What you need to know about depression:
- It is one of the most common types of mental health conditions and often develops alongside anxiety
- It can lead to suicide, but this is preventable when appropriate support is provided
- Mostly happens as a reaction to something like abuse, violence in school, the death of someone close, or family problems like domestic violence or family breakdown
- It can show up in children and adolescents as prolonged periods of unhappiness or irritability
- It is quite common among older children and teenagers, but often goes unrecognized
By: David Njoroge
An old proverb once stated that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Beauty is often a reflection of what our eyes perceive. As we walk down the streets and encounter different people we often never think of what they are going through or what demons they are fighting in their lives, so next time you meet a stranger make sure you’re kind.
As you meet her you would never think of the trauma she had endured in her life, A soft-spoken, well-groomed, and bubbly personality is how you can describe Alice, a third-year student studying business studies. Just like any girl, you would find her in the company of her friends in the cafeteria laughing and interacting with people, but behind that smile is years of depression and physical abuse.
“It started when I was 12 years,” She said as we started our conversation.
Coming from a family of five Alice was the only girl and that meant she had to compete with her male siblings.
“I was the only girl and coming from the Masai community was even harder” She added.
During her childhood, she had to do the household chores that were expected of her while her brothers had the time to play and discover things.
“I had dreams of being a pilot,” She said.
However, things went downhill when the death of their mother took them by surprise. She was only 11 when her mother passed away.
“It was the lowest moment in my life” she wiped tears from her face.
The family had to be supported fully by their father who worked as a teacher. Times were hard because their father had to feed five children and educate them all. That took a toll on her father and the loss of their mother also destroyed her father emotionally, he ended up indulging in alcohol consumption as a getaway.
“My dad would come home drunk and cause all manner of trouble,” She said.
The alcohol soon turned into hard drugs and the family was soon falling apart. One day as she came home from school she found her father home already drunk, and that day was to open another chapter of her life, one she never thought would ever be.
“He hit me with a beer bottle almost knocking me unconscious” With a blank stare on her face.
That day marked another chapter of her life, the physical abuse began there. She stated that she even loathed the idea of coming home from school. It was a hard period in her childhood having encountered physical abuse from her own father. After years of trauma, she joined a high school where she tried out drugs to try and numb the pain. The feeling soon became an addiction and soon it caught up with her.
“I got expelled, when I was caught sneaking in a bottle of alcohol,” She said.
And that was just adding insult to injury, the beating that she received at home was one that left her with scars that are visible. During the period she was home, she involved herself with community activities in partnership with her church. A teen group called ‘Teenz connect’ is where she found solace.
The group offered her a platform to occupy herself positively rather than engage in harmful behavior. The presence of many young people made her feel parts of herself that she had never experienced. The teen leader was also of importance because of the guidance and counseling that she provided to these young teens.
“The church became my second home” she added with a smile on her face.
During this period is where she started understanding herself.
“I discovered I could sing, in fact very well” she added.
The church offered her opportunities to perform and gather up courage in her new profound love, which was singing. As time flew by, she began participating in events that were held at church.
During this crucial part of her life, she got to meet an individual who changed the way she perceived her scars. His name was John, and in no time they were head over heels in love with each other. John was also from an abusive family and he also underwent physical abuse from his father. Alice finally completed high school and with the help of well-wishers, she got enrolled in St Paul’s university.
“I never thought I would be a university student, I had thought of being nothing in society” She added.
She insisted that where we come from should not determine where we are going. As you walk past her in the corridors, with her warm smile and charming character one would never think of what she has had to endure in her life. She is now studying with the aim of creating awareness of the effects of depression and physical abuse through platforms such as the Rotaract club. She is also working hand in hand with her community and church in order to change the way people perceive women and especially women who have been scarred.
“If it was not the church, then I don’t know where I would be” She quoted
Truly, never judge a book by only looking at the cover. Be kind to the stranger you meet on the street, a smile on their face may be hiding a lifetime of tears. Next time before you open your mouth to judge the scars on a person’s body, make sure you first understand what happened to them. Depression is also an issue that needs the required attention, because of its severity of it, it has been the key cause of many suicides in society today.
As a parting shot, check on your bubbly friends, they’re the ones that hide it well. Take care of yourselves and those around you. There is beauty beneath the scars.