The Dark Side 42 Comments

harar single girl

So, what brings you here today,” he asked.

I have not been feeling well for a few months now. I’m always fatigued, severe morning headaches, sleepy all the time, backaches, irritable, trouble concentrating, hungry all the time…

Okay, sit up over there and let me check some things.” This mini Ye Genna Abaat look-alike proceeds to check my blood pressure, listens to my heart beat, shines his light in my eyes and takes a glimpse of my soul. He steps about six inches back and looks at me.

Really looks at me and asks, “How are you emotionally?

Ye Genna Abaatiye had no idea what was coming his way as the gates containing months of internal discontent and self damnation burst open and formed the type of ye enba fuafuate that would send Tis Abay into ye qenat dankira. He panicked. He hugged me. He let me go.

He ran out and brought tissue back with him. Then he hugged me again and responded with ‘it’s okay, it’s okay’ to my attempts at stifling the tears. The longer I witnessed his mebreQ’reking and the concern in his eyes, the louder I wanted to wail.

He said he’ll run a few tests based on the symptoms I stated, but he suspected clinical depression. I went home and hoped the test results would show some thyroid disorder that resembled some of the conditions in mention rather than a confirmation of his prognosis. After all, for those who have never been through it, some kind of physical disorder holds more weight than matters of the emotion.

A week later another doctor delivered the news to me that all the tests came back negative. My internal system and organs were perfectly healthy. Neger Gin, “You’re mildly depressed.” Elelelelelele…give yourself a pat on the back girlfriend…. she said it’s MILD! If you ever get depression, make sure it’s mild eshi! She slapped an assortment of Paxil and Prozac boxes in my hand and bid me farewell so I can rush home and begin my solo nausea, constipation, anxiety and diarrhoea fest.

Kezam eko you’re warned of the impending loss of libido — *Ahem.*

Humour aside, I refused to start on the medication in fear of experiencing all the side effects, of not being able to get off them once I started, and of course because of the stigma attached to it. How do you even begin to explain to friends and family when you don’t quite understand it yourself?

harar ethiopia

The reason for posting this goes beyond the desire to simply share a story. It’s to share a reality. It is one that so many in our own in the abesha community go through. Yet the attitude of most towards matters of the psyche is either a harsh criticism of a person’s ability to deal with the challenges of life or to simply dismiss the problem and let it simmer in its own stew.

We hear about Abebe who broke down after his divorce and we say he should get his act together and move on – there’s plenty of fish in the sea. We hear about Bekelech who lost her job and with it her desire for life, and we tell her to suck it up and thank her god for the time she enjoyed having one. We hear of Chala who appeared to have it all but lost it all when he chose to end his life. And we think, “He was so selfish, so lazy.”

Yeah, it’s very easy to analyze a problem from afar. But until we have walked in Abe’s, Beke’s and Chala’s footsteps and drank from their cup while eating from their plate then tossed and turned all night in their bed, we’ll never understand. Until we’ve visited the dark side and watched all the candles blow themselves out, one by one by one, we will never know why Chala did what he did.

The concoction of emotional turmoil, imbalance of brain chemicals and physical pain associated with clinical depression is manifested in social withdrawal, apathy and a constant magnification of the negatives, which has the effect of crippling one’s feelings of worth. If left untreated, clinical depression can destroy lives – figuratively and literally!

One can’t efffff malet and blow away depression like he/she would of ye’ocholoni geleba. We can’t tell someone to snap the hell out of it and expect them to. Negotiating through the emotional baggage, the physical pain and the questions of what it all means is burden enough without having to deal with the external nuisance of daring stares demanding you to get back on track.

In my case, I had the unconditional love, understanding, and constant support of two amazing people; one of whom I am forever indebt for allowing me to mezebarek, to wail like an infant and to talk and talk non stop when I needed to. Their reassurance and advice coupled with the fragment of motivation I had left in me, re-injected optimism and allowed me to resurface before I had plunged in too deep.

To those who witness a loved one experience this, I ask you to load up on patience. Understand and question before eagerly passing judgement. Learn about the condition and offer hope and help in whatever form they will accept. Listen again before you decide you heard it all. And watch with a very cautious eye.

