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.

 

Today – Taking a minute can change a life

Today, my heart is heavy. Today my heart goes out to everyone struggling with a mental health condition and suicide (thoughts/ ideation/attempts).

Today my heart aches because a number of my friends are struggling now, struggling with their minds telling them they are not worth anything. Struggling to understand why life throws such curve balls, struggling with anxiety.

Today, I feel the pain and the struggles, because I have been there. I know what it is like to feel hopeless and worthless, to be in a dark foggy phase that never seems to lift, and to flirt with the idea of ending it all.

Today, I am reminded I could have been just another statistic in the number of people who die by suicide, but I am here because someone cared to listen, someone cared enough to make a call and to make daily follow-up.

Today I am reminded of how much power there is in a listening ear, how much power there is in just being present (even with no idea how to do it). Today I am reminded that we need to go beyond ‘I am fine’ and really find out how the people in our circles are doing – particularly those who have had a history of mental illnesses.

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September is World Suicide Prevention Month. September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day, and this month’s theme iss ‘Taking a minute can change a life’. This post comes a tad bit late, but I thought to put it up even as September comes to an end. We may not realize it, but behind the emojis and memes online, many people are struggling with depression and a host of other mental health conditions. In many cases, these conditions if unaddressed, lead to suicide. And that is why it is important that we talk about suicide.

I have had personal struggles with suicide ideation when I suffered postpartum depression, and on several days, I wanted out, I wanted to do away with the pain of not loving my child and hating myself for it. In the midst of all these chaos, my friend, the dreadloc’d one in this post, constantly checked in to find out how I was holding up. It was a mix of chats, texts, and calls, sometimes late into the night when I found solace on a wet pillow with a nursing child on a tired boob. This year’s theme on ‘Taking a minute can change a life’ plays out in my life. All I needed to know at the time was, it mattered that despite what I felt, someone cared to listen, cared to talk to me and cared to check on me.

Statistics show that more than 2 million Kenyans are depressed [Link], that’s 2,000,000. Approximately 5% of the country’s population is struggling with depression. 7000 Kenyans will die by suicide each year [Link]. Isn’t it time we talked about mental health and suicide? Time we let others know there is no shame in struggling? Please reach out (on any of the social media platforms, or use the contact page to get in touch), do not suffer in silence. It is not weakness to ask for help, it is immense strength to realize that one cannot make it alone.

 

NOTE: I posted my struggle with suicide ideation in this post.

Secondly, inspired by Sitawa’s post and with her permission, I reposted ‘Crisis helplines in Kenya and Africa if you are feeling suicidal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suicide Crisis Helplines in Kenya (and parts of Africa)

Good afternoon everyone,

It feels good to be back, on here and online. I took a break last week even as the election season culminated in the voting process and tension in parts of the country. Over the years, I have learnt that staying plugged in during such times, or when there is a crisis, say a terror attack, always tips me over with anxiety. I start to feel helpless and worn out, partly because in many cases it may not be possible to help directly. If I don’t address it, I start to feel myself teetering on the edge of a depressive breakdown, and it is not pretty. So I guard my heart and my mental well-being, to ensure I can function, and take care of my son.

In recent times, I have had conversations with moms struggling with postpartum depression in different stages (Read more of that in this post), and it is always encouraging to see many moms share their stories. With the mention of suicide ideation and attempt (this mom did get help and made a recovery), I thought to put up  list of suicide crisis helplines in Kenya. A little while later, I got an email notification for a new post by Sitawa on the same. I asked her for permission to share the same on this blog, so credits go to MyMindMyFunk. Here is the link to the original post:

