TALES OF COURAGE: Lessons from my battle with bulimia and depression

Tuesday September 10 2019

Nyaguthii Kioi has battled bulimia for two years of her life, and spent the last 10 years coping with depression. PHOTO| COURTESY


Nyaguthii Kioi has battled bulimia for two years of her life, and spent the last 10 years coping with depression.

This period has seen her attempt suicide twice. The 25-year old, a trained lawyer, has since dedicated her life to aiding survivors of sexual and gender based violence through activism.

On this World Suicide Prevention Day, she shares her story with Anita Murage.

“I grew up in a really posh neighbourhood. I didn’t realise it then but looking back, I had a really amazing childhood.

I was still too young to pick up on the passive aggressive way my father treated my mother, or to notice that he never provided for us.

She covered well for him. My father worked for an international company and always bought us such beautiful dresses from countries he would visit.


Then suddenly, he wasn’t coming home on time or helping me with my homework. We found out that he had lost his job.

He ventured into the alcohol industry and opened a depot. Then my mother could no longer hide his real self from us anymore.

We saw him for the alcoholic he was. All his business ventures failed and he eventually resulted to running his father’s business; a bar. They eventually separated in a terrible way.


My first encounter with mental illness was when I developed an eating disorder. I was bulimic for about two years. In high school, I was wayward, getting into trouble especially because I did not settle very well in school. I was suspended and would only be allowed back into the school with a letter from a psychiatrist. This is what saved me because the psychiatrist diagnosed me with clinical depression.

I got into a depressive state in Form Three and was put on anti-depressants. I was 16 at the time. My father did not understand and I remember him asking me “What do you have to be depressed about?”

Nyaguthii and son

Nyaguthii had her son in 2014 while in her first year of studies at university. She went back to continue her studies in 2015. PHOTO| COURTESY

My mother, however, was my rock and got me all the help we could get. After I finished that round of medication, I was okay.

I attempted suicide in Form 4 during the holidays. My sister called my mother and she rushed home made me throw up all the pills I had taken.

We talked and I went back to school okay.

I got involved with a lot of alcohol, drugs and sex and got pregnant right before my 19th birthday. I was severely depressed throughout my pregnancy but never told anyone.

I had the baby in 2014 and went back to school in 2015. In 2016, I was sexually abused by the man I was seeing at the time and I was too scarred to open up to anyone about it. I would think about it constantly.


In 2017, while driving home at night, I was ambushed by robbers at our gate. I followed their instructions and they went on to get into the house and robbed us of most of our belongings.

I handled it well and was strong for the family as my mother was not around. However, I started getting terrible panic attacks and developed anxiety. I was taken to hospital and given anti-anxiety medication and sleeping pills.

I don’t remember much about the night I attempted suicide, aside from the fact that I was absolutely tired of everything I had gone through in my life. It all came and weighed me down at once. I took all my pills.

The next memory I had was waking up in hospital a few days later. I was so angry at my mother for saving my life. I wanted to die.

I was in hospital for quite a while, incapable of taking care of myself. I was bathed, fed and tended to.

My psychiatrist at the time felt that I was in the worst state of my depression and the only thing that could save me was electro-convulsive therapy, where they shock your brain as a kind of jumpstart. I had eight sessions spread over a period of two weeks.


Nyaguthii graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in 2018. She poses here with her mother and stepfather. PHOTO| COURTESY

I suffered terribly from the side effects of the procedures such as loss of memory, inability to control any of my muscles and not being able to walk on my own.

After I was discharged, I stayed on medication for a number of months until I felt like I couldn’t go on with them because they were over powering me. I was always groggy. I couldn’t function and my doctor wouldn’t hear me when I requested for a lower dosage or change of medication.

Eventually I just quit cold turkey. In April 2018, I suffered another bout of depression and my mother took me to hospital and I was assigned a new psychiatrist. I also started seeing a psychologist for cognitive behavioural therapy.

I can honestly say my new psychiatrist, Dr Nelly Kitazi, saved my life. We tried different types of antidepressants and antipsychotics until we found what works best for me.

She listened to me whenever I had a complaint about one of the medications, and would change the dose or the medicine altogether. I have been on medication since then.

I managed to go back to school and graduate with a Bachelor of Laws in 2018. I am currently working for a community based organisation that helps survivors of sexual violence called She Matters Tribe.


Nyaguthii graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in 2018. She's currently working for a community-based organisation that helps survivors of sexual violence called She Matters Tribe. PHOTO| COURTESY

I am supported fully by my entire family. My circle of friends has also fiercely had my back and shown up for me on my darkest days. I think it is really important to have a solid and understanding support system.

To anyone struggling with depression; the first step is acceptance. Accept your condition and do not feel ashamed about it. It is just a disease, like any other physical one and I wish society could stop stereotyping mental illnesses.

For people struggling with suicidal thoughts, I get it. Depression can be so bad that you get to that point of nothingness, when you feel so empty and the only thing that would give you comfort would be to not exist anymore. However, life is worth fighting for and with the right help, support, therapy and medication, one can live a normal life.”

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, reach out to Befrienders Kenya, an organization focused on suicide prevention by offering emotional support to those in need.

Call (+254)722178177 or email them at[email protected].