Following the recent challenges we have faced as a nation, there is a need for us to become aware of how recent tragedies affect our wellbeing. This marks the beginning of a SERIES of 5-minute reads to address some of the most common mental health issues that affect most of us.
I believe a better understanding of these conditions will prepare us to prevent them and to better deal with them when they occur.
From my work with children, adolescents and young adults, I have seen the value of knowing when to let family, friends, and professionals walk with us through the challenges.
First in the series will be a focus on understanding:
Loss and grief
As we develop a better understanding of the need for mental health and well-being, I have decided to embark on this journey of psycho-education. May you use what you learn here to educate another person or two.
For ideas, comments, questions and suggestions, contact me through: email@example.com
To all the ladies out there, you have about ten more days of this amazing month. I am hoping you have already taken advantage of the free breast exam and subsidized costs in related checkups countrywide.
Cancer is a disease most of us do not focus on enough. Sadly enough we never imagine it can affect us until it happens. So, with the remaining days, take responsibility for your health. Drop by a hospital offering the services.
And considering the how strained we have been in this economy, this is the month we can have these services cheap. Already did mine at MP Shah; amazing staff…and they take time to carefully teach you how to do your own breast exams especially during your ‘periods’.
We have been taught all about accepting yourself as you are, flaws and all. I know about believing in one’s inner beauty. I am not saying all of that does not help people, all I am saying is that it does not make your imperfections go away. I am Alexis, my psychologist and my parents think I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder…whatever that means. I think it is just their way of trying to dictate how I should feel about myself. They know nothing. They are not in my body. They do not know what it is like to be trapped in this imperfect being. I am 19 years old now. Been in college a year and things just seem to be getting worse.
My body started changing in Form 2. I thought I would end up with perfect curves like some of the figure-8 celebrities. Every time I look in the mirror, I see my excessively wide hips and big ass. They are not firm. They jiggle when I walk. I hate that. My boobs are way too small. I mean why would fate give me excessive fat in my hip area and tiny boobs? Just between me and you mirror, if I could, I would transfer the fat to my boobs, make them bigger…people would like that. My tummy is another problem. Whenever I have to go out, I wear those waist-trainer things. My stomach looks a bit smaller in them, but man it is uncomfortable (I guess beauty comes at a price…I am glad to endure)
My face has spots. Acne has been my companion as long as I can remember. Every time I walk past a mirror or widow, I check. I check to see if the spots are too visible. I hate it when people look at my face. They probably counting how many new spots there are. There is one upside to this whole thing though. My friend Dorris…she taught me how to use makeup. I am getting better at covering up the flaws. The days when I can’t completely cover them up, I opt to remain in the hostel. Dorris signs the class attendance for me and brings the notes to the hostel. I would very much rather stay indoors, away from their judging eyes.
Dorris tries to convince me to get out often. She says I am beautiful. But, that’s just her trying to be a good friend. I see my body everyday in the mirror, the person I see looking back at me…is definitely not a sign of beauty by any standards.
I do not have a desire to be perfect. It is just that there are a few things that could be better looking. I mean, imagine everyday meeting other girls in college with their perfect body shapes, their flawless skin, perfectly sized lips, eyes, noses, waists. And then you look at yourself in the mirror and realize….oh well, I am quite the Plain Jane.
Mom keeps going on and on about everybody being made in His image. Then why are we all so different. I mean, I know there are people who are probably uglier than me, but still, way more people are prettier than me. Part of me is glad I am not as bad-looking as the dumpy girls I see around, but I also wish I was as pretty as the perfect ones.
I know people have more serious problems out there. I know I should be glad to be alive and healthy because many people out there are sick, hungry, dying or having more difficult situations to deal with. But, that does not concern me. So go ahead and judge me for being shallow or self-absorbed.
I had been unable to poop for some days. My stomach hurt, but every time I went to the bathroom, nothing came out. I wanted my stomach to stop hurting, so I decided to try again. That time, I tried harder.
I went and pushed with all my strength. Finally, it came out.
It really hurt.
I cried, I did not want to feel that pain again. So I decided…I would not poop again.
