Kindly introduce yourself to us
My name is Zippy Kimani. I am passionate about changing mindsets and empowering people build a healthy self image through a unique blend of fitness and mindset training. With the rise of depression & suicide cases in Kenya, I chose to share my story to demystify what depression is and what leads people to suicide.
What led you to choose this career path?
I have battled depression throughout my childhood, after the death of my father. The latest was when I lost my banking job because of restructuring of the company. I saw how depression destabilized me because I did not have a support system. I had no one to talk to, no one to walk with throughout the journey.
I had also tried to commit suicide several times growing up, in primary and high school as well. This prompted me to develop more interest in psychology and got to understand why I was the way I was. I realized that if only I understood my condition better, I would be in a much better state mentally and emotionally.
How was your experience during the phase you were undergoing depression? And how can we identify someone who is depressed?
I had lost interest in my social life. I would often break down while by myself. I had no interest in doing anything so I would be asleep most times. Other symptoms include locking yourself up, losing interest in your hobbies, insomnia, lack of appetite, inner rage and a feeling of hopelessness.
You also mentioned that you tried to commit suicide several times. Why did you want to take away your life so bad? And what stopped you from achieving that goal?
There was drama around my father’s death and that put pressure on us as a family. There was tension and division, and I felt destabilized and unloved. My mother withdrew emotionally because of all the tension. I would act out to seek attention and I would get labelled as bad. That affected my self esteem.
When people who are supposed to give you love and attention are unavailable emotionally, you find yourself looking out into the world for approval. This is dangerous as you can give in to peer pressure and get into bad company. For me, I was an extrovert, challenging authority in high school. So the combination of no emotional support at home and hostile environment at school, was a recipe for disaster. I felt unwanted and hence no reason to be alive. My future looked dim as teachers told me that I would amount to nothing.
Another thing that drove me to depression, when I lost my job, was social media. Seeing all my age mates doing really well, reinforced the voice of my teachers in my head who said that I would amount to nothing. That brought a feeling of hopelessness. People of authority speaking negatively over you as a child is very dangerous, because you come to believe that what they say is true. As a result, you constantly doubt yourself, give others opinion more weight than needed and hence makes you more prone to depression.
What do you think is the reason for the influx of suicide cases in Kenya?
There has been media focus on depression of late because of the alarming numbers of deaths in suicide cases. According to a recent documentary I saw, five suicide deaths are reported in Central Kenya everyday! Most of them being men. This is due to the fact that most men do not open up when in their low moments, due to the risk of being seen as not man enough. This accumulates over time to the tipping point where there is no return.
Women are more prone to depression because of hormonal imbalances, which affect their moods. Generally, the population most prone to depression is between 14-30 yrs.
The current rate of unemployment is alarming and this is amajor contributor to stress, anxiety and depression. We recently had a case in the media where someone committed suicide because he did not have Kshs. 5000. It might seem like a small amount but if you have no one to fall back to, it can be quite depressing.
So, what was the turning point? How did you recover from the depression & suicidal thoughts?
My turning point was when I tried slitting my wrists because overdosing on medication was not working and it backfired as well. So I started questioning all my failed attempts and realized that I must be on this earth for something that God wanted me to do. My search for meaning and purpose began.
I started doing talks in high schools, especially for the misfits and black sheep as labelled by society. I was encouraging them that they should not let other people’s opinions define them. I got a new lease of life as the girls would tell me how my talks transformed how they felt about themselves.
Fitness also had a huge part to play with me overcoming depression. Physiology affects your state of mind. When you move, you activate new neurons in the brain which releases endorphines and dopamine which are feel good hormones. That together with a consistent daily practise of positive self talk and speaking an inspiring future into existence through affirmations. I am also very conscious of my inner circle. I only allow positive and vision oriented people around me.
So, in case someone feels/ has the tendency to fall into depression, what would you advice him/her?
I would advice you get a strong support system. Also understand your stressors, that is, what triggers you into depression? Find a hobby that you enjoy, makes you happy and keep your mind engaged in something constructive. It will divert your attention from all the things that are not working.
Get a psychologist to help you process your emotions and help you identify the root of your depressive episodes. For me, it was the feeling of not being wanted that triggered my depression due to my childhood upbringing. Finally, discover what your purpose is. What is the reason that you were born. What are you meant to contribute to humankind? That will take away your sense of hopelessness.
Can you say that you are fully recovered? That is, can someone be free (fully recovered) from depression/suicidal thoughts after experiencing it earlier?
Yes, you can be fully recovered if you find out your root cause, what triggers it and you avoid the trigger. Sometimes, it can be recurrent but the key lies in understanding your own case and learning how to overcome it. Depression is a mental illness just like any other physical illness, so you’ll need to go to hospital where you’ll be given anti-depressants.
What is your parting shot?
Depression is real. A lot of young people are facing it. So, let us talk about it and ensure that we have a strong support system.