Religion has no refuge
Hope has no home
Tears no longer provide comfort
The remnants of my heart break alone.
Healing has no power
Mercy has no hand
Death has no revival
Justice has no stand.
Sleep offers no escape
For in stillness I dream
Of a reality that has no pulse when I’m awake
For withered leaves that will never again be green.
The queen is broken on her throne
The end of agony is unknown
Life is a journey paved with thorns
At conception both life and pain are born.
The only other time I woke up so hysterically was when I woke up alone after they vacuumed my deceased baby out of my womb. The startling realization that there was nobody to hold my hand when I woke up drove me into hysteria. It was either that or trying to process that my womb, had for the first time, become a grave.
This time around, when I woke up, I was surrounded by people and this made me even more hysterical than when I was alone the first time. I didn’t want my hand held and I didn’t want to be alive. I wasn’t pretending to try and kill myself, I wanted to die and I didn’t. I had never felt such devastation.
It was another lifeless morning that began with cheap alcohol. A mixture of gospel music, Lauryn Hill, and vacuous thoughts perpetuated both excruciating episodes of pain and moments of deafening numbness. That morning I thought about how to make the pain stop. The only resolve I could think of was suicide. I had tried everything else and nothing worked. I tried adventures. I wrote sad poems. I tried losing myself in purpose. I tried to fall in love. I tried to give love. I searched for God. I tried to grieve all of the death out of my body. I tried optimism and feel good quotes. Nothing worked.
My phone had been switched off for two days. Likewise, I missed work two days in a row which was unlike me. For two days I cried myself to sleep and cried myself awake. I couldn’t get out of bed unless it was to drag my corpse of a body to buy more alcohol to numb the pain. I knew booze elucidated the pain, but I needed so badly to feel something; anything. I felt betrayed by life every time my eyes opened. Betrayed by the sun for having the audacity to shine when there was so much darkness inside of me.
Around 5PM I heard banging at my door. It was my colleagues from work. Nobody knew where I lived aside from one girl who dropped me home once. I had joked a few weeks earlier in the office that if nobody heard from me in over 24 hours they should come find me since I lived alone in Nigeria. I guess they took it quite seriously.
I panicked. The thought of having to explain to them that I was broken and didn’t know how to fix myself was overbearing. Having to open the door and try and explain that I had prayed, forgiven, sought, laughed, wrote poems about death, explored, aspired and done everything I could think of yet still couldn’t escape the darkness that overtook me every morning was too frightening. How could I explain that I had given up? That I couldn’t get out of bed? That I couldn’t stop crying and I no longer understood why?
When night fell I heard them contemplating breaking the door down because they realized I was home due to me leaving the key on the inside of the door. They couldn’t see me this vulnerable and I didn’t want them trying to fix me. I made an impulsive decision in wake of this.
I crawled on the floor intoxicated and broken in every sense of the word, got an empty bottle, and filled it with bleach and toilet bowl cleaner. I asked myself if this was really it for the last time before I drank the chemicals gulp by gulp trying my best to finish everything. I wanted to make sure there was no possibility of me waking up. I also hoped they wouldn’t find me in time, that they wouldn’t be able to break in until the chemicals digested properly.
It burnt my insides, but It didn’t burn as much as the pain and emptiness I felt. Over the years, I had learnt how to hold my own hand. I cradled my naked body in my arms, held my lifeless hand and felt myself drift away. As I faded in and out of consciousness, I felt a peace that I hadn’t felt in years.
Drowsy and half conscious, I heard one of my colleagues shout frantically ‘what have you done Elizabeth!’ They clothed my body, carried me to the car, and rushed to find the nearest hospital. I can’t recall most of what was being said on the way to the hospital.I just hoped I wouldn’t make it.
The next time I woke up I was in a hospital bed weeping and saying that I didn’t want to be alive. While injecting me, the nurse said ‘Elizabeth, it’s not your time to die yet’. I was so disappointed. They revived my body but they hadn’t managed to revive my broken spirit.
My family and friends were in shock. I was mostly happy, I was making progress in building my life and I was always strong and positive. They didn’t understand it, and I never explained it. I hated the attention that followed. Couldn’t stand the pity and didn’t want the counselling. I considered the anti-depressants. But I never ended up taking them.