Over the next few days, I did everything I could to avoid going to the bathroom. I tried to eat less food. Whenever I felt like pooping, I got scared.
I remembered the pain. I tried to hold he poop in. I sat down till the feeling was gone. I squeezed my buttocks to keep it in, but it only got worse.
Why was this happening to me?
When going for a short call, I saw a brown stain on my panties. It was poop and it smelled bad. Everybody would smell it and know. I did not want them to. So I removed and threw my panties in the trash.
Later that day, the others started telling me I smell bad.
They called me doodoo head.
I told them it was not me who smelled bad.
They forced me to stand up. They laughed and pointed at the poop stain on my uniform. They reported me to Teacher Diana.*
I thought she would shout at me for messing my uniform, she did not. She took me to the bathroom and helped me get cleaned. She was nice.
So I told her why I could not go to the bathroom. I told her it would hurt like the last time. I told her I did not mean to poop my pants. I told her I tried my best to hold it in. She did not get mad at me.
She told me she knew someone who could help us.
She talked to mom and dad so they wouldn’t get mad at me either.
They brought me to the doctor with the white coat.
They said they would also take me to a different kind of doctor.
One that would talk to me and help me not feel bad anymore about the accidents I have been having.
One that would help me stop being afraid of going to the bathroom.
I just want everything to go back to the way it used to be.
They think I hate people. Being around them overwhelms me. Getting picked to answer questions in class. Standing in front of a crowd. Being asked to introduce myself. Being the center of attention. Even waiting for my turn to read a paragraph in English class is a problem, as the others take turns and it gets closer to me, my heart beats faster, I sweat, my hands shake, I feel like suddenly going to the bathroom.
I have always been quiet. I like it. I prefer being invisible. I prefer being alone with my drawings and books. My two older sisters are different; they are loud and friendly. The neighbors, relatives and people at school love them. Everyone loves them. Me…they think I am a weird child.
I have heard relatives ask mom what is wrong with me. Why I do not behave like a normal child. One time, an aunt insisted on mom explaining if she took ‘something’ when pregnant with me. She said, “Nilisoma mahali ati kuna madawa au chemical flani zikikufikia ukiwa mja mzito unaezazaa mtoto haeleweki kabisa. Sisemi ana shida, nasema tu itabidi ajifunze kuongea na watu.” [I read somewhere that there are drugs or chemicals that can make you give birth to an odd child. I am not saying she has a problem, but she will have to learn how to speak to people]
Mom doesn’t like my silence. At first, I thought she didn’t like me. I thought it was the disappointment of me not being more like my sisters. Now I think the silence just makes her uncomfortable.
She gets angry with me whenever she has guests. I often try to slip away and stay in my room until they are all gone. During last month’s chama meeting at our house, she came shouting about how disrespectful I was for not going to greet the women in the living room. She held me by the ear and dragged me to the living room. My siblings in tow, laughing their heads off.
I felt a pain in my chest, I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t hold back the tears. She made me greet them one by one. They looked at me. Was that pity?
They were probably judging me for being weird.
They probably enjoyed the embarrassment mom was subjecting me to.
Mama Joy laughed. She probably thinks I am pathetic.
I know time has passed but every time I see any of them on the streets, I go back to that moment.
I hate myself. I want to be like the others. They have no issues expressing themselves. They have no issues standing in front of people. I do not know how to do it. When I try, I only embarrass myself and wish I was invisible.
People at school think I am a snob. They think nina madharau because my dad is wealthy.
No one understands how hard it is
I wish I could stay in my room forever
I wish there was no school
The teachers would not shout at me for being unable to answer questions without stuttering
The other kids would not make fun of me for sitting along during lunch break
They would not mimic how I stand with my shoulders drooping and eyes to the floor
I would be safe in my room away from all these judgmental people who don’t get me
“I walk out of my house once again. Lock the door, look at myself in the window reflection and once again wear a smile…big enough to cover the emptiness I feel inside. Shove the pain deep down. People say they know what a depressed person looks like. I have been depressed for as long as I can remember. But if you met me, my loud, fun and bubbly attitude would leave you wishing you were as happy as I am.
