Depression, Life, Mental Health, Mental Illness

Journals & Bottled Emotions

The demons of Mental Health hate having their stories told.

Last week while decluttering our library I magically found my long lost journal for the year 2015!

Eureka!

I cried, mostly happy tears. It seemed like I had woken up from the most spiritual nap of my entire existence! It felt like the liminal space right before you are born and right after you have left heaven. Yet I still needed equal parts of strength and intense courage to re-read it.

That journal holds profound stories of my naked emotions. Ones of love, loss, pain, hope, and radical change. Very candid ruminations on life from the bipolar spectrum. The silent musings of a perpetually sad girl. 2015 was the year I began taking psychotropic medication. It was a rollercoaster of an experience.

I detailed it here:

That same year, I lost both of my grandmothers, just months apart. With the last one dying one rainy September evening as I looked on. Then another of my best friends suddenly died, his father outlived him by just six weeks. I had also been seeing this otherwise nice Mnyarwanda guy who confused me thoroughly.

My father gave me the journal on New Year’s. As was custom. He was the first person to open my eyes to the knowledge that time is also a resource. And I could use it for the highest good of all.

I had dreams. I journalled about them. In high school, I had concentrated on English Literature, I wanted to create stories like Chinua – the mercurial creature with his own unique quirk. I also wanted to end up like my countryman Ngugi; go to Makerere and leave a mark. My father liked to say that there, was a hall named Northcote, and there, great men rubbed shoulders. My mother immensely liked Mariama Bâ. She said women too—like those great men—can be great. I loved words with all their nuances, connotations and layers of meaning.

But life was always tinged with an inert kind of sadness. My depression was becoming a witches’ brew of anger, guilt and bad religion.

Sitting with my depression and getting to know it was the most genius decision I ever made, looking back. I’m pleased that I did not allow it morph into any other emotion. Finding my journal again has inspired me. I cannot believe that all I did was just sit by my pen and bleed all-over its pages. Writing, thinking, hoping, praying, wishing away.

I still live on the brink of my sadness everyday. Just like all survivors. For recovery is a process. And healing comes in waves sometimes. You’ll be drowning today and swimming against the tides tomorrow. I am alive to that fact. The only difference is I that found my saving grace in blogging.

I’ll keep my 2015 journal by my bedside like I do my Bible. That book saved my life, too!

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Life, Mental Health, Mental Illness

Dear Survivor

You’re strength and sweetness, your spirit is magical.

You’re majesty, your soul is royalty.

You’re a demigod, your presence is astounding.

You’re a warrior, your bones are resilient.

You’re a wonder, you have me by the heart.

You’re worthy.

Your sharp edges, your missing parts.

Everything.

I see you, I AM YOU.

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Africa, Xenophobia

Xenophobia?

What does it feel like to be a mindful Depression survivor with strong Pan-Afrikan views, and a flair for storytelling? South Africa was in the news again last week, for the obvious reasons. I was at the national library again.

Ghana-Must-Go.

I stumbled upon the timely history of this bag. What Kenyans and Ugandans call osuofia bag or mimi. This bag is sturdy, efficient and low budget. Here, this bag just saves the day. In West Africa, it is (in)famously called the Ghana-Must-Go bag.

Ghana-Must-Go. The plastic bag that is made of historical and political fabric. The bag that carries emotional baggage. The bag that embodies soul rot. Nobody told us that in 1983 the Nigerian government under president Shehu Shagari expelled millions of West African migrants, mostly of Ghanaian descent. The bags were on high demand during that short ugly period, hence the name.

In recent times, we have found a more articulate name for that atrocity. Xenophobia. Except South Africa is now on the spotlight for it. #ForeignersMustLeaveSA was trending on twitter just three days ago.

