How I survived depression – LASU lecturer, Praise Ogabi

How I survived depression - LASU lecturer, Praise Ogabi

Praise Ogabi is an author, lawyer and lecturer at the Lagos State University (LASU). She tells OGHENOVO EGODO-MICHAEL how she highlights the experiences of women affected by mental health issues through her writing.

 

When did you realise you had interest in writing as a career?

I started writing while in secondary school. It started as an outlet for me because as the first child in my family, I felt so much pressure on me to perform well academically, behave well and generally be above par. Back then, I did not even see myself as a creative person.

So, when did I start to see writing as a career? That was in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when I released my first book titled, Finding Me: My Journey to Wholeness. I started to think about writing as a career after I saw the reaction of readers to the book.

 

As a lawyer and lecturer, why did you decide to write about psychology?

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I could have chosen to write and promote several subjects in the legal field but instead, I decided to focus on mental health. The reason is simple— I am passionate about it. That is because I have watched loved ones face mental health challenges and I have had certain experiences myself. That is why I have chosen to share those experiences with my readers.

 

You mentioned that your passion for mental health is borne out of personal experiences. How so?

I have had bouts of depression. There were times when I could barely get out of bed and all I wanted to do was sleep. There were times I just wanted to die and I toyed with the idea of taking my own life. There were times I would cry till my chest literally hurt. At other times, I would be so giddy and out of control just because I could not face the reality of all I was passing though. I just wanted it to end and I did not know what to do. Some of my close friends have also had certain unpleasant mental health experiences. All that ignited a passion in me to do something about the subject, so I said to myself, ‘Why not write about it’? Why not let people understand what it feels like being bi-polar, schizophrenic or having borderline personality disorder?

 

How do you carry the weight of being a writer, lecturer and lawyer at the same time?

First, I’d say it is by God’s grace. Doing all these things can be very draining but because I love all that I am, I have to find a way to do all three without letting any ball drop. Obviously, I have to prioritise, so at certain times, I have to push one of those things to the background and focus on the others. One way or the other, I always pull through. Another thing is resilience. Sometimes, things don’t go the way they ought to but the ability to keep bouncing back is very important.

 

What are the challenges you face as a growing writer?

As a growing writer, one of the biggest challenges I face is visibility, and I know that is a challenge for many growing writers too. Having to consistently put myself out there can be overwhelming. Self-publishing is also very expensive and this brings us to the subject of finances. Marketing, branding and visibility all cost money. Aside from the obvious challenges, another hurdle is consistency. The more consistent one is as a writer, the better one gets at writing. My plan is to always be involved in one writing project or the other, and also get a very good editor, so that my work is always of high standard.

 

How many books have you written?

I have written three books. One is in audio format, while the other two are in print. The audio book is titled, Psychology of Divorce, while the ones in print are Finding Me and More Than a Conqueror.

 

What is your favourite written piece so far?

I have over a hundred written pieces, including poems and short stories.

 

What advice do you have for intending female writers?

Just do it; don’t hesitate. You would find your niche with time. Bring your femininity into your writing. You should also take courses to improve yourself, and most importantly, read a lot.

 

Do you intend to continue being a writer and a lawyer in the long run, or you intend to face just one squarely?

For now and for many years to come, I intend to continue juggling both writing and practising law. However, I plan to retire to writing eventually.

 

How do you manage writer’s block?

I actually rarely get writers block. But, I often experience mental fatigue, which is quite similar. After working at my day job, I often find it stressful to conjure up something, so sometimes I just don’t. When I do experience writer’s block, I take a break, listen to music, dance or look for ways to get inspiration.

 

Considering how mental issues are trivialised in Nigeria, do you think it is worth writing about?

I believe the trivialness attached to mental issues in Nigeria is the reason more people should write about it. People tend to mock, avoid and trivialise what they don’t understand. Once more people get to understand that for the most part, mental illness has medical causative factors and is not as a result of voodoo or something that is deeply mysterious, they will be more open to having honest conversations about it. Even though it is a huge topic and would take a lot to cause a change in people’s disposition towards mental health, I am willing to take up the challenge.

 

Does being a lawyer give you a creative edge in writing?

Law is not exactly a creative endeavour, although this depends on how one looks at it. As a creative, I tend to see the creative side of everything. One edge law gives me is the ability to express myself better than I might have been able to were I not a lawyer.

 

What changes would you like to see in terms of how mental health issues are handled in Nigeria?

I will like to see stigma completely eradicated. I will also like to see a Nigeria where the subject of mental health can be brought up in everyday conversations. I’ll like to see a Nigeria where mental health care is more readily available, and where mental health is taken seriously by the government and other stakeholders.

 

What do you do with your free time?

In my free time, I volunteer, play games, rest, hang out with my family and engage friends in small talk and deep conversations. I also take time out to have fun. For the most part, I am a ‘homebody’ and will usually pick up a book to read or do something else that helps me relax and unwind.

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