Letting go

I haven’t been here in a while, and it feels like dusting that sultry dress you were itching to buy, got it on offer… and never wore it for months on end. Before finally deciding to dress up, show up and strut in that dress.

I have been away from this space, and I will be honest and admit – it has been a mix of neglect, despair and questioning, lots of questioning. The past few months have been a rollercoaster of emotions. I am not quite sure exactly when the rain started beating, but when the year started out, I was hopeful, optimistic and enthusiastic. I’d just confirmed that at PPDKenya, we would be running our first support group therapy sessions in January. In the months leading up to the end of 2017, a few moms had gotten in touch and registered for the support group meetings. It was encouraging really, because this is something I had been wanting to do all of 2017 (but was holding back because of fear). And so the year began, with hope, enthusiasm and lots of gusto.

We had our first meeting on Saturday 13th January 2018, and it marked the beginning of a whole new chapter for PPDKenya. It was encouraging to hear the moms’ stories, see the passion and hope to get better and make a full recovery. Our meetings were bimonthly, so we met every other Saturday for a total of five sessions up until the second weekend of March 2018. Never before have I been so certain of what my purpose is, what I am meant to be doing and my small thing as far as touching lives is concerned.

Away from PPDKenya however, I was struggling to get work done. I have worked online as a freelance writer since late 2012, a few months after the birth of my son. This wasn’t part of the plan to be honest. I have a BSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and had just began my career’s trajectory when I found out I was pregnant. Unprepared for this new role, wondering how I’d raise this child alone and having to move back to my family’s home meant my career took a backseat.

Part of the reason for this was I lost my job at about 7/8 months pregnant, and that threw me off balance. It was one of the factors that contributed to my Postpartum Depression (PPD). It is well known that financial constraints, unplanned pregnancies and raising a child single-handedly (whether due to the death of a spouse or a partner taking off when responsibility knocks) are all risk factors for PPD, as was the case for me.

Read more: Celebrating with PPDKenya support group 01

Without any source of income, I found it pretty hard to get a nanny so I could go job hunting. That is how I found myself looking online after a dear friend mentioned online jobs in passing. Initially, it was hard because having to meet deadlines when still learning how to wean, sleep train and just take care of my son is not a walk in the park. At the time too, I was struggling with PPD, found it incredibly hard to bond with my son, and would, from time to time, imagine a world without us both. I did experience suicide ideation too, and every other day it would feel too overwhelming… I have shared that in this post.

I eventually got help after attending therapy sessions with a counselling psychologist (who has since walked the journey with me) and made a full recovery. I continued to work from home, while managing this website. It certainly wasn’t what I studied for, but it paid the bills and so I kept going. As at the time of writing this post, it has been six years of working from home – pretty much all of my son’s life.

And it was great, until it wasn’t. My social life is well, non-existent. I was struggling to accept that my life as it is/was, revolves around my son – prepare him for school, drop him off at school, work until 3PM, pick him from school, prepare his snacks and dinner, spend time with him, put him to sleep, lay out his uniform… rinse, repeat, rewind. Add to this the mundaneness of daily house chores and I started to feel like I was losing myself in motherhood. Now, please get me right: I love my son, so much, I am grateful he came into my life and I appreciate these moments for they are fleeting. But at the back of my mind I asked myself, why do I feel like I lost myself in motherhood? Like I became a mom and everything I loved to do faded into the background? What happens when my son is out of the nest and I am left alone? Will I be struggling to pick up the pieces? To relearn who I am, not as a mom or daughter – but as an individual? Will I be struggling to fill my days because I know not who I am anymore and have no idea what I love to do?

Read More: Change

After six years of working from home I started to feel closed in, lost, flustered. The demands of the online job meant often, I couldn’t work on PPDKenya, which is where my heart truly is. I am passionate about raising awareness about PPD and walking with moms who are struggling. It fires me up, it makes me come alive, and it is so fulfilling. But I continually found myself typing the days away, letting go of my dreams. I can’t explain how frustrating it is, and slowly, I started to inch closer to the edge.

