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How I beat my depression

Depression is one of the biggest psychological disorders that we, particularly men, struggle with, writes  Malashi Lucky Mabunda.

Although the illness affects twice as many women as men, females are much more likely to seek treatment. Men, in contrast, carry on in silence which means our condition often remains undiagnosed, until it’s too late. In many cases, most men take their lives and sometimes even end the lives of their loved ones. As a result, mental health experts are calling male depression a hidden epidemic and asking women to look out for signs in their husbands and partners.

I was in an 11 – year relationship when I found out that my partner, who is the mother of our two kids was cheating. I found them red-handed, so there was no denial, but she still tried to deny it. I have previously lost seven close family members through death. My father, uncle, three sisters, a brother and best friend in a space of five successive years. Strangely, I managed to come to terms and coped with their passing. However, the cheating destroyed me. I immediately went into depression. I received lots of support from my friends. I didn’t tell my family because I knew how bad they would feel for me, so I kind of protected them from my pain, and also protected her from them. I was heartbroken but I still loved her and I wanted to fix things. She was in a new love, in a euphoria stage. The more I tried to reach out to her, the further she went away from me and the deeper I got into a dark hole. I became hopeless and defeated, nothing excited me anymore.

The pain was deeper than the pain I felt for losing my family members. What? Hell no, no ways, I can hear some of you saying this. I have been told that she is not my mother’s child, therefore I should forget about her and move on. Come on, you are a handsome man, you can get any woman that you want, some would say. Leave her alone, she is going to regret it, you can’t force someone to love you…blah, blah, blah. I know those friends meant well and I appreciate their efforts and support. But how do I just move on from an eleven- year relationship? What about my kids? These were some of my concerns. I know I am not the only one to experience this, but when it happens to you, you face it and feel everything as an individual. And that is painful, I wouldn’t wish it to happen to you or anyone else. The challenge is, it is inevitable at times. It’s the risk that comes with being in a relationship.

Falling in and out of love, separation and divorce is unfortunately part and parcel of a relationship, which means I am not the only one who has gone through this painful experience. I can bet my last cent, I am unfortunately not going to be the last one, but life should go on. I know my friends meant well and wished for me to recover and recover, but perhaps what they didn’t realise is that I didn’t see this as just losing a partner. I was losing someone that I never thought I would lose, someone I had spent over a decade with, someone I thought I would grow old with, the mother of my beautiful kids. I was losing my dream of seeing my kids raised by both biological parents under the same roof; I wanted to wake them up every morning and get them ready for school and make sure their homework gets done. That is how I interpreted my loss. I was devastated and I started acting weird. I was not in a good space to process and make sense of all that was happening. My world was turned upside-down and I didn’t see it coming. Everything seems to have happened so fast.

I struggled to cope and I started getting sick and lost a lot of weight. I became even darker. I lost self-esteem and a sense of control, I felt like I was no longer a man enough. I lost confidence and a sense of control.  My life felt like a long boring horror movie which would just never end. The pain was too much, it felt like a sharp sword had penetrated my heart. I couldn’t take it, neither face it, nor accept it. It was just too much to take in and at times I felt like I was suffocating. Sometimes I wished I could burst out and cry but there were no tears, sometimes not even a sound. I had insomnia, I couldn’t sleep, and worse I could hardly eat. I lost a lot of weight as a result. I am lean naturally, so you can just image a slender man having lost some weight. I managed to fall asleep one night, and I had a dream whereby I was crying. I woke up to find that I have been literally crying. I had tears running down my cheeks. I was staying alone so nobody could hear me.

I became suicidal; the thoughts of ending my life would come from time to time.

I just wanted to end the pain and misery that I was going through. However, each time I thought of doing it, I would think of my children and I got some strength to hold on for another day. So I couldn’t do it, I could not make my kids grow without a father, and I couldn’t put my family through the pain of losing another family member. I started going to the gym again and started praying again and I slowly recovered and gained some strength. Though I felt defeated and hopeless, I am so grateful to God for enabling me to make that conscious decision. It wasn’t’ an easy decision to choose life and pain over death and “peace”.

Given this situation, others would have accepted it from the word go and move on, whereas others would have killed their partner and probably the boyfriend as well, and then kill themselves too. Others would have struggled to take and accept it like I did.  Each of us is unique; each of us has our own “world”. We have our own way of looking at and understanding our environment. One situation may exist, but two individuals may interpret that same situation in very different ways. And it’s because of our own interpretations, judgements and evaluations. What we are, governs our perceptions. Our attitudes determine the quality of our perceptions. Since we think, feel, act, and process information based not on reality, but rather on our perception of reality, in a world of multiple realities, it is essential to examine our own attitudes or mind-sets. As we do this, we find that we are always confronted by a choice to either react, based on our history, expectations, and past perceptions, or we can make a conscious decision to generate a response in the moment, based on our values and commitments. We must be present to our own thoughts, feelings, and sensations to make conscious choices.

Most of the fears that people have are based on assumptions that have not been tested. And most untested assumptions are simply not true. They live as ghosts and monsters in your head, but they are not real. We live in very interesting times, where it’s actually risky to be safe because in most cases, you are never in charge of the events that take place around you. Change is the only constant thing that I can bet my last cent on, whether good or bad, I am not sure. For centuries we have operated on the motion of survival of the fittest, that s/he who is strongest will win. Worse, Covid-19 came and changed this narrative. It proved to us that this assumption was wrong, or it’s outdated. Generally, success today is not about strength, it’s about your ability to adapt to new circumstances. Over the past years more circumstances have changed and the rate is accelerating. You have to be open-minded. You have to learn to be flexible.

Sometimes the worst thing to happen to you, as hard as it may seem, could be actually the best thing to happen. Stop seeing problems and passing blame. Start making things happen for yourself. Some of the misfortunes that happen to you are blessings in disguise. Some tragedies in life are more than an invitation to grow. Some of these events are exciting and uplifting; others are painful and burdensome. Yet, all of these events have one thing in common: they’re going to challenge you in ways that you may never have been challenged before. If you have the courage to meet each of those challenges as they come — no matter how devastating they may appear to you — you will emerge from the encounter a stronger and more self-reliant person.
Our struggle turns to wisdom to teach us that hard times do not last for ever.  Taxed to the ultimate, we pull through in the end. From each new struggle we learn that this too shall pass.

I met someone and I am happier. I don’t think I would be this happy if I hadn’t been hard done-by before. I would still be stuck in that relationship. I am still alive and my children still have a father. Life goes on, no matter what.

Malashi Lucky Mabunda is a Counsellor, Facilitator, Assessor, Motivational Speaker

(Twitter: @malashi_mabunda) (Instagram: malashi_mabunda5), (Facebook: malashimabunda)

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