Violence is bottom barrel low they said, we are all Africans. The AU should take a stance: Ask the government of South Africa to protect African migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. How thoughtful. But until the AU does so while asking these ‘victim’ countries why they are not making their citizenry comfortable at home, it is ill-advised. Bearing in mind that the ability to emigrate from the third world is deeply embedded in a form of privilege. This is not an act of microaggression. Someone said political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners. I put it to you that political correctness is a cancer. It undermines democracy and the fabric of society. You do not go into people’s homes and make them not feel at home. An in-law does not replace a biological child. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Most African countries are embarrassingly mismanaged. Being anywhere from the middle class and below is the ultimate test of faith. You get up every morning and get demoralised from your doorstep to wherever it is you’ll be trying to make ends meet. You live from hand to mouth. You lead a frugal existence. If you’re not languishing in poverty then you’re just one ‘bad’ financial decision away from it. One hospital bill away, one semester’s tuition away, one simple car away. Poverty is always looming. Always lingering. These are bandit countries where even those with sterling credentials leave the private sector to go and loot in government. Because that is the prudent way to have a decent life here. Where the gap between the rich and the poor widens by the tick of the clock. Where the intelligentsia is intimidated and replaced by highly trained ‘professionals.’ Where presidential palaces and the streets are as different as night and day. Countries run like warehouses. Countries with economic structures that stink to high heaven. Economies on their deathbeds. Tyrannical regimes of men who put their countrymen on graft and tribal steroids. Where presidency is treated like a birth rite: till death do us part. Where republics operate like monarchies. Do we not know that in Equatorial Guinea the sitting president of 4 decades is now deputised by his own son? The bottom line is, the average African is disillusioned by his government. Most African governments are tactfully skilled at disenfranchising their people from access to livelihood. But South Africa is taking the heat for getting concerned about her sovereignty and her citizenry. For reacting. Xenophobia is just a reaction. Actions precede reactions.

In the spirit of Pan-Africanism, I think African history needs to be re-written. To include the home truths. For our healing, for our mental health, for our coexistence, for unity in diversity. The lions now need their own historians, because the history of the hunt is notoriously adept at glorifying the hunter. History must now be written by the villains. For the victors have long been crafty in their victory. The whole history should be revisited, from precolonial days. Maybe then, we might accept that before colonialism, African communities were sovereign and mostly just united by the vast geographical location, skin colour and white imperialism. That Africa was a continent of immense energy and culture with hundreds of different languages. And our history did not begin with colonialism.

Just before dust could settle on the xenophobia hashtags, the librarian in-charge announced to us that the government has suspended the borrowing of books for reasons best known to it. It might interest you that the said public library is actually understocked with books that are in all conditions but pristine. Books that we pay to read and borrow, with added hefty fines for exceeding your deadline. Not to mention how strenuous it is to secure membership if you are neither a student nor employed.

Xenophobia is not it. South Africa is the scapegoat. And the AU is nothing more than dogs barking at the full moon. I think we better think while it is still legal to!

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Mental Health

Differences

December babies, the stage is finally ours.

Season’s greetings everyone!

It’s been one rollercoaster of a year. These are some absolute historical times, the planet took a bender. The weather is foul, the economy is off-kilter, being frivolous in public can cost you or your loved one’s life in this pandemic, death is always looming. I turn a year older in some 9 days. I took my last Prozac and Olanzapine on 3rd August 2019. What a time to be alive.

There’s some doom and gloom in my head and heart lately, sometimes. This life is tinged with an inert kind of sadness. My friend died 2 weeks ago. It is terrible to love something that death can touch. We put him to rest, the heavens opened up and it poured massively. I gained a powerful guardian angel.

This year mistakes have been made, karmic dues have been paid and dreams have equally been realised. I have been outdreaming myself in ways I never imagined. Reading is still my most fulfilling activity. Authors are such national treasures. Real mercurial creatures with their own unique quirks. The reason I started this blog was to try to speak my mind and write my heart, just like them. To wring words out of my hurting heart. And to escape residual pain.

I sit in awe of the magic that is art. Artistes, writers who suffer monumental losses, go through turmoil but still manage to create beauty. Their unerring ability to touch us, to leave us speechless. To leave us frozen in our tracks, to bring us to our knees. To numb us, to soothe us. To hypnotise us, to awaken us. I sit in awe of words that go past your heart and get plastered on your soul. Words that slap and hug your whole being at the same damn time. I sit in awe of people who bleed words. I sit in awe of precision. Of boldness, of candidness. And the notion that the hurt might just be good for the art after all.

Sometimes I’m convinced that I have steel bright intelligence but zero common sense. I falter. Yesterday I thought my brain broke at the examinations hall but then I realised I just couldn’t process that my hands could actually write again. I lost 20 minutes of the allocated time. I’m thankful to be able to have a strong grip of my pen again.