I’d wake up on some days and feel there was nothing to live for. I felt lost, overwhelmed and frustrated. I knew everything wasn’t okay when, for more than two weeks in recent months, I’d drop my son off to school and come back home to cry it out – till 3PM when I’d do a facial to try hide my swollen eyes from him. I’d write for hours on end, filling up my journal pages and emptying my thoughts. My mind was constantly racing and I couldn’t seem to catch a breath, ever. It was exhausting, physically, mentally and emotionally. I remember how, in despair, I admitted to a friend how I was tired of living, yet not wanting to die because I had so much to do with PPDKenya. I will add too, that I was not suicidal/ wasn’t having thoughts of harming myself or my child, and that’s hard to articulate. I felt like all I wanted to do was exist in a vacuum. Not live, not die – just exist. I am not sure that makes sense, but that’s the best way to explain it..

During this time, many thoughts crossed my mind. The racing thoughts:

  • Does PPDKenya even matter? Is anyone even reading what we do/ follow what we do online? We could simply close shop because it feels like it doesn’t matter, isn’t helping anyone.
  • My family supports me the best way they can, but I am letting them down.
  • I am not caring for my son like good moms ought to (regardless of the fact that it felt like my life revolved around him)
  • So many contacts on phone, so few people I feel I could talk to. (Also, some of my closest friends at the time were also fighting their own battles, and I was cognizant of the fact that they may not be available, and that is okay. But it didn’t take away from the loneliness.)
  • I feel suffocated; i feel like I am drowning and there is no way out.
  • I feel grossly inadequate, insignificant and unworthy – a failure really.

And the list goes on and on. I know that these thoughts are not the truth, but in a moment of utter overwhelm, there is no mental fortitude to fight back. And so, for a couple of months now I have been in that place, that dark place. A few days ago, I hit rock bottom and knew I had to get help. I had to ask for help, and I did. It brought hard truths to the surface. It made radical change a necessity if I was to get out of this mental space. It made me realize that nothing is worth it if it affects my mental health negatively – not a job, not a relationship, not manipulative relatives, not a toxic work environment. The mental fog is beginning to clear. Starting to feel a lot more like myself – it is hard, it is scary, it is beautiful.

 

 

OUT OF THIS LIFE – A photo exhibition on suicide in Kenya

“OUT OF THIS LIFE – Let’s talk suicide. This is an invitation to a necessary dialogue in any society that condemns suicide because of cultural, religious, or social reasons.”

My friend Patricia Esteve is holding an exhibition aptly titled ‘Out of This Life’ to shed light and have conversation on a taboo subject in our community – suicide. According to Patricia, “This is a documentary project, which gathers the experiences of people in Kenya who have tried to commit suicide or who have lost a loved one to suicide. Using photography I collect their testimonies throughout the country, on the stigma surrounding suicide as well as the social and legal injustice they face.”

Did you know that according to the Kenyan Law, anyone who attempts to commit suicide is guilty of a crime? What’s more, the sentence for such a crime is two years in prison, a fine, or both. This appalling, and need I add archaic, decriminalization of an act that results from mental health disorders only does more to stigmatize and shame the people struggling. Often times, a suicide attempt is a cry for help, which is precisely why this exhibition is well timed if the increase in suicide cases lately is anything to go. (See this link). As someone who struggled with suicide ideation when I had Postpartum Depression, this project is dear to my heart.

Read More: On suicide ideation – The hardest post I ever had to write

The exhibition, which opened on 19th April 2018, tells the story of suicide, from the eyes of those who have flirted with the idea, attempted and survived, and the caregivers of those who have died by suicide (Please note, I wrote died by suicide – not committed suicide. It is part of the language of mental health. When we say committed suicide, there is the implication of doing so willingly, yet we are all aware suicide is one of the symptoms of a wide range of mental health conditions. Saying died by suicide therefore, is the very same way we would say someone died from any other health condition. Whew, I feel like I need to do a blogpost on this).

I walked in late (thanks Nairobi traffic), to find the credits rolling to the video Patricia had put together, after which she gave a small speech and thanked everyone for showing up. I took a moment to breathe in and out before going round the exhibition. The very first photo I saw was of this lady, face covered with a black shawl, a red dress and black stockings. I know this lady inside and outside, because that was me, deep in the throes of PPD, back in 2015.

Suicide. Open Spaces. depresión post parto .
Samaine´s story.

Patricia reached out and asked whether I would get on board with her project, which I did and share my story on living with PPD. Seeing those photos (they were two, one where I was with my then 3-year old son) tugged at my heart in a way I cannot quite explain. There was a sense of amazement – at how far we have come with J, and there was a lingering sense of relief. Relief because PPD had pushed me to the very edge of suicide ideation – but we survived because we got help, and can now offer psychosocial support for moms through PPDKenya support groups. The silent tears came and I requested a friend to let me have a moment to myself.

