A 29-year-old woman’s struggle to overcome clinical depression

You know about depression, but do you know the warning signs or how to detect that you are actually depressed?

Saturday July 19 2014

It took Sharon years to realise that what was

It took Sharon years to realise that what was afflicting her in form of inexplainable physical pain was depression. Photo by Abubaker Lubowa. 

By Olive Eyotaru

Being depressed was something that had never crossed 29-year-old Sharon Omurungi’s mind. Like some of us, Omurungi had heard and read about depression, seen depressed people in movies, and even interacted with some.

But she had never associated herself with it or cared about details like the warning signs. She was after all, known among her peers for her jolly character.

The media, where she had worked for one year as a reporter, did not give much allowance for the luxury of relaxation given the pressure that comes with meeting deadlines.

From generating story ideas to running up and down looking for sources to interview for those stories, and always dealing with pressure from the editors, the newsroom can be a stressful environment.

However, this was a routine she had grown accustomed to in the year she had been at the job. With the burn out becoming a daily routine, she figured it was the usual stress.

“Sometimes I would have a little headache here; then backache and tiredness. But I did not pay much attention, thinking it was the usual work fatigue,” Sharon says.

But in 2009, Sharon’s performance at work started declining. Beating her deadlines became a problem, prompting several warnings and scolding from her supervisors. Her impromptu mood swings did not help the situation either. Her colleagues complained endlessly about her attitude but it did not bother her.

“I did not want to do anything, both at work and home. I would even fail to write a short story. I would want to do things but I did not have the will. Even the deadlines I would set would go by without me noticing. If someone spoke to me in a way that I did not like, I would bark at them. I really did not care then,” Sharon recalled.

On other days, she was okay and would execute her duties diligently. But other days were tough-and these became consistent for the next one and a half years.

Dark days
Sharon’s moment of truth came in 2011 when she started getting suicidal thoughts. Death is one subject that most people do not wish to discuss yet it started to appeal to Omurungi.
“Killing myself was not about pressure. I just wanted to see, if I died for a while, what people would think about me. Secondly, I wanted to see where my mother, who passed away 13 years ago is and if I could meet her,” she reveals, her gaze drifting into space.

To make matters worse, she had envisioned how she would quicken her death. “I knew I could not kill myself by taking pills. In my head, I thought of being knocked by a motorcycle or throwing myself in the way of a car. It was just crazy,” she recalled.
These developments prompted her to rush to a counsellor to explain her condition. However, he brushed it off and told her to instead take it easy at work.

Omurungi continued to attend counselling classes but her condition would improve on some days, and then relapse on others.

“There were weeks when I would perform exceptionally at work, then just do the reverse after. I would not write any good article but I just did not have the strength to make it better. It was frustrating that I did not know what was happening to me,” she said.

During that time, Sharon used to feel pain in her right leg, something she says started about in 2004 while in high school. She decided to visit an orthopaedist. Scans were made but all the doctors she visited told her the leg was fine. Her other body organs were checked and they were all functioning well.

Effects of depression
Over time, more symptoms of depression set in. Omurungi developed insomnia. She would feel sleepy during the day, dozing off sometimes at work.

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