I am sad. I have been for so long. Most days I struggle to get out of bed. It takes me almost an hour to literally find the one thing in that day that will give me the reason to get up.
Trapped in this body.
It is dark in here. It is empty…its cold…its lonely.
I am 29 years old now. I have a fairly good life by typical standards.
I have a well-paying job.
I am beautiful (should lose a few kilos, but otherwise still cute)
A good-looking partner who is stable and hardworking.
I live in a decent neighborhood.
I eat good food.
I hoped by now I would be married with at least a child. I pictured myself dropping off my kid at the daycare before driving my little vitz to work. Having my husband call in at lunchtime to check on me and remind me how much he loves me. To know that at the end of the day I would be heading home to cook with him, talk about the day, put our little one to bed and hit replay the next day.
But…my life has no meaning. It has no purpose.
I am stuck.
I live alone. Because of work, he always travels; I only see him once or twice a month. He rarely calls or texts unless I do it. I have waited five years for him to bring up the marriage issue. Finally, I had to bring it up myself. His response, “I am not yet ready.”
I look at the people we grew up with. The people we went to school with. They have families. Promotion after promotion. They always posting about how God has blessed their lives. And I sit here wondering where my blessing went.
Most nights I lie there wondering about how many ladies he has been with in his many trips. I know this because I once found a pack with one unused cd in his traveling suitcase. I never even asked about it.
I keep alcohol in the house. Most nights are easier drinking. I would cheat, but I do not have the power to drag another person into this darkness.
I once confided in a friend. She looked at me and scolded me about how ungrateful I was. Her words “There are so many women stuck in relationships where they are cheated on, beaten, not given the freedom you have, and not even supported financially. You have a good job, a man who doesn’t beat you and you are here complaining because you think he cheats? Listen girl, all men cheat. Just get you one that cheats using condoms but still treats you well na utulie. And from the looks of things, you already have him, so I do not understand why you are bitching.”
So here I am, loyal to an underserving man, stuck in a job I hate, having all the materials things I could want but still empty inside.
So next time you think you gon see a depressed person walking around with a sad look on her face and drooping shoulders, think twice.
I could be the friend next to you always smiling.
I could be the bubbly workmate always cracking jokes.
I could be the wife or husband lying next to you every night.
The only way I will reach out of my darkness and beg you to save me is if I feel safe enough to let you glance into my darkness.
Depression has many faces.
This is but one.”
THE MANY FACES OF is a new series based on the experiences of people I have interacted with and clients (with permission) who believe their life stories may help others understand that mental illness is different in every individual’s experience. It is my hope that this will help us move from the rigid view of what we think mental illnesses should look like.
This knowledge will help us reach out and save many more and reduce the rising cases of suicide in our nation.
To all the ladies out there. What would you life be like without pads (sanitary towels)? I want you to stop and imagine what those 3-6 days in every month would be like.
Unable to go to work.
Unable to go to school.
Afraid to sit down.
Afraid to be around people, just in case you stain yourself.
Would you use old clothes to absorb the blood?
Would you constantly clean them after every use?
For many of us, it may seem impossible to think of a time when we lived without pads.
For thousands of girls in our nation, this is their reality. Every month is a constant worry about when the periods will come.
“Silently praying it doesn’t come accidentally like it did last time. When I was in class. All the boys laughing and pointing at my stained uniform. The girls embarrassed but not coming to my aid. Next month I will be ready. Since I know mother still won’t have the money for the pads I need, I will calculate. I will try to skip school a day or two before the periods begin. At home, no one will laugh at me. I will lie and tell the teachers I was ill and resume school the week after. I don’t know for how long …how long will they believe my lie?”
Without access to a regular supply of sanitary towels, many of our girls are forced to skip school to avoid shame and embarrassment. Those that manage to get pads try to make them last as long as possible.
“Since the people who donate pads came and gave us two packets each, I do not know when other kind ones will come. So, when it is time, I wear one for the whole day. We were taught it is wrong to do that but if I don’t, I will not have any left.”
Many are forced to wear the pads for long hours. They complain about the smell that makes friends avoid them during that time. They are unaware of the health complications associated with the unhygienic practice. It can lead to skin rashes, vaginal infections, odours, and urinary tract infections. Even if some may be aware, they do not have much choice.