KENYA
  1. Befrienders Kenya +254736542304 +254722178177 (regular call charges apply) Formerly Samaritans offer free listening services to people who are in crisis and/or suicidal. https://www.befrienderskenya.org
  2. Niskize -‎ ‎0900620800 (Ksh 7 per minute) is a 24 hour counselling call centre that deals with relationship/marriage issues, trauma, grief, anxiety, depression. http://www.niskize.co.ke (currently down but check their Facebook page https://m.facebook.com/Niskize/)
  3. One2One by LCVT – 0800720121 (toll free) works on HIV related issues among young people including the psychological effects of those issues. ‎http://www.lvcthealth.org/one-2-one
  4. 1195 by HAK (toll free) works on Gender Based Violence and related issues, borrowing from my personal journey these issues can lead to psychological trauma if felt unchecked. http://hakgbv1195.org/
  5. Have to throw in 116 (toll free) for child abuse
ACROSS AFRICA (in Alphabetical Order)
Botswana
  • Lifeline Botswana – 3911270 is a national lifeline 24 hour service.https://m.facebook.com/Lifeline-Organisation-Botswana-798239733539364/
Ghana
  • Lifeline Ghana – +233244846701 or +2332 444 71279 (regular call charges apply) is a 24/7 suicide prevention counselling telephone line
  • Mental Health Authority Ghana – 050 991 4046 and 020 681 4666 dedicated lines for persons in need of psychological help or contemplating suicide.
Nigeria

  • MANI Distress Lifelines – 08060101157, 08136770508, 08093565520

South Africa

  • Lifeline South Africa – 0861 322 322 (toll-free) works 24/7 dealing with trauma, suicide and other psychological issues. http://lifelinesa.co.za
  • Crisis Team – +27 83 256 5993 is a 24 hour support service for those with suicidal thoughts and feelings, the bereavement of the loss of a loved one to suicide and other traumas. http://www.crisisteam.co.za/
Uganda
  • Befrienders Uganda – 0800200450 runs a crisis intervention center at Mulago national referral hospital. http://befriendersuganda.org/
Zimbabwe
  • Samaritans Bulawayo – +263965000 offers face to face counselling (walk ins and appointments) www.samariansbyo.co.zw

Feel free to share this post. Stick it up somewhere visible and most importantly, USE the information if need  be. Remember, there is NO SHAME in asking for help.

 

 

 

Day 30 – End of my 30 day writing challenge

This is Day 30 of the 30 writing challenge, which can only mean one thing. It is overrrrr! Wooop. I am so excited to have done this challenge, not so much for the numbers, but for me, for moms who follow this blog! Let’s just say, if you want to imagine what I am like today, this video shows it best 😀 In this post, I am going to give my insights into what the challenge was like, somewhat a recap, show highlights over the 30 days as well as appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read.

This is where the blog started. I had always yearned to start a blog and chronicle my Postpartum Depression Journey, and healing as it progresses. For whatever reason, I kept postponing setting up the blog. I was my worst critic, and chief procrastinator. I always had a reason, till I realized there are never perfect conditions for anything (well, save for a ripe avocado and a hot meal 😀 ). I had to start, however I could. And so, first post went up to welcome my readers, and give them a feel of what it is like to be on ‘the island’, and a little about me.

After a couple of posts, I figured I wanted to do something that would get me out of my comfort zone, something that would push me further and allow me to reach out to more moms. That is how the 30 day writing challenge was birthed. I was a bit skeptical at the onset. Here’s the thing, you really don’t know that readers hold you accountable till you skip a day in the challenge and someone asks you what happened! So yes, I was concerned about whether I’d be able to hack the challenge. As a counter-measure, I decided to donate Ksh 1000 to MyMindMyFunk for every skipped day of the challenge.

Now, here is the thing, I did not want to pledge 100 bob because that would be easy; 1000 would make me rethink before I say I am too tired/hungry/sleepy/experiencing writer’s block to blog. Suffice to say, I skipped only 1/30 days. If you look keenly, you will notice that Day 19 of the 30 day writing challenge is missing. So, I get to keep my word in support of Sitawa Wafula‘s mental health organization in the coming days.

Were there days I felt like this was too much? Yes. Were there days I asked myself what had I gotten myself into? Yes. Were there days I asked myself whether I was living the truth on my blog, looking for grace even when it is scanty? Many days those ones. But the end goal kept me going (plus this has been a rough month for me as a WAHM, so pesa onge, loosely translated to cash on the low). I have learned many lessons which I will share in one of the posts this month, so look out for that too *does the happy dance*.

Recapping the 30 day writing challenge

Looking at analytic information on my WordPress Dashboard, the most widely read post was actually Day 1 – Lost Identity where I shared my experience on losing my identity as a new mom, the core of who I was in my bubbly persona. Depression has a penchant for throwing you off balance, so much so that you can hardly recognize the woman in the mirror. The ominous feeling of a lost identity and a depressed soul. In healing now, I am relearning this identity; first as a child of God, as an individual, as a mom, as a daughter and as a friend.