There are a few other photos that really stood out, which I will share below.

Photo Credits: Patricia Esteve

Go check out the exhibition guys! Patricia has done an amazing job with this exhibition. Check out her website here.

It runs up to the 27th of April 2018, between 10am and 6pm at the Kenya Cultural Centre (Kenya National Theatre) on Harry Thuku Road. entry is free!

YAY! We finally got PPDKenya support group therapy underway!

This past weekend is probably the highlight of the year (so far) because it ushered in a new chapter for PPDKenya. See, I have, for the longest time, been so scared of stepping out and just starting! So guarded up, and so fearful of failure, that at one point I considered shutting down this website and deleting its social media pages. Frustration and fear will have you throwing in the towel reaaalll fast (not that this is something I have dealt with in entirety, I am still learning and unlearning). So, anyway, this past Saturday we had our very first support group therapy  meeting! I cannot put in words how exciting – and nervous- this was. It was a dream come true.

Read More: Why is a PPD support group important?

Of the seven who had confirmed, four showed up. The rest, for a number of reasons, could not make it. Which is okay really. For a start, this exceeded my expectations. PPD Kenya intends to create a safe space for moms and dads struggling with postpartum depression to express themselves and begin their recovery journey. By creating a small intimate circle, we are able to reach out to the moms and help them make a full recovery. By we, I mean PPDKenya and Royal Fountain Counselling Services (RFCS). RFCS is headed by a qualified psychologist who brings on the professional angle to the therapy groups, while as a survivor, I offer peer support for the moms and dads. Note: For a number of the participants, there is need to see a psychiatrist as there are some severe cases on board.

This was just a post to give a headsup and say thank you to each and everyone who came, and to RFCS for making this possible. I also created a Twitter thread for the same. Please check it out on our Twitter Page.

PS: We decided to hold the support group therapy meetings on alternate Saturdays as the moms felt every Saturday for the next 5 Saturdays would be too restrictive. So, our next meeting will be on Saturday 27th January 2018. Here is a rundown of the details in summary:

When: Saturday 27th January 2018
Time: 11AM to 1PM
Where: Princess Park Apartments, Kabarnet Road, off Ngong Rd
Cost: Kshs 2500 for ALL 5 sessions held on alternate Saturdays (Payable through MPESA to 0717 040090)
RSVP Required.

Email ppdisland@gmail.com or call 0733 424 361 for more details

 

 

Registration for PPDKenya support group therapy meetings is now open!

Happy New Year 2018!!

It is my sincere hope the new year has began well for you, and that you are looking forward with enthusiasm to accomplish your set goals. At PPDKenya, we are excited to embark on a new chapter that seeks to provide psychotherapy help to moms and dads affected by Postpartum Depression (PPD) and other perinatal mood disorders. This was birthed by the need to reach out to more parents following numerous inquiries last year on the formation of a support group. Check out this post here for the basic on the support group structure.

In light of this, PPDKenya has partnered with Royal Fountain Counselling Services to lead the group therapy sessions. These sessions will be facilitated by a professional counselling psychologist and moderated by a PPD survivor (aka yours truly :). We look forward to hearing from you. Below are the details for the meetings. Please feel free to get in touch for any inquiries or clarifications. Note too, that it would be amazing if you RSVP’d using the form included at the end of this post.

Summary Details

When: Saturday 13th January 2018
Time: 11AM to 1PM
Where: Princess Park Apartments, Kabarnet Road, off Ngong Rd
Cost: Kshs 2500 for ALL 5 sessions held on alternate Saturdays (Payable through MPESA to 0717 040090)
RSVP Required.

Email ppdisland@gmail.com or call 0733 424 361 for more details

Please click on this link to fill in the registration form and we will get back to you.

 

 

 

 

17 things in 2017

So, *drum rolls*, 2017 is finally coming to an end, and what a year it has been. If I had to use three words to describe it:  a stretching season, heartbreaks and vulnerability. Looking back, I think this was one of those years where, had I known what curve balls life would throw, maybe I’d have skipped it altogether and re-joined  yall in 2018 (chuckles). That said, I thought to put up a post with highlights, lessons and memories from 2017 (in a nutshell), because it is always good to reflect and put some perspective to past experiences for posterity’s sake. Here are 17 things in 2017.

