Nkechi at first glance is pure perfection; the definition of beauty and brains. I was unprepared for the story she was about to narrate to me during our Skype talk.
“It started suddenly when I was in college. I was happier than usual, I felt I could do anything. Of course, the fact that parents tell us we can do anything and be anything we want, did not help in this case. Being in the media department, I had so many projects I thought I could do - all at the same time. I wanted to write several scripts, I wanted to do photography, because, obviously, the photographer had no clue what he was doing and that was irritating me (he was a professional). I also wanted to anchor another show apart from my own. Because these things obviously fell through, I went on another spiral. I decided to go for a drink with a few friends. What started innocently (or so I thought) quickly turned sour. I went and tried to play ‘bartender’. The drinks were taking forever and I could do it just as well, right? It was cute at first but after my third try, I was given a warning. I left my friends and told them I wanted to go swimming. They were all tipsy and no one really paid me any mind and so I left. I went to a hotel in Abuja and jumped into the pool. It was at that moment that I felt at one with the water. I loved it. I couldn’t possibly drown could I? I was, after all, the queen of the sea. Did I mention that I cannot swim? It took a while for me to be fished out of the water and taken to the hospital. As I sobered up, I started thinking the people in white coats were out to get me. I had to leave. There was work to be done. I wanted to repaint my apartment that I shared with my then boyfriend. I wanted new furniture, but before that, I needed to stop at a store to buy new clothes because this hospital gown just wouldn’t do. I also needed a phone as my telepathic messages to my boyfriend were not going through. So much for being queen of the sea. Where were my special powers? I had too much work to do. Sleep was a waste and it seemed like that is what they wanted me to do at this place with the weird people in white. I somehow managed to slip out. They hadn’t called anyone as I had lost my phone and now I was wondering aimlessly, not quite sure where I was. Eventually, I got home to find a worried and upset boyfriend. I was excited to tell him about my adventures (those I could recall) but he didn’t find it as exciting. I was apparently telling him about so many things I wanted to do but had so little time. I kept jumping from idea to idea till he just left for work. I stayed home re-arranging everything, literally everything. I tried to make several dishes because I just had to. This went on for a while and eventually, my exhaustion caught up with me.
It seemed like a lightbulb had been turned on in my head and I was watching my life as one would a movie. Had I done these things they said I did? How could I be failing my classes? Who sanctioned tattoos all over my back? One of them was a man’s name with ‘forever’ after the name. I was a big girl but I lost weight. I couldn’t bathe, I couldn’t get out of bed. I probably reeked. I hadn't combed my hair in a long time. I kept telling myself that I was just a waste of space. How could I have allowed myself sink so low? To my family, I was a disgrace. That was the first time I decided it really was not worth it. Everyone’s lives would be far better off without me. I decided my 23rd year was going to be my last and so I slashed my wrists. I bandaged it later on and then tried deeper when I was left alone and once again I landed in the hospital. My mother was wailing, asking me what she had done to deserve such a daughter. My father was seething and you could see the disappointment in his face. After my boyfriend explained what had been going on the past couple of months, the doctor suggested I see a psychiatrist. Upon hearing psychiatrist, he ran faster than Usain Bolt; ran right out of my life. It’s comforting to know my twin brother was by my side for the psychiatrist visits and eventual diagnosis. I’ve since left Nigeria and I try to stay out of the limelight. I am married with kids now and that’s not something you want your kids to be associated with. Perhaps with time, I will tell them about my struggles. I now know when my mania or depression is about to hit and I take my medications regularly, I exercise and eat healthy too. My diagnosis is Bipolar Disorder and I’ve learned that once you accept it and do what is necessary, you will be OK. This is just one of the times I have fallen off the wagon. However, it was the defining moment for me.”
Nkechi now lives in the US with her husband and two kids. Edited by Zunzika T. Okpo with Nkechi’s permission.