Joyce’s Story

Some days back, I read a comment on a young man who died by suicide and it read, “we have a suicide epidemic on our hands. Young Nigerians are tired and killing themselves everyday.” I know this to be true. In the last two years I and most of my friends have had at least one really bad mental breakdown.

Although, I’ve never personally thought of committing suicide, I once woke up feeling like there was no point to everything. 

It was about two years ago and I was hanging to sanity by a thread. I didn’t even know it at the time. I woke up like every other day and walked to the junction to take a cab to work – just ten minutes away. 

I hopped into a car and in no time, I could tell it was the one-chance type car people talk about. The driver kept on staring at me from the rear mirror as if waiting for something to happen. 

I noticed the man besides me was half asleep, as if drugged and I was the only female in the car. Two men in front, one sleeping besides me. There was a stifling silence and another car, a Mercedes drove so close and the both drivers spoke in sign language. 

I calmed myself, psyching myself into believing nothing absurd was going on. Then, the driver sped past my office. I screamed. He ignored. 

Luckily, the traffic light shone red and I knew that was my chance. I quickly opened the door. The driver realized his mistake – he had forgot to put on the child lock. I jumped out and the light turned green. I don’t recall how I crossed the road with all the rush on a Monday morning in Lagos. 

When I got to the office, that’s when it occurred to me that I had just escaped kidnappers, who seemed to be somewhat surprised I was still mentally conscious. 

I knew I ought to be thankful and perhaps get on my knees to sing praises. Rather, I was furious. What the hell was this? It meant, all I had to do was walk down my street, get into a cab and I was history. What was the point of anything? This life was freaking exhausting and pointless. Those thoughts brewed and brewed and by evening I was soaked in tears, on my bed, with a pillow over my head. I decided I won’t go to work the next day. Then, I remembered I had scheduled a meeting with a life coach. “I would cancel,” I whispered to myself before falling asleep.

The week before the incident, a friend told me about a speaker at church who spoke on mental health. Prior to that, I hadn’t had any sort of therapy but I knew I needed one. I wasn’t depressed but I was apathetic as hell and this growing indifference was spilling on everything else. It was becoming a chore just laughing or acting happy. 

I thought speaking to a counselor would do me some good. So, I asked for the speaker’s number and called to schedule a meeting. He proposed Thursday and then called in Friday to postpone the meeting to Tuesday. He sounded empathetic, like he cared or something.

There I was on Tuesday morning, eyes swollen and red from crying nonstop all night. I wanted to pick up my phone and cancel but I was too tired to. I wanted to talk to God but I was pissed at Him, so I told Him, I wouldn’t speak to Him and I didn’t want to hear His voice in my head either, I needed my space.

With my last respect, I dragged myself to the bathroom, showered, threw on a rumpled shirt and called an Uber.  When I got to the speaker’s office, it was as empty as I was. Can you imagine, I stopped my pity party for this? He called asking I waited a few minutes, as he was stuck in traffic. “Of course,” I thought. “Nothing works in this country.” I glanced at the window of an old dusty car in the compound, my face hung like a rotten potato. I didn’t care.  The speaker drove in, nice car, clean clothes, huge smile on his face like the day was supposed to be good.

I was only there out of respect but he didn’t know that. I walked behind him into his office and I sat even without being asked to. I didn’t care. He walked to his seat and asked if I drank alcohol. “Is this a trick question?” I asked myself. “Yeah,” I mumbled. “Good!” He exclaimed, excited like a child watching cartoons. I rolled my eyes, the theatrics was irking – because that’s what trauma does to you, you begin to doubt help.

Anyway, he filled my teacup halfway with amarula and added some coffee. I was eager to try it, at least there was free alcohol. He started talking. I still didn’t care, can’t remember what he was yarning about. Then he said, “You’re not talking to God.” “What is this? Church? I don’t fucking need a preacher?” I wanted to yell out. He stood and pulled out his passport, dropped it on the table and said, “I’m supposed to be at the airport on my way to Atlanta,” he paused, looked at his watch and continued, “my wife will birth our second child in eight hours and I promised to be by her side … but you must be very important to God because He asked me to come here instead. He says you won’t listen to Him.” I burst into tears, my hands shaking. “God cares that much?” I wondered. We talked for three hours, that talk changed my life literally. We met a few times after that.

The next day, an acquaintance blowed up my phone with calls telling me that he needed to get a car and driver to take me to work and back. I’m suspicious. “Why do you need to do that?” I asked. “What do you want in return?”

He said, “I just want peace Joyce. I can’t sleep and it feels like there’s a hook on my neck. I need to do this to rest…” then he added, “God loves you…”

I wanted to laugh but he sounded serious, so I stayed quiet. Before long, I didn’t have to worry about transportation to work and back, and of course, I was terrified of public transportation. I still sought therapy after the incident. Mental health is a real thing and it could hit anybody really hard.

I’ve never shared this story, didn’t want to but I felt prompted to. Please if you’re in pain, reach out. Please say a prayer, God always listens.

– Joyce