“Not waving, but drowning”- The battle against depression

I first came across the poem ‘Not Waving but Drowning’ by Stevie Smith in high school and I remember even then, it hit me in the gut, and over the years I have returned to it time and again because it so aptly describes how I feel a lot of the times.
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
If you want to know what depression feels like, the gaping chasm that sometimes feels like it’s eating your heart, a chasm in which you can scream as much as you like but no one ever hears you, then read this poem. It says the dead man lay moaning and nobody heard him. That’s what depression is like. It’s like death whispering at you even in your happiest moment, when you should be rejoicing it whispers ‘this won’t last, you know it won’t’ or even worse yet, ‘this is a dream, it’s not real, enjoy the adrenaline while it lasts, because soon it will be gone…you know I’m right.’
And even worse, it feels like it is your condition alone to carry – only the dead man lay moaning; no one else heard him but they heard each other…
Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way, They said.
‘He always loved larking…’ That is what they think…people wonder how someone who seems so strong, seems so capable and gifted and beautiful and whatever it is could take their own life…
There was a song I heard years ago and I remember I could never get the one line out of my head… ‘I was always on the outside looking in’.
A dis-associative feeling, like somehow you consciously know you are in the world but you feel far apart from it and all those around you. Many people have felt it but it is hard to describe and worse yet explain to someone else.
Oh, no no no, it was too cold always (Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.
I really find the final stanza fascinating: It is poignant sad and for once quite clear in meaning… ‘it was too cold always’, and because he is dead, he is truly beyond help – ‘I was much too far out all my life and not waving but drowning.’
Are you drowning and everyone else thinks you are waving? Putting on that winning smile, clapping your hands so you stay in beat with the rhythm of this life – people’s expectations that you are struggling to live up to? Your own expectations for yourself? Your own limitations? Feeling trapped in the shadow of other people’s successes and afraid to say how you really feel – frail, unaccomplished, unwanted, unheard and misheard, like an outsider? Is that you too saying, ‘Im not waving I’m drowning!’ and no one hears your screams or sees your frantic flailing in the deep deep waters of life against a never-ending onslaught of waves, each new one bigger than the last and threatening to overwhelm and sink you to depths where no one else can reach you?
Well you are not alone. I have been drowning not waving and for a long time unable to articulate it. To speak it out loud. That life is too hard. The world is too big and sometimes, many times we will be standing in the middle of a crowded street screaming our lungs out and not a soul will stop or see or hear us.
Never has that scripture been more profound to me that we are strangers in this land –
For I am a stranger with You,
A sojourner, as all my fathers were.’
And sadder still – everyone is screaming. They may not tell you, but they are screaming too. But if you are reading this you are still alive. Unlike the man in the poem who is now an afterthought, gone like vapour in the wind – you are still breathing. You are not alone. You are not forsaken. You are not forgotten.
“But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me.
Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.
Your sons shall make haste;
Your destroyers and those who laid you waste
Shall go away from you.”
(Isaiah 49:14-17)
“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.”
(Psalm 61:1-3)
You are not alone and I am not alone, and while we yet breathe there is hope for a better day.
Quintessentially Yours,
QF Chiratidzo

Dealing with depression: A resident QF shares…

The one thing that I have consistently been told that stands out about me is my infectious smile. A lot of people have said that I have one of the widest grins. I have even been told by some teachers at my children’s school that I brighten their mornings with my genuine, earnest smile. And yet!…. Deep down I am a wreck, crumbling at every turn. I guess my smile has been my way of dealing (or not dealing) with the real issues that have haunted me throughout my life. Having suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse from an early age I learnt to counter the negative aspects of my life with an outgoing personality and a generous smile. I have years of experience in masking my pain, my anguish and my rage. It was not until quite recently that I managed to open up because all my life I felt like telling the truth about my misery would make me unpopular and unattractive; a burden.

Have you ever had those moments when you feel overwhelmed and it seems as though you’re losing all control?  The times when you just cannot stop crying and yearning for a kind word, a gentle touch, some real tenderness. Have you felt guilty for wanting more? Has it felt like you were being selfish, as if you did not appreciate what you had? Well, I have had those feelings quite a lot.

When I was about eight or nine I was diagnosed with a heart condition that left me feeling totally out of sorts but that did not stop me from doing the things that I loved like being outdoors, swimming, playing hockey and basketball and taking long walks with friends. During my low moments I was left alone a lot and this led to my first experience with depression. I felt lonely and left out and tried to take my own life from the age of twelve. However, God had a higher purpose for me because I lived despite several suicide attempts.

I also grew up in a home where domestic violence was rife and this affected me even more adversely. I died every time I saw my mum soaked in blood and tears. I tried running away from home but I was too ill to go too far for too long. I turned to self blame and tried to be the best child I could be. I did very well at school, did my chores diligently and was a great big sister to my siblings but the trauma would not stop. At one point I was molested in our own home while my parents slept in the next room but kept that trauma to myself for fear of worsening the domestic strife that was already at its peak. The abuse carried on for I don’t remember how long. Well I guess it was until the perpetrator stopped living with us. Still I kept it to myself until very recently. I hid my anguish behind my brilliant smile and my brilliant mind.

