You recently published your book, Dust to Dew, talking about your struggle with depression. At what point did you decide to share this story and what made you feel it was the right time?
A couple of years before my 60th birthday, in 2017, I decided it would be nice to mark that milestone with a book. It was just supposed to be a book on entrepreneurship and a biography on my life. It wasn’t anything that deep really, but at some point, I lost the excitement of writing the book as I had so much going on in my life at the time. I was facing major challenges with my magazine. I wanted to restructure and I also wanted to create a new business, but it wasn’t coming together as fast as I had hoped, so I just figured my timing was wrong and I let go. Since I missed my 60th birthday timeline to write a book, I then decided I could try and get it out for my 61st last March but then I missed that timeline again. I wasn’t exactly focused on writing a book about depression but as I began the intro, I just started pouring out the darkest periods of my life, which was my 7 years battle with depression. The book literally wrote itself…then before the book got published I decided to edit out the intimate parts. I felt kind of naked but my publishers coaxed me into retaining all those parts on suicide and the bleak years.
When would you say this struggle started and when did you realise it was depression?
The battle with depression started with sleep deprivation that escalated into chronic insomnia and because the insomnia wasn’t properly managed, I slipped into depression.
Do you think you got enough support from the people around you?
I got all the help I needed from my family. My husband, my children my siblings and a couple of friends.
Did you talk to anyone about it? Did they understand what you were going through?
I didn’t initially know what was happening to me except that I had terrible mood swings and was afraid to go out and socialize. I had massive panic attacks and a feeling of low self-worth. I would cry for no reason and the lack of sleep didn’t help either, and in no time I lost confidence in myself. My husband eventually convinced me to see a doctor and then we were asked to see a psychiatrist and then came the drama of misdiagnosis and prescriptions and endless trips to hospitals at home and abroad. The depression wasn’t diagnosed early and that prolonged the sickness. Most times, I was told I was under pressure and needed to take a holiday.
You shared a lot of intimate details about your life. What would you say was the most difficult part of writing this book?
The most difficult part about writing Dust to Dew was the sense of weakness and vulnerability I felt. I kept thinking, 'strong women don’t suffer from depression'. Then there was also the issue of stigma! I kept thinking, 'I am putting myself out to be ridiculed', but I overcame that feeling and decided to be audacious and open up, and I’m glad I did.
How did it feel having to relive those moments?
Reliving everything I had gone through was a bit painful especially the part about losing my brother Fred and suffering a relapse when I thought I was healing. I shed a few tears in the process of writing it but I am good now.
Would you say you’ve completely overcome depression or is it still something you’re learning to deal with?
I am good now, and I am in a happy place. I couldn’t have had the sanity and energy to write Dust to Dew if wasn’t over the depression.
What’s the one very important message you want people to take away after reading this book?
I want people to understand that there is life after every travail and that when we get to that place where we feel we can’t go a day longer, we should speak up and ask for help. We mustn’t ever succumb to challenges. It would be nice to once again live in a world full of empathy and not judgment. People are going through stuff, we all need to weigh our words before we haul them at people. Our words can mortally wound others or give hope, We should be kinder to people because we don’t know the burdens people are carrying! I also hope with my book, we can openly have more conversations about mental health.
Is there one thing you wish you’d shared in this book but couldn’t?
I shared all. If anything, I think I overshared.
Dust to Dew by Betty Irabor is available on Amazon.