I couldn’t quite place it. But something the young lady said caught my attention. I took a few paces back. I needed to be sure she was talking to me. The large hall was empty now, except for the two of us. I had just given a talk on how to handle depression among today’s youth, and was about leaving the hall when she spoke the words that halted me.

“There’s no cure for depression”, she said again, seeing that she had my attention.
“Sorry?” I had a somewhat sheepish look on my face.
“You’re Father Kay right?”
I nodded.
“I listened to your lecture. It was brilliant.”
My lips parted in a smile as her compliment massaged my ego.
“But I could tell you have no real idea what depression is about. Your presentation lacked depth.”
The smile froze halfway across my face. “Sorry?”
She rolled her eyes at me. “If you say ‘sorry’ one more time I’m sure I’ll die.”
I swallowed instinctively, wondering who sent the nameless lady to torment me.
“Don’t worry Father…” She looked like she had been reading my mind. “I waited to see you so you would have much more reality to express the next time. You’re a great speaker. So if you don’t mind, I’ll tell you my story. Perhaps you’ll understand a bit more about depression.”

I pulled a seat close to the door and sat on it. My eyes made a quick dart at my wristwatch. I still had a few more minutes to spare. “I don’t mind at all”, I finally replied. “Do you want to sit?” I asked, pulling out another chair.
She sat and crossed her legs confidently.
“I never said there’s a cure to depression,” I began, in a bid to regain a little self esteem.
“I never said you did.” She retorted. “You implied it.”
“Whoa! Calm down Miss?”
“Cynthia”, she said. “Cynthia Doyle.”
I looked at the scantily dressed lady, then took a mental guess at her age. Probably Seventeen at the most. Her hair was cut like a boy’s, with a golden streak on both sides. Her face was covered in layers of makeup, which made her seem older. She had quite a large frame, and a well rounded physique. Above all, she had an imposing aura – like she needed me to see things from her perspective, whether I wanted to or not. I said a quick prayer in my head. “Alright Cynthia, I’m all ears…”

“Father,” Cynthia began, “when you talk about depression, don’t say it like it’s some sickness that can be treated with paracetamol.”
I opened my mouth to say something…
“Please let me finish,” she cut in, preventing me from interrupting further.
“Both my parents died in a car crash when I was six. I was an only child. I grew up in an orphanage. At twelve, I ran away and got picked up by a family here in Benin City after seven days of sleeping in uncompleted buildings. The family abused me verbally, emotionally, physically and sexually. I don’t want to bore you with the details. To cut the long story short, I ran again at fourteen and joined a street gang. I took cocaine and smoked pot with ease. I don’t want to mention the number of violent jobs I had to do. After a year, I was a raving lunatic – hooked on drugs. All I could think about was suicide. But I guess I never had enough courage to actually go through with it. The restlessness got so bad that one day I ran into an oncoming vehicle. It belonged to a charity organisation. They took me in and began a whole process of rehabilitation. I was at their institution for two years. Everyone thought I was better. Hell, I thought I was better myself. But just last year, on my Eighteenth birthday, I tried to kill myself again. The therapies started afresh – electroconvulsive therapies, talk therapies, psychotherapies, – the anti depressants, and even shock therapies. To cut the long story short, I’m back where I started. I have no real relationships cos I still trust no one, I still prefer my own company, I still can’t sleep at night and I still feel worthless. Above all, I don’t believe I can ever get better.” Cynthia paused. “Now so you understand, Father?”

“Yes I understand,” I replied slowly. I was trying to process all that info at once. “Can I ask a quick question?”
“Ask away,” she said.
“Does your life have a purpose right now?”
“Well, I hope so.” She shrugged.
“Would you like to tell your story to others?”
“Hell no!”
“But I need them to hear that depression can’t be cured.”
“Why would I want to tell people that?” Cynthia asked, looking at me weirdly.
“That’s my point exactly. Let’s just tell people your story then. Let’s see how it motivates them. Who knows? You just may find that in sharing your story, others may find strength to get better. Besides, what’s the worst that can happen to you? You can’t get better, right?”
Cynthia was silent. I could tell she was considering my proposal.
“Okay, I’ll do it. But only because I need people to see that depression can’t be cured by mere lectures like yours.”
“Deal!” I said.
“You’ll need to come speak with my organisation though. Here’s their contact info.”
I took the card from her outstretched right hand. “I’ll definitely be in touch. And thank you Miss Cynthia Doyle.”
“It’s Okoye Father. Cynthia Okoye.” She was smiling. “The name Doyle makes people take me a little bit more seriously.”
“Alright Okoye Doyle,” I replied with a smile. “My next seminar is two weeks away. I’ll make sure you speak right after me.”
Cynthia smiled. For the first time that evening, her face turned beautiful. I allowed hope fill my heart. Who knows what tomorrow might bring for her?

© Oselumhense Anetor, 2017.

Author’s Note: This story is dedicated to all those dealing with bouts of depression.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction; a figment of the author’s imagination.

Featured Image Credit @Pixabay