UNDERSTANDING MENTAL HEALTH SERIES- The Beginning

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.quote1

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:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Loss and grief
  • Eating disorders

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: agollamayah@gmail.com

Telephone: 0710263329

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THE FACES OF DEPRESSION

“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.

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Courtesy: ClipartXtras

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.

You have a story to share? Reach out.

BLOOD AND SHAME

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?

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Courtesy: Huffington Post

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.

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Courtesy: Dreamstime

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;

  • Healthcare promotion
  • Psychological support
  • 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.

THE SEXUAL ABUSE HAS TO STOP!!!

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 notsexual abuse 1
  • 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
  • Penetrative sex

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)

EMAIL 116@childlinekenya.co.ke

MY CHEATING PARTNER

MY CHEATING PARTNER

If you found out your partner cheated on you, would you end the relationship?

(Think about this for a moment)

cheat1

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.

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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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
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Courtesy: Apexcurve.com

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.

UNRAVELLING THE MAZE OF DATING

HAPPY MADARAKA DAY FRIENDS

As we mark this significant day in the history of our nation,

May we pray for the future of our nation

May we actively work towards the elimination of corruption and social ills.

IN OTHER NEWS….

JOIN US TOMORROW AT TANGAZA UNIVERSITY

(Details Attached)

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I HATE MY MIRROR…

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Once again, I find myself standing in front of this dreaded mirror

Once again, the upbeat mood I felt while enjoying the hot water in the shower is gone

In an instance, I catch a glimpse of my image in the mirror

My heart sinks as I gaze at the person looking back at me

So imperfect

I look at her hair; it’s kinky, short and uneven. No one wants that!

I look at her eyes; the white parts are not white enough

I look at her nose; it’s a bit too big for my taste

I look at her face; I wish it wasn’t so round

I look at her neck; her neck seems fine, but the collar bones are a bit too much in your face. The people will see. The people will wonder why the bones protrude so.

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I look at her boobs; a little bigger wouldn’t be so bad

I look at her long arms; they do not seem proportional to her body

I look at her teeth; they need to be whiter

Her lips; they need to be thicker

Her tummy…her thighs…her legs…her nails….

It never ends!!!!!!!!

I blame my mirror

If my mirror was nicer…

It would show me a better looking person

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For many of us, there is always something about our bodies we consider imperfect.

The skinny girl will envy the other girls’ hips

The plus-size girl will envy the skinny girl’s flat stomach

I want a lighter complexion. I want smoother skin, I want to be taller, I want nicer hair

I want this, I want that.

The Dissatisfaction with body image is one of the most common problems my adolescent and young adult clients struggle with.

IT IS NO SECRET: WHAT YOU NEED IS TO LEARN TO LOVE WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT FROM THEM. TO SEE THE BEAUTY IN YOUR FLAWS JUST AS YOU SEE THE BEAUTY IN YOUR PERFECT FEATURES.

I LEARNT TO DO IT.

THERE IS NO REASON YOU CAN’T

AM I THE ONLY BROKE YOUNG ADULT?

It has been a while since my last post.

Today’s post is a bit personal, yet still something many of us can relate with.

We all want to get to a point where money is not a source of worry.money.jpg

When I graduated from Moi University, my primary concern was being able to survive on my own. I did not want to go back home to live with my parents in the village. A part of me already knew that if I went back, I would get too comfortable and would not work as hard to get what I wanted in life.

So straight from campus, I moved to Nairobi. They told me…everyone told me Nairobi is the best place to start. They said opportunities are endless here and that one would never lack work to do.

Part of that was true as I secured a teaching job in a few months. I taught early childhood education to diploma and certificate students at Africa Institute of Research and Development Studies. When people hear you teach at a college, they imagine you have a lot of money. I did not.

I found myself struggling to live up to their expectations. With the little I got, I barely made it from month to month.no money

There were days when I regretted the course I did. I found myself wishing I had done something else. Something that paid more than ECDE. On such days, I reminded myself why I truly did the course. I reminded myself of the passion I had that made me opt for a course many look down upon as ‘the degree for those who do not pass well.’

While motivation is a good thing, there is need to pair it with smart thinking.