Flip side, I miss the therapy sessions. I miss the whole effect of benzos and psychotropics. Just occasionally. That feeling remains unmatched. It’s a spiritual experience. It felt like the liminal space right before you’re born and right after you’ve left heaven. But I do not miss the psych nurses, maybe just the doctors because they tend to have the experience to treat each patient as a unique case and not as a book example. I will never forget this one time one of those Nazis decided to subtly advice me that I need Jesus rather than meds, all while directly administering the meds to my veins!

When your heart breaks but your spirit is solid, that’s when you know there’s so much kingdom left to come.

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Mental Health

LOTUS UNFOLDING

Have you ever spent an unholy amount of time trying to make your hair tame and acceptable only to step out and have the wind make you look like a witch that just flew on their broom?

You’re running late. Anxiety has you by the collar.

Then you come across a live performance of one of your favourite artistes. He’s decked up in some tough blue denim jeans. A big cloud looms over the concert. His artistry makes you ridiculously happy; takes you above the cloud and into the stratosphere. He’s making magic. You’ve lived to pay homage to a consummate genius. Long live the music and your dancing feet.

Unbridled joy. Rekindled energy.

That’s it, you’ve mastered the art of survival and now you’re starting to live again. You must live again. Mindfully.

Some days are wholesome. Peopled with warmth, love and wonder. You’re infused with strength and sweetness. You sit with joy and it knows you by all your names. You feel the universe rallying behind you. The unknown and the unseen cheer you on.

Some days are marred by profound grief. Sad as raindrops on a grave. Bitter and unforgiving. But dear grace continues to carry you. You’re happy to put yourself back to bed and try again tomorrow. With hope, chance and a fresh face.

You sit in awe of the epic war between your heart and your mind.

December, your other boo, is almost here.

There’s so much kingdom left to come!

Power to you, young blood.

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Mental Health

SOULFULNESS

She feels colours,
Sees love,
Smells achievement,
And hears a smile.

Finds bits and pieces of her in unexpected places,
Dances to the beat of her own drum,
Worships rose petals, red lipstick,
And maybe you.

She’s a brave caterpillar,
Alone in the cocoon,
Morphing into the beautiful butterfly.

Ahead of her time,
Yet right on time.

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Mental Health

ALEXA, PLAY SAD SONGS

Deep, heavy sigh.

I made it through yet another day today. I must be so blessed.

Fun fact: I mostly write when I’m sad.

Eavesdropping can knock you off balance. But I’m afraid I might need some character and not just good manners to stop this habit. Overhearing strangers’ conversations intrigues me.

Two strangers at work bickering over another stranger who had gone missing apparently then ended up being found dead, by suicide. It doesn’t get more sickening as they argue over what could have prompted it yet the victim looked very “okay.”

What soul rot.

My happiness was instantly destroyed. My heart fell to the floor. I found myself nibbling on this slice of bread as I struggled to sip my tea, grimacing.

So people think that if others can make it out of bed and into the world there can’t be anything wrong with them mentally? That if you wake up, dress up, smile and slog yourself to the day you can’t be depressed?

What an incredibly polarised view on people’s Mental Health needs! Mental illness does not have a face. It’s very uncultured too. You could lose your loved one (God forbid) and keep your cool, then misplace your pen and become an emotional wreck. There’s really no equilibrium. You might want to be a little more empathetic by not speculating on whatever makes people hold suicidal tendencies or even going further to decide whether or not their reasons are justifiable enough.

A breathtakingly beautiful lady I met at therapy five years ago confessed to me that every time she imagines she took her first breath at birth, she wishes it were stifled. Spooky, right?

Perhaps not.

If you think otherwise, then you are in the bandwagon that is part of the system that is part of a society that perpetuates the most lethal of Mental Health misconceptions: that if somebody seems okay, they must really be okay.

Grossly sad.

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Mental Health

RAINBOW AURA

Last evening I got home, jumped into the shower and washed the day off. As I sat combing through my journal, it struck me how much random people tell me how intelligent I am, and it wrung tears out of my hard heart.

I’m humbled and touched that I apparently come off as a mind blowing smallness of an existence; a blend of daintiness and intelligence. Especially in these absolute historical times that we’re living in, where if I open my mouth, just like you, it’s most likely to decry the pandemic, the foul weather, the off-kilter economy or the state of the nation. Basically this maze we’re lost in.

