From my childhood to teenage years, I’ve felt a deep sense of emptiness and loneliness in my life. Now, it doesn’t mean I’m always alone. It doesn’t mean I haven’t found what matters to me. It doesn’t mean I don’t love or know myself. It’s just what I’ve felt. There’s been that certain sadness in me that lingers.
I used to harbor suicidal thoughts. I wondered what it would feel like… I wondered whether, if I hurt myself, then maybe someone would notice and care that I was in pain. But I never attempted any of that because I was too afraid… After all, it’s not that I really wanted to end my life; it’s that I wanted to stop feeling empty and alone. I wanted more meaning. I wanted to connect on a deeper level beyond casual friendships and acquaintances. I don’t know if you understand what I mean.
During my days as a student, I used school work and activities to cover it up. My breaking point was after graduation, during my first job. I felt depleted and mentally drained because I didn’t know what I was working toward. It felt as though all my efforts to be and live in America were in vain. I had been working hard so I could have a certain life, yet I wasn’t able to obtain the visa sponsorship I needed to stay. For several months, I would be up early hours in the morning crying. I didn’t have much of an appetite. My last year in New York, I felt broken.
Coming back to Nigeria has not been easy for me. I initially felt like a failure because it was not part of my plan. I felt alone because I had to start my life again and get used to the system and structure of life here. Doing Nigeria’s National Youth Service Corps did, however, help me get used to things and also get some experience with my passion for media. But even now, not yet having full-time employment is not an easy thing to handle.
So, that’s my mental health story. Now, I can’t say I’ve been able to fully overcome all my struggles, but I can say I have felt better and had more moments of being genuinely happy than I used to in my past. This is because I make more efforts to work on my mental health. All the things I do to work on my mental health are below.
1. I do what matters to me.
Writing is therapeutic for me. It always has been. Writing is the way I feel I can express myself best. Writing is healing. Writing is my way of being authentic and trying to connect with others like myself. I love writing. I love it and continuing to write and having a blog helps me with my mental health. I look at my website and it makes me happy to have a place where I can be me. I can share my perspective. Writing is the number one thing that has helped me with my mental health.
2. I go out and be involved.
Being stuck in my head too much is never a great thing for me. That’s why when I’m available to go out, I do. Going out and being in a different environment puts me in a good headspace. It takes me away from the issues and stresses in my life. I especially enjoy putting myself in places that align with the person I am. The things I care about are arts, literature, women empowerment and volunteer work.
When I found out about Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative, it lit me up because I’ve been trying to work on my mental health. Through the organization, I want to learn and be better educated on mental health for myself, as well as to help others.
So doing things that align with me is a way of nourishing my soul. It’s what leads to my genuine happiness.
3. I pray to God.
I don’t know what I would do or be without my faith in God. I carry on with my days because I believe in God. I believe there will come a time when I will not feel an emptiness. I believe there will come a time when God will fill my life with the things I lack. I keep praying that he will. I’ve had moments where he has promised me this. That is why I continue to carry on because I trust that joy is mine to have. I trust that experiences filled with an abundance of genuine happiness, love and connection is mine to have.
4. I release and share my emotions.
Being able to express my emotions helps me a lot with my mental health. I can’t hold everything in all the time. So when I cry, it’s a release that makes me feel better. When I write, it’s a release that makes me feel better. When I talk to someone, it’s a release that makes me feel better.
5. I exercise.
I’m always talking about how much I love to exercise. This is because it’s had such a positive impact on my mindset. Exercise makes me feel good. Exercise gives me confidence. It helps me to eliminate my worries, stress and anxieties. Having a physical activity in my life has greatly impacted my mental health.
Truthfully, it’s hard for me to write and share my emotional wounds with you. I’m the person who tries to smile often and be active. When people say “Oh, you’re a happy person, You’re enjoying yourself,” all I do is smile back. Most people don’t know about my personal struggles.
However, though I’m a bit uncomfortable with my vulnerabilities out in the open, I feel free. I needed to write this so I can let that pain go. Also, being authentic and writing about things like this gives me joy. It brings me joy to share who I am and connect with you. I hope this post provides some comfort to anyone out there struggling with things you might feel embarrassed to talk about. I get it. You are not alone.
A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog.