KELVIN SHACHILE: How I overcame depression

Kindly introduce yourself to us

I am Kelvin Shachile, a 21-year old professional Geospatial analysist. A writer, launching my first book next month, a poet and editor by self-teaching. Designs and music are my side passions.

So, Kelvin, why did you decide to be a crusader on issues related to depression?

It’s because I was there, saw and experienced what it does to people. I therefore feel much better when I share, especially depression in teenagers. It is a thing with us now.

What led you into depression? What’s the story behind it?

I was born a joyous boy and grew up loving the world until I got to class four. I met a group of boys that had repeated the class and were so bullying. One day I broke a watch that belonged to one of them, as a punishment, I was held hostage in the schools washroom and they did to me what they would have done to a girl. So it began with assault. I didn’t take that as a big deal until when I met another man in a conference and he called me beautiful. I was in high-school then. The man touched me inappropriately and promised good upon my co-operation. I had to play it calm until the session ended and when I tried confronting the man, I got a slap. That was the beginning, the feeling of being less and more vulnerable to things I couldn’t control.

What led you further into depression? The victimisation from others or your inner thoughts and feelings?

First, I found it hard to share until I finished high-school. However, I had a few friends who knew about it but as it is being a teenager, they never understood how I meant to be hurt and feel unsafe, so they made fun and some called me ‘Miss.’ That, together with the inner thoughts and feelings of being snatched my dignity out of me, threw me down into the darkness. The development came with other issues, like losing friends and developing anxiety that ate me even more.

How was it in this depression stage? Did family support you?

When I first shared with a close family member, the reply I received was “You’re still too young to feel as you describe.” That was a turn-off. I realized I was just not normal. Suffering something that isn’t meant for me. When I started getting anxious, people said I was going mad, because I had nightmares in the night, when I was asleep. The figures in the dreams came to my eyes even during the day and I would shout or just run away. It was hard even more because I was in school where everyone was minding his own business. My family therefore had so little at first. It was my class teacher who noticed change and intervened.

What did your class teacher do?

She made feel free with her. Instead of calling home when I needed something, she offered to help then call later. I Ioved her and at first, felt she was the person to understand me. I narrated the encounter and she started checking on me regularly. But she dismissed the thought of depression. She said it was just a thought and it would go. Just that assurance, helped me later when I had to fight anxiety and guilt that came after the realization that I was sick and I was running mad. I even thought I was going to die.

For anxiety and guilt, that’s where I sunk. That brought the feeling of expecting danger that took so long to come. I was feeling horrible and like a failure. I knew everything had gone wrong and I was nothing. I felt empty. I lost sleep during the night but slept in class. I started losing weight and everyone said that I was going mad. When we went for a mid-term break, I wrote my first suicide note.

What happened next?

My mama noticed and she started praying. I moved away from home to live with my brother. I, now, started hating people deliberately, I was even too violent at some point. I never wanted to see any man close to me besides my brother. I therefore hated my father and every other man. When my family realized this, they started finding ways to reconcile my dad and I. Above all, they prayed. On this I would like to say this, that prayer is just an act of asking God to intervene in our quest to solve something. They say faith without action is dead. I was now thought to be possessed and so they tried deliverance, but it didn’t work. They asked me to get my faith in place. I wrote my second suicide note, bought a clean razor and I was ready to cut my wrist.

I then had my first panic attack. I dropped the razor and ran out of the house. Those who witnessed say I passed out. They took me to my bed under strict checkup . They say they wanted to tie me up but they didn’t just know what to use. That breaks me every time I think about being tied up. My teacher took me to the guidance and counselling department and I started my sessions. But this worsened my situation. I would cry anytime just like that. I lost sleep and started overthinking about many things.

How did the journey to recovery come about?

I started going to the library most of the time. I struggled to concentrate but found calmness in just staring at the books. I realized that would help and so I forced my mind to get engaged. I was finishing high-school and after that my class teacher told my family about my situation. They found me a young male physiologist but I didn’t love him. He was like a figure to remind me about the encounters with assault. I dropped off the sessions and ran away from home for some weeks. I stayed with my friend and his family travelled a lot so it was fun to find peace with people who didn’t know my experiences. I started vocal training and choreography. It was music that gave me the hope of healing. I started drawing and painting. That act of being keen on something released some pressure.

Then father called and said I should start my computer and secretarial courses. I said ok but I wasn’t willing to go back home. So I went to live with my brother and switched off my phone. I did nothing then. I focused on learning what I was. I used to talk to myself and I would say “No successful person has a calm life. This is how to be great.” I started greeting people and focused on learning humanity. I wanted to be a good person. Just to be there, being good to others and maybe I would be fine again. Then I lost my friend and everyone wanted to comfort me. I found the very meaning of life then. That it wasn’t for the healthy but for those who fought a good fight. I was determined to fight a good fight and not suicide.

How did you get to where you are today?

So after getting over the grief and loss of my friend. I started my computer and secretarial courses. I was a calm young man, my mother says. I spoke less and loved to read. Mama asked if I could write her a story. I agreed and started writing. When I finished the short course I went home and started teaching for a few months then I joined campus. By this time, everyone realized how hard it had been for me but they applauded me for fighting it. Campus came with a little readjustment but thank God I knew the power of books so I read a lot. A lot that they said I would run mad. I had written my first novel and so I started sending proposals but I got so many rejections. I destroyed the manuscript, cleared my system and started writing again. Short stories, poems and essays and after two years of doing that, the world realized my existence. Acceptances came and I grew more into self-teaching. I wrote my first children’s story coming out next month and another book expected late this year. I considered being free and less worried. However, I had to restrict interactions. I researched so much about arts and literature. I learned creative writing and then I became the current me.

My healing was just but a process of accepting my pain and suffering. I knew I had vowed to live and be great. I had read Oprah Winfrey’s story and I convinced myself I was becoming the next Oprah. It was that hope that have me a reason to focus on seeing another day. All because I wanted to become like Chimamanda and Oprah. I am glad the thought helped me. I never told anyone so I had no one to discourage me. I have been working to achieve and everyone is proud of me and I say there’s a story behind every success we see.

So, what next for you in terms of impacting others who face the same challenge of depression?

I am here to try and make sure no one goes through what I went through. It was much heavier than I have shared you now, but I’m determined to make even a little change. You’ll agree with me the number of suicide cases in Kenya amongst students and young adults generally has gone up. It’s just because they haven’t found a world to listen to them. Healing starts just by having someone who can listen, it is that listening that I work to make sure people learn to do it.

How can you help someone now at your capacity who is undergoing what you went through?

I would encourage him/her get a specialist’s help. We’re not the same, despite the fact that I managed to convince myself to healing, that might not work for everyone. Pray and seek medical assistance, prayer works but it needs support too. We act the faith.

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