The #Nairalife Of A Depression

June 15, 2020

Every week, Zikoko seeks to understand how people move the Naira in and out of their lives. Some stories will be struggle-ish, others will be bougie. All the time, it’ll be revealing.

Tell me, did it come in trickles, or like a strong wave?

It started as trickles in January 2018, then all at once. I didn’t even know exactly what it was, but much of the realisation came from my friend, a doctor. 

He kept hammering it at the time, “you need to sleep, or find a way to sleep. Clear your room, keep it aerated. Start sleeping. Force yourself to sleep.”

But, the sleep wasn’t coming. I had too many things on my mind, and everything just began to spiral out of control.

What were the things on your mind?

It feels like it started from some personal struggles I had with family, and then it just consumed everything else. I couldn’t get any work done. When clients started asking for their work, my anxiety climbed – I even started refunding their money. Then, I started panicking that I was losing money and not earning, that added its own. Insomnia started scaring me, I thought I was going to die. 

And when I told my doctor friend that all the things I used to love were now beginning to irritate me, he told me that I was showing signs of depression. 

I didn’t want to hear any of that.

Why? 

I was like, why would I be depressed? The very first time I heard about someone getting depressed, I was like, why is this person who is from money and comfort depressed? I felt depression was as a result of…

Lack?

Lack! I felt it was a result of you not being able to attain things or have things. People might be poor and can’t feed, that sucks. People lose a loved one, they’re sad. 

At the time, I also kept saying that depression is tied to suicide? Me? I can’t. I didn’t accept it. 

If you didn’t accept it, how did you reject it?

It was just constant internal denial. 

I feel you. Let’s rewind a little to January 2018, and talk about where your finances were.

No, let’s rewind to December 2017. I usually set a yearly target for the amount I want to have in my account by December. In 2013 when I started working, I closed the year with ₦300k in my account. The following year, I had about ₦600k. So, the next year, I wanted to double it. 

By the end of 2017, I had about ₦3 million and I had some dollars. About $2,000. By December 2017, I had plans for the year, laid them all out.

But January had a different plan. 

I started the month quite well I managed to deliver some work in January, mostly spillover from the previous. By February, I didn’t make any money. 

I remember taking a walk with one of my friends, and he said, “you need therapy, young man.” Therapy? But I’m not mad na. So I asked him how therapy worked. Are they going to reset my brain? And he said, “it’s a journey.” 

So, I decided to give it a shot, which led me to the therapist in March. 

How did that go? 

He confirmed it. Clinical Depression. I started seeing him, he prescribed drugs. My meds mostly cost about ₦4,000 a month. But I think he got tired of me. To be honest, I had some resistance actually. I bought drugs but didn’t use them at first, and when I started using it, didn’t believe I had to. The second therapist, I didn’t like him.

Then I tried somewhere else. It was a small practice, so they put me on a plan for ₦5,000 a month. They told me someone was going to reach out to me. He didn’t reach out for three weeks, but when he did, he promised me that I was going to get better.

Did you believe him? 

How would I? He told me to trust him. Over the next few weeks, as we got to know each other better, he told me that there was a project he was working on and that he wasn’t going to work on it until I got better. 

That’s a serious commitment.

Yes, it was. You know, one funny thing during that period is that I’d just call an Uber, and pick a random location. Then I’d arrive at my destination feeling sad and wondering what I was doing there. Sometimes, it’d be a restaurant where I’d just go to eat and cry. 

My 3rd therapist prescribed a change of medication, and those ones were so hard to get that someone had to help me buy them in another state. This was in May 2018. 

When you started using the meds, what was it like?

I didn’t feel anything. The only meds where I was feeling something were my sleeping meds. But whenever I woke up in the morning, I start crying like, why am I still alive?

I feel you, man.

I’d wake up and be angry like, why is my life upside down God? People recommended I change my environment. I did that for a few weeks. I probably spent close to a million on just travelling.

You were bleeding cash, but you weren’t making money.

Yes! The only thing that saved me was my stash. I was just blowing money stupidly in that period. 

What was the lowest your money got to in that period?

Let me try to remember… It’s hard to remember much from that time…

Ah, I remember! I was down to somewhere around ₦600k, and it was in my business account. All my other accounts were already empty. This was around September 2018. I was buying drugs, I bought Agbo. I even bought supplements from Amazon. 

*How much cash burned through in this period*

I was still talking to my therapist. 

At the end of 2018, I got a job at a small Charity. It paid me ₦25k, but I looked forward to going there every day. For the first time in 2018, I had a sense of purpose. It took a ₦25k job to give me something to look forward to. 

I feel you. 

Man, life felt so meaningless. I felt suicidal every day, and although I never attempted suicide,  I also never wanted to stay alive. I looked at my business, something I was so passionate about, and I hated it. 

Wild. Let’s talk about your business. 

Over the years, I’ve honed a couple of skills; web development and branding. So I quit my 9-5 in 2017 to focus squarely on rendering these services to people. If I worked at a 9-5, I’m sure I’d have been fired in 2018. Extremely sure about that. 

Interesting. Back to the matter, how much do you think the whole period gulped? 

For almost 2 years, I’ll say it cost me about ₦1.5 million. Because I started to feel relieved was October 2019, when I decided to get off medication, and I was still sleeping well. 

