Navigating life as a woman in the world today is interesting. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their experiences on everything from sex to politics right here.
*TW: This story contains themes of depression and suicide*
Tell me about your team lead
We were very close. If somebody asked me out at the bank, I would tell her I’d tell her, and we’d laugh about it. She even got her best friend to talk to me when I was feeling very depressed, and she wasn’t around.
But we started to fall out in late 2021. About a year into the role, I became restless and wanted to know where my career was headed. It was a new team, which meant there was a lot of uncertainty about career growth. I wasn’t sure what was next, and I didn’t like it.
So what did you do?
As I became more restless, it started some friction with other members of the team. So I brought up how I felt with my boss, and she tried to calm me down.
She was away from the country and promised we’d talk about it when she returned. But I felt out of place in the team because she was away for a long time.
About six months. I’d already applied for another job before she returned. When I told her this on Whatsapp, she asked why, and I made a flippant statement like, “You people are confusing; I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
It hurt her a lot because apart from assuring me that we’d discuss how to navigate how I was feeling about work, she had been there for me.
For context, when I almost O’D’ed in May 2021, she got me help and took care of me.
Overdosed? What happened?
I had come into the bank job with a lot of debt because I’d just moved from Abuja. So I had to get a place to stay. Thinking about it now, it was probably just ₦200 or ₦300k but it felt really overwhelming at the time. I also felt very alone. I was away from my family and had no friends in Lagos. My family was also requesting black tax, as always.
How did your boss find out?
We followed each other on Instagram, and I used to post worrying content. My state of mind also affected my output; tasks that typically take a day or two took two weeks.
One day, she texted me on my WhatsApp and said she noticed what I posted on Instagram and offered to get me help. I broke down because I didn’t even know that someone would see that something was wrong. She paid for a session with a psychiatrist, and I was placed on medication.
What were you diagnosed with?
Depression. I’ve had depression since I was 14. It’s something I’ve struggled with all my life.
Also read: Growing up with a pastor mum was hard
Can we talk about that?
I grew up with my dad’s family in Port Harcourt. I had a step-mum because my mum and dad had separated when I was born, and my mum stayed in Bayelsa.
There was a lot of verbal abuse, and my stepbrother used to try to sexually assault me at night. Nobody ever did anything about it. My step mum once said to me, “If you wear shorts to sleep as I told you, he won’t try to touch you.”
I often ran away, and they’d find me and bring me back. She’d beat the shit out of me, all the works. I was around nine or ten years old.
I’m so sorry. What about your dad?
I never told him. He was barely around because he was into illegal oil bunkering, so he never noticed. I think the only time he noticed something was off was when my step-mum accused me of stealing her money. He asked me if I took the money and I said no, then he made a comment, “Children like this end up being the best people.” I don’t know what he meant, but I interpreted it to mean, “They’re maltreating you now, but tomorrow you’ll be alright.” That hurt because he was supposed to protect me.
Because of all that trauma growing up, I was already very depressed. I’ve been suicidal for a long time, but I I was just too scared to do anything about it.
Let’s go back to your boss’ help in 2021
I felt very safe and heard with her, and I didn’t need to do anything extra. My boss said it was something I’d been battling for a long time, and I’d never really gotten a plan for recovery, so she wanted to get me all the help I needed, both therapy and medication.
Did the medication help?
The jury’s still out on whether they work. What helped me was being seen and heard, not necessarily the medication.
Fair enough. So what happened when you fell out with your boss?
She told me that she blamed herself because it meant she couldn’t clearly communicate her vision for the team. She was also surprised because it felt like she was doing her best to carry me along.
Now I wanted to see what it was like in other teams, so I moved from marketing to the product team. It broke my boss because she felt like it was personal. We didn’t have a fight, but there had been a back and forth for months, and towards the end of the 2021, she called me and told me she’d heard a lot of stuff I’d said to HR, and she was very disappointed. It was an emotional conversation, but it also felt finallike “this is it.”
When she returned to the country, we eventually had a face-to-face conversation. I let her know it wasn’t personal, and I wasn’t lying to get ahead or trying to put her down. I just needed to move for me and the sake of my career. But by then, the damage was already done, and we were never that close again.
I left her team and joined another team; there was no going back. I was trying to get ahead with my work.
In 2022, I got admission into a school in Sweden and was up for a scholarship. But I stalled the application process because the school required a reference letter from my boss; but I had fallen out with the person I’d worked with for about a year and didn’t know how to approach my new boss. So I was in limbo until the deadline passed. That’s how I lost out on the scholarship.
While this was going on, I was also in a situationship with a team member.
It just happened; we were on the same project, so we were always working together. We started talking, and things progressed from that. But it didn’t work out and ended badly.
Losing out on the scholarship and the end of my situationship took a toll on me. And I OD’d again.
I had a lot of medication at home from my sessions the year before. So I sat down and opened all the drugs, removed them from their packs and started swallowing them in bits until I’d taken them all.
I texted my older sister and told her I’d overdosed on my medication. Then I turned off my phone and stayed under the shower. She was out of town and couldn’t come but called a mutual friend who rushed to the house. He broke the door and rushed me to my psychiatrist — my sister had told him about it.
When I woke up the next day, my new boss, a top management member from work were by my bedside. The mutual friend had called the office because he said when he took me to the hospital, my psychiatrist wasn’t around, but the other people there had made some statements about suicide being illegal in Nigeria, and he was afraid I’d be arrested.
So he called my office and they came to take me out of the hospital that morning. We went to another hospital, and. I was admitted for three weeks. I saw a dozen psychiatrists and therapists. It felt like a prison, but with a lot of medication.
I’m sorry, that sounds like a lot. Did you go back to work?
Not immediately. The entire month I was in the hospital, I was worried and kept thinking about work, but they said I couldn’t go. The psychiatrist consultant said he felt I didn’t understand the gravity of what I had done because I was very eager to go to the office, and that’s not how it works. I had to understand that trying to take my life wasn’t how to handle stuff when it got hard. That helped me through the treatment.
After I was discharged at the end of June, I spent one month at home, getting better. I went back to work in August. I never returned to the psychiatrist I was seeing,l , and they never reached out. I also never went back to any of my appointments at the new hospital.
I didn’t think it was effective for me. I also stopped my medication in July when I went back home. I felt like I’d always be on medication, and I didn’t want that. When I get withdrawal symptoms, I take one or two to ease the symptoms. Therapy and drugs don’t help. I’m still very depressed but I won’t try to kill myself again.
So how are you doing now?
Now, I’m okay mentally. I’m in a better place. Maybe it’s the pep talks I have with myself; maybe it’s the weed.
I started smoking when I got off my medication. I don’t like depending too much on anything, so I don’t smoke all the time, but it helps. I’m better now.