Over six years ago, in the middle of my first year in university and after my first silent protest, I got up the courage to tell my mother of the sexual violence that happened to me as a child. Her reaction was silence. Followed by demands to know who hurt me. I refused to tell her who it was, mostly because I was scared of naming the person, but also because I felt that if I mentioned the person my violation would have been brought to question and nullified.
But I left that conversation many years ago with so much anger and dislike for my mother. I felt as if she had failed me, by focusing on who the person was, she had neglected to check in on me. And that was the reason I was telling her. I had expected her to ask me how I am, how I am coping, do I need help? None of those questions came that night, or for many years later.
Last year, my uncle, my mother’s only brother unsuccessfully attempted to kill himself only to end up alive and in critical condition before eventually dying a few months later. Over the course of his last days in life, my mother started to read about depression and how it can affect someone’s life. One day out of nowhere, in that same time frame, she calls me to tell me how worried she is about me and how I should consider seeing a therapist.
I broke down. I wept. For over a week I became an inconsolable emotional wreck. I may have even broken down at work a couple of times. Now that I think about it, this incidence happened just as I was sinking into what I thought then was my worst case of depression ever.
What hit me was the fact that all along I had been trying to fix myself on my own, going for therapy whenever I could afford it and now that her brother was dying she wanted to peep in on me. I was SO mad that her own flesh and blood did not move her to do that amount of research. I think, in a way, it also made me feel unloved and unwanted and it all just hurt way too much. It hurt so much and I was never ready for it.
From mid-March and the whole of April of this year I was in another state of depression. This one was in fact much worse than the last one, it appears that the depth of my depression keeps getting worse with each visit that it makes to my mind and body. But this one was the worst because I was sure I wanted to die and was pretty much ready for it.
There were so many mornings when I woke up and felt such a huge disappointment at still being here, at still being alive. I lost so much weight my bones were jutting out of my body and people that knew me and saw me in that space of time were scared for me. I was under weight, anxious and depressed.
Towards the end of April, my mother walks into my room, sits across me and says, “you need to eat”. I think by this point I did not even have the energy to fight her so I walked with her into the kitchen where she gave me a bowl of porridge (my mother strongly believes in porridge and its ability to heal people). Without asking, this woman put me on a diet of porridge every morning for two weeks and made sure I ate all three meals in a day.
Through all of this, I was talking to someone I met recently who has been trying to help me get comfortable with confronting the hurtful things/people in my life. I decided then that my mother would be the first person I would confront. Mostly because we lived together and my dislike of her was constantly present. If there was any way I could beat this round of depression, I needed to have that conversation with her.
The conversation happened and I cried more than I spoke, in all honesty I cried whilst I spoke so I am not sure she heard everything I was saying, but it was clear that I was hurt and hurting. We eventually had a conversation where she pointed out all the times she had tried to help that had somehow not made it to my memory box.
When I told her about being sexually violated, she did demand to know who it was, but days later she took me to see our family doctor. A couple of years ago, when I first moved back to Tanzania, she did the same thing. Neither of these worked out for reasons such as they believed that depression is a white man’s problem and that I was just being overly dramatic.
Fast forward to the last couple of months where even I couldn’t hide the depression I had been fighting for years. During the conversation my mother literally said, “Do you think we do not know? I am your mother and I know everything, haven’t you noticed how me and your dad have been trying our best to make you happy over the last months? You just keep refusing to let us in.”
As we were having this conversation it hit me that there was so much going on around me, with regards to how I relate to the people in my space that I was not seeing. Yes, my mother did not handle the news the way I expected her to (I have always wondered how she would have reacted if I told her that that wasn’t my last sexual assault) but she did try to help me and has been trying to help me.
I realised that my mother, well my parents have been there for me, more so this year than any other year. But I was so wallowed up in this hurt and anger that I did not notice. I was also so busy letting my low self-esteem and anxiety dictate how i viewed how people relate to me.
So I am learning how to notice when people are trying to love me and learning how to silence the voices in my head that often stop me from noticing.
It’s been a good two weeks of being fine in my head. The conversation was so necessary in helping me come out of that phase of my depression and in helping me mend fences with my mother. I haven’t felt this amount of love and appreciation for her since I was a child and it feels good to not be resentful of the woman that birthed me. I am now more open to sharing and getting help from her.
I still do have random break downs and bad mental health days, but I am depression free for now. I have also started taking note of all the things that trigger my break downs. This helps me keep track of what is happening in my head and why it is happening. Someday, I will be at peace in my head.
To my new friend who insists that confrontation is the best way to heal, thank you.