For those who travel this journey as we speak, I ask you to not feel ashamed and worthless. This can happen to anyone at any point in time and there always is light at the end of that tunnel. If you cannot muster up the courage to be proactive in your own treatment, then allow others to intervene and hold you up for as long as you need to be held. Break free from the bonds of silence and seek a free ear within your vicinity. And remember, yehem yalfal!

42 Responses to “The Dark Side”

  1. 1 Nolawi

    a little bit of compassion understanding, love, patience and etc will go a long way…

    but isn’t it hard to achieve!

  2. 2 Mamit

    Yes, the love and support of family and friends help us recover from the emotional turmoil we go through in our daily lives. Also, I am not saying everyone should be spiritual or follow a certain religion, but whether you believe in Allah, God, Buddha or the moon, just remember that there is another force out there helping us cope with the problems of our daily lives.

    I will leave you with the following verse:

    “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

    Matthew 6:25

  3. 3 Dinich

    A lot of respect for you MM for raising a very important issue, for being honest and for providing practical, tried and true advice. I have no doubt that this article will affect a lot of people positively.

    Looking forward to see more of you here..

  4. 4 abyssinia

    Arif article. This is one big issue that we need to address within our community. A lot of young people and adults, women in particular deal with depression after having a baby. However, we think seeking professional help is embarrassing and degrading. Sometimes people prefer to deal with it differently. But why turn to drugs and/or alcohol when counseling is available?

    We need to educate our people that it’s okay to ask/get help.

  5. 5 abyssinia

    I didn’t mean to bold the whole paragraph. My bad…

  6. 6 celebratelife

    Masinko, what a great post and thank you for sharing the personal side. There is such a huge need for psychologists, therapists, and psychiatrists within our community. I have known a couple of Abeshoch who committed suicide and I saw the signs but didn’t do my part to reach out and be a friend. I remember one guy who became withdrawn, started losing weight, got dark circles around his eyes and I knew something was wrong and when I asked he said “I’m just working a lot.” I knew in my heart there was more but instead of insisting on it I walked away from it. A few months later he drove onto a bridge, stopped his car and jumped. Until this day I regret for not reaching out.

    Within our community it seems like talking about or having a problem is a huge shame.

    Thank you again for sharing and can’t wait to read more of your writing.

  7. 7 cece

    Great Article Masinko ! This is a very important subject we all have to know about, thanks for bringing it up……

  8. 8 mamitu

    Thanks Masinko for sharing and bringing up this topic for discussion. Depression is such a taboo in our community, even the ones suffering would radther be in denial.

  9. 9 masinkomelody

    [quote comment="69657"]a little bit of compassion understanding, love, patience and etc will go a long way…

    but isn’t it hard to achieve![/quote]

    It truly is Nol. I’m helping someone go through the same thing now, and it’s been very trying. I have been humbled by my own experience and as a result draw strength from it, enji it is really hard achieving all that. But when you view it along the same lines as someone suffering from say epilepsy, you realize it’s not the person’s fault they have those seizures…and yet every time he/she has a seizure you understand and have the patience to hold them down till that episode dies away.

  10. 10 gigi

    It is so depressing. I mean for those with depression as myself. I told family about it after suffering all my life since i was around 6 yrs old. They have not been able to help me. I am 22 yrs old now. I feel it will never go away. It will live with me to the end. It is genetic. I just thank god I don’t have much worse psych
    problems as schizophrenia of which my older brother suffers. Distant relatives have been very bad. In a way
    this tradedy I and my brother suffer brought me closer to him. Thank you for sharing the story. i hope people will open their minds and start seeing this as a disease.
    It is not a choice. Shop it people. It is not a curse.

  11. 11 yonas

    a noteworthy post! melody, thanks for sharing your personal story and addressing an important issue that’s (unfortunately) not taken seriously by most in our community.

  12. 12 walid

    Wow, what an insightful article! Thank you, MM.You really brought up a subject we all should address but failed to in any meaningful way. Depression indeed is a huge problem in our community. And no surprise at that given the enormous cultural gap involved and the disillusionment and sense of isolation that adjusting to life in America creates in each of us. But the difference remains in the way we deal with it-a function of both our personality and circumstances. But aside from the vagaries of life and differnces in personalities, are we culturally predisposed to depression?

