Growing up, I had no real concept of what depression or any kind of mental disorder was. I began having some understanding when I started to have panic attacks when I was 18 and in my final year of high school. These episodes were periodic, mainly around exam time.
I would have episodes now and again but funnily enough they intensified in my honours year. By appearances I had ‘less stress’ – barely had any exams to write – was getting the best grades in my varsity career – going to church every week – getting along with my siblings. I struggled to understand my inability to get it together, to control my mind and reactions.
At 22 I realised something had to be done. My panic attacks were happening more and more often. It was debilitating. I’d lose time trying to recover. So I went to campus health and sought counselling. I think my friends wondered why because I seemed to be doing alright. Force of habit that – I wasn’t one to really express my emotions. I had however reached a point where I wanted to move on.
I had counselling for 3 months – 7 years later I haven’t experienced a panic attack at all. Funny thing is life has definitely gotten more stressful – #adulting and all.
Let me be clear – I am by no means comparing my panic attacks to depression. What I am hoping rather is to demonstrate that any sort of challenge such as anxiety isn’t a reflection of how mentally weak or strong you are.
This weekend’s story of a 19 year old student committing suicide took me back to my 19 year old self. It demonstrated that young people are facing desperate challenges. In South Africa suicide is one of the leading causes of deaths in the 15-24 age group.
I am not sure what that says about our society but it may partly have to do with the fact that beyond getting good grades, not getting pregnant or being on drugs, there is no further indication of how well you’re doing which is needed or required. Who’s to blame for this? Oh I’m not sure. In my humble view at all sectors of society, a lot of challenges are being confronted. So perhaps we all need to join hands.
Let’s do away with viewing depression as a testament to one’s lack of faith as is sometimes seen in our faith-based communities. It is at times viewed as a clear black and white issue, cause and effect. And even when your depression is acknowledged there is an assumed timeline as to how long YOU should take to ‘get over it’.
My prayer is that we be kind with another and ourselves, more especially that we care more that our loved ones get healing. That life be less about outward achievements but more about one’s wellbeing. Lastly – for anyone experiencing depression to know that there’s NOTHING wrong with you and most importantly, you can get help. Whatever form your mental health challenges comes in doesn’t matter as long as you heal.
God doesn’t make mistakes; David beautifully encapsulated it in Psalms 139:13-14 – “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Larissa is a regular contributor to the blog and a young woman who is passionate about the betterment of women in today’s society. She holds a Masters in Development Studies and is also a daughter of the Most High God seeking to live a purposeful life for Him.
Before you go sis:
- Thank you so much for reading today’s post! If you are facing some challenges in terms of your mental health, please don’t remain silent as hard as it is to speak up. There are people willing to listen and help. Feel free to drop me a message or if you would like a referral to a psychologist, psychiatrist or support group, please do call the South African And Depression Anxiety Group (SADAG) on 011 234 4837 or 0800 20 50 26 and a trained counselor will assist you. Alternatively, you can email Zane at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re in this together.
- We have a phenomenal Ladies Gala Dinner coming up in November if you’re in the Johannesburg area!! Please do book your tickets here by 27 October to avoid disappointment. Me and the team have been working tirelessly to ensure that this is an evening to remember! Can’t wait to spend time with you all 🙂
Wishing you a fantastic week ahead and do know I’m praying for you.