Day 10 – Angst was, undoubtedly, one of the hardest posts to write ten days into the challenge. This heartfelt post could be a trigger for some, because in it, I share the darkest moments of my PPD journey – been suicidal, and hating motherhood so intensely. I remember Googling exactly this phrase: ‘Why do I hate my son so much?’ This was a very hard place. Looking back, the journey from this angst to now has allowed me to reach out to other moms, both with PPD and without. Beauty for ashes, now I see the beauty of it all.

Day 15 – When Loneliness Creeps in for new moms was, in the last 30 days, the third most read post. And for good reason. Sometimes I think moms-to-be have this illusion thinking that once baby comes, you get to pick up with your girls right where you left off before you hobbled to the labour ward. This loneliness was a complete shocker for me. Reading through the feedback after posting this affirmed the need for moms to connect more closely after delivery.

During the challenge, I also put together resourceful posts for anyone who would like more information on Postpartum Depression which you can read using the links below:

Day 3 – Postpartum Depression Therapy

Day 14 – #Snapshotsforsanity

Day 17 – 3 Lessons Learnt During Healing after Postpartum Depression

Day 23 – Stages of Postpartum Depression

Then there were those posts that gave glimpses of my life as a mom, the challenges of single parenting (albeit with some subtlety) as well as the rigorous stage that is poop, pee and everything potty training!

Day 2 – Masked.

Day 4 – Good Enough, Or Not.

Day 8 – 10 Things I would Tell My Pregnant Self

Day 12 – Shouting at my son, and 4 tips that helped me.

Day 22 – Of Potty Training Routines and Brushing Teeth

If you would like to have a look at all the posts over the course of the writing challenge, feel free to make your way here. So there, the summary of the amazing journey that the 30 day writing challenge has been. I cannot publish this post without expressing my gratitude for each and every person who took their time to read, to make sense of my words and to immerse themselves in the world of a PPD survivor. Thankful for the support, the encouragement and the criticism. Here is to new beginnings, new opportunities and new connections. Eternally grateful for abounding grace in the now.

Mood \0/
#tbt but Current Mood \0/ Photo By Kiarii Kimani

Featured Image Photo Credits: Daymond John

UPDATE: 13. October.2015

The 30 day writing challenge was on condition that for any skipped days, I get to donate Ksh 1000 to Sitawa’s organization, My Mind My Funk. I like to keep myself accountable, it is integrity even in the small stuff that makes all the difference. Here’s a screenshot to the same effect. So glad to be a part of Sitawa’s projects.

wpid-wp-1444721001876.png

Day 26 – Be Kind

Today is Day 26 of my 30 day writing challenge. Four days to go, and it has been an amazing experience. Something about a prolonged challenge that pushes us to the limits (especially considering I would blog sometimes after a fortnight). That said, I look forward to wrapping up this challenge 🙂

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Today’s post was inspired by a conversation I had with my friend sometime towards the end of the week. Catching up over chitchat, I mentioned to her that I was not too sure how to tell her that her child was influencing my son, and in the wrong ways (story for another day). As gently as I could, I told her I wished she would look into that; so glad she was pretty receptive. Turns out she is a single mom too, but who works far from her home. This meant she left the house early before her son woke up, and came back late in the night when he was so tired, and often, asleep. She admitted it was a tough balance, understandably.

While I couldn’t relate to this per se (I am a WAHM – Work At home Mom), I realized that every mom, faces different challenges, even when unified by the fact that they are a single parent. Our conversation carried on for well over an hour. She mentioned the fact that she was depressed during her first trimester. Once, she locked herself up in the house for a fortnight – young, alone, pregnant, jobless- with no contact with anyone. Rolling on the floor, clutching her tummy, wondering what future existed for her and her inborn boy. This felt so familiar, eerily so.

Long story short, she did find her footing, got a job at 6 months pregnant (Would you believe that!) and has been able to raise her son thus far; he is seven years now. I remarked I’d never have figured she was depressed, ever. It reminded me of this post where I shared my thoughts on living a masked life. Depression, and especially Postpartum Depression, does not have a structure, form or shape it comes in. Little wonder you hear people commenting (usually after suicide cases), she didn’t look depressed/ he didn’t appear like anything was bothering him / I can’t imagine someone would kill their own child and kill themselves…

The conversation was also a gentle reminder to be kind to others. I try to remember that everyone is going through their life’s issues, many are fighting battles we would otherwise never know about. Showing grace and kindness, even in the midst of our own difficult experiences, could be the very last hope that someone needs, someone clutching on to the end of their rope’s strands. It goes a long long way.