 

  1. I am exactly where I am meant to be, in the grandness of life, and my journey is mine alone to make. It is often easy to forget (and hard to believe in all honesty), that we are right where we are meant to be, but over the years, I realized how profoundly true this is. Every experience – the good, the bad, the ugly- moulds me to be a better human, if I allow it. So even in the thick of things, I remind myself that it is part of the journey.
  2. Family matters, family is important. Always grateful my family supported me the best way they could when I was struggling with Postpartum Depression, and even now, they are an anchor and my support system.
  3. Life is about seasons, and reasons. People will walk into your life, some for a season, and some for a lifetime. I think one of the most important (and heartbreaking things) for me this year was the realization that for some friendships, the season had ended. What started out as a beautiful friendship, had run its course through life’s issues and my friends and I had drifted apart. The visits become fewer, the calls sparse and the texts spaced out. And it is okay to know when the seasons have changed – that’s just how life is.
  4. In the same breath, it is okay to walk away from toxic relationships, places and spaces. You owe it to yourself to have peace of mind, and if something or someone doesn’t grow you, then it is only wise to walk away. Here’s the thing I realized, it takes so much courage to walk away from toxicity and to own your space. Here’s to shedding dead weight in 2018.
  5. Grief is not linear. I realized this when guka passed on in August this year, and I blogged about it here. Grief is personal, so people who’ve experienced loss will express it differently. Some wail, some cry for days on end, some lock up their emotions for days and then break down after the funeral… however one does it is really up to them (provided it is addressed, otherwise it never really goes away).
  6. Sometimes you just need to plunge and do it anyway. It’s been one year since my son and I moved from home, and what an exhilarating ride it has been. Fell in love with my not-so-new town, and making beautiful memories.
  7. Health is wealth. So many times we take good health for granted, until hospital visits remind us to be grateful. This year I learnt, if I am healthy, then I am wealthy because it means I have the capacity to chase after my dreams and goals. And when the kids are not sick, there is so much to be grateful for.
  8. Change is good. Change is scary. Change is inevitable.
  9. Journaling is such a profound tool. This year, in the midst of my storms, I have learnt to put my thoughts down in their raw and unedited form. It’s therapy, putting words on paper. It is exhaling. It is venting. It is clarity. It is the purest form of expression in my opinion.
  10. Take time to be spontaneous and adventurous. (I am giving you the side eye Tina). Sometimes, in the humdrum of daily life, it is easy to lose glimpse of our sparkle, what makes us shine, what makes us, US. Sometimes, breaking away from this monotony with a random adventure is the way to go.
  11. Love is a beautiful thing, start with the person in the mirror.
  12. Cherish the moments with family, friends and loved ones. A day will come when those will be the last moments to hold on too.
  13. Be kind, but kind does not equate a doormat.
  14. The sum experiences that make our life are inextricably linked to why we are still alive. And this is one of the highlights of my year. PPDKenya is finally starting support group therapy sessions from January 2018. More details in this post.
  15. Dream big. Write the vision down, it will not tarry. I remember way back, watching Victoria’s Lounge and thinking how awesome it would be to be on her show. Well, that did happen, and the show aired mid this year, and we are grateful for the feedback and the many moms who reached out. In all honesty, this did give the impetus to start the support group therapy. If you missed it, catch the video here.
  16. Mental health matters. Mental health illness can affect anyone, regardless of their colour, social status, educational background or religion. Mental health matters.
  17. Thankful to God for yet another year. I cannot wait to see what 2018 holds in store.

Happy New Year everyone! And thank you for reading and sharing on the blog.

Featured Image shot at Olooseos Resort

We have good news!! PPDKenya is finally launching physical support groups!

December is finally here – 2017 has been a long year (well, for many of us). Personally, it has been the one year that stretched me in just about every aspect – emotionally, financially and physically (because the weight settled in, haha to all the cake). But it has also been the year in which I have grown and learned – still learning – to embrace change, because change is the only permanent thing in life. It has been a journey in every sense of the word. Some days exciting and full of purpose, others dreary and depressive. We pulled through, and ultimately that’s what matters.

