11 Nigerian Women Share How Their Mental Health Affects Their Romantic Relationships

May 25, 2021

Living with a mental health condition affects different parts of our lives in many ways. In this article, we asked Nigerian women how their mental health affects their romantic relationships. Here’s what 11 of them had to say: 

Bisola, 24

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2017. Since then, my relationships have never been the same. My partners complain about me not being present. Whenever I get sad, it helps me to disassociate from everything until I can’t anymore but it’s hard to keep relationships like that. Most people can’t stay till I come out and that sends me into another spiral. I don’t blame them though — no one wants an emotionally unavailable partner. It’s hard to show you’re in love when you feel empty inside. Everyone wants a partner who’ll meet them halfway but I don’t even have 50% to give myself talk more of to give another person. My last relationship just ended because of the same reason. 

Tomi, 23

In 2017, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. This means that I fluctuate between mania and catatonia. As a result, I tend to ghost people because interacting can be quite hard for me sometimes. Before I would disappear without saying anything but it’s been frustrating for people in my life. Everyone wants to be that person everyone knows they can always talk to — to be a safe space, but the reality of it is when people see you in a manic phase about to cut yourself, they realize it’s not just love and light. That’s when most people realize they can’t deal with it anymore and they check out. My last relationship ended because they saw me trying to cut myself, and within a week, we were over. 

Ivie, 26 

I live with chronic depression, which means I am often suicidal. Whenever I get a terrible depressive episode, I want to hide from the world and this makes being in relationships harder than usual. I try to talk about it with my partners but they don’t understand. They always think I should be able to snap out of it and be happy. I try to perform happiness even on my worst days because I don’t want to ruin things but that only makes me resentful.

Living with chronic depression also means that sometimes when things are going great with a guy I like, I get worried that he will run away from me because of my mental illness. So I run before he runs. I tell myself that it’s for the best and I won’t get hurt, but it still hurts. Knowing I might never be able to have love is one of the most painful things I have had to live with. 

Aima, 30

I live with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. I have known this for about a year now. I am a doctor and one day at work, I was complaining to a colleague that I was depressed. I was suicidal even though I didn’t think I had any reason to be. Work and my ageing parents were the only things keeping me going. She asked a few questions and asked me to observe when I feel better and when my mood dips. I did that and I realized that almost like clockwork I start feeling low for no reason about a week to my period and for the whole duration of it. It turned out that it is actually a medical condition that is commonly missed in patients but thanks to my colleague we had a diagnosis. 

Knowing doesn’t make it easier though. I hate my antidepressants because it makes it difficult for me to function at work so I tend to skip them. I get irritable around my period and I snap at my fiance — sometimes I don’t want to speak to him. Initially, we fought a lot because he would get frustrated with me when his efforts to make me happy failed —  buying food, sending money, cracking a joke, etc. Recently, I explained to him that I feel like I’m not in control of my life for those 10-13 days every month and he would have to be patient with me. Also, I let him know when it gets bad so when I’m crying, he knows how to support me. Last week, I discussed feeling suicidal with him and he didn’t judge or ask unnecessary questions. He reaffirmed his love and stayed on the phone with me until I slept off. When it gets bad, I take my antidepressants in the evening. Every month is a different journey but having a supportive partner and knowing what’s happening to me makes it bearable. The upside is knowing it lasts a few days and I’ll get a break. 

Yemisi, 32

I was diagnosed with a mix of Bipolar Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

I never know when to disclose this information to someone new — I don’t want to scare the person away. A lot of people don’t understand it so after I tell them, they start to pull away and I can’t blame them. Then there are the ones that want to change me — they think if I were more positive, I’d be fine. 

When I had depressive episodes in a relationship, it was hard to manage it without making the other person feel like they are the problem. I also have to help them understand that they are not responsible for my moods. Sex triggers me so I always have to explain that. Most of the people I have been with have been gracious during the sex but they usually come back to ask questions, wondering if they caused it. It can get stressful for me. 

Vowhero, 33

I wouldn’t say I have a mental illness but I have trauma that keeps replaying in my head and makes me push the people I love away. Sometimes I can smell the first person that molested me. I was 6 when it happened. I have also been raped three times so sometimes when I am having sex with someone I love, I get triggered by their movements or their smell. People don’t understand that when my mood switches to fear, I would want to distance myself from them. 

Sometimes, I wake up crying from a horrible dream or screaming until the person beside me wakes me up. My ex broke up with me because of that — he said I was too dramatic. I also don’t cuddle my lovers as much as I would like. After sex, I leave the room because I can’t have body contact yet. Some days are good and I don’t experience all of this but on other days, it can be difficult. I have seen a therapist and I think there has been an improvement so far. I am still scared of enjoying a good time though, but I hope that changes soon.  