Talking and connecting with her also amplified the need to share our stories. To raise our voices and create awareness of mental health issues, of which PPD is one of them. Speaking boldly about our challenges and struggles to stop the stigma that society we have against those who suffer depression. Through this blog, I hope a mom is encouraged, even if it’s just one mom. I came online looking for help, and mom blogs where moms shared their PPD journey and struggles gave me hope. I knew I was not alone in this. There is hope, I’d wish to extend the same grace to a mom in need.

Featured Image photo credits: Cauldrons and Cupcakes

Day 21 – The Place of Vulnerability

Today is Day 21 of the 30 day writing challenge, a challenge which has allowed me to learn so much more than just putting up Postpartum Depression-related posts. 9 days to go. While at it, S/O to all those who take time to read this blog, I see you guys in Poland, India and Mauritius too 🙂

Yesterday I shared five of the many blogs that have been instrumental in my life here. Mulling over the impact of these posts, the words that have so often spoken to my heart as well as the experiences of my fellow bloggers brought one thing to light. A common similarity emerged of all the sites: the five and the host of others that I visit constantly.

It was amazing to realize that as diverse as the blogs are, they were unified by the need to remain authentic, true to the lessons they have learnt over the years. Painful lessons, but necessary ones. To share with the world all these lessons calls for some bit of vulnerability. Here’s why: it is opening up about your *dark for some of us* past, bearing most of what many would consider a private life, and ultimately revealing a struggle, a deep-seated issue and the journey through it all.

This is not an easy thing, since then it opens up one’s life to scrutiny. You have people reading and following your blog silently, watching from a distance. It is easy to feel the pressure to impress by omitting these otherwise lackluster portions of our lives. There’s no harm in providing the highlights of the show, just let me retain the original script, so it is easy to think. This way perhaps, I can remain masked without having to pull off the layers that have camouflaged my ashen face.

I have discovered something beautiful even in the midst of these thoughts. That it is this vulnerability that makes it easy for people to relate to different issues. It is the vulnerability in talking about been suicidal that allow other moms to know that they are not alone. It is the vulnerability of wondering how to balance spirituality, motherhood, work, friendships and still create time for myself, that allows other moms to know that it is okay not to look for perfection.

It is the place of feeling exposed in handling issues that leave us flummoxed, wondering where to start, that allows divine grace to step in. When we accept out struggles, share our journeys, and embrace the place of vulnerability, then we are best placed to be open to the possibility of healing and restoration, not just in our lives, but in the lives of those around us.

Featured Image Photo credits: Linked 2 Leadership

Day 10 – Angst

This is Day 10 of my 30 day writing challenge. A third of the challenge done *insert the Sauti Sol lipala dance here*. It is as exciting as it is eye-opening. I have met and connected with so many other strong moms online. I am grateful, humbled that my PPD journey would encourage a mom, and let them know they are not alone.

September is Suicide Prevention Month and this brought to memory my struggle with feeling suicidal at a time when everything felt so overwhelming. Anyone who has felt suicidal before knows too well the hopelessness that comes with this choice; the utter darkness that engulfs one’s world, so that day and night cease to be different. Below I share my experience.

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That Monday began like any other, only that as the hours progressed (snail paced if you asked me), I figured this is how heavy pregnant bloated elephants must feel. EDD was just two days away, and all I wanted was the baby out, ouutt, outtttt! So, aside from my super cravings and 6 miles-a-day walks, I’d done all I could to ensure pregnancy went well, especially after that threatened miscarriage 8 weeks into my pregnancy.

The contractions came, first at intervals, then seemingly every second. The night seemed so so long, I knew the hour was near. Hauled my bag into the car and got to hospital about 7am, wheeled into the labour ward. At this point, unprintables coursed through my head because there really are no words to explain that pain. Physically though, I broke into singing wakorino songs, I could even hear the drum beats in my head.

