My Mental Health Journey with Reliance Health
Many people neglect the importance of mental health in Nigeria. This is a problem because it can affect their overall well-being. Hear from one of our customers as she shared her mental health journey with us and how we have helped her find the appropriate mental health care she needed.
Due to how sensitive and private mental health challenges can be, we have decided to keep her identity hidden. For this article, we will call her Janet.
Q: When did you first realize the importance of mental health?
A: I really can’t point out the exact time, but I would say in secondary school.
That’s quite early. Mental health is rarely spoken about in secondary schools
Q: What prompted the realization? Did someone speak to you about it, or you just learned on your own?
A: I think it first started as self-realization. A couple of things had happened around me that affected me. I somehow knew there were alternatives and how they would benefit me in all aspects of my life. It was knowing things could be different. I instinctively knew that the mind was something to guard. Being mentally strong and resilient became an aspiration.
Q: Can you walk us through some of the mental health challenges you have experienced?
A: As a child, I was bullied in primary school, but I didn’t do much about it. Being introverted didn’t help. I felt it was difficult to speak to anyone, so I didn’t talk about it. There were a lot of expectations as I grew. The expectations made me more afraid than confident.
Q: Did you experience it more as you moved into secondary school?
A: Yes, but differently. I was among the first set of students in my secondary school, and they made me the senior prefect. Hence, it wasn’t the kind of bullying you would expect from a typical secondary school that was meted out by senior students to junior students.
Q: What kind was it?
A: It wasn’t so much bullying but more like managing expectations and being made to feel uncomfortable by some junior students. I didn’t know how to talk about it. A lot of my mates and friends looked up to me for support. They would speak to me about their challenges, and I would proffer solutions. That expectation didn’t allow me to open up to them because I didn’t want them to think I was incapable of helping. I wanted to help them.
Q: It must have been a lot to handle. How did you manage it?
A: I resorted to writing and journaling. I wrote some fiction and poetry as well. At some point, I wrote letters to my eldest sister, and it helped me so much.
Q: Did anyone around you know what was happening?
A: No. I was the only one who noticed the difference in my grades. Because it wasn’t so obvious, no one around me knew about it, just me. I still did very well in a lot of other areas so, that masked it all. Because I knew my potential, I also knew that something was wrong. Even with the condition, I got admission to go study medicine.
Q: How did you cope?
A: I did what I knew how best to do. My faith helped me. I prayed and listened to gospel songs. I wrote a lot, too, and most times, it helped. But there were also times when I felt like I was going to die. The feeling was so palpable that I almost gave up. It was a scary period for me. I felt like I wasn’t going to live out my full potential but live a miserable life. I felt my life would end like some very famous artists, like Peter Van Gogh, who battled some of the worst kinds of depression.
Q: Did you think about seeing a medical professional at that time?
A: I thought of seeing a medical doctor or a therapist, but at some point, the idea scared me because that would be on record. It didn’t help that I had seen some movies where these records were used against those who owned them, especially in the medical profession. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I kept getting worse. I would go through certain moments of relief and then relapse again.
Q: How did you convince yourself to get help?
A: After a while, I decided to get help. I knew I couldn’t do this all by myself and didn’t want a situation where I would no longer be able to access help relevant to me.
I didn’t get help immediately. When I finished med school and came back to Nigeria. I felt better and it was like my worse days were behind me. Then I got this amazing job, but it stretched me in ways I couldn’t imagine. It became a series of triggers for me. I had a series of burnouts that led to the breakdown.
Q: What finally moved the needle for you?
A: The pandemic that happened in 2020 was also terrible for me. I didn’t even know how badly it had affected me. I started having some physical symptoms like hormonal surges. There was an excruciating physical pain that affected my work, and my journey to the hospital began. I moved from one specialist to another, doing test after test, and the results came out clear. They said nothing was wrong with me. I got bothered even more.
At some point, I was tired of it all. Whenever a medication was prescribed, my body wouldn’t respond to it.
Q: That must have been hard. What happened after then?
A: In February 2021, my office got us a healthcare plan from Reliance Health. It was a huge deal for me because my medical expenses were significantly reduced. Through the HMO, I got a good hospital that I still recommend to others today. From the perspective of a patient and medical practitioner, their services were excellent.
After I had gone through another series of tests that came out blank, one of the doctors looked at my history and said I needed to see a psychiatrist/therapist. My symptoms didn’t look like the problems were with my organs or muscles but the effect on my mental health. He also mentioned that I might have had a lot of triggers that were in play. He recommended a psychiatrist for me, and at this point, I was ready to take that up. When I eventually, did, I was happy.
Q: Was going for therapy an easy decision?
A: I didn’t know if I would have made that choice on my own. I had taken breaks from work, and things got better, but immediately relapsed when I resumed physical work. I started therapy two weeks before I left full-time employment. Reliance Health covered the cost. I wouldn’t have been able to do this on my own.
Q: What has therapy been like for you?
A: The therapy was super helpful. Being able to talk to someone about my past and ongoing things was a different experience for me.
Q: How did your healthcare plan from Reliance Health help?
A: This year, my plan expired, and I made an extra effort to renew it, simply because of my mental health. I became a Reliance Health advocate because of how much I had benefited from the health plans. A few of my friends moved to Reliance Health because of my recommendation. Having healthcare coverage lifts a lot of burden off your shoulders. You know that you do not have to bother about finding the specialists you need and that you do not have to pay exorbitant prices for HMO services.
Mental health is important to every individual. If you already have a healthcare plan from Reliance Health, you can access mental healthcare services from any of the options we have provided. If you want a healthcare plan that covers you, your team, or your family, visit www.reliancehmo.com