The Story in My Tears: Depression and the African Christian

I was a hypersensitive person with an insulated character. At an early age, I had learned the painful reality that no one was listening. The curious questions I had, the troubles I faced and the dreams that haunted me. They were all a destructive noise best ignored than voiced. I don’t know why I believed that. But I did.

My mother always checked on me. Maybe she knew her son was a troubled soul. But she never said anything. As stars declared bliss in a glimpse of eternity, my mother would sneak into my bedroom to check on me. There, in the middle of the night, she would find me buried in my books. “Go to sleep,” she would say in a voice trying hard but failing to be angry. She was proud of me.

My mother would send someone to check on me every time she didn’t see or hear me. I still don’t know why because I wasn’t the youngest.

But something tells.

Depression and the Family

Several times, she found me drowned in tears, “Why are you crying?” Ashamed of being found out, I would quickly wipe my face and mutter, “Nothing.” The sad thing is it was true. Burst of tears frequented my face often for no reason that I knew of. I would try hard to hide the tears but it seems my mother always knew.

These moments of weeping were our secret. She never told anyone but I knew it bothered her more. Mother compensated her ignorance to her child’s mental well-being by showering him with praise in public. I was a talented, creative and obedient child, she would say. But she never told them that many times she found me crying for no reason.

Depression and the Prophet

I know she once visited a prophet to consult on my spiritual health. Holy water and a thread to tie around the waist. These things were supposed to offer protection against demonic spirits. I remember sitting embarrassed at school; no one knew I had a thing around my waist or I had washed and drank holy water. But I knew and that was the problem.

It didn’t work because later it became worse. It was a little bit after 8 pm, my mother was chatting with a neighbor. My brothers and I were sleeping, at least that’s what she thought. I was awake but then started to hallucinate. It was weird and scary. Imagine the horror of a visual and auditory hallucination.

Depression and the Medicine Woman

“I have a herb that can help him,” the Good Samaritan said. “Your child is gifted and not everyone is happy about it. They are doing this to him so that he won’t amount to anything in life.” Our neighbor knew the secret life of the spiritual realm. After all, her mother was famed for being the spirit medium of Nehanda.

My mother rubbed some herbs on me carefully following our neighbor’s advice. If there was anyone bewitching me, their concoction was powerful. Because the herbs didn’t work. I can’t say it got worse, rather nothing changed. Everything would be fine for a while then I would find myself soaked in tears.

Depression and the Young Man

It’s quite funny that these episodes were private. I only cried for no reason when I was alone. As an introvert, I was always alone with my books. I guess that’s why the secret survived for more than 20 years, until today.

There’s one episode that stands out to me. I was now in high school and busy studying and I started crying. My mother walked in and found me in tears. She was angry, I was a 15-year-old boy crying for no reason. As a man, I was supposed to man up. And it 15, I was supposed to have grown up. But this time, I knew why I was crying.

Depression and the Roots

I went to study because I wanted to mask a morbid thought. No, I was never suicidal. But something happened that made my mind spiral until it found itself in a world where my mother was no more. Mind you, she was healthy and there was no indication she would die soon. But my mind took me there and I couldn’t imagine living without her.

So, I cried. “Why are you crying?” My mother said, trying hard to be strong but I could sense the brokenness and dejection in her voice. She didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t tell her that my mind took me to a place where she was not there. How could I?

Depression and the Christian

Less than a year later, that morbid thought became a reality – it’s now 16 years. My mother died without knowing why her child always cried. She died before I told her I love her.

Today, I realize that the involuntary crying did not start until my father died. Maybe I was living in fear of losing another parent. But the prophet and the herbalist did not agree. And the church said I was demon possessed and didn’t fully understand Paul’s words, “Be anxious of nothing.”

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