45 minutes after I got wheeled into the ward, my son was born weighing about 6.5lbs. I couldn’t believe this was done. It was a beautiful moment, and as I was wheeled to the recovery room, I couldn’t help but envision the start of a new chapter. Motherhood was right here. It was beautiful to hold him in my hands, his then-light skin (he has since plastered enough dust on his face and turned to mocha brown) creating a sharp contrast with my dark ebony glowing post-pregnancy skin. His tiny hands, his hair, his eyes… everything about him was beautiful.

Sitting barely able to sit in the recovery ward, and I envisioned how perfect my imperfect life would be. The next day I got home (it was a normal delivery) and the reality of motherhood sunk. See, you just can’t wake up and decide you putting been a mom on hold. You remain one to the end.

The thing which I perhaps overlooked was the change of sleeping patterns. One day you are barely able to sleep because the elephantine belly has a life of its own nudging your bladder and giving your stomach a hi-5; the next day you can’t sleep because baby deems it fit to sleep during the day and stare blankly in the dead of the night.

My son, in his first month or so, slept at intervals of 15 minutes. 15 freaking minutes, he is snoring, the next two hours he is awake, only to sleep for another half hour. I figured I might as well sit on the couch, I’d never sleep at that rate. Only then did I learn that sleep deprivation has the subtle capacity to make one go nuts, least of all a new mom.

He’d cry a lot ( I was stressed during my pregnancy, in retrospect, it may have affected his first few weeks of life), and many times, I’d cry with him, out of frustration, out of anger, out of just-what-the-hell-is-this? Aren’t-moms-meant-to-get=their-act-together? Those bouts of tears, hot tears that create a lump in the throat, the kind of tears that make you choke… those tears. Many times I did not know what to do when I’d burped him, changed his diaper, breastfed him, yet he would still cry incessantly.

This bit brings tears to my eyes. One particular instance is etched in my memory. As was with many days, the memories of my son’s first few weeks are hazy, like peering through sea water with your eyes open and you can’t quite see clearly… He’d cried for hours on end. I was home alone, I changed his diaper and fed him. Then burped him and rubbed his tummy. And he just wouldn’t stopped crying. I rocked him, God, I rocked him for hours, and nothing changed.

I could feel that all-so-familiar bitterness and frustration welling inside my heart. It shot from the deepest part of my heart, right through to my tear ducts. And the torrential tears came down, landing on my son’s shawl. This angst I couldn’t bear. I looked at him, no, he didn’t deserve a (bad) mommy like me who couldn’t get her stuff together. He deserved better, but why couldn’t I just be that mom? I was trying so hard but these bouts of incessant shrill sharp cries were driving me crazy. I knew I needed help, I just didn’t know what this ugly dark, dreary, desolate phase was (later learnt it was PostPartum Depression, PPD).

I took off his shawl, stared at him in the face, shouted something I can’t remember, and beat him. At five months. His fragile diapered bottom bore the brunt of my frustrations. No one could understand me, what I was going through, the bitterness, the anger, the frustration. The more I beat him, the more he cried, the more I cried. I couldn’t take it anymore.

I closed my eyes for a moment. In that moment, I walked to the kitchen. The knife on the window sill glistened in the mid-morning sun. My son’s cucu had sharpened it a few days ago. It would be ideal, quick, and it would end this silent torment. I picked it and walked to my son, still swaddled in the beautiful shawl grandma had bought for him. This would be real fast, I’d slide it into his fragile 3-week old back. I could feel blood in my hands, fresh, warm and scarlet. But how’d i live with my actions? I wouldn’t live, suicide would be the answer. I opened my eyes, and in that moment, I knew I wanted life to be over, for both of us.

***

My son is now 5, and I count myself blessed, because when I was on the edge, my fam’s presence and support (unknowingly) kept me hanging on. That, coupled with a vibrant online community of warrior moms who had made it through and ultimately, God’s grace (even when I couldn’t see it or feel it) kept me. It is why I am passionate about PPD, so that if by been vocal one mommy out there can know they are never alone, then let me talk about it. Grateful for now, for healing, for the miracle that my son is in my life.

PS: This post was inspired by the need to create awareness about PPD and suicide. So much stigma is associated with people who have had suicidal thoughts/ those who have died from suicide. It is time we stopped the stigma, one post at a time. My good friend Kimberly Zapata shares her journey too at Sunshine Spoils Milk. Yall should also check out Sitawa Wafula’s work too on #openspaces this weekend at the Sondeka Festival.

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