002, I went and found out the meanings in a dictionary of all the vocabularies in the passages we hadn't yet read in textbook. I wrote the meanings in small bits of papers which I glued next to the relevant passages. But guess what again! When we reported back to school after that half-term holiday, Mrs. Moore never asked us again to write down the meanings of vocabularies in passages in Integrated English. And I have always suspected she refrained from doing so after observing what I had done.
As bright as my high school classmates were, I always felt our class had only one true genius. That was George Yuka.
Unlike other top students in my class who excelled by virtue of consistent hard work, Yuka aced his exams out of natural brilliance. His main weakness was slovenliness. If he had combined his natural brilliance with disciplined study habits, he would have been an academic whizz-kid.
Once when we were sitting for a Mathematics end-of-year exam in Form 1, Fr. Joseph Carriere came into our class and angrily accused Yuka of cheating. He really disturbed him. And probably as a result of that disturbance, Yuka only managed to score a 63% in the Mathematics paper. Had he scored at least an 80% in the paper as other top students were scoring, he would have topped that end-of-year exams - or so I reckoned.
I will always remember George Yuka for an initiative he took in Form 2 during one night prep, two or three days before we broke for long holidays. During that prep, he stood in front of the class and started describing each of my classmates. Because people at Starehe used to comment of how mentally mixed-up I was, I feared that Yuka would hurt my feelings by telling my classmates I was always confused. Happily, he said something virtuous and positive about me, though I can't remember what he said. That was very wise of George Yuka.
As our high school years rolled by, I bobbed up in academic rankings of my class. By the time we were in Fourth Form in 2005, I was appearing among the top six in my class. I don't know if that happened because I grew brighter or my classmates became dumber. All I know is that I never did any kind of cheating in exams during my Fourth Form year. Also unlike in Form 1 when I used to get out of bed as early as 5.00am to do private reading, I never woke up before 6.00am during my entire Fourth Form year.
In the last term of our years in high school, I got to interact with some of my classmates when we met regularly in what we used to call the German Room where I enjoyed playing chess with George Yuka. One Sunday afternoon while we were in the German Room, Yuka shared with me a joke about a certain man who sold groundnut near Starehe gates. That joke set me laughing. It really was funny. Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to retell that joke.
When we were sitting for KCSE exams, George Yuka used to regularly complain about the exams when I interacted with him in the German Room. With the way he complained, I was so sure I would trounce him in the exams for the first and last time in our high school career. But alas! When KCSE results were released a few months later in 2006, he ranked ahead of me in the list of top 100 students in my province that was published in the newspapers. He got an 'A' of 84 points while I got an 'A' of 82 points.
All in all, my high school classmates were bright fellows. I once told my high school deskmate Martin Wamoni earlier on in this decade that if the Mighty 4F Class of '05 were a school, we would have emerged tops in the country in 2005 KCSE exams. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you have enjoyed this part 2 of my high school memories, you might also enjoy "Part 1: High School Memories". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.