So, today I am speaking to all the recent graduates who are struggling to find work.

I am speaking to those who are stuck in jobs that do not earn enough for you to survive and save.

I am speaking to those wishing to do a bit more.

I survived by learning to earn money on the side. Yes Nairobi is the land of opportunity…but only if you are willing to sacrifice, to work harder. I taught myself how to do online jobs. This was convenient as it meant I could continue teaching during the day and write on weekends and nights. I began teaching others to write and from this too, I earned a little bit more. I learnt how to make shaggy mats and taught people how to do the same at a fee.

I am not saying you do what I did.

Look beyond your current work. Explore and identify alternative opportunities that could earn you money on the side. However little, it will make all the difference.

Teach yourself discipline. Teach yourself dedication. Each day will be harder than the last.

Do not despair. Remind yourself why you do what you do.

I am where I am.

A proud teacher.

A proud psychologist.

A proud researcher.

A proud entrepreneur.

You can be anything you want to be.

TEACHING TEENS ABOUT DRUGS….THE FUN WAY

If you have ever found yourself training a group of teens about substance abuse, you can almost certainly agree with me that;

One of the hardest things to do is finding a way to make the experience fun and effective without either

Image result for free cartoon stock images of shocked teens in class
Scaring Them

OR

bord
Boring them to death

Even before I steal you some ideas from my experiences that may make your work more effective, it is important to know that these are TEENS.

All they have is time. They hate to be bored.

In the first few moments of meeting you, they would have already established if you are ‘cool’ or just another ‘adult’ telling them ‘how to live their lives.’

These first few moments will determine whether they will switch off and literally talk, sleep or text through your whole training….

Or if they will get curious about you and what you have to tell them

Soooooooo……make it interesting, make it fun.

AGOLLA’S TIPS

  1. RELAX– above all else, this is not a teacher student relationship. Jifunze kurelax…take it easy and let the experience flow through a mutual back and forth kind of relationship
  2. HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR– Laugh, be childish,…if something is funny it is funny. Learn not to take everything too seriously.
  3. BE FUN– Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty. In the first few minutes do a fun bonding activity. Teens have so many talents.
  • Have a dance off (Be sure to demonstrate your skills….hata kama uko rusty. It shows them you are one of them).
  • Have a talent show down.

In one training experience, giving a 16-year-old time to showcase his dope rapping skills made all the difference. The training pretty much ran itself from then on. Everyone was involved and excited about the rest of the things we were to talk about.

4. DRESS DOWN– Please don’t show up in something official. Especially Saturday trainings. Official screams authority. To most teens all they see is someone here to tell us what to do.

This is the time to pull out your JEANS and T-SHIRT

This is the time to let your HAIR DOWN

I can testify to how much my laid-back style and dreadlocks have made it easy for teens to open up about the drugs they know about and those they use.

5. AVOID EXCESS ‘KUSOMA HAPO MBELE’- Fastest way to lose your teens is to stand in front of them reading from a paper or a projected PowerPoint word by word.

Tafadhali prepare early and internalize most of your content.

It will make it easier to engage your audience and let some of the stories come out naturally.

6. KNOW YOUR TEENS’ CULTURE– As mental health practitioners I believe you know this goes beyond ethnicity. Consider age, socioeconomic status, neighbourhood, gender, language of preference and on and on (ADDRESSING MODEL by Pamela HAYS may help here)

ABOVE ALL ELSE

Remember that this is not about telling teens ‘don’t do this, don’t do that’

It’s about showing them that life can be WAY MORE FUN without the use of drugs.

It’s COOL to stand my ground

It’s COOL to protect my future, dreams and goals

It’s about showing them I am SOBER and COOL.

 

ASANTE KWA NACADA

NACADA recently blessed us with age appropriate books for the teens and the younger ones. In the last couple of weeks, each of my teens and my younger babies have been able to carry home books after our activities.

We wanted to say THANK YOU for the books.PRAC1.jpg

We will show our friends

We will show our family members

You may have done it as part of your work…..but in our lives, it made all the difference.

We pray other children are as lucky as we are.

Disclaimer: These are tips based on my own personal experiences and therefore subjective. They are meant to give you a better understanding of working with teens…do not take them as the gospel truth.

