Updated: Jul 2, 2020
| This is the 219th story of Our Life Logs |
I was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1992 as the youngest of five children. I grew up feeling invisible to my family. My older sister was always considered the “good one” while I faded into the background. It may not have been true, but it always seemed like my sister was the preferred child because she was obedient and pious, traits my parents valued. I, on the other hand, was stubborn and lacked religious devotion, putting a gulf between me and my parents where I never felt as close to them or loved.
On top of this treatment, there were many times during my childhood when a few older members of my extended family attempted to molest me when they got me alone. As a young girl, I did not understand their evil, and instead I harbored the embarrassment in my heart. It made me feel even more separated from my family, especially since my older brothers knew what was going on. When you live in a home where no one listens to you or defends you, it’s hard not to feel isolated. Looking back, I realize we functioned less as a family and more like a collection of individuals, all living our separate lives. Unfortunately, this was when I needed the most support as I soon began fighting the darkness that I would battle for the rest of my life.
In my early life, my father had a good job and provided well for our family, but all that changed when I was 11. He lost his job and seemed more interested in obsessing over this fact than finding new work. Mother was a civil servant and was forced to provide for the family on her own. Eventually, my oldest brother began to help us as he became settled in his career, but my father’s absence in helping the family was obvious.
Unfortunately, our finical situation wasn’t the only thing that changed. I can’t tell you if my father’s abuse of my mother had always been there. I can only tell you when my siblings and I became aware of it. I was 15 when we began to hear their arguments, his shouted insults, and—even if just once or twice—the sickening slab of his palm as he struck her. Home became a stomach-turning mix of anxiety and helplessness. I remember wondering if their fighting was somehow my fault. If I’d been more obedient, maybe they’d get along better, but these were the thoughts of a naïve child, desperate for the chaos to stop and in search of a reason. The guilt that I could be a catalyst for their fights weighed me down and the darkness grew stronger.
Outside of the home, I was still personally struggling. I felt isolated, like no one cared for me. I never built a strong connection with any of my schoolmates and my family felt further away than ever. I searched for someone to validate me, to care for me, and tell me I mattered as a person, but I could never find what I was looking for. Even if I had found someone, I wasn’t sure the darkness in my heart would ever go away.
I wanted to talk to someone about my problems, but Kenya is not a country where emotional and mental issues are openly discussed. People are expected to fight those battles alone. So, as I struggled, I put on a mask of happiness and hid my pain from the world. I walked around, smiling and laughing, hoping that someone, anyone, might see the hurt in my eyes and reach out. But no one did and I continued to drown alone in a sea of despair.
The darkness I felt inside became too much by the time I was 16. I came up with an idea that I believed would solve everything. To no longer feel pain, I would kill myself. It made the most sense. If no one cared for me or wanted me around, why stay? Why stay alive when there was nothing that made me want to keep living?
And so, I gathered a collection of medicine and waited until my family was out of the house so I wouldn’t be interrupted. When they were gone, I began methodically taking pill after pill. But as I took more, the relief and release I expected didn’t come. Instead, I was feeling trepidation and increasing regret. Why did I think this was a good idea? I can’t die like this! I called my older brother who called my parents, and they took me to the hospital. Luckily, the medication that I took did not cause lasting harm, and I was going to be okay. But as I recovered, I was finally forced to admit that I had a problem; I was chronically depressed.
I knew that it was time to stop fighting alone and accept help, so I began speaking with a family friend about my problems. He counseled me like a therapist and listened intently to my struggles. To a degree it helped, but after a while, I felt that I wasn’t being fully understood, and even blamed for my own feelings. So, I stopped talking with him and kept everything to myself.
I graduated high school and pursued my undergraduate studies in 2014. I still felt the darkness, but they had become more manageable. That is, until I began my first semester. Again, the waves in the sea of despair pulled me under as I tried to juggle everything. When I tried to swim out from the depths, I was barraged by memories of the attempted assaults done to me by members of my own family. They haunted me late at night, early in the morning, and anytime in between, insisting that I was weak and useless.
The guilt and the nightmares led me to start taking pills again, the desire to die flooding back into my head. Just like last time, I took far too many in one night. I was with my boyfriend and was casually popping them through the evening. I felt very much at peace acting normally, because I knew that I would be dead soon. The nightmares would go away and so would I. Thankfully, my boyfriend noticed how many I had ingested that night and he rushed me to the hospital.
At the hospital, it was recommended that I go to therapy, and I knew that was the best thing for me. I wanted to stop my suicidal thoughts and get better, so I found a counselor to help me manage my depression. Consistently going to therapy helped get me back on track. She helped me see that I wasn’t alone; other people were dealing with the same feelings as me. That brought me comfort. With the encouragement of my friends and therapist, I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing in 2016, and then in September of 2017 I began an internship that turned into a full-time position. I still felt the darkness, but it was lighter now that I was getting the proper help.
My therapist was wonderful for a long time, helping me talk through my issues instead of pushing them down. So, I was nervous when she became too busy to schedule sessions with me. I wasn’t being given the support I desperately needed to continue moving forward. Finally, I decided if I wasn’t totally comfortable, I needed to find a new counselor. I knew I couldn’t handle my depression alone and I needed a therapist to keep me grounded.
Today, I’m searching for a new therapist. I know I can find one that feels right for me. Although I am better than I was 10 years ago, I still struggle. Sometimes, when my mental pain becomes too much, it begins to manifest as physical pain in the body called psychosomatic pain. Being in physical pain while I have dark thoughts is really hard to deal with sometimes. There are days, weeks, or even months where I am fine, and then there are days, weeks, months where each second is a struggle. But I am gradually learning to love myself. It is not something that can happen overnight, but I am determined.
I may only have a few close friends I can confide in and a family that doesn’t know how bad my mental health is, but I know I am hopeful because I believe I can make it. I have seen the stories of others who have struggled with mental illness and have come through it and they fuel me. I hope, one day soon, I can be a strong success story like they are. I want to live, I don’t want my depression to kill me. I refuse to let it win. I will fight, I will win, and I will live on.
This is the story of Faith Kamau
Faith lives in Nairobi, Kenya and is working to improve her mental health. Born to a dysfunctional family where she never felt love, Faith often felt invisible. When her father lost his job and he became abusive toward her mother, she began to feel helpless which led to chronic depression and two suicide attempts. After her second attempt, she decided to try to get proper help, and in time she graduated college and found a full-time job. Today, Faith is determined to win her battle with depression and be an example to others. Faith enjoys reading novels and staying indoors, but can also be found riding a bike or taking in the natural beauty of her country. She also loves socializing and spending time with friends.
This story first touched our hearts on October 3, 2018.
| Writer: Adam Savage | Editor: Kristen Petronio |