Ebose, 24

I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because of a traumatic childhood. In 2019, I was in the only relationship I have ever been in. I was quite insecure — I had low self-esteem and chronic mood swings. My ex made everything worse by emotionally abusing me. He would never compliment means it triggered my insecurity. One time, he told me he has dated more light-skinned women than dark-skinned women. It hurt because I am a dark-skinned woman. I didn’t love myself enough to walk away from it. I used to check his phone and I was also clingy. After we broke up, I realized I was too insecure to be in a relationship. My ex was a shitty person but if I was healthy, I wouldn’t have even dated him. I believed no one could love me because there was no affection in the home I grew up in. I was so desperate for him to love me that when he cheated on me, I went back to him. I went to therapy earlier this year and it has helped me realize a lot of things so I know I am getting better.

Zainab, 31

I live with severe depression and I distance myself whenever I have episodes. Although this makes my lover feel weird, he understands and gives me space but I know it bothers him. My ex-boyfriend called it mood swings and I broke up with him immediately. When I am experiencing a depressive episode, I start thinking the absolute worst and I say things like, “don’t be too sad if I go.” My boyfriend gets worried but when I feel better, I reassure him that I’m okay. I am also seeking help so I know I will be fine. 

Farida, 25

I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and the thing about this illness is that everything makes me worry. I found out this year and everything started to make sense. I realized why I could never fully open up to anyone or allow myself to fall in love because of that lurking “what if” thought. It’s a struggle, especially when you’re a hopeless romantic like me. 

After six years since my first heartbreak, I finally let myself fall in love again but it’s difficult when my mind keeps giving me reasons why the relationship should end. Every day I am in a battle with myself — I remind myself that this man is good for me and my fears are irrational. The most difficult part is that my partner doesn’t know about my disorder. He encourages me to talk about any worries I have and that causes me to worry too — what if he gets tired of listening to my worries? I am not comfortable talking about it yet. It’s one thing to say, “I’m worried about something” and another to say, “I have a thinking disorder.” 

When I go to his house, I have to hide to take my drugs because I’m not ready for the conversation. I am afraid of what he will think of me when I tell him. I find it difficult to express myself the way I want because I keep thinking that he may realise that I am a fraud and I lack confidence. When we’re having sex, I can’t have an orgasm because I am wondering if I smell good or if he likes what he sees or if he actually enjoying or just faking it. It’s a never-ending loop and I really wish it would stop but even therapy doesn’t help. The only way is to end this beautiful relationship of mine.

Onyinye, 28

I have been sad for a long time. When I was in university, I went to therapy but I don’t think it helped. In my service year, when I had started working, sadness became worse. I would cry for hours and some days I want to be in bed all day. My relationship at the time was two years old and it was all fights and arguments. We tried until 2018 when I started self-harming and I had to seek professional help. I started therapy and medication but my ex wasn’t getting better in his attitude. To make things worse, my sexual desires died — we would have sex and I won’t feel a thing. Some days, I would get into depressive episodes that would make me stay in bed all day and he wouldn’t call to check on me. Sometimes he’d say I enjoyed being depressed and that I use my depression for attention. Eventually, I found out he was cheating with his friend but he was convinced I was the one cheating. When the relationship ended, I realized he was a big trigger and slowly my drug doses were reduced. 

I have tried to date again but the truth is not a lot of people want to do the work to help you through it. Everyone starts off saying they understand but after one or two episodes, they switch up. Also, my libido is still low — I am hardly ever interested in sex and most men don’t understand that.

Amarachi, 28 

I was diagnosed with chronic Anxiety, Attention Deficit Disorder and bipolar depression eight years ago. I have been to a number of mental health hospitals in the US and I also went to rehab. After I got out of long term mental health care, I started talking to my present boyfriend. He does not express emotions with words and I did not want to date him in the beginning because I was still trying to adjust to a lot of medication but these days, he is more compassionate. He understands how anxiety can make me seem self-absorbed. He is also African and he wasn’t raised to understand these things so we learn together. 

When we first started reconnecting, I had to go back to another institution because I was suicidal again and didn’t want to get to the point of an attempt. He walked to my house and waited outside for me the day I returned. One time, he helped me pay for therapy when my dad and I were having issues. Being bipolar means there are times I have intense depressive episodes or extra energy and lack of focus. When I feel depression coming, I tell my boyfriend so we can adjust our plans. Sometimes, he picks up on the high anxiety or mania and will check in to make sure I’m not falling off my tasks. He tries to keep me entertained so I don’t get too hyper. So far, my mental health has been a way for us to be more considerate of each other. 

Subscribe here.

Want to read more stories like this right now? Click this link.

Mariam Sule

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

Biggest sexual pet peeves
April 27, 2021

Sex is amazing and all but sometimes, people do things that turn us off either during or after sex. I asked ten Nigerian women what their biggest sexual pet peeves are. Here’s what they had to say:  Ebitare, 21 I hate it when I am kissing a guy and he pulls away to push my […]

January 22, 2021

FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is also known as female circumcision and it is the cutting of some or all of the external female genitalia. It has been criminalized in some countries, but not all. Unfortunately, there have been millions of women who have been victims of this act. Six African women talk about their experience […]

Hedge Witch
May 5, 2021

As told to Mariam I have known Wendy for about three years and during this time, I have watched her go from being irreligious to religious and back to being irreligious. As an irreligious person myself, I was curious about her journey so sometime in March I asked her. Here’s what she told me:   I […]

