The Enemy Behind The Mask

Alcohol-and-Depression-Image-via-healthcasual.com_

I appraised my surroundings…the third mainland bridge

Morning dew glistening in the wake of the sun’s shimmering rays

Birds chirping away in the distance.

The warm Nigerian heat was starting to bake my skin

What would my mother say now?

Probably advice putting on sunscreen…

I smiled wistfully.

The decision had been made. No going back.

 

I was born in a typical family. To the average mother and father.

I believed they were average anyway. What did they do best other than nag and remind me of my shortcomings as a functioning adult?

Father could not understand why I didn’t want to be my own boss.

I should have gone to medical school. Taken over his hospital.

Mother was always looking for a new way to save the world.

Make Nigeria a better place. I was sure my life choices disappointed her too.

I strived daily to make them proud. In my own little way.

 

It was a difficult feat. You may possibly relate.

An only child. Private schools up until university.

Doctor for a father. University vice chancellor for a mother.

My options were limited from birth. Doctor, engineer, lawyer or a disgrace.

With my 1st class degree in international relations, seldom a day passed when I didn’t feel like the latter.

So much pressure to deliver.

 

“If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate”

Father threw me out once I clocked 21.

A firm believer in every man being a “breadwinner”, he just but shoved me into the streets to start fending for myself.

I struggled pitifully, battling loneliness and self-expectations

Never once getting a word of praise or appreciation

Not that I thought it mattered at the time…but now looking back, maybe that would have helped?

 

The adult life was not easy

Much more in the hustling streets of Lagos, Nigeria

My private upbringing rendered me oblivious to the hard life of crime and cheats lurking outside father’s secure gates.

I was allowed home for Christmas…nothing more. Until I got my life together.

As each year passed, my constant calls home lessened in frequency

A lot happened.

Father showed that regardless of the MBBS qualification, no man was above marital infidelity.

Mother decided she was a “strong black independent woman” who did not need a man.

 

I became a child…or adult?? of divorced parents.

I did not hear this until the Christmas after they had divorced. A brief letter from dad, advising me not to bother coming home.

No mother or chicken would be giving me a warm welcome.

 

I tried to contact each parent individually. I needed some love badly

Father had remarried. From what I heard, she was a few years younger than I was.

I was too appalled to investigate any further.

Mother still sends the annual Christmas and birthday gift – she is a mother after all.

But now…

…now the education sector mattered more. She made no secret of her interest in the newly opened Minister for Education post

I needed to grow up. Stop being needy.

I could wait. Politics couldn’t.

I promise you this isn’t made up.

She said as much in her last birthday card

 

Five years after being kicked out, I woke up with a start…had I missed my alarm clock?

After hours of tossing and turning in bed, battling with insomnia, I had drifted off around 3:30am

I shot out of bed. Tumbling in my stride, as I rushed to the shower.

Today was the day. The client was a big one. I couldn’t disappoint…

The boss would never forgive me if I failed.

But as I rushed to start my day, the obvious could not escape me…

So much struggles, dampening my zeal.

 

At first, I almost tripped

And then I tripped and fell

I swore. I cursed

Blast this humanity I have been condemned to.

I refused to look into the mirror. What was the point?

It would be the same hollow emptiness staring back.

Exuding my apparent low mood.

 

I picked up my toothbrush and contemplated whether or not to bother

Did anyone really care if my mouth smelled or not?

Did anyone really see me?

I heaved a sigh…A tired sigh

The fatigue was too much to battle with.

Maybe I should just stay at home

Work was not worth it

It was the same vicious cycle

Client after client…they all merged into one eventually

No one really remembered…and i was just too drained

Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually

 

Anhedonia… The loss of all interest.

it had been creeping up. Slowly. Silently

But ever surely

Gone were the little joys in my life

I did not want to go out for drinks with friends

But was perfectly happy to have a bottle of Remy Martins by myself

Who cared?

 

I finished brushing my teeth…dragging myself through the process…

I had a cold shower..

A temperature which reflected my mood

I donned my usual stripped shirt. Black tailored trousers. Black blazer.

With my hugo boss watch and perfume to boot…no one would perceive me as anything less than joyful middle class.

But deep within I knew the truth.

I was a broken soul walking around with a smiling face

 

I was handed the case brief at work.

My eyes scanned the first page and I felt my pulse quicken.

What were the odds???

The client was none other than my estranged father!

The anxiety gave way to a strong desire to show him I was now successful

I did the job as thoroughly as I could.

Fighting through the previous months of poor concentration and despair

I would make him regret losing me, if it was the last thing I did

 

The boss’ words rang in my head.

“See a doctor, son. You’re crazy. And fired!”

I had failed at the biggest break of my career.

In the middle of battling my demons, I had completely misread? Hallucinated? Call it what you will.

But somehow, in the mess that was my mind…

The ambassador to the United States had become my father.

The boss would not hear any apologies.

I had wasted over a million Naira worth of resources on the wrong person.

A person I could not even face

I wept.

 

It was at this point my friends, which you meet me now

Afraid and terrified of what I was descending into

Was I losing my mind as well?

Words swam through my mind.

Idiot. Stupid. Useless. Worthless.

Now you see….I should not be here.

Bracing myself, I leaned across the bridge…and let go.

 

A note from the author:

Although this story is purely a work of fiction, it highlights a lot of issues which our society has now normalized.

  • Every child has the right to be nurtured in their educational and career decisions.
  • Depression and mental illness is not witchcraft. It is an illness in its own right. Most of the symptoms have been covered in this tale.

Please raise awareness.

Greet someone with a smile today…it may the only one they’ve had all year.

Thank you.

 

Image Creditbodybuilding.com

 

About Guest Blogger

Dr Uchechika Iroegbu, MBBS (Hons.), is a Foundation Year 1 doctor based at Sheffield, United Kingdom. She is passionate about public health and medical education. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and writing fiction, watching TV and hosting friends and family. If you’d like to contact her, her email address is uchechika.iroegbu@gmail.com. She’d love to hear from you.

 

 

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9 thoughts on “The Enemy Behind The Mask

  1. Very well written! Your ability to dramatically communicate the challenges depressed individuals encounter is amazing. If I read this during my undergraduate days, I doubt I’ll miss an ‘A’ in symptoms of depression! But I’m aware your intention isn’t academic but more towards causing a societal awareness of depression -something I’m also committed to, for both personal and professional reasons. This I think you have achieved! Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So many emptying vessels moving on the streets, with so little love from the world for them. Maybe with the occurring suicides, Nigerians would begin to see that depression and suicides are not for the “whites” only

    Nice writing

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree J. The times are changing, our culture is constantly evolving, but it seems our people, family systems, society, and leaders in different sectors are failing to understand the implications of this evolution. Take for example, some families are failing to realise that while having both parents working an 8am-5pm job is vital in making ends meet, time spent with their kids is also important, and shouldn’t be put on the back burner.

    Like

  4. This is such a good read. I would have thought it was real had the author not declared otherwise. I couldn’t stop reading until I was done. Quite informative and dramatic. Well done! Unfortunately,
    this scenario plays out in countless lives. Parents must be careful to nurture their children, find out their dreams and passions early enough and support them. Essentially, it is the psychological boost they get through the affection that will enable them to maximise their lives, fulfill their( not their parents’) dreams and become beneficial to themselves and society. By following their dreams and living out their passion, they will be less prone to depression and other related mental diseases.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you David! You’re right, parents do have a huge role to play in ensuring their kids are guided and nurtured in the decisions they make. Family, is an excellent support system, and this should continually be so.

    Like

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