Don't let the 'blues' hang around

2008-07-31 00:00

Ella Fitzgerald is crooning through my laptop speakers singing Stormy Weather and I’m feeling her mood, big time.

Sometimes I get the blues in a bad way. I’m talking about feeling despondent, hollow and downright miserable. Sometimes it’s so bad tears come gushing through, uninvited.

What I’m not talking about is the collective depression of high interest rates, exorbitant petrol prices or some idiot threatening to kill or die for a politician. No, I’m talking about the words that many Country-and-Western songs are made up of such as “My woman left me for her best friend …” kind of stuff.

Most of us don’t like to admit that we suffer from some form of depression, never mind admit it publicly. It’s because there is a stigma attached to depression and people generally have the feeling “there’s worse out there so stop being a baby and grow up”. Perhaps there is also fear as there is a perception that depression is a tiny step away from a sequence in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

But depression is real. I get it sometimes and I have a sneaking suspicion that many readers experience it too. The only thing that I can console myself with in these dark moments is that this too shall pass.

I have a friend who has been diagnosed with clinical depression and his reprieve can only come through counselling and medication. Clearly, when the despondent feeling lingers for months, if not weeks, it may be time to seek help. Hao, bathong.

At least women are more prone to talk about what is bothering them and reach out for help. But even then, especially as African women, we are expected to be these super- strong, indomitable women who can take a lot of hardship and still go on ticking.

I had a terrible few days a couple of months ago. Tired of suffering on my own, I decided to reach out to friends via e-mail. Silence. Then one sent an e-mail back two days later: “It will all be okay”, and the other hit me with “Welcome to the club”.

Hao, bathong. Just as I was about to get indignant, I started thinking about what my reaction would be if my friends reached out to me. Would I be compassionate and understanding, and would I really listen?

It’s important to express exactly how you are feeling, even if it doesn’t make sense. The “why” can come later, that is if you can ever figure it out. The signs are never obvious, as in: “I don’t like the way Moketekete talked to me so I’m depressed.” The fog usually descends without warning or “justification”.

We need to stop treating depression as if it is an unnatural state of being and therefore that we’re freaks for being depressed. It’s okay to be sad sometimes and we need to allow ourselves these feelings without feeling like a crybaby.

However, here’s the thing. Your family and friends can only do so much. It’s fine to use them as a sounding board and to elicit their sympathy, but don’t get abusive by contacting them incessantly with the same issue. After a while people will avoid your calls, as you have to offer sunlight as much as you offer rain.

Unless you are suffering from a chronic depressive disorder, it is only in taking responsibility for yourself that you can begin to get your internal house in order.

But in the meanwhile, Ella and I will be singing …

“I walk around

Heavy-hearted and sad

Night comes around

And I’m still feeling bad

Rain pourin’ down

Blinding every hope I had

This pitter ’n patter ’n beatin’ ’n spatterin’ drivin’ me mad

Love, love, love, love

This misery will be the end of me.”

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