Kgomotso Matsunyane

Got the blues?

2008-07-24 08:28

Kgomotso Matsunyane

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

Sometimes I get the blues in a serious way. I'm talking about feeling despondent, hollow, and downright miserable. Sometimes it's so bad there are tears that come gushing through, uninvited of course.

What I'm not talking about is the collective depression of high interest rates, exorbitant petrol prices, or the threat of some idiot threatening to kill or die for a politician. Nah, I'm talking about the stuff many country and western songs are made of, like "My woman left me for her best friend and took our bitch with her", kind of vibe.

Most of us don't like to admit that we suffer from some level of depression, never mind admit it publicly. It's because there is a serious stigma attached to depression, and people generally feel like "there's worse out there so stop being a baby and grow up already." Perhaps there is also a fear, because there is a perception that depression is a tiny little step away from a sequence in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, one of my favourite films of all time.

But depression is real. I have it sometimes, and I have a sneaking suspicion many of you reading this will have some experience with it too. The only thing that I can console myself with in those dark moments, is that this too shall pass. When the fog lifts and I get myself back, it is a wonderful feeling, and a huge relief.

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

Hao, bathong!

At least women are more prone to talk about what is bothering us and possibly 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 crap and still go on ticking, as illustrated in too many African movies.

I had a terrible few days a couple of months ago. Tired of suffering on my own, I decided to reach out to a couple of friends via e-mail. Silence. One sent an e-mail back two days later to say "it will all be ok", and the other hit me with "welcome to the club".

Hao, bathong! Just as I was about to get indignant, I started thinking about my own reaction when friends may be reaching out to me. Am I compassionate and understanding? And more importantly, am I really listening to what is being said to me?

It's important to express exactly how we are feeling, even if it doesn't make complete sense. The "why" can come later, if you can ever figure it out. I say this because for me, the triggers are never obvious, as in: "I don't like the way Moketekete (so-and-so) talked to me so I'm depressed" kind of vibe. The fog usually descends without warning or "justification".

'This misery will be the end of me'

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 is okay to be sad sometimes, and we need to allow ourselves those feelings without feeling like cry-babies.

However, here's the thing, your friends and family can only do so much. It's okay to use them as a sounding board and to illicit their sympathy, but don't get abusive by calling incessantly with the same issue, day after day, month after month. After a while people will start avoiding your calls. Because quite frankly, you have to offer sunlight in as much as you offer rain.

Unless you are suffering from a chronic depressive disorder, it is only in taking responsibility for ourselves that we can even begin to start getting our internal house in order.

But in the meanwhile, me and Ms Ella 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!"

  • Kgomotso Matsunyane is a writer, producer and partner at T.O.M. Pictures, an award winning film and TV production company in Jo'burg.

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