BY MOMWISE LATUNDE ONABAJO
In 2007, I graduated from college with my Bachelor’s degree in Public Health and felt like the world was ahead for me to conquer! Armed with a marketable degree and years of experience, finding a stable, well paying job shouldn’t be too hard to find right? Well so I thought. My graduation day went like any other day; friends, family and well wishers were genuinely happy for the Class of 2007 at Rutgers University. When my name was called and I consequently walked across the stage, my heart swelled wishing my mother was seated in the crowd to watch this glorious day. She was far away in Nigeria. Nevertheless, I was ecstatic to know that someday, I will wear my graduation robe and take pictures with her.
My graduation was in May. Then June came and went. So did July. Then in August, my friend spoke with her father who worked at an outpatient healthcare facility to assist with job placement. Long story short, I was offered a babysitting job, more or less and getting paid the same rate as a fast food resturant night-shift manager, probably even less! I was grateful. Getting paid something was better than getting paid nothing. Shortly after I started at the healthcare facility, little did I know that strings were attached to the job! My friend’s father was seeking a return for the ‘favor’ he had offered me. When it became unbearable, rather than stoop low against my moral compass, I quit the job cold turkey and moved out of their house, pronto!
That’s when things got out of control! Talk about spinning faster than a tornado! My life was spinning. I was out of money, up to my eyeballs in student loans, paying monthly rent to my cousin proved rather difficult. She understood until a certain period. I would stay in my room for hours, refusing to eat, no bathing, no teeth brushing. There were days I spent on the bed, thinking about ending it all. So one day, I pulled a knife while my cousin was away and sat on the floor. Knife placed against my wrist, ready to slit and bleed to death!
Mind you, I went to church faithfully. I served in ministries faithfully. I sang in the choir every Sunday faithfully. I was surrounded by church members who seemingly cared about me. Some genuinely loved me. My pastor and his wife at the time… Still it was difficult to speak to anyone about my struggles. I would apply my makeup after hours of struggling to get out of bed and take a shower. I was known as a trendsetter with my pencil skirts, 4-5inch heels, the colorful outfits and bright smile. I had the body and face men of all ages desired, no wonder my friend’s father wanted a piece of it. I got the attention of admirers yet, on the inside, I was slowly giving up.
So on this faithful Saturday, as I laid the knife against my wrist, my eyes caught my dusty Bible on my night stand and for the Still Small Voice, I am forever grateful that I heard “put down the knife and pick up your Bible”.
I obeyed. And flipped through the pages, never really reading any verse in particular but there was a peace after.
I can’t tell you that my depression went away because I had a psychotic episode that same week when I decided to drive my 1996 beat-up Geo Prism to Atlanta, all the way from New Jersey. Mind you, I was penny-less, hungry and extremely sad. That Tuesday, I took my already overdrawn credit cards, cooked 6 packs of ramen noodles, a pillow and blanket and began my journey to the unknown. I stopped briefly by a friend’s place to borrow his GPS and began driving to Atlanta. It took me two days, stopping at Richmond VA in between to sleep over at a motel infested with rats and drug addicts. The door barely closed not to talk of locking!
I finally made it to Atlanta and couldn’t believe I had driven many hours! Only to realize I knew nobody except an uncle who had recently moved to the area. I didn’t have his address neither did I inform him I was coming to Atlanta but miraculously, he answered his phone and gave me his address to visit him. I slept in his mansion and wished I could live with him forever! But alas, on my way back to New Jersey, my beat-up car broke down in Silver Hill, VA! I had never heard of Silver Hill, didn’t know anyone, not even the ant in Silver Hill but again, I listened to the Still Small Voice that said “go into that Comfort Inn and speak with the front desk lady.”
And broke down asking for the cheapest room she could possibly offer. She asked “How cheap are you talking about?” I said, “Ma’am, I can only afford $20.” She said, “Darling, we don’t have any room in that range but I’ll tell you this, wipe your tears and I’ll make sure you are taken care of.”
I slept in a King size bed, ate pizza for dinner and still had my $20 in my pocket. This angel took care of me in ways I will forever thank God for her! I eventually made it back to New Jersey. It took another six months to find a decent job in Washington DC. In between those months, there were days I contemplated suicide. I would sit and cry because everything felt overwhelming but always, that Still Small Voice would nudge me to “Keep Pushing”.
Mental Illness is real. As real and dangerous and fatal as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, cholesterol, mental illness is very real. It doesn’t discriminate among culture or gender, or religious affiliations or country or race! Just because you are a Christian, does not mean you are immune to mental illness.
Many, Christians especially, go undiagnosed like I was because of the stigma attached to mental illness. Just like if you have cancer and know if left untreated can lead to death, so also is mental illness, if left untreated, it can lead to suicide!
In our church community, please let’s endeavor to seek ourselves out in love, truly care about people, reach out to them and if you are going through something or feel these following symptoms, please reach out to the church or the National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1 800-273-8255
Extreme sadness, loss of someone or something you love, loneliness, feeling of worthlessness, helplessness, feelings of guilt, trouble concentrating, fatigue, suicidal thoughts or attempts (thinking about ending your life), etc., PLEASE REACH OUT. Here’s more on reaching out: Ever Faithful God: Reaching Out
YOU ARE VERY PRECIOUS AND LOVED BY GOD, NO MATTER WHAT LIFE MAY LOOK LIKE!