I was in Silver Springs, Maryland : age 11, completely lost in thought. In my head I was beautiful 25 year old actress, married to a wonderful husband (who was not just kind, but also faithful. Growing in up Sierra Leone, I could count on just one hand, how many men I knew were faithful to their wives, and I didn’t know what being faithful meant, but I knew I wanted it. In fact, I felt I deserved it, “for all the tears I have cried in the past,” I said, “God will send me a loving and faithful husband”). I would tell him about the war, how scared I was and he would listen, not just hear me, listen. No one listened to kids back then; children were funny, good or stubborn, but never to really be listened to….”wetin pikin sabi sef,” (“what do children really know”), I would constantly hear that, but I wanted to be listened to.So, I decided that when I was 25, I’d be happy; I would have my loving and faithful husband, I would be a beautiful working actress and people would listen to me.
On May 9th 2016, I turned 25, quietly in my one bedroom apartment; Facebook clambered with beautiful praises of how I have affected people’s live (classmates, co-workers and family), my parents who rarely celebrate things called to celebrate me, and my sister, my sister who “hates these things,” (anything mushy) made a Facebook post about me (I think that on the list of “these things” she hates, mushy Facebook posts about family is at the very top, so, imagine how surprised I was). However the months before then had been numbing; I found myself breaking down over the smallest things ; snide remarks cut swiftly through my thick armor of faith I had built over the years. I had the degree I had struggled for, people were starting to listen, and potential husband I had painfully walked away from. I had many reasons to be proud of myself but the dreams of that 11 year old girl in Maryland relentlessly condemned me, I felt like I had failed her. I believed I had failed myself. I was lonely, still struggling financial (as most twenty somethings do, however, we tend to feel alone in the struggle), feeling completely beaten by my job and ashamed of the fact that I wasn’t doing much of what I loved. I was alone, broke and frustrated; the perfect recipe for depression.
When I was a child, I wrote my family (I was staying with an aunt and uncle at the time, while my parents worked in another country), letter stating that I was going to kill myself. My uncle found the letter and locked me up in my room so that “you(I) can think about the rubbish you(I) wrote.”I sat there looking around at my messy room, and devised a plan of action to get out of his house and become an actress…less than a year later, I was in a boarding school in Swaziland, happier and studying acting. I have always had a plan of action even at the age of 11, and a strong faith in God (and in things working out for the greater good), but here I was 25, feeling like I had played all my cards, and ran out of moves.I felt stuck, check-mate. I felt like a loser, I felt stupid for feeling like a loser and the cycle fed itself. I couldn’t reach out to anyone: I am the vibrant girl that everyone comes to,the joker, the advisor…how do I now become the one who needs help, and in such an intangible way. I need someone to help me without asking why I felt the right to feel the way I did, there are many gaps in the story, somethings I’m just not ready to speak openly about, but believe you me, I had a whole pandora’s box of things to feel plagued by. I wanted to die, to end it all…but I knew I could not kill myself, (even in my low moments, I felt compelled to my faith, suicide meant hell to me, I couldn’t bare the thought of leaving the pain I was feeling only to delve into a deeper hurt). I had to make God do it, I believed if I begged him-convinced Him hard enough he would do it; God would take me out. Each night, I’d prepare to go peacefully and thank Him for taking me, and every morning when I woke up, ALIVE, I felt DEFEATED. I had to show up, but I told no one, who would listen.
A month and several quiet break downs later, I turned 25. This thing I had dreaded had come and there I was; no bomb blast, no shaming mobs, I was just alive. I got up and for the first time in three months, I really thanked God, “well, if this is not the end, then perhaps there is a card I haven’t played yet.” That night I had strong feeling that I was going to move. A month later and two weeks later, I sold what I could, gave away whatever I thought could serve people and moved to California. I had been really ashamed of the whole experience and some how and managed to make an impromptu testimony of it at an international conventional (I remember feeling terrified and stained by my depression, and just plain foolish). Here I was in America, working, and still feeling like nothing. But it happens. And as I began to speak up, I learned that many people, yes including educated Africans like myself had similar experiences. The feeling of preferring to die than to be anything less that what their 11 year old selves or their parent’s devised for them. Many had experienced depression and cried themselves to sleep. I was not alone, we were all crazy people pretending to have this thing called happiness.
Its been exactly a month since I moved, and I have been healing. The magnificent things about humans is that, as we break in silence, we can also heal in silence. Each Bible verse, each uplifting conversation, each afternoon meeting with another dreamer brings me closer to that person, that little girl with her recipe for happiness. However, this time, I’ll do her justice by rewriting it, because as much as I still want those three things; a loving and faithful husband, to be a beautiful working actress, and to be listened to, I have earned much more. Happiness is no longer the dream, its just a single piece in a much more color puzzle, my life.
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