  13. 13 walid

    Wow, what an insightful article! Thank you, MM.You really brought up a subject we all should address but failed to in any meaningful way. Depression indeed is a huge problem in our community. And no surprise at that given the enormous cultural gap involved and the disillusionment and sense of isolation that adjusting to life in America creates in each of us. But the difference remains in the way we deal with it-a function of both our personality and circumstances. But aside from the vagaries of life and differences in personalities, are we culturally predisposed to depression?

  14. 14 Bed_ford

    Thank MM for the article; it is a taboo subject in our culture to talk about depression and a lot of people suffer quietly. I hope your courage open others to seek help.

  15. 15 Ethio Jazz

    Thank You MM for bringing such a personal story to teach and make us understand about depression. You’re truly are a gem.

  16. 16 DawitK

    Masinko Melody – Thank you for sharing this with us

    Unfortunately, our community tends to think that depression isn’t serious and is often looked on as a personal weakness rather than a serious medical illness. And for that reason many people who suffer with depression think they can deal with it themselves.

    There are to many people out there with loved ones going through depression and they have no idea, or they to think it is a weakness and wont seek help for their love ones…there is much judgment about mental diseases that we have to change.

  17. 17 emebet

    what a beautiful article Masinko Melody. i hope the courage it took for you to write this article will inspire people to reach out to others or get help themselves.
    “Actually, we have no problems – we have opportunities for which we should give thanks…
    An error we refuse to correct has many lives.
    It takes courage to face one’s own shortcomings,
    and wisdom to do something about them”. ~ Edgar Cayce

  18. 18 kiki

    Thank you Melody for bringing such an important and personal topic out in the open. I know it will inspire someone to seek help with their depression. I had a friend who had a hard time of it after she had her second baby. Luckily, her husband was able to convince her to seek help. It took a while but she is better and back to her “old” self now.

  19. 19 sweet&sour

    Well done MM! Thanks for bringing this up to the table-it was really over due! I def. agree that our community needs major work as far as dealing w/ issues related to depression. First & formost, we need to see it as an issue in order to start addressing it. But meanwhile, I think every one of us r capable of making a difference if we simply learn to be good listeners to our own brother/sister who might be going through some form of depression.

  20. 20 abyssinia

    gigi, thanks for sharing you story. It really breaks my heart to hear that your families were not aware of the magnitude of this disease at the early stage. Whether genetic or not, there is always help out there and know a lot of people care.

    We all appreciate your courage to talk about this issue openly and in the process help other young people like yourself.

    Thanks MM for bringing this up!

  21. 21 Sky

    Wow Masinko I am sure it took so much courage for you to write about your personal struggle with this disease but by posting this wonderful piece you are saving peoples life who are struggling alone and ashamed.
    God bless you my sister for opening the door for others, to let them know it is ok to talk about it and seek help!!
    Much power and respect to you!!

  22. 22 wudnesh

    it takes courage and someone like you to discuss something we are aware of and see ourselves or others go through, but never talk about. Thank you….egzaber yisTish! here is hugs and kisses {} :)
    Qn for you: so, did u finally take the medications? If not, do you still think it was a wise decision?, and why? {trying to understand if a person can be helped without taking medications, that’s all}
    My friend is friends with a guy (yea, abesha) who seems to suffer from a depression. He works full time, and goes about everyday life like the rest of us. The difference is that,for example, they’d be in a cafe enjoying coffee minamin, and suddenly something takes over him…he would say ‘look at that person, he’s one of the spies they sent after me….I don’t know where else to go….they’re hunting me down..” etc. I guess this goes beyond what you called mild, but my friend always feels bad for not being able to do any more than just be a good listener. Hopefully, articles like this will encourage abeshas in the field to organize something (I wonder what we, as a community, can do).

    Gigi, sorry to hear you had to go through it, without telling your fam , for so long. Please start anew by saying it’ll go away. That’s a start. If you don’t mind, can I take your email from Bernos and write to you?
    I wish you well.

  23. 23 masinkomelody

    Thanks everyone for your kind words. It trully is a very important subject.

