My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

-Maya Angelou

Recently, I got to check off something my bucket list —to see Beyoncé in concert! A recurring theme in her phenomenal performance was overcoming the obstacles in life. The message was one of survival even with the odds stacked against you. It was about making something beautiful out of an ugly situation.

It was definitely making lemonade when it seems like all life has served you is lemons! I left the concert on an emotional high while combing through my past experiences and tallying the number of ways my struggles have shaped me into the woman I am today.

Mental health, specifically depression, has had a grave impact on my life. It is one battle I have fought constantly throughout my adolescence and adulthood. I have had more low times than I can recall.

There were times when I felt that happiness was permanently out of my reach. Those times, it felt like this disease would always stand in the way of me achieving my dreams.Now, I know that I can choose to either focus on the negative or pick out the lessons it has taught me. The choice is entirely mine.

So, in the spirit of making lemonade out of the proverbial “lemons of life”, here are some of the positive things I have learnt through my journey with depression.

You become more self-aware

The famous Greek philosopher Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” In this age, we see a lot of people eager to emulate the lives of others in the hope of achieving the same level of comfort, wealth or fame they imagine these people have.

I think a lot of people don’t really take the time to truly find themselves. They are unable to decide what makes them happy and what they truly want out of life.

Depression is one of those conditions that forces you to take a deep, long and hard look at yourself. I try to understand the reasons behind my depression, my reaction to certain situations and how I can be more positive in spite of it. These insights, in turn, have come in handy in navigating other aspects of my life.

beyonce_iam_powerfulYou become more empathetic towards others

It’s human nature to sometimes make snap judgments about people we encounter, even when these judgments are made based on very little facts.

Dealing with depression made me realize that you can never really know what someone else’s life is like until you’ve walked in their shoes.

Also, the longer I had depression, the easier and more willing I was to help other people. I took the time to ask questions, listen to their stories and try to support them on their journey as much as possible.

If employers had more empathy towards their staff, governments towards their citizens, individuals towards strangers, the world would be a more tolerant place.

Depression taught me that sometimes, it’s better to ask questions first and save judgment for later, or never.

You become more resilient

There have been many times when I almost threw in the towel because I didn’t think I could ever truly beat this disease. It seemed pointless living a life of diminished quality.

Now, with medical treatment, therapy and the love and support of my family and friends, most times I’m able to go months without having a major depressive episode.

The more I learn about my condition, the more empowered I feel to handle it and not let it control my life. If there’s anything depression has taught me, it’s how to be strong and resilient.

I have fought for years and I’m still standing! I try to apply this same attitude to my personal and professional life. I know that no matter how tough a challenge is, the rewards will be beneficial to my growth and maturity.

Finally, let’s get more comfortable with talking about issues regarding mental health in our African societies.

By being willing to listen and learn about the struggles of others, we give them a chance to express and embrace themselves fully. Our societies will benefit from having citizens that are adequately equipped to cope mentally with the daily challenges.


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