Over the years a lot has happened that has led me deeper into my hole of despair including losing both my parents, (my mum died before my eyes, in my arms), my brother, friends, our family home, my job and my sheer sense of worth and self-respect. To top it all off I continued to struggle with my health and in addition to the heart condition I was also diagnosed with epilepsy. With each blow I lost more hope and loved myself less. I have fallen a thousand times, and hanging by a thread I have barely managed to pick myself up a thousand more times.

Through all the negative things that have happened to me I have learnt that I have a higher purpose than the pain and grief that I feel. I have been blessed with beautiful, kind children and a loving, committed husband who needs me to take charge of my life. Things are not always rosy, sometimes my kids drive me up the wall and I sometimes feel like killing my husband, but I am truly blessed. I have a lot of the things that most women aspire for… family, friends, a lovely home, car, a career and yet I struggle with depression still.

My outlet has been going back to the basics, taking long walks where I get to meditate and talk to my God. During these moments I get to appreciate my surroundings and find hope and inspiration in what I see all around me. During the good moments I even get to relive the beautiful moments of my childhood and focus on the person that I have always wanted to become.

I don’t always get the support or attention I feel that I need. In fact, more often than not I have to deal with my issues on my own. I still have moments when I feel overwhelmed and my spirit is low but I have now committed to reclaiming my life, fulfilling my destiny and living the life that my children will benefit from. In fact, “my children” has extended to children born to other women and I now focus on reaching as many children as I can with my advice and love. I mostly do this through donating my time and resources to meeting the children’s needs. I have found that focusing on others, particularly the most vulnerable has not only been a positive distraction, it has also uplifted my spirit and given back my sense of worth, while serving others who may or may not be experiencing the things that I experienced as a child and young adult.

My advice is to commit to walking, or crawling away from one’s personal disappointments, to seek Godly counsel and support, to pray (loudly or quietly) all the time, to keep reminding yourself of the positive things in your life, and to give whatever you can to others. In giving you definitely will receive so much more than you could ever perceive… even your long lost joy.

It is not an easy road but depression can be conquered, just refuse to give up on yourself.

Quintessentially Yours,

QF Edith


The GREATER depression: Introducing #QFOvercomers and sharing testimonies of survival

I sat down and pounded away at my keyboard a few days ago. As I was getting ready to publish my post, the laptop did the thing that makes any blogger and PC dependent cringe – the thing froze and died. It was then I knew that indeed, GOD wanted me to get this message out for someone needed to hear it. I crawled into bed disparaged, as I had given up an afternoon at the park with my cubs to put my thoughts on this topic down. What I did do well on the day though, was to hold an incredible series of conversations on the subject I was typing about with my sisters-in-arms on Whatsapp – (Team #TezviCorp and #TeamQF stand up!!! – love you ladies so much!!!). I got some really detailed insight into this cancer that we all ignore yet it resides so elusively amongst us, lurking in the shadows and darting in and out of our lives between smiles and tears.

This cancer, our people speak so very little about; yet many have lost their lives as they gave up their fight to get out of a deep abyss of pain and suffering. Not tied to race, social class, religion or otherwise, DEPRESSION is a battle that is as real as the rice we inhale for our supper.

The sad truth however, is that in our culture depression is “those other people’s disease” which is often greeted by “kasi ane mamhepo” (“is he/she bewitched”) or “just pray about it” upon sharing one’s ongoing struggles. Too many messages of seemingly incurable anguish from friends, and stories of family members struggling with depression and anxiety have come to my ears in recent weeks. The subject is heavy and difficult to understand but attempt to tackle it according to our understanding we must…

It used to be that you would hear of someone struggling with depression and think “shame, they just need to reevaluate their relationships or stop drinking so much.” Having survived abject anxiety and fear of failure and/or loss and lack myself – like I kid you not – I was crippled for a time by debilitating fear to where I would lay awake at night checking on whether my baby was breathing – I get it when I hear people speak of struggling after having had a baby, or losing someone they love to death or a failed relationship.


I get it when people’s lives take a downward spiral and they take to drinking, drug use or any other source of temporary appeasement just to numb the sadness, just to silence the voices, just to take the next step into what seems like a deep dark pit anyway. I get it. I was there once upon a time over a decade ago – with bouts somewhere between then and now -and did not what that was all about. YET TODAY I STAND AS A SURVIVOR, grateful for every opportunity to breathe in an exhale, allowing my senses to run rife as I marvel at the goodness that sounds me and most importantly, GOD’s love for me. GOD wanted me here, which is why TODAY I STAND. He wasn’t done with me yet, which is why I will never forget.

Others are not here to stand with you and I however, so with this, we have added a tab on Quintessentialf.com called #QFOvercomers. Our desire is for give women (and men), survivors like you and I, an opportunity to share their struggles and the victory that comes with now living on the other side of depression and anxiety.

So join us on our journey – as we share and work to strengthen each other, one word at a time. Reach out to women around you from time to time; ask the difficult questions if you sense that there is something going on behind the scenes. You never know – you may just be that person that will stop them from going over the edge…

With hopes to inspire a surviving spirit,

QF Yvonne