    Gigi, i applaud you for coming forward and sharing your experience with us. I am sorry that your immediate family could not see you through this, but i’m sure you have taken advantage of the wealth of support that is available out there. If you would like, please feel to email me at

    Wudiye, no i did not take the medication at all. It was a wise decision in my specific case because i was at a stage where it was reversible without having to go that avenue. I relied mainly on personal talk therapy and adjustments to my behaviour and the situations that were causing the stress. I made exercise a part of my personal treatment plan, as it has been noted to affect our brain positively..i.e.increase serotonin levels as well as to rid of the physical symptoms. In addition, i sometimes took 5-HTP pills, which is a naturally occuring amino-acid used by some as an antidepressant, also to suppress apetite and to help with sleep. There is a wealth of print and online material on coping with depression and i really integrated the advice from there too.

    Although it felt like it will never go away, in my specific case i’m happy to say that i am back to the joyful person i used to be plus a newer positive me.

    Every treatment plan is dependent on specific people and cases and is something that should be consulted with a professional. As for your friend’s friend, could he also be schizophrenic? I believe hallucinations are mostly associated with schizophrenia. Has he seen a doctor about it and if so, is he taking his medication? I work with someone who is bipolar schizophrenic and he’s been quite well with his medication, but had a manic episode recently when he thought everything in his life was going well and decided to stop taking it

  24. 24 Chala

    Wow very great topic indeed. Thanks for sharing. I know a person (Ethiopian) that confides in me about every little thing in his life. Some of his concerns are real but most of it is imagined and things that are blown out of proportion, and for the longest time I have been trying to figure out if it was a mental disorder (depression) or if the person is merely trying to get attention. That scenario is still puzzling to me, but since being around him is so emotionally draining, I have limited my contacts. I wish I could help and point out what the real issue might be but the fact that the person is in their late 60′s makes it more difficult.

  25. 25 Rahwina

    Sinko…love the post. I have always thought we needed a hotline for counselling services and I am still looking into it.

  26. 26 Doro Mata

    wow indeed

    but I’m gonna go bake to the press to comment… for some reason, I feel naked saying anything here

  27. 27 Alpha

    M’Lady…..Don’t know what to say….thanks for opening up about your situation and for an article that is wirtten so beautifully. And Gigi, thanks for sharing your exprience as well, i really do wish you all the best and e-mail M’Lady she is truley a wise lady ;-)

  28. 28 Adjoa

    arif … konjo…

    inspiration. i love the photographs!
    makes you think….

  29. 29 Engeda


    The Official Ethiopian Millennium Song!

    What do you guys think?? I wonder how many Ethiopian Mili songs will be out in Addis?

    I loved this one!!! cool tunes too.


  30. 30 Alpha

    Engeda… aint got no shame do ya!

  31. 31 Guest

    Thank you Engeda for sharing your thoughts!!!!

    Don’t listen to haters like Alpha!

    Happy Birthday Ethiopia!

    I loved the video too,


  32. 32 Guest

    Alpha! BTW this is what Blogs is all about.. isn’t it?

  33. 33 Peaceethio

    Hi guys…this is really a very major issue in our (Ethiopian’s) community and it is rapidly growing. I do not know what one can do but as a community we need to come up with a great support group. Since any kind of depression is referred as ‘ebdet and a big taboo’ in our culture. I had a friend who was at the first state of depression (i went to the Mental Health Clinic with him) who did not want to take the medication but rather go to ethio. for some kind of baptism. (do not take me wrong i support prayer but when there is a cure for it why not sue it…as far as i am concerned God uses medicine too!) any ways the guy disappeared on me since then!excellent article to read

  34. 34 masinkomelody

    Thanks Peaceethio for the links…’s good to know there’s a book on the subject by an abesha for abeshoch.

    “Dr. Tedla is author of “Understanding and Surviving Depression, Alcohol & Drugs: A Personal Guide for Ethiopians.”

  35. 35 wudnesh

    even from what you wrote at #23, I realize there’s a lot to learn. Thanks for sharing hon. I actually asked my friend about him after I read what you wrote, inna, she said he’s now taking medications and seems fine.
    Moi is happy to see your joyful self :)

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