If you find this useful, kama kawaida, TELL A FRIEND TO TELL A FRIEND

Have an amazing weekend.

 

UNDERSTANDING AUTISM

In support of every child with autism and their loved ones, this is my small contribution towards creating awareness on what it is.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

It is a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes challenges in the child’s social interaction, communication and emotional development.

Making friends, socializing, expressing emotions, understanding other people’s emotions are some of the things that may be more difficult for a child with autism.

autism1.jpg
Courtesy: Global Autism Awareness

What do I mean by neurodevelopmental?

It is a condition affecting development of the central nervous system; this includes the brain and spinal cord

Why should I know this?

By affecting the central nervous system, it may cause challenges in the child’s ability to move, learn, use language, and communicate non-verbally. Knowing this helps in identifying some of the early signs of autism.

What are some of the behaviors a child with autism may have?

  • Child is agitated or upset when in new environments
  • Child ignores or appears unaware of things around him or her
  • Child is not good at eye contact
  • Child may be very sensitive to certain sounds, things or being touched
  • Child shows no interest in games involving other people
  • Child gives too much focus to particular things
  • Child rarely responds when called by name
  • Child seems unaware of dangerous situations he/she may find him/herself in

    94467679-children-autism-spectrum-disorder-asd-icons-pictograms-depict-autism-signs-and-symptoms-on-a-child-s
    Courtesy: 123RF

Where can I get help if I see some of these signs?

Visit a child psychologist for assessment and linkage to the relevant service your child needs

(Do not attempt to do a diagnosis on your own without the help of a qualified psychologist)

Some of the programs you are likely to be linked with include;

  • Autism Society of Kenya,
  • Autism Support Center
  • City Primary School

Any questions, comments or concerns….do not hesitate to reach out.

Spread the word. Give each child the best life has to offer.

I HAVE DONE MY PART…HAVE YOU?

Have an amazing week ahead.

Agolla Aloo

Counseling Psychologist (Child and Adolescent Psychology)

I AM NOT MY SISTER…

I AM NOT MY SISTER…

(A Letter to Every Parent)

My name is Jackie*. I am 24 and recently completed my diploma in entrepreneurship. I run a retail clothes business; I majorly market my clothes online and delivery within CBD Nairobi. I am at a place in my life where everything seems to be working out well for me.

However, I admit it has not always been like this. Growing up in a family of three girls was not always easy. My parents were strict and valued education above all else.

Since I can remember, we were always compared.

Compared-to-Sister
Courtesy: Dork Diaries

My father bought the best books for all of us and expected nothing but first position at the end of every term. Of course I never was number one my entire life.

My older sister Grace and younger sister Anna were always in the top three positions.

But me, hell, on a good day I would be somewhere between position 20 and 30. I dreaded coming home with my results. The closest I ever got to the top was one time in class 7; I was position 15 out of 35 pupils.

Dad would make me look at each of my sisters’ report forms. He made me stand in front of the whole family and asked why I was wasting my life in school.

He asked why I keep failing yet we ate the same food, went to the same school, were taught by the same teachers, were born from the same parents, and had the same books.compared 2

Many times I cried because he did not know how hard I tried. How I spent my breaks and free time trying to read to become better.

None of it worked.

I started believing I was foolish and would amount to nothing in life. I failed my KCPE as he expected and ended up in a public day school. I failed there as well. Eventually, I was enrolled in a certificate course and later did my diploma.

It is during my diploma that I met a lecturer who changed my life. She helped me renew my self-worth and realize that intelligence goes beyond academic performance. I started working on my clothes business idea.

Now, my business is doing well and my father speaks to me more often. He even commented on the progress I have made.

Before you destroy your child’s life, as a parent you must understand that each child is unique. Unique in their areas of strength, abilities, weaknesses, personality and so many other things.

You must understand this…compared 3

“I am not my sister

I will never be my sister

I am who I am

And it is that that makes me truly amazing

If you ask me…this realization makes me more intelligent than many.”

*Names changed to protect client’s identity. It is her hope that by letting me share this, she may improve the life of a child out there going through the same thing.