Gladys Gakii, 41, shares how social media saved her from her third suicide attempt.
“In December 2018, I had enough of life and decided to commit suicide. That was my third attempt and which proved almost fatal.
But before taking my life, I decided to share my feelings to the world by posting in a social media group known as Group Kenya (now defunct) this message; “I am so depressed. The only thing on my mind right now is suicide. Let nobody advise me to share because I have shared with a million people but nothing seems to change. My condition is worsening.”
Then I went off social media for three days, and when I logged back on, my inbox was flooded with many messages. Going through the comments was more depressing, as the post had more crude replies with only a few empathising with me. I could not bring myself to reply to any as my strength seemed to have drained off.
The post did not escape the attention of two pastors, one a Kenyan based in the US, and a local one in Mombasa, who reached out to me for counselling.
How I got here
‘How had I got here?’ you may ask. You see, thirty years ago I unusually came to this world. Unusual because whereas it is every mother’s joy bringing life to the world, the one that gave birth to me saw no joy, for she dumped me in a bush, perhaps leaving me to the fate of wild animals. But someone must have stumbled on what should have been a bundle of joy for I was rescued and placed in a hospital.
I was then adopted at four months old while still under the hospital care and went to live with my adoptive family in Meru County. I believed this was my biological family as I was made a part and parcel of the home. All was well while growing up until when I was 12 years old and that is when the worst happened. I was raped by someone I grew up believing was my brother. It began when I was sent to the garden and the man who continued to molest me for four years pinned me to the ground. I was threatened not to report and no one knew the emotional trauma I was undergoing then.
When I was in Form Two in the year 1992, I left our home and went to seek solace in the house of another ‘relative’. If I thought I had left a bad place for a safer one, then I was mistaken. Here again, I was defiled and felt I had had enough of life and contemplated suicide but instead decided to flee. I dropped out of school and got a job as a domestic servant even though I was underage. I did the job for seven years, as I saved towards establishing a business and becoming self-sufficient.
I then began a restaurant business that was good for four years but failed thereafter and I was forced to close.
By this time depression stemming from the rape traumas took a toll on my life. What hit me hard however is the bitterness of feeling rejected. With no job, no relatives to turn to, a place to call home, I never felt loved or dated anyone. There was a time I had to sleep out in the cold when my house was locked because of rent arrears. As if my misery was not enough, an old man who should have sympathised with my condition, offered to help me only if I slept with him. I turned down his advances and had to contend with being homeless.
I saw my life at the end of the tether and made my second suicide attempt. That was around 2013 and I had been mentally ill for close to a year and couldn’t bear the pressures of life anymore. Death was the only escape. Fortunately, a friend got me to work as a barmaid after I shared my predicament, and I was a bartender for the next five years.
The rape ordeal left a permanent scar that has made it untenable for me to have any kind of relationship with a man. To this day, I have never thought of getting married nor do I have a child for I see every man in a negative light.
Suicidal thoughts kept on recurring and the third attempt of 2018 was nearly fatal. I saw myself as a worthless nobody and saw no point in life or reason to be alive.
The attempt was life-changing as, after the post on Facebook, the two pastors would revive my hope.
The pastor overseas prayed for me over the phone and together with the local one, they have been instrumental in my healing process.
Although I forgave the rapists as part of the healing process, I can say some scars are only healed by time.
I also resolved to go back to school and so in 2019, aged 39, I enrolled in Form Three at Kiamuriuki Secondary School in Tharaka Nithi County. My resolve is to study and become a doctor to address depression.
I would have sat for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KSCE) last year had the Covid-19 pandemic not happened. I am now back to school and will do my KCSE later in the year. It’s been tough catering for my bills and getting the time to study, but I am hopeful.”