Watch

Now on Zikoko

leaving their ex
June 18, 2021

Sometimes we get overwhelmed and make decisions we later regret. In this article, seven Nigerian women talk about why they regret leaving their ex.  Tomisin, 25 My ex used to send me not less than 50k every month.  He moved abroad and after two months, he told me he has fallen in love with someone […]

June 18, 2021

People love us for various reasons. Take this quiz and we’ll tell you what your friends love most about you. Relationships can be hard, and sometimes you just need someone to give you a bit of advice. Ask Ozzy is our new advice column where you send Zikoko the relationship questions that have been bugging […]

June 17, 2021

While smart investing is a sure way to build and retain wealth, it can be a daunting prospect for beginners. In the same vein, it is a lot easier when you understand the various options in which you can invest and ultimately grow your wealth. Here are some options you can consider when taking the […]

June 17, 2021

The BBNaija Lockdown Reunion (2020’s edition of Big Brother Naija) show will air on the 17th of June 2021. Keeping with the tradition of the show, the reunion will be hosted by Ebuka Obi Uchendu and will feature some of the BBN: Lockdown housemates talking about memorable moments from their season while also hashing out […]

Recommended Quizzes

October 30, 2019

Kemi Adetiba’s King of Boys movie got a lot of things right, especially casting, so yes, it was a monster hit. Now, we know you may not have put much thought to this, but the personalities of some of the characters closely match yours, and we would like to help you find the perfect match. […]

November 25, 2019

We already guessed how many people you’ve slept with, and y’all were out here denying the truth. Anyway, we won’t hold that against you. This time, however, we’ve created a quiz that predicts who you’ll sleep with next — so you can either prepare or try (unsuccessfully) to prevent it. So, take and see:

November 27, 2019

Do you have a face that could make angels jealous, or should you really be walking around with a nylon bag over your head so you don’t scare children? Well, this quiz is here to answer that by telling you exactly how good-looking you are. Take and find out: 11 Quizzes For People Who Aren’t […]

April 9, 2020

At some point in life, we all learnt that someone can be very intelligent and still lack common sense. That’s the difference between being book smart and being street smart. If you’re not sure where on the spectrum you fall, well, that’s what this quiz is here to tell you. Take it:

November 14, 2019

The fourth season of Big Brother Naija came to an end over a month ago, but the conversation surrounding the housemates is far from over. So, in a bid to keep the fire burning, we decided to create a quiz that tells you which famous member of the ‘Pepper Dem’ gang is your soulmate. Take […]

More from Her

leaving their ex
June 18, 2021

Sometimes we get overwhelmed and make decisions we later regret. In this article, seven Nigerian women talk about why they regret leaving their ex.  Tomisin, 25 My ex used to send me not less than 50k every month.  He moved abroad and after two months, he told me he has fallen in love with someone […]

Acne
June 16, 2021

Dealing with acne is never easy. From random people recommending products to you to the self-esteem dip, everyone has their story. In this article, seven Nigerian women talk about living with acne.  Khloe, 22  I was 14 the first time I noticed acne on my face. It was my first year in university. I didn’t […]

June 16, 2021

The subject of this week’s What She Said is a 25-year-old Nigerian woman who has travelled to over fifteen countries alone. She talks about how this love for travelling started, the way she’s stigmatised at airports and in hotels, and her dream to attend aviation school. What was growing up like? Life was good until […]

menstrual cups
June 15, 2021

As inflation happens and prices of products across the country increase, more Nigerian women are moving away from pads to more sustainable sanitary products. In this article, five Nigerian women talk about their experience using menstrual cups.  Elizabeth, 19 Sanitary pads never did it for me. Getting good sanitary pads was a real struggle for […]

June 11, 2021

How we start our day usually has a paramount effect on how the rest of our day goes. When you love a woman or want to move to a woman you like, it is important you send her beautiful messages to put her in the right mood. Here’s a list of helpful ways on how […]

June 11, 2021

We have written about some of the ways the Twitter ban affects Nigerians. Here’s a list of the ways the ban affects Nigerian women. It will affect their access to: 1. Learning opportunities Twitter has always been a source of information to many women. In an article published yesterday, some women talked about how they […]

June 10, 2021

Feminism is a diverse movement that aims to liberate women and other oppressed groups. Each feminist’s path is different from the next. In this article, I asked eight Nigerian women why they became feminists, and here’s what they had to say:  Kay, 26 I was a feminist even before I knew what the word meant. […]

consequences of teen pregnancies
June 10, 2021

I read a lot of books growing up about the consequences of teen pregnancies and it was always interesting to me how teenagers were treated without a care in such conversations. Nothing about how they feel or how it happened and how to prevent it — just age-old fear-mongering. In this article, four Nigerian women […]

Nigerian female lawyers
June 9, 2021

This week is one of those times where we, as a country, wonder if the constitution is simply a suggestion. Many lawyers have complained of studying and practising law in a lawless state. Like with most issues, women’s experiences take a unique form. In this article, nine Nigerian female lawyers talk about practising law in […]

Watch

Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.
X