Amazing. It took 22 months, but you did come out on the other side.

Yup. 

Something else I’m curious about; you were not only losing cash, but your loss in productivity was also costing you financial opportunities.

Hmm. Oh wow. I never really thought about this. So, I was at a point where I felt I could earn up to ₦450k. 

Crazy, because calculating everything earned in 2018 means that my monthly average was around ₦75k – ₦100k.

Let’s start at the beginning of 2019. 

It still sucked at the beginning of the year, and I can barely remember a lot of what happened. I do remember that the place where I was getting help, I stopped going there. The 3rd Therapist left to start his own practice. The only other therapist also left that practice. So I followed The 3rd Therapist. 

Something else I remember doing that I know really helped me was working out. I started working out consistently, five days a week, sometime in the middle of the year. 

First of all, my body changed. 

Hmmm. The temperature just climbed. 

Hahaha. I felt so good about myself. All it cost me was 8k a month and after 8 weeks, I became buff. More than anything, it helped me with my discipline. 

Also, around that time, I went for Electroconvulsive Therapy. That was supposed to cost about ₦250k, but I paid ₦150k. 

The 3rd Therapist helped me negotiate a better deal. Great guy. I can’t talk about this journey without talking about my therapist. He charges ₦50k per session, and each session lasted 2 hours.

Woah. What was the frequency of your sessions?

Thrice a week. But here’s the crazy part, he didn’t charge me.

Ehn? 

It was completely free, man, 6 hours every week. I also had access to call him every time. When my ₦5k plan finished at the end of 2018, I just continued with him free.  

How long did he work pro bono with you?

January 2019 till December 2019. There were weeks where we didn’t speak though, but still. It was a lot of free sessions.

What did that period do to your perspective on money?

An emergency fund is important. God gives money abeg, but I don’t want to be a poor man. The reason I want to be rich is to enjoy things without worrying about small things. My emergency fund saved me in that period, I think. 

According to one of my friends, I used to say in that period that I was willing to give up everything I owned and start again if that was going to make me feel better. Money felt useless. 

Shook, so money really can’t buy happiness eh?

Money is a means is to comfort, not happiness. I’d go to the restaurants that I liked to eat; eating and crying. I’d buy nice shirts, and it’d just be meh. 

That’s heavy. What’s it like these days?

First off, I kept the job at that charity, and I’m so happy doing it! Then I’ve been getting good gigs. My first gig in January paid me about ₦270k. 

Dude, my current monthly average is about ₦500-₦550k.

In the middle of a pandemic?

Hahaha. In the middle of a pandemic.

Let’s break down your monthly expenses.

I barely spend any money. Currently, I spend:

Food: ₦32k

Clothing/Personal effects: ₦7,500

Black Tax: ₦20k

My current savings is currently at a little over ₦2.5 million, in multiple stashes. I re-topped the USD back to $2,000. I also have people owing me, if that counts; ₦700k.

I save the rest, invest a little here and there.

What type of investments do you have?

I have someone buying crops and selling to foreigners. It’s a 100% returns in 3 months. I gave him ₦300k last time, he gives me 40% of the returns for the capital, he gets 60% for leg work.

Building all of that back up a little, so mostly savings for now. 

What’s something you want right now that you can’t afford?

Let me first say that I tend to think long term or short term. A few years ago, I wanted to get a computer, let’s say it’d have cost ₦600k. I didn’t wait to have the ₦600k before buying, I just bought a cheaper one that was good enough in the short term, while I saved up for the other one. 

I try to build buffers. A lot of money coming from a lot of tiny places. I also hate surprises. So what I do want that I can’t afford? I want to travel – after this at least. I can afford to, but it’ll tamper with my buffers.

What do you wish you could be better at?

I have some other skills to make money, but I’m not harnessing those tiny things well enough. I need to turn more of my skills into a money-making machine.

What’s a purchase you made that significantly improved the quality of your life? 

I paid a couple of subscriptions for resources for my work. It saves you a lot of time looking for free things all over the internet. About $200 in total. 

On a scale of 1-10, happiness levels

You see that word, happiness? It has a different meaning for me. I’m comfortable, I’m at peace with myself.

Because of Faith, I don’t feel like I lost anything per se, even the income that wasn’t earned doesn’t feel like a loss. I like to think of it as downtime, but now, I’m back. I didn’t expand my client base as I planned. But in this period of trying to figure things out, I tried things I’d normally not try. Now, I can focus on creating serious opportunities out of them. 

There’s nothing I want that I can’t get. Wait, I want the new Mac. That’s the only thing I want that I can’t get yet. 

Amazing. How are you seeing your therapist since movement is a little restricted?

Hahahaha. In all the time he was having sessions with me, I saw him in person only thrice. Dude, teletherapy; over the phone. Video call.

Ahh, I didn’t see that coming. 

We’re really good friends now. When I got better, he told me, “now’s the time to work on this project. 

I worked on the branding project and poured my heart into it. And it made him so happy. 

I refused to charge him, of course.


The next Naira Life drops on Monday next week at 9 am. This is what you get when you subscribe to Zikoko’s Money Newsletter:

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Find all the past Naira Life stories here.

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