This and last month has felt like an unending struggle day in day out, in part because my son fell ill first week after closing school and then after that I started to feel myself lose the grip on what PPDKenya is all about, whether there’s any impact it’s having and if it is worth anything. I found myself utterly disillusioned, and just not having any energy to come back to this space. And so, I took a break. I spoke to a few pals and two things stirred me up to get on here and begin to share on something I have always wanted to start on, hence the good news.

Read More: This is why I speak out about PPD

My pal KK reminded me of his journey as a photographer (who by the way, does a fabulous job. Check out his IG account here), and why he started. His mission is to make beautiful memories. That is his why. He asked me to remember my ‘why’. I recalled how, when I started this blog, I was all about creating awareness and helping moms struggling with postpartum Depression (PPD). That was, still is my ‘why’. This had somehow faded into the background, toppled over by the demands of motherhood and a seemingly unending load of work in the quest to get some money. And in a few months it started to feel like a daunting task, just to get up and come back here. Reminded of my ‘why’, I am slowly crawling back to this place.

Second thing that stirred me up is when I talked to a lady who works in the mental health field and I was interested in additional resource material. She recommended my website to me (at which point I chuckled because I hadn’t mentioned it to her), and said she had been referring moms to it as a helpful reference point alongside medical help. It was humbling and encouraging to hear this, which is why it stirred me to come back to the place where my words find a home.

Read More: PPD – the conversation on Victoria’s Lounge

For the longest time, I have wanted to start support group therapy for moms and dads dealing with PPD. It has always been the underlying need to do more than just the TV and print interviews – to reach out and offer psychosocial support to those struggling with the aim of connecting them to professional help. I am reminded of my son’s early years when I desperately looked for  support group or forum that addressed PPD and couldn’t find any. In retrospect, maybe this would have helped. It is the reason why, after months of hesitating and self-doubt, it is time to launch and start a new chapter on the blog, hence the good news.

We are finally starting support group therapy sessions in 2018! *insert ululation*. Many moms have reached out and asked about this, so there’s a need for such a safe space. PPDKenya has partnered with Royal Fountain Counselling Services (RFCS) to offer group therapy sessions at a very subsidized fee. At the core of these meetings is the need to offer support and walk the journey through recovery with those suffering from PPD. This professional-led group will offer information, support, and tools to help you in your recovery journey. Anyone affected by PPD need not struggle alone because there’s help available, and they can recover.

Details:

  • The first meeting is slated for Saturday 13th January 2018 at a venue to be confirmed. The cost of all the five sessions is KShs. 2500 (which translates to 500 per session). This is heavily subsidized to ensure that help is closer to those affected, while offering a chance for parents to connect and share their experiences in a confidential setting.
  • A cycle is typically made of 5 sessions spread over two months. The support group meetings will be held on alternate Saturdays, so the first will be on 13th Jan, the next on 27th Jan and so on. We thought this to be flexible for most people.
  • Once a cycle begins, the participants will typically attend all 5 sessions before another new cycle begins with new participants. This is done to help ensure that those affected get the most of the support groups.

In Summary:

Date: Saturday 13th January 2018, from 11AM to 1PM (and thereafter at the same time on alternate Saturdays)

Venue: TBA

Fee: Kshs 2500 (Note that this is for all 5 sessions)

Please email on ppdisland@gmail.com or call +254 733 424 361 to register for the support group therapy meetings or to make inquiries. We look forward to hearing from you. Do not forget to like the Facebook Page here and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Ramblings on motherhood, toys and straws

These holidays have been an emotional rollercoaster for me and mine. The school holidays began with a bang. My heart was bursting with gratitude and just the sheer amazement that we made it this far. Here, my not-so little boy, all grown, graduating from kindergarten to Primary school (wrote about it here). It was a big moment, I still look back and I’m like whoa, see God. (You may never understand the magnitude of this milestone if you never had to struggle with depression that made you question your ability and worth as a mom. I have blogged about this here and here and here as well).

So, anyhow, graduation came to an end and the very next week he was admitted to hospital, and discharged after almost a week. Mom and baby were ecstatic to have him in great health. Then mom got the infection and off I was to hospital. Took a couple of days off, and was better. Right after that, kid had a stomach bug and it was back to hospital. To say this was a rough ride is to put it mildly. I was really scared, and my thoughts were going crazy. (PS: Has any of you moms ever made the silent prayer that says, I’d rather be sick than my child gets unwell… then you actually get sick and are unable to cater for the child’s needs? I’m like – this is twisted irony 🙂 )

Read More: 7 Gross things moms do (admit it, you have done one of these!)

