Gender & Identity Life

In a world that is always moving and changing, battling mental illness can be all the harder

Trigger Warning: This article mentions periods of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. 

The festive season has just ended, and much like last year, I have made sure to spend as little time as possible on social media. I don’t want to be reminded of my aloneness during this time.

Last year, I forced myself to deactivate my Facebook account and every now and then, I would check my Twitter account especially for any interesting news (or opportunities to write). That tended to be depressing because much of the world is just topsy-turvy right now. Wars, corruption, slavery and various other injustices. Staying abreast with what’s happening around us can be overwhelming.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. Some social media users took the time to reflect on the past year and what they had accomplished. Some had signed book deals. Some had stories win writing competitions. Some had been promoted at work. Some had gotten new jobs. Some had traveled the world. Some had signed modeling contracts with prestigious agencies. Some had bought their first home. Some got their driver’s licenses. Some bought their first cars. Some had started their own companies. Some had received scholarships to pursue further studies or attend certain workshops abroad.  They had a productive year.

I, on the other hand, had spent the year battling suicidal ideation. I struggled with fighting my addiction to smoking and at some point, I seemed to be replacing this form of self-medication with alcohol. On top of my life being turbulent, I discovered that a loved one, who has been a great source of emotional support, had been diagnosed with cancer. As their life was involuntarily reorganized, so too, was our relationship. I could no longer dump my emotional baggage on her because “the negativity” would not provide a space conducive enough for her to come to terms with her illness and find her way on this new path.

This meant I had to learn to be my main source of emotional edification and that was hard. Last year – like many other years that have gone by – was a battlefield for me. On most days, I struggled to get out of bed. My panic attacks and social anxiety spiked. In that process, I also managed to mutate into a raging bull where my anger would become more heated when I was menstruating. I made use of various means – some healthier than others – to help me take the urge off and one of them was music. As calming as it often was, certain music often resulted in me thinking about my dead mother (and my break-up with God) and feeling as if I was in solitary confinement. Those moments always ended up with drenched pillows and puffy eyes.

While I have learned to be kinder to myself and allow myself to stay in bed if my lethargic body refuses to get up, I would be lying if I said I do not regret that, when I am in a better emotional space. I know that allowing myself to be in that emotional rut is an important part of the process of getting better. Still, I also feel that our society makes it a bit hard for us not to beat ourselves up for that “unproductive” period. The world around us is fast-paced and we feel under pressure to move with it. We need to be quickly figuring out solutions to our problems, we need to quickly get up when we fall and continue in the race. When one falls or allows themselves to take a breather when they feel burdened or unfit to effectively function in society, one can’t help but worry if it ends up looking as if they spent way too much time in that state. I don’t know about others, but I know I worry about this.

I know that expecting the world to slow down while we nurse our wounds is hoping against hope. And the truth is we are humans who are wired to compare our lives to others’. It is inevitable that I will beat myself up when I see that while I slept in other people were conquering the world. I guess all one can do, and to ensure that they don’t end up lapsing into another bout of depression over their mental battles, is to remind themselves of the reasons why their year, in retrospect, may not seem as productive or fruitful as others.

By Joyline Maenzanise

Joyline is a queer Zimbabwean. She is a cultural critic with a passion for writing and hope that she makes a successful career out of it because the bills must be paid. Her main areas of interest are LGBT+, mental health, the development of Africa and socio-economic justice issues.