Mental health awareness is at its peak in 2021, and who better to talk about it than someone who has overcome it — Didie Nasir, CEO of Dynamics Inc. Here, she shares her story of overcoming depression and facing her present battle with Stage IV colon cancer.
Sporting a freshly shorn pixie cut, Didie Nasir, CEO of Dynamics Inc, brims with confidence and grace, yet she has had bouts with mental challenges – the first happened five years ago. “I had a clothing line then and pushed it as far as I could. It came to a point where I couldn’t take it any further and had little choice but to shut it down,” she recalls. The closure marked the beginning of an unforeseen downward spiral. An ambitious character with high expectations for herself, she explains, “I always had this vision of who I wanted to be, so when I felt like a failure, that’s when I went into depression.”
Describing the experience as an “alien thing” for her usually upbeat and positive nature, Didie had the self-awareness to recognise a difference in character. “I wasn’t acting like myself, I was staring at the wall and crying a lot.” Despite receiving advice to seek support from mental health professionals, she refrained. “I felt that I could still control the situation,” she says, trusting in herself to change the narrative. “In the end, it is all about self-talk, positive reinforcement and affirmation.”
With the support of her husband, Yassif Nagim Mustafa, the couple opted to venture abroad for a break. “We decided to take a trip to New York to get away from things, find new inspiration and to feel better – which I did.” The low period lasted just over half a year.
The first bout of depression “was like being pulled into a black hole,” Didie says, though a change in scenery and mindset gave her much-needed clarity. She was ready to channel her energy into a new venture. “That’s when I created my cosmetics company Dida,” she says, describing Dida as a positive outlet. A source of pride for Didie, the company started small but eventually grew to command a seven-figure revenue in 2.5 years.
In 2018, unavoidable circumstances led Didie to part ways with her former business partner and friend – and everything unravelled again. “I felt like a failure all over again,” she says. “But I knew how depression had affected me before, and I was determined not to go back there.” Instead, Didie went on to establish Dynamics Inc, a cosmetics company, in January 2019.
Little over a year later, her world would turn upside down once more. Noticing difficulties in passing motion, Didie went for a medical check-up. “I was assured that I was completely normal – maybe just having irritable bowel syndrome. But something in me just felt uneasy. I know my body and could tell the difference,” she says.
Two days after the Movement Control Order (MCO) went into effect, Didie was wheeled into the emergency room to remove a growth that was now obstructing her colon. Hospitalised for two weeks, she was unable to see her two children in that timespan. “A few days before being discharged, they (doctors) told me I had cancer – it was stage IV and had started in my colon, spreading to my liver and part of my lymph nodes.”
Asked how she is coping, Didie remarks, “It has been hard, but I allow myself to feel the pain, to feel vulnerable and to feel fear.” While heavy emotions come and go, she has started to focus on what she has in the present. “When I wake up every day now, I just say thank you for giving me an extra day to live my life.”
Though the lockdown has been a challenging time for many, the resilient Didie sees it as a blessing in disguise. “I’m guessing there’s no right time to have cancer,” she says with a laugh, before adding, “Though for me, it happened at the right time because the MCO gave me time to be with myself.” Had it been any other condition, Didie is sure well-wishers would have visited in droves. “You would be overwhelmed with love and support. They come from a good place, but having cancer is a lot for someone to take in.”
On the business end, Didie has found a rhythm that works for her. “My husband is stepping in and taking a more serious role, while I am focusing more on recovery,” she says. “I have been very aggressive for the past four years with my business, so I think that maybe this is God’s way of telling me that I need to take a step back a little and enjoy it.”
Through it, Didie has discovered a power within. To her former self, she shares this piece of wisdom: “You are stronger than you think and life will surprise you, but you will always get back up again.”