Life, Mental Health

Introspection: Day 151.

June will be here in a few hours. 2021 is fading, fast. No more foul weather. The sun is out and its rays shine forth magic. Mother Earth is breathing. The universe is wondrous and we must so blessed to still be here experiencing its richness.

But there is a crippling sadness that has settled in my bones. How do we forgive ourselves for all the things we did not become?

How do we teach our hearts to feign hope? How do we cloth our sadness in grace? When does ‘you’ll get over it’ begin? What do we do when the tears and the words are woefully inadequate?

Something about this pandemic is hitting hard. I feel like the lack of common sense and absence of empathy can be found in the vast population nowadays. Moral bankruptcy is now competing with economic bankruptcy. The news are mostly depressing. Statistics confirm that 1 in every 4 Kenyans has some kind of a mental illness. On Saturday on one of the segments on a local news channel, a woman politician, revered and reviled in equal measure, came up. She was opening up about her struggle with Bipolar Disorder. Her candid confession, her remarkable resolve and incredible courage ripped my heart apart but also handed it back to me carefully, repairing me stitch by stitch, as if to say,” It’s okay. You can be just as great.”

If you have kept up with my blog posts from the time I started publishing, you must already know that I’m a Bipolar Type 2 Disorder Survivor. I was on prescription psychotropics for years, got sorely addicted to them, up until I decided to have myself weaned off them in the August of 2019. Upon which I struggled with withdrawal syndrome for several weeks. But it is speculative to say that I recovered. For I did not recover; recovery is not entirely possible with mental illness. Even remotely in some cases. I would describe my journey as a new lease on life. It is one that is characterised by hope, mindfulness, pain, and radical change. All bundled up with a ribbon of love and resilience. It involves a lot of learning, unlearning and relearning. A lot of patience and being kind to myself. A lot of recognising that I’m special, that I’m not your common human, therefore my path will be unique. Yet just as worthy of every damned chance.

I have continuously learnt that when you’re a soulful person, you’ll always feel more: you’ll feel colours, see love, hear a smile, and smell achievements. You’ll grieve longer, rejoice louder, sulk miserably, laugh harder.. Every emotion will be immense, more. But just how much is more? Could it be really true that life has always been tinged with an inert kind of sadness? Or am I just more pensive in these historical times?

I have been doing a lot of recreational reading. One thing about me, I will always love words, those things saved my life. Words are eternal. The tomb of a writer is great but his grave is never in soil. It is evergreen in his work. In his book. In his legacy. Art is more powerful than destiny. More powerful than death itself. It penetrates time.

I have also developed a lot of what feel like migraines, again. My specs are no longer servicing me purposefully. The hospital visits are slowly reclaiming their spot in my roller coaster of a life.

Being Bipolar is a job in itself, except you never retire or go on leave. And I have mastered it. Last week I got the golden chance with this therapist. Not owing to illness but just as a recommended routine. Some of my favourite people in this world are therapists. The kind who breathe life to weary bones. At some point during our session, her face lit up, she adjusted her seat and suddenly decided to thank me for “bravely transforming my unspeakable personal pain to power.” I thanked her instead, “for acknowledging that I have long gone past throwing little pity parties.” That was one of the most wholesome, powerful sessions I have ever been to. The other was when this kind lady just collected her cheque for watching me go to pieces, tearfully, painstakingly handing me serviettes and rubbing my back sensationally. Till the sadness in my soul had been validated.

As I walked out the gate, an African monarch butterfly lit on the ground in front of me, flexing its wings as I approached. When I slowly bypassed it, it stayed put. As I got on the bus to town, it remained in inertia. Like a soldier, saluting greatness. I felt the universe rallying behind me. S/O!!!

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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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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

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

REFULGENCE

The sun was very out today. It didn’t rain. Mother Earth is breathing. Father Time is watching. The bougainvillea hedges bloomed and turned all crimson red.

It’s been almost a year since I stopped using psychotropic medications. My hands can write again with good grip, my feet don’t teeter anymore; I can now take the stairs high up as I please. (Joy’s finally flowing from my toes to my fingertips!) I also sleep through the night unaided and I take my meals religiously. The weird memory lapses are just memories now.

My nephew, our rainbow baby, is almost teething.

So I passed by church today. This time, I fell down onto the cool dust, below, on my knees, giddy with excitement, overwhelmed by humility, as I sent up kisses of gratitude to a gracious God. They say when God shows you mercy your story sounds fictitious.

Hope was a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I still had it. I went from holding on to dear life to demolishing everything on my path. From feeling like if I made it to the end of the year (for like the past 10 years), I deserved an Oscar for best acting of the year, to feeling VERY BLESSED despite some speed bumps along my journey. On every single one of those days, I was a warrior. A trooper. One that triumphantly transitioned from being part of elite brainiacs called Bipolar to another esteemed group of spiritual gangstas called patron saints of soulfulness. 🤣

Here I am. Sinking deep into this bath of unapologetic self love. Lit like a fire, tall enough to lick the gates of heaven! A true reflection of a God. The ultimate God soaked metaphor!

Please give ALL the flowers to God!

I’ve always believed that what Mental Health needs is more awareness, more advocacy, more unashamed conversation, destigmatization. Imagine if all of us had a teaspoon of compassion!

Here’s to more sunlight, more candour, more empathy, more words untrammelled.

“S/o to everyone transcending a mindset, mentality, belief, desire, emotion, behaviour or vibration that no longer serves them.”

Peace & love!

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Bipolar Disorder, Creative Writing, Depression, Life, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Mood Disorder, Poetry

STRENGTH AND SWEETNESS

She’s strength and sweetness.

She’s a warrior,
Her bones are inked in resilience.

She’s a demigod,
Her small existence is astounding.

She’s a paradox,
Her weakness is her strength.

She’s majesty,
Her soul is royalty.

She doesn’t soar the skies,
Yet her wings are by no means,
Less than the eagle’s…

She plods, she ponders,
Some days,
She simply persists.

In silence she battles,
And in despair she remembers, love.

She gathers all that is left of yesterday,
Her glitchy mind, her patchwork heart,
Her sharp edges, her missing parts,
Everything.

She soothes her frayed heart,
Hoodwinks her demons,
Clothes her agony in grace,
Hones her brave spirit,
Feigns fresh hope,
And walks quietly into a new day.

Her emptiness still lingers,
Her pains still ache,
Her veins are weary,
Her smile is riddled with scars,
Yet she’s lit like a fire tall enough to lick the gates of heaven!

What a strong woman!
A woman made of staggering rebound!
A true reflection of a God!
The ultimate God soaked metaphor!

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