Last week two strangers coincidentally told me I look seventeen. But I’m a couple of years older than that and feeling blessed that I don’t look a day like my scars.

I still remember how the unjustness of life was sitting heavy on my chest. How good days were just thinly veiled bad days. How I sat with emptiness and it knew me by all my names. How I got tired of praying for happiness so I prayed for a little less pain. How debilitating depression is. How dreaming of better days vexed my spirit, troubled my mind and weighed on my soul.

Sometimes, a lot of times, there’s so much madness underneath the grace. In feigning strength until it’s inked in your bones, in outlasting your demons. But I have mastered the art of survival and now I must learn to live. Because I deserve to live.

Today, in retrospect, I have no solid desire to be called strong. It will be a cold day in hell before I allow myself to be called strong. I don’t want to be called strong in a culture where strength is defined by your ability to hide your feelings in the face of adversity in front of others. In fact, I’m not strong, I’m human. I’ve been here long enough to understand that once the spiritual cuts across the mundane you cannot be modest about how authentic you are.

Once the spiritual cuts across the mundane, you cannot be content with being the gold fish in a fish bowl when you’re a shark in the ocean.

You have no business shrinking just to fit in.

Cheating myself out of happiness by consciously immersing myself in things that force ugliness into my soul is too expensive for me. Way too far-fetched a narrative.

To my younger self, the girl who didn’t know better, I forgive you.

I’ll strive to meditate on my blessings, protect my energy and fill my aura with positivity. I’ll mould this rainbow aura.

The rainbow is a perfect arc of an array of brilliant colours. A symbol of a gleaning hope and promise of brighter days. A blessing in your ventures. An indication that the rains have passed and no fate is insurmountable.

Lifetime praises to my father, the man made of textures deeper than what they’ve been apprenticed to. The man more polished by greater forces than flashy malls. The yin to my yang. My kindred spirit. The best, most doting father and I can only hope to hold even a fraction of his greatness.

Ancestor praises to my father’s mother. The woman who had the most beautiful wrinkles when she smiled, as if her face was the map of her life. The woman whose unflappable philosophy of overcoming everything that came her way still guides me even in her death. The woman who affectionately called me “Wuon par wa” (our father / head of the homestead), one of the most (if not the most) powerful terms of endearment in my culture.

Great indebtedness to my mother and my siblings. Especially to my biggest sister, mother of my favourite nephew. When I grow up I’d like to be a flaming charisma like you. And to my little brother, thank you for the random endless warm gestures of love!

And to this cat that is hell on wheels – she plays too much when my alarm goes off so I never oversleep and get late for work. Daily gratitude.

Profound recognition to my friends. Especially the one who gave me a book to read on our most recent date. May your brain never bicker with mortals. And to the other one, the queen of hugs and holding hands, for answering every frantic call and text with reaffirmations of grace, I see you! And to all the others who are not afraid to be vulnerable with me; the ones who bare their souls to me, the ones who don’t have a single selfish bone on their bodies, I celebrate your strength and sweetness.

Unbounded gratitude to my readership and the general blogosphere, especially the very inspirational Mental Health warriors. Your beautiful comments in solidarity truly hone my brave spirit. Thank you for your courage and raw honesty. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the candid ruminations on mental illness.

Thank you. Words fail me.

I sincerely hope all of you hang in there. Pitch your tents in the land of faith. Hope. No matter how cliché it sounds. We are the riddle the world is still solving, and we’ll be the reason humanity will take a stance against stigma.

Zealous fervent prayers for each one of you. And me.

May grace continue to carry us.

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Mental Health

HEARTSTRINGS

Do we have to put on the whole armour of God to exercise patience this year?

One thing I’ve realised about 2020 is that my eyeballs don’t go far back enough for me to roll them as hard as I need to. From the pandemic, to the state of the nation, to the foul weather, to the fact that I haven’t really cracked open a book this semester.

Sometimes my heart is tinged with sadness, the inert kind. The kind that leaves me looking for the next doorway back into the blogosphere. What a strange rising!

These are seemingly some unforgiving times. The falsity of the fabric of society we live in is even more vivid now. A cesspit of iniquity. September is Suicide Awareness & Prevention month. We cannot have health without Mental Health and I find it mind boggling that many people still go without healthcare and medications for manageable diseases, issues and conditions just because they can’t afford health insurance. I’m aware of the business aspect, but, be that as it may, I just don’t find it reasonable.