Fast forward to now, we are both in great health and are thankful for that. And we are back to bouncing off walls and off each other. Don’t go just yet, I am going somewhere with this post… So, J has an affinity for drinking straws, the disposable ones. A weird affinity that sometimes irks me because, I just don’t understand why anyone ought to take their yoghurt in a cup using a straw – but maybe therein lies the wonder and amazement of a child’s life.

Now, drinking with the straws is no big deal per se. It’s what follows once that happens which gets on my nerves. The not-so-empty cup is left on the table, and the straw leaning over. It’s easy to drop the cup by simply having the swish of my cardigan touch the end of the straw. For whatever reason, this is one of those pet peeves I have always had.

How does it relate to the hospital visits? The few days we were at hospital got me thinking how we as parents take so much for granted. We have this misguided illusion of immortality. There is all the time in the world, we think to ourselves. Until sickness jolts us back to reality. The other day I looked at him playing on the floor, strewn with all his toys, LEGO blocks, and my pens and pencils. On the table, the yoghurt cup and straw he had just used. For a split second I wanted to scold him and ask him to clean up.

Read More: Lessons from my son’s bag of toys

Then it struck me, when he was sick, I prayed and hoped that he would get back his health because at the time, I certainly preferred a messy house to a sick child. And here he was, playing, all energetic – yet I was inwardly grumbling at the sight of the messy floor. It struck me that one day, when this rambunctious little boy is all grown, there may never be a messy floor again.

I realized that a time will come, when there will be the last straw – quite literally. When he is taller than mommy, and has a deep voice to go with it, I may never need to tell him to discard the straw and drop the cup in the sink, because he will not be so little anymore. A time will come when there will not be the pattering of little feet up the staircase, a time when the warmth of morning cuddles and wet cheek kisses will be few and in-between.

This struck me because the inquisitive and wondrous stage we are in will not last forever. The genuine sparkle of his brown eyes when he makes a discovery may not be so obvious in a few years to come. I am making an intentional decision to enjoy this stage, to enjoy the endless stories even when I’d rather be scrolling down the gram, to enjoy the balloon games and blowing bubbles while they last – not forgetting the cartoons on JimJam. As I write this, my work desk is filled with toys, and you guessed right – a cup of yoghurt.

 

Why join a PPD support group?

A support group is an organization that brings together people who share or have gone through common disorders or life experiences such as postpartum depression (PPD), child loss, grief, addiction and anxiety among others. These people meet together to share their experiences and provide emotional support even as they go through their different challenges. As such, a PPD support group seeks to provide psychosocial and emotional support for moms struggling with this form of depression.

These groups are typically led by a mother who has gone through PPD and has made a recovery in what is known as offering peer support for affected moms. Peer support is one of the most powerful ways to reach out to moms with PPD – there is the aspect of knowing and understanding that if one mom can make it, they too can pull through. It is a lovely reminder that one is not alone, that there are others struggling with the same. This helps to banish the isolation that many moms feel. It has a positive outcome, and while it is not meant to supplant medical intervention, it is a helpful coping tool that compliments medical treatment and therapy. In some settings, a professional such as a psychologist, therapist or trained counselor may be present to walk the journey with the moms.

Support groups will vary in how they are run (depending on the members’ needs) but the groups are usually small and intimate. The groups meet on a regular basis and are guided by a set of rules such as confidentiality, how long the group runs and topics to be discussed among others. The group leader may facilitate the meetings. The end goal of a support group meeting is to offer support, reduce the isolation and generally help moms recover. Remember that support groups do not replace personal therapy sessions or medication.

NB: Watch this space for some good news… soon 🙂

 

Update: We are launching support group therapy in Nairobi. More details on this post.

 

 

10 things NOT to tell someone who is suicidal (and what you can say instead)

There is nothing as dreadful, as scary, as heart-wrenching as hearing someone say the words,

“I want to kill myself”

These are words you do not want to hear, at all. What do you do from that point? How do you help? What do you say, and more importantly, what shouldn’t you say? As scary as this scenario is, hearing this words is a subtle gift that a friend who is struggling gives. It is their way of crying for help, it is their way of giving you an opportunity to help in their journey, as hard as it is. Your response is critical as it could either be an doorway to healing, or it could be the end as they know it. Granted, it is an emotional moment and you may not be sure how to respond. Below are 10 common (cliché, need I add?) responses that only make it harder for suicidal people to speak up and ask for help.

