by Debbie Ogunjobi
SOMEBODY brought up the subject of another Nigerian living in Baltimore who had committed suicide despite living what seemed to be a beautiful existence.

He had a green card, was married to a wonderful Mexican woman with two children, was a professor in the local university and was just recently awarded tenure. Tenure in the American educational system means job security for life, to get that in the new world order where people are getting fired left right and centre is a miracle in itself.

His wife told the reporters who interviewed her that he had been complaining of indifference and feeling disconnected from himself and everything for a while and he seemed to go downhill from there.

Once again the alarm bells went off again in my head, this indifference or disconnection is a common trait in a majority of cases where people fall into despair. It seems to creep in like smoke, not raising any alarm till it kills. One of the first things I learnt during fire drills is that the smoke is as deadly as the fire so while despair is fire, indifference is the smoke!!

As in all arguments someone else brought up another gorier example of the case of the Nigerian woman who had jumped over the bridge with her two small children. Neighbours had also mentioned that months after her husband absconded, she had withdrawn into herself and was largely indifferent to her erstwhile friends and community.

Before the tragedy, she did not even speak to her neighbours or have any interaction with anyone, preferring to ignore greetings, knocks on her door and even shunning all visitors.

I actually remember reading about that tragedy and it was in the papers in the late nineties for quite a while as it was considered an abominable tragedy by a majority of people.

So my theory of lack of worry being a major cause for indifference was knocked out of the water by the case of the woman who certainly had all the worries in the world succumbing to the overwhelming weight of her despair.

I remember wondering how no one failed to notice her deterioration and intervene till it was too late! One thing Africans are known for is our sense of family and community but it hadn’t been available to the woman in question and therein lies the cause of what I believe strongly to be an avoidable tragedy; indifference of the family and community.

It is safe to say that there is not a one size fits all cause of despair/depression and even joy for that matter. What is common in a majority of cases is the indifference that begins very slowly almost like a locomotive gradually picking up speed while going downhill and eventually crashing.

At some point in time in every human existence we will get to go through the varying emotions of joy to indifference and despair, the important thing to note are the triggers of the different phases.

I personally hold the belief that joy is a choice, so is sorrow and indifference. Of all the phases, the one that takes most work is joy; it is like striking a match and keeping the fire lit even though the winds are blowing furiously and at times the rain is pouring in buckets! Joy is not a fluke; it is a concerted and cultivated phase of life that needs vigilance, hard work and perseverance!!

Sorrow on the other hand is a lot easier; life is like a fast bowler determined to hit us with fast shooting balls from every angle and direction.

So when we get hit by one of the balls and are sent sprawling in a blinding daze it’s easy to give in to sorrow. If we choose to stay on our backs and give up we can easily get indifferent and from there we can only expect despair!

I can’t knock or trivialise genuinely painful emotions like mourning and heartbreak but if we can scramble to our feet while the pain is racking our every cell we stand a better chance of protecting our joy and keeping the match lit.

Pain is a legitimate emotion; it will come at some point or the other! Disappointments, bereavements, heartbreaks are part of the human existence but they don’t have to determine the rest of our lives if we purpose to cultivate joy. For no reason whatsoever must we ever learn to become indifferent to our pain, our needs or our suffering.

The first step is to ask the question why. If you can’t sleep, ask yourself why? If you lack enthusiasm and zeal in what you do ask yourself why and find something else to do!

If you have been dealt a cruel hand by fate, you are entitled to your sorrow for a season, sorrow is not for all seasons, do whatever it takes to heal, ask for help and keep asking from God and man.

An old song has taken new meaning for me in the time it has taken to write this and I close with its words. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine (3ce)’, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!!”


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