Written by Siphokazi Mjijwa
At the beginning of 2020, just before I was diagnosed with severe depression, I noticed something, and it was more of a pattern that had been going on for some time. I always picked arguments with my husband. I would just pick an argument over small and unnecessary stuff, and I would refuse to listen to his reasons or explanations. It was more like I wanted to be mad at him and then sad. I remember he called me out on it one day, and he felt like I just enjoyed arguing and being sad. I denied it, of course, and he gave me another reason to be mad and sad when he said that. However, deep down in my heart, I knew he was right. This was something I had been trying to figure out for some time, and I had noticed that I seemed to find delight in starting these arguments with the goal of being sad. It was like I got a kick out of being sad, so I’d do anything for it. I know it sounds crazy, and that’s probably why I never said anything to my husband.
It was only when I started going to therapy that things began to make sense. I realized that I was addicted to sadness. I was addicted to depression. I may not know exactly when the depression started, it must have been in my high school years when I started dissociating or perhaps sometime earlier, but all I know is that I’ve been struggling mentally for as long as I can remember. I’ve been depressed for as long as I can recall, even though I had no idea it was depression. This means I lived with depression for a long time. When people rejected me, depression befriended me and became my closest companion, when the world hurt me, depression acted as a protector and became my safe space. It isolated me from everything and everyone under the guise of keeping me safe, and it became my life. I didn’t know life apart from it. It was the only thing I knew; hence, I was drawn to it, so it was hard to part ways with it. Depression was all I knew, even though it was slowly eating me up and sucking the very life out of me.
I remember crying in one of my therapy sessions one day, saying I just want to be happy; I just want to be normal. However, the following day I was crying out of fear. I had no idea what real happiness felt like, and I had no idea what being normal felt like. Even on the days when I thought I was happy, the cloud of depression was always hovering above me, and I had never experienced total pleasure. I just had no life apart from depression, and depression was my life. How was I supposed to give up something I knew too well for something I did not know? I remember there were times when the feeling of despair would disappear, and I would find myself searching for it, and I would get scared when it wasn’t there. I would feel like something was wrong when I couldn’t feel it, then I would do anything to get it back, even if it meant picking an argument with my husband or trying to find something negative that I could think about, anything to get the emotion back. The thought of letting go of the feeling was scary, even though the feeling was so heavy to bear and so soul-crushing and heart-breaking when it came. I was addicted to despair and a slave to depression. How can one be so attracted to the very thing that’s destroying her, the very thing that’s ripping her apart?
By the grace of God, I’m now in a much better space. I pushed through therapy, and I didn’t give up even at times when I felt like it was stripping me naked and taking away everything I knew about myself. It turned out I’m a much better person than the person I didn’t want to lose, and it turned out there’s more to life than what depression gave me. I finally feel like I’m living, I’m normal, I’m happy, and my happiness is not clouded by fog or darkness. This is not to say I no longer get sad, and the depression is completely gone. I still get sad at times, but I’m no longer attracted to it, I no longer search for it, I’m no longer drawn to it, it has now become a feeling like all other feelings. Depression may still be there, but it no longer has power over me. I’m no longer the imposter it made me, I’m no longer a slave to it, and I’m no longer addicted to it.
Siphokazi Mjijwa is a wife, mother, an aspiring writer, administrator, Xhosa tutor, and mental health advocate. Her own struggles with anxiety and depression coaxed her to start blogging and sharing her own experiences to raise awareness and educate people on mental health issues (Specifically, anxiety and depression).You may find Siphokazi at https://instagram.com/livingwithanxiety_depression and https://maspokana.wixsite.com/livingwithdepression.