NOTE: While these responses/questions are generally deemed to cast judgement on the affected, a number of people may respond in the positive. Secondly, in as much as you can help by been present, it is important to get medical attention immediately. Do not hesitate to do so. Check out this page that has suicide crisis helplines in Kenya.

 

  1. “Suicide is for weaklings”

The truth of the matter is, by the time someone is getting to the point of struggling with suicidal thoughts, they have already gone through so much. By the time one is searching on how to die by suicide, all rationality is gone and that statement is a cry for help. Saying suicide is for weaklings invalidates their feelings and only causes one who is struggling to keep to themselves – with dire consequences.

Instead: You can let them know you care instead. Assure them of your love and compassion. Be present. Stay with them. Offer a hug – it creates a safe space for someone who is suicidal

 

  1. “It is all in your head – snap out of it”

This is another common response given from an ignorant point of view. Depression and suicide are conditions that affect the mind. The mind does get sick, just as the physical body does. Do we tell people suffering from diabetes to snap out of it? There you have it. Additionally, people who are not aware of mental health illnesses have the warped view that suicidal people are doing it for ‘attention’ – which is absolutely wrong.

Instead: It is better to admit that you may not understand what they are going through, but that you will offer to be present and seek help for them.

Read More: The hardest post I ever had to write

 

  1. “You should be grateful. There are people who have it worse”

I hate to burst the bubble, but someone who is suicidal has likely thought about that already – and it feels like they can never measure up. This only adds to their brokenness because, while they are well aware they ought to be grateful, their mind just cant reconcile that with the utter hopelessness and emptiness that they feel.

Instead: Show empathy. You may not understand, but that doesn’t give you permission to be insensitive.

 

  1. “Suicide is selfish. Think about your family/kids/loved ones”

Suicide is NOT selfish.

Suicide is NOT selfish.

And there’s a reason why. Suicidal people genuinely feel worthless and absolutely hopeless. They feel like there’s nothing to leave for, and worst of all, feel like a burden to the very people you are asking them to think about. The mind convinces them the world would be a better place without them. Telling them suicide is selfish not only invalidates their struggle, it also makes it less likely to ask for help again.

Instead: Ask how to help, find out what they need and check up on them constantly.

 

  1. “But your life is not that bad, how can you think of suicide?”

Truth is that there are invisible scars that suicidal people carry which you may never ever get to see. The pain is underneath – whether it is getting molested by an uncle, getting raped by a work colleague, losing one’s family or even a still birth. On the outside, it may seem all okay, but the pains and ache remain etched in their minds forever. Asking how someone can think of suicide speaks of disbelief and judgement, not empathy.

Instead: sometimes, all you can do is listen and be present.

Read More: Broken

  1. “You are not praying enough”

I can’t stop saying it, but, this is simply belittling someone’s struggles. It is likely that the depression/ mental health condition that has gotten them to the point of been suicidal has not allowed them to be able to pray in the first place. Telling someone they have not prayed enough/ do not have faith is just judgemental.

Instead: Consider affirming your love and support to someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. Taking a minute can save a life.

 

  1. “You will go to hell”

Regardless of one’s religion, telling someone they will go to hell when they are suicidal only enhances the feeling of isolation and loneliness (which in many cases, only pushes them over the edge). In any case, the judgemental attitude does not show any compassion or empathy.

Instead: It helps to assure a suicidal person that their thoughts are not permanent (even if the person believes that they are), and then to offer a listening ear without any judgement. This offers hope and communicates empathy.

 

  1. “ Don’t do anything stupid”

This is a very dismissive response for the simple reason that it takes away from the importance and the urgency of someone’s struggles. Often, such a statement only alienates a person even more. You may be worried/ concerned – rightly so, but whatever you do, don’t dismiss it as simply stupidity.

Instead: You may ask, “I have heard you mention suicide, and I am concerned about you. Are you safe? I want to reach out to you, know I am here for you”

 

  1. “How’d you want to hurt me like that?”

First, this is not about you. Secondly, it is likely that someone who is suicidal knows that their absence is going to hurt you and their loved ones. It already makes them feel terrible. Getting them on a guilt trip is counterproductive, and often exacerbates the alienation.

