3 Nigerian Men Talk About Breaking Down

February 2, 2021

When Tobi* lost his job because the firm he worked for, an offshoot of a French company, had left after realising they were losing more money than they were making in Nigeria, he did not quite know he was about to go on a dark road.

‘‘I was sad, very sad obviously. But I thought, las las I would survive and find a new job. I’m smart and my degree is pretty good, so I packed my stuff up and left.’’ he says. Within the next two months, Tobi’s girlfriend broke it off with him as she left the country to further her education — a thing Tobi hadn’t known she was looking into at the time — his mother fell sick, his physical health started deteriorating, his savings were near depletion, rent was nearing renewal and he still hadn’t gotten a job.

‘‘It was simply awful. It was the worst period of my life. I remember how every night I would stay awake thinking about how I could kill myself and end of all this once and for all. Then because I couldn’t sleep, I would wake up late and tired and angry at myself for being so lazy.’’ Tobi’s friends began to grow concerned after he managed to blow them all off and actively avoided them for weeks.

‘‘I knew my friends were worried, but at the time, all I could think about was how sick and tired I was of needing people to take care of me. I thought I was weak and a failure, so I actively refused to let them in, which in hindsight was bad.’’ Tobi eventually took to looking into ways of committing suicide and attempted a drug overdose. 

‘‘I know it’s stupid to, but when I remember it, I laugh at how dramatic I must have looked. When I took it, the pain was overwhelming, I was lucky to send a text to a WhatsApp group I was in with my friends. I don’t remember what happened, but my friends said someone showed up about twenty minutes later and took me to the hospital. After I was discharged, I stayed with my friends for a few months. They made me get into therapy and whew, that was helpful. I still didn’t get a new job till like a year after I got fired by the way. But I was mentally healthy till I did, and that’s thanks to my friends.’’

Much like Tobi, Joel*, a writer, points to his breaking point around a time he lost a job.

‘‘I got commissioned for this big story for a publication I loved, then after writing it, it was killed. The editor told me that he no longer thought it was a good fit for the publication so they wouldn’t be publishing it. They offered me a kill fee, but I was too devastated by the fact that this publication thought I wasn’t good enough as a writer. This was worsened by the fact that I had been trying to get commissioned for pieces for months and nothing was coming. I had convinced myself that this story coming out would save my career.’’ Joel barely left home for most of that month as he felt his anxiety about his career reach new levels. 

‘‘I was out of work for two months, and if you know what that’s like for a freelance writer, you know how bad that was. I eventually had to accept a small but intense ₦50,000 gig just so I could eat. It’s all in the past, but I think something in me broke then.’’

‘‘My ex was an upcoming singer and me, I was the hopelessly devoted boyfriend who was convinced his job was to stand and support,’’ Seun* says. ‘‘I was the better off partner and had a well-paying job, so I thought supporting my boyfriend was the right way to go. I paid for studio sessions, he lived at mine etc. I was deceiving myself.’’ Seun remembers getting multiple texts from his friends that they had bad news and he should call them when he could. 

‘‘We got on a conference call, and apparently, my ex had been sleeping with a mutual friend for a decent amount of time. I couldn’t work that day. When I got home, I locked myself in my bedroom and cried to sleep. My ex, who was staying with me, kept asking what happened. The next day, I asked him if it was true. It was. 

I’m ashamed to admit, but I still wanted to make it work. I tried for one full month and my friends were disgusted. I eventually realised I was kidding myself, so I broke it off. That was when I truly broke down. I think I was dispensing on that relationship for my self-worth, so when it ended, what was left was a shadow. For weeks, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t laugh. I don’t think I had ever been that sad before.’’ Seun eventually realised that he couldn’t continue this way so, he asked to take some time off work.

‘‘I took two weeks off work and left the country. It helped me. But I think what helped the most was my friends. They were supportive and kind till I healed.’’

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