Betty Irabor, Nigerian columnist and author had an extensive conversation about her mental health struggles and why she sought help at the highly-stigmatised Yaba Left.
The publisher shared her struggle with depression and attempted suicide in an interview with Chude Jideonwo; saying that despite achieving so much, she never felt like she was good enough.
Irabor said, “Most of us have issues that we haven’t dealt with. For me, I always felt like I wasn’t good enough. I always felt like a failure. I felt unaccomplished because when you’re depressed, you’re not looking at your successes. You can only see the things you haven’t done.”
The author, who admitted to attempting suicide twice, debunked the saying that people who commit suicide are cowards. She said, “It isn’t cowardice because you’re not even thinking clearly. At that point, you don’t see anything good ahead of you.”
Irabor said years earlier and in her book Dust to Dew that she tried to end her life with a lot of pills. Fortunately, her husband rushed in and stopped her. She said, “Looking back on that now, I just feel so stupid. I just want to go back and slap myself.”
Irabor said it was at that point that she had to seek help.
The 64-year-old shared, “I was at that place where all I needed was my sanity. They say he who is down, fears no fall. So I was already at rock bottom and I was looking for where I could find help.”
“That morning, I told my driver of 15 years to take me to Yaba Psychiatric Hospital and he said, ‘What are you going to do there? That place is for mad people.’ I lied that I was going to interview a professor there and he said I should have sent an editor because I shouldn’t be seen there,” Irabor said.
Irabor said her driver felt scandalized by the thought of being seen in a place where she so desperately sought help. “I was past being ridiculed and I was past caring about stigma. So I went to the hospital anyway.”
The Genevieve founder described the experience as “humbling” because as a secondary school girl in Yaba, she would pass by the clinic with classmates and make fun of the “mad people”.
Irabor said, “All these years later, I was one of those people that I loved to scorn”.
Irabor went on to speak about the said “mad people” at Yaba Left. She said, “The truth is Yaba Left is full of broken dreams. It is full of people who in their lifetime felt that they were going to make something of themselves. And then they have a mental breakdown in a society that knows nothing about empathy and humanising mental health.”
“You go there and you’re further stigmatised and pitied. I think a lot of people felt, ‘Poor Aunty Betty, you had to go through this’. I needed help and I was past being shamed”.
Betty Irabor got the help she needed and said her mental health is better than ever. She also said she doesn’t regret going public with her personal problems.
Her words were: “Opening up about my mental health struggles, I felt very naked and vulnerable. But at the same time, I felt like a heavy load had been lifted off me. It’s okay to lie to the world. But to lie to yourself is the biggest deception. If you’re not in a good place, it’s okay to say that.”
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