Instead:  You could say, I am sorry that you are struggling and hurting. But I will be here for you. You matter. You mean a lot (to me)

 

  1. Aaaand finally, one of the most cliché statements: Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

At face value, this statement ‘sounds’ right, but a closer look reveals it is a fallacy, a popular one at that. First, the statement seems to suggest that suicide is a ‘solution’, and also belittles one’s problem as merely temporary. What of chronic mental health disorders, lifetime diseases and emotional scars?

The bottomline: When someone opens up to you about suicide ideation, it means that they have found a safe space in you. Responding harshly not only makes it harder to speak up, it also alienates them further. Granted, you may feel disappointed, hurt, embarrassed, even betrayed – but how you respond can make a big difference.

PS: This article was inspired by my last post which you can read here. I am, by no means, a health expert, but I struggled with suicide ideation and thoughts of harming my baby when I had Postpartum Depression. Some of the above statements are things I was told when I shared about my thoughts – and I switched off. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel alienated in their struggle with depression, so I put up this list with insight from the following websites:

Speaking of suicide

Purple Persuasions

The Mighty Site

 

PS: Do not struggle alone, reach out for help. Use the contact page or get in touch through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conversations on #suicide

I really do need to get into the habit of writing down blog ideas on the go. This post was inspired by something that happened whilst my son and I were in hospital last week. He had just got his medication administered when I had some commotion downstairs. For a moment, I let it pass because I thought, the last thing I need is to have my peace disturbed  – and so I tucked Jay in for him to continue napping and get some much-needed rest. But the noise persisted, and it piqued my interest because, what could the people/ patients be talking about so loudly? I hurried to the balcony just in time to see the small crowd that had milled around disperse. Curiously, I asked the nurse what had happened. What she said left me feeling angry, hopeless, defeated, charged and riled up – all in one.

So, the crowd that had gathered had come to pick a patient who had been referred to the national hospital. Naturally, I enquired what had led to that, and she admitted to the patient having overdosed (in a suicide attempt) and requiring specialized attention. So what was the noise all about, I asked. Apparently, a group of his ‘friends’ had come to pick him up and take him home. I say ‘friends’ because of the comments that followed. The nurse went on to share some of the crude and disheartening things they said, things like:

“Tell the medics they should have administered a stronger dose…’ (ostensibly to kill him)

“Be man enough…  relationship woes do not suffice to make a suicide attempt… some of us wish we had those very girls (those girls tormenting your life)…”

“suicide is selfish… you just don’t care about others”

“Suicide is for weaklings!”

I asked her what the administration did about the fiasco and she admitted to having had an intervention before the crowd chose to disperse. I was heartbroken. I didn’t want to imagine what the man must have felt hearing such words from his ‘friends’, the people who had supposedly come to help him on his way to get specialized care.

Read More: Masked

Here’s the thing about depression and suicide. Depression is not just something you can ‘snap out of’! If it were, then so many people would get better at the snap of a finger without going through the motions of hopelessness, rage, disillusionment, intrusive thoughts and self-harm. If it were so easy, we would not have so many people struggling.

Many people think and say out loud that suicide is selfish, that it is for weaklings – but I am of a totally different view. It hasn’t always been like this. I too thought, suicide was selfish – until I suffered Postpartum Depression and experienced suicidal thoughts. Then I realized, people who struggle with suicidal thoughts feel absolutely worthless, hopeless and good for nothing. It is not just an ‘I woke up with a bad hair day and I kinda feeling under the weather’. It is believing that one is actually not worth anything.

It is feeling utterly overwhelmed and trapped with no way out. It is hazy and suffocating  – I often liken it to opening your eyes in over-chlorinated water. Worst of all, when one is suicidal, they feel like a burden to everyone around them – their family, friends and even their children. They genuinely believe that the world would be a better place without them. It is this struggle that sometimes pushes people to their limits and they go right over the cliff. In a moment, powerful negative emotions surge, and when the mind is sick, it is often impossible to stop these thoughts.

It is time we had conversations around suicide and suicide prevention. Look out for the signs of someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. Be aware of what the symptoms are. Be present enough to know when someone’s putting up a strong face yet crying for help. Go beyond ‘ hi’ and ‘I am fine’. Taking a minute to do this genuinely can save a life.

Read More: Taking a minute can change a life

 

NOTE: 10 things NOT to tell someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts in the next post.

 

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