So, while we teach our girls to wear pads for 4 to 6 hours depending on the flow, we should do our best to ensure they have access to these resources.
There have been recent efforts by some counties in our nation to create pad distribution initiatives. It is amazing to see the change.
While the girls in those areas benefit from this vital program, we have to know that many more still struggle with the same problem.
Join me in the effort towards ensuring access to sanitary towels. Become part of the change you want to see in the world. If you want to be part of the program, reach out and see the role you can play in;
Motivation and so much more
We are a group dedicated towards setting aside at least one pack of sanitary towels every month we go shopping for our own. We come together and visit children’s homes and schools in areas where families experience socioeconomic challenges. Join us today. Call or email me for more details.
Today I read a news article about a woman appealing to the court to release her husband after he was charged with defiling her 10-year-old daughter.
There is no nice or polite way to say this. I am sick and tired of reading one story after another and it’s all the same bullshit. Grown men and women taking advantage of children and blaming it on the devil and some other ridiculous thing.
You have a child to take care of? TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
Know what you can do to put a stop to all this.
Knowing is the first step towards the elimination and prevention of sexual abuse directed at our children.
What should you know as a parent, sibling, teacher, or caregiver?
What constitutes sexual abuse?
The sexual abuse acts directed at children can include:
Touching the child’s private parts for sexual pleasure, whether clothed or not
Engaging in any kind of sexual activity in the child’s presence
Forcing the child to undress
Encouraging the child to perform sexual acts
Failing to protect the child from witnessing sexual activity
Both girls and boys are vulnerable to sexual abuse. The abusers target the children in various areas. The level of risk is increased if the child:
Lives in a family that does not provide adequate care and attention
Is disabled physically or mentally
Has unlimited access to the internet and social media sites
People that can commit sexual abuse
Do not be fooled, most incidences of sexual abuse against children are done by close family members and people they know. Statistics show that 9 out of 10 children know or are related to the abuser.
Use the information, make your child and all children around you safe from the perpetrators of sexual violence.
REPORT BY CALLING OR SMS 116 CHILD HELPLINE (FREE)
If you found out your partner cheated on you, would you end the relationship?
(Think about this for a moment)
Now, ask yourself
If your partner found out you cheated on him/her, would you expect them to end the relationship?
For many of us, the answer to Question 1 was probably more instant and absolute.
In Question 2, some of us probably found ourselves coming up with various reasons for our ‘hypothetical partners’ to try to work things out rather than just leave.
If yesterday’s workshop (Unravelling the Maze of Dating) taught me anything, it is the value of first understanding who you are and what you bring to a relationship before you can expect anything from your partner.
A number of us have dealt with cheating at some point in our lives.
WHEN CHEATING HAPPENS, ASK YOURSELF
Would you want to be with your partner if you trusted them again?
Have you let go of your anger and resentment about your partner’s betrayal?
Are you ready to move forward?
Can you forgive your partner for their actions?
Whether you were the victim or the one that cheated, there are valuable things we must understand if we are to overcome the consequences and come out stronger.
The questions above by Gespard help in knowing where to start.
BEYOND THE BETRAYAL
Handling the cheating in a relationship is never easy. How do you know what to do next?
The therapist- Bringing in a qualified relationship expert will help both of you deal with the betrayal. Whether you plan to stay together or end things, the therapist will bring an objective view without taking sides. It will also help in knowing how to deal with the pain without resorting to unhealthy options we may regret later.
Reflection- take the time to get to know yourself. Identify the role you may have played in the resulting betrayal and what you want for your future.
New beginnings- If you decide to move on, it is a good time for you to learn to forgive (both of you), love yourself and stay optimistic about new opportunities to love.
I had an amazing day at Tangaza University. Many thanks to Dr. Margaret Kagwe for organizing the workshop, Chris Hart and Tasha Amadi for teaching so much about dating, cheating and other issues in relationships.
I have a renewed view of relationships and the pursuit of happiness.
PS/ STARTING OUR RELATIONSHIPS CATEGORY SOON
Any questions, concerns or issues you may want addressed? Drop me a text.