This month also marks five years since my father’s mother died and she’s still sorely missed from our lives. A magic maker, a birth giver to stars. A beautiful woman, from the tips of her toes to the depths of her soul. On the evening we buried her, the heavens opened up and the rains poured down. I gained a powerful ancestor. Today I sit in awe of the wonderful people God placed in my life to nurture me. Love is warm, I learn. It cradles our lonely souls and thaws the ice in our hearts. It’s the metaphor for salvation. And might.

Last weekend I was at the hospital for my routine check up. I still don’t weigh past 51kgs. But my beaming face tells its story. I can’t believe that a little over a year ago, my brain was so lethal that for me to tame it I had to lose my ability to write with my own hands! Now my mental health is nothing like it used to be. Thank goodness. It’s been thirteen months of unbridled peace and sanity, in the grand scheme of things.

To celebrate this milestone, I’m considering getting myself another dog for my birthday later this year. Dogs are such a hurricane of life and energy, and signing up for a lifetime of love and wiggles is the ultimate heartwarming gesture for me. Sometimes the best therapist has fur and four legs. I’ve also had my hair loc’d since April and I feel like I own some shares in Afrika. My level of spirituality is so grand no mortal can harm even a single strand of my hair.

I look at myself in the mirror and see the reflection of a God. I become sensationally inspired by the beautiful mental and spiritual space I’m in. It took me many years to realise that I’m a whole lot of lovely and I deserve every damned chance at happiness. I refuse to cheat myself out of happiness.

Well the demons of Mental Health hate having their stories told but here I am, levelling up my hero, on my internet black box. Unbowed, unmatched and undefeated. Unparalleled.

October will be magical–I can feel it in my bones!

Serious love and solidarity to everyone struggling with depression and self actualization.

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Life, Mental Health

Changes.

Grace, I know you’ll carry us.

Today marks exactly one year since I took my last antidepressant medication.

Yesterday I got a big fat rejection and it still stings a bit.

But I’ve just woken up from the most spiritual nap of my entire existence and it feels like a new lease on life. I love happy tears!

The grim reaper must really work hard in August, but God works harder.

I’m thriving, nonetheless. I still have my bad days, just like everyone else. Some days I wake up and feel like doing drugs, putting myself on a euphoric trance and gawking at everyone in this hard life with a big bunny smile on my face. Other days, a lot of days, life is good. I wake up and get this desperate desire to swing dance with my favourite person in the living room, spontaneously.

That only means I’m painstakingly transitioning. Feeling quite adventurous, active and brave. Steady overcoming the old patterns that weighed me down. I’m learning to repeat affirmations of forgiveness and grit to myself. I feel overtly blessed that reality is no longer obsolete for me and I’m no longer walking in the shadows where life feels so bleak, where self-actualization and lethargy are daily struggles. I’m no longer sitting on a time bomb.

Making my mental health a priority has returned and restored so much to me, in me. Self-love. Valour. Empathy. Grace. Refulgence.

The road to redemption is never linear. In fact, it’s marked by twists and turns and unexpected surprises and stops. It’s not always rainbows and sunshine but representative of the essence of the balance. So I’m letting go, but also taking the helm. The unseen and the unknown shall cheer me on, I trust.

In between, I’ve been reading some very powerful page-turners. Hooray! I love words with all their nuances, connotations and layers of meaning. And I’ve been coming across just that. True wordsmiths and their words that make every pore of your body stand up in agreement. Words that slap and hug your whole being at the same damn time. Words that open up the pit from where emotions emerge. Words that resurrect your life. Unnerving and comforting.

The goal is to vibrate so high that negative energy will no longer know me by name.

My favourite quote from one of those riveting reads was, “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.”

My other favourite was a tough tie between, “Get in the habit of celebrating yourself from skin to marrow, you’re magic.” & “Fall for yourself, shamelessly.”

Another one said, “Fighting sadness is necessary war.”

“There is no solid fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.” also deserves a notable mention.

Writers are such Messianic beings. They deserve immortality. How I love to breathe in a new page and be taught daily!

Well I’ve taken their words letter by letter and planted them carefully in my soul. Now, excuse me while I burn some bridges.

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