In retrospect, I didn’t realize how depressed I was until I realized I was ready to die. Until I had isolated myself and created a religion out of my depression. Until darkness was more comforting than light for me. Until loneliness was my safe place, I hadn’t realized that I had already died and mourned alone at my funeral many times over. I had written so many poems about death that it became my reality.
Depression for me was about the juxtaposition of feeling so numb that it hurt. I had been struggling with it for years, but I didn’t realise. I thought I was perpetually sad because I was a poet or perhaps because I felt too deeply. It wasn’t about a single event that had caused despair. The source of my depression was that I had baptized myself in a doctrine whose focal point was pessimism and I just didn’t believe life could get any better. It was one event after the other. Miscarriage, rejection, neglect, heartbreak, and so it seemed to continue.
I don’t have a ‘Thank God I made it out alive’ story per say. For a long time after it happened I didn’t feel grateful to be alive. Life was mechanical and I was numb. I didn’t talk about the incident and when I thought about it, I felt nothing. Some days I thought about doing it again. But somehow with time and a miracle I got better. I started feeling something. I started believing in something. And living wasn’t so exhausting. I painted more butterflies. Visited more nature reserves. Finished publishing my book. Church helped as well. It gave me a reason. Even though my broken relationship with church and religion still has a long way to go, I decided to try again, one day at a time, and I believe faith is helping me heal.
There are four key lessons I have learnt from my experiences with depression and suicide. I hope that it helps you or anyone you know whose presently struggling.
Don’t isolate yourself
Over the years I developed the habit of isolating myself until I eventually became a recluse. A whole week could pass without me leaving the house or seeing a single soul. This made it so much easier for me to fall deeper into my depression. People stopped reaching out as I would never answer the phone, reply messages or return calls. I seldom talked to anyone when I was feeling down because I was convinced that nobody understood and even if they did, nothing they could say or do would help. After my sucide attempt I learned to allow people into my space even when I didn’t want to.
Look for light
When you’re depressed, all you can see 99 percent of the time is darkness. Look for light and I mean that both literally and figuratively. Open the curtains and let some light inside or get someone to do it for you. Read some positive news, watch a funny video, play a feel good song. Get lost in another world, even if it’s only for a few minutes. The only thing I believe that can keep one from suicide and help one survive depression is the ability to find something that makes you feel alive. Depression makes you feel like a walking corpse. However, if you can find one thing, anything, to make you feel alive, to make you feel your heart beating and oxygen rushing through your body, you’re more likely to want to stay alive.
Surviving instead of fighting
Overcoming depression, if you ever do, can feel like a daily struggle. Instead of trying to muster up the strength to fight, make a vow to survive. Take life one day, one hour, and one minute at a time and remember that life is filled with phases so this too can pass. My goal every day is to survive and make it to the end of the day. As long as I’m able to achieve this, I feel like I’m closer to overcoming every day.
Don’t Focus on how you feel
There was a night that I was close to a second suicide attempt. The only thing that kept me from doing it was a conversation I had with another friend who also struggled with the same issues. I didn’t tell her how I was feeling or what I was about to do. I just decided to engage in general conversation until finally I fell asleep. Sometimes, the more you meditate on how you feel, the worse your emotional state becomes. Try talking about something completely different and taking the focus off of how heavy you feel. It could help you get through a difficult day.
This post isn’t really for people who say suicide is selfish or depression is a mood swing. It is for those who still have humanity lurking on the inside. For the empathetic. For those who do not understand but sympathise. Sharing this experience that I myself still can’t fully assimilate is to help those who are emotionally deteriorating and don’t know what to do. It’s for those who feel they’ve exhausted all of their options and don’t want to try anymore. It isn’t for the critical because criticism often lacks compassion. It’s for those who can’t talk because talking makes them feel even more isolated. Those who can’t see or feel hope because they’re blinded by the comfort of their own darkness. This post is for those who are woken up in the middle of the night by anxiety and those drowning in despair.
We should always remember that there are weak people in this world and there are also strong people. Sometimes the weak become strong, and sometimes the strong become weak. It isn’t our responsibility to criticize the weak. It is our responsibility to help them until they can become strong again, even if you don’t understand their weakness.