There will be a moment today when I remember 2012. I’ll think of the nights spent contemplating death and its certainty. I’ll think of the days with the calendar contemplating dates.
April? No not April, it’ll be a truly terrible thing to do on the birthday that you share with your father.
May? You can’t do it in May. It’ll ruin your sister. The celebration of her birthday tied to the memory of your suicide. You may be depressed but that does not mean you should be cruel.
June? You’re booked to fly to Lagos on the 28th, so if you do it on the 27th, there’ll be a greater chance that they’ll think you are missing. And thus the plan was formed. Fly back on the 27th. Take a taxi to the beach. Swim hard, too far. Swim good. Swim so well that you can’t make it back. Your body won’t be found and if it is found it’ll be all but unrecognisable. Your parents won’t be the parents of the guy that met his untimely end by his own hand. They’ll be the parents of the son who vanished. It is infinitely better to be thought of as missing than it is to be thought of as dead.
My logic was flawed. If I were to go missing, the parents, Mama Afam and Papa Afam would wreck themselves to find me. Papa Afam would find solace in the bottle and Mama Afam would find courage in religion. They would be estranged within the year for religion and Hennessy are not usually the most compatible companions.
This is what depression does, it wraps you in a haze so thick that you can’t see anything for what it is. You cannot see that you are ill and you cannot appreciate how much you’re loved. Your world shrinks until there is only you, the sadness that won’t leave and the anxiety that accompanies it.
Today, when the working day is done and I am tired, there’ll be a moment when I sigh and say, “I am not strong enough. I cannot continue.” It is the depression talking. I’ll wallow in my weakness for a minute, and I’ll remember 2012. I’ll remember the therapy. I’ll think about the anti-depressants. I’ll think about all that it cost, and those went far beyond the financial. I lost a life that I never had the chance to live, relationships, and opportunities I’ll never be fortunate enough to know.
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t benefits. I’m so scared of reliving that year that I’ve been forced to develop coping mechanisms. I always want to know where I am in relation to the depression. If I know where I am, then I know when I need help, and that is important. Sometimes, help is a conversation with friends about real problems, and sometimes it’s a hug that lasts too long. Sometimes it’s hearing a difficult truth you haven’t confronted, and even more frequently, it’s not being alone.
The stunning thing I’ve learned is how far the people who really love you will go on your behalf. The parents have learned to read my silences even better than they read my words. They know the drill. A silent Afam is an unhappy one. When they ask about my day, they will never be satisfied with, “It was alright.” They’ll never keep anything as dangerous as a gun around and the medicine cabinet is well supervised. It isn’t that they think that anything tragic will happen, it’s that they know what all the wise know: it is always better to be safe than sorry. The friends are just as good. I make sure to have at least one of them with me at all times for good things are best kept close. If those measures fail, there’s the new therapist in Victoria Island who I haven’t had to see, and the very discerning doctor ready for an out of office consultation, more than keen to print a cocktail in his unintelligible writing if need be.
These are the things that work for me, they may not work for anyone else, and they’re certainly not fool proof. The other night I walked into an event so anxious that I shook more violently than anyone with any sense at all should ever shake. The day had not been kind, and I was scheduled for an even worse night. I didn’t drink there. No amount of drunkenness will ever change the fact alcohol is a liar. It tells you it’ll make you happier but it can’t. It is not a happy drug. It is a depressant.
I left 30 minutes after I arrived, and called a friend for a game of squash. When he saw me, he asked a question that cannot be asked enough.
“Are you good?”
I didn’t answer because I didn't have to. After a decade, he knows me well.
We walked off the court an hour later.
“Are you good?” He asked again.
“I am now.” I said.
My life is not the one I dreamed I’d have at 20, but it’s a life and that’s always something to be thankful for. It’s been 3 years since the end of that terrible year and I’m pleased to say I’m not Afam, probable cause of death suicide anymore. I’m Afam, needs to eat better, work out more, make cash money, probable cause of death, cancer.