On a Friday morning I took a minibus from Zomba* to Lilongwe*. I was listening to Armstrong's Ndamusowa* while going home for the holidays just like everyone else.
Two hours later I arrived home and my mom was waiting for me.
"Hey David" my mom welcomed me smiling happily while reaching out to hug me. She had been sitting on the veranda, peeling nkhwani* for our lunch.
"Ooh mom" i ran to her for a hug. I fell into her arms and cried hysterically, somehow being able to mutter, “I’m depressed, and I’m worried I’m going to hurt myself.”
I said all this to myself while making sure she doesn't hear anything. My mom was always worried about me. And I loved her.
The next day I saw a doctor without telling my mom, and he diagonis ed me with severe depression and anxiety disorder.
"I saw this coming" I muttered to myself while the doctor gave me the bad news.
According to the doctor “depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest…It affects how you feel, think,
and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.”
I realized I had been depressed for about two years, but I failed to recognize it. As for the anxiety, I had constant worry and fear,of doing something wrong.
I was constantly worried about my college studies. You see, when I was in secondary school, I was very good at almost every subject and I was happy.
But when I started college everything changed.I was performing badly in most of my classes. My life started falling apart and I started having episodes of depression.
During that time I took antidepressants for about a year.
I knew that the journey was going to be difficult but I decided to focus solely on my mental health — my top priority was to figure out how to be myself again..
On the day I arrived home I spent my whole day in bed and the night that followed I was hurting but something strange happened.
I was sleeping on my bed about 7:30 am on a Saturday morning when something soft brushed my head. In a strange way it kinda did ease the pain I was feeling on the right side of my head.
I woke up and next to me was Bruce.
Bruce was our neighbor's dog. I did not own this dog and yet he loved me more than he loved his owners. We shared a special bond. I know this sounds crazy but this was us.
Bruce and Mphatso against the world.And we had rules.First rule; I would have to take him for a walk every morning and evening in the park. Second rule; I do not cheat on him.
That means no matter what, whenever am out am not supposed to touch or caress any other dog. He anyways knew when I did and he would not come over to my house if I broke the two rules.
So I took these two rules seriously.
On many occasions I wanted to stay indoors, lie on the couch, and do nothing. But despite my mood on those days, I still walked with him.
I genuinely enjoyed going outdoors with him and being surrounded by nature.
What I wasn't expecting during our outdoor excursions though was learning how to handle my anxiety because it was challenging.But whenever Bruce wanted us to go for a walk, I would go.
I mean I didn't wanna break our rules.Bruce had been a great blessing in many ways. I don’t know how I would’ve handled the first few months of my diagnosis without him.
I was so weak, and often felt like I was slowly rotting away — but Bruce's strong love lifted me up.
The depression left me feeling heavy and hollow, all at the same time. It twisted my mind into something powerfully dark, feeding me lies and belittling me.
The anxiety was paralyzing because there were bad days — the days where I cried at my reflection in the mirror, tried to dodge my suicidal thoughts, or believed all hope was gone.
I would run to a closet and scream at the top of my lungs. Once my voice couldn’t fill the space around me any longer, I cried incessantly. It didn’t take long for Bruce to join me.
He would lie down at my side, and lick the tears from my face. The first time Bruce did that, I smiled and even let out a laugh. It was the cutest thing he had ever done.
Whenever he licked my tears, I’d tell him thank you.
On our daily walks, Bruce never failed to catch someone’s eye. One day it was a young,beautiful girl. As she walked towards us, my anxiety skyrocketed.
I had avoided people for weeks because I felt like a failure, but there was no way I could avoid her.
I began to think of everything that could possibly go wrong: Bruce going crazy (because he often does when he meets someone new), or having a panic attack in front of her.
But none of that happened.The girl walked nearby and Bruce wagged his tail in front of her and she smiled, trying to steal a look at me.
"Beautiful dog" she said while smiling at us. At close proximity, she leaned towards Bruce, who was busy wagging his tail.
"yeah thanks." I responded in a not so confident voice.
"Have we met somewhere before?" she asked
"I dunno, maybe.I'm Mphatso. whats your name?"
"Alright Linda, wanna walk with me with this bad boy?" I asked her because I noticed Bruce was getting jealous and he started wimping.
At that moment I couldn’t believe I was actually talking to someone.I wasn't shy,so to speak but I just didn't like being around people except my mom of course. I preferred dogs.
When Bruce and I got home later that day, I couldn’t stop smiling. For the first time, I kept my anxiety at bay and secured my first date with Linda.
nkhwani* Malawian type of vegitables
Ndamusowa* A hit song by a renowned Malawian musician Lilongwe* Malawi's capital city Zomba* Malawi's old capital city