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Mental Health: More clarity, and more conversation, please.

The world with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams is still a beautiful place to live. Life is not a crescendo; well-being and ill-being are uneasy bedfellows in our lives. We all feel down from time to time. A mental health disorder, however, is more than just feeling sad. It is constantly struggling to survive in your own mind, being at war with yourself; running against the wind. It is like a shadow, you feel it hovering over your head and slowly suffocating you with its darkness.

I am Mercy.

Ever suffered from any form of mental health disorder?. I never did until it happened and my whole world almost shattered. My name is Mercy, and I don’t need your pity, I just need you to listen to my story and I want you to learn from it and please make sure you help others you know who face the same predicament as me to cope. Let’s do this.

Recently I learned that according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and make a contribution to the community. Mental health disorders include Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Schizophrenia among others.

The Root

Just before the COVID-19 Pandemic ravaged the world, I had just started living with my boyfriend. I have never felt that in love in my life. Our relationship was beautiful, not just beautiful, very beautiful and I really saw a future with us in it. One day, it all ended. He left me. He really left me at my weakest. I did not know what to do, I was lost. What was I going to do now? Who was going to help me?.

Never had I ever been in such a space before, a place where I desperately needed someone’s help but I couldn’t even call out for it. I felt suffocated, and I honestly even felt like dying sometimes. My school work suffered, my friendships suffered and even my relationship with my parents took a sudden downturn. Everything in my life was just going badly and I needed help, and I needed it now.

What I did not know at the time was that I was suffering from Depression. I experienced panic attacks, anxiety attacks and even suicidal thoughts. I never used to eat, never used to take care of myself even. My health declined, I lost a lot of weight.

My business and Relationships

I was a businesswoman too. My business was thriving and was doing very well. It all went down quickly as soon as I started neglecting it. I never did due diligence in taking care of my business and it suffered. I had even gotten some funding to expand but I never did the needful and eventually, my business fell and I never made efforts to revive it, but how could I? I was also suffering inside.

My relationship with my parents also deteriorated. The people who were supposed to be my support system did not understand me anymore, partly because of me, because I did not allow them to. The cause of our worsening relationship was my suffering school work that did not have an explanation behind it. Eventually, I even stopped visiting them altogether. Deep down it hurt me deeply but there is nothing I could do about it. Or was there?

Help finally arrives.

Sometime later, a friend approached me one day and we started a conversation. A very deep conversation. I found myself pouring my heart and feelings to her in no time. What I did not know at the time is that she had observed me for some time and had taken an effort to reach out. She encouraged me to seek professional help for my problem and she promised to take the first step with me. Until now, I didn’t know I needed it.

Finally, I made the step and went to therapy with my friend by my side. This turned out to be what I needed and it was like medicine for my ailing soul. My therapist was a patient, attentive woman who listened to my story and took me through the recovery process one step at a time.

I also got the courage to approach all the friends I had alienated and got to fix my relationships. I also went to my parents and we had a talk, long talk and I told them everything that I was going through. They really listened. I appreciate them even more for this now.

It was a long journey, am still not done yet but am close. With the right help and attitude, I am hopeful I will overcome this. Please, if you face the same predicament, do not be afraid to seek help. The issue of mental health and its disorders is now a very talked-about topic and help is readily available at any hospital near you in Kenya. Seek help and also look out for your friends and let us cope together.

Facts.

Mental health, especially in Africa, is a topic that has been relegated. I was often so quick to notice when a friend, relative or colleague hasn’t matched their outfit but hardly notice them struggling with mental health issues. In fact, I remember labelling people suffering from mental health disorders as pretentious, crazy or attention seekers. There are quite a number of misconceptions about mental health disorders that fuel social stigma around victims of it. It is embedded in our culture that mental health disorders only affect the affluent part of society. 

Truth is, it does not discriminate, anyone, regardless of gender, age or social status can fall prey to it,I should know,I was dead in the middle of it once. Our mental health affects how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. It can influence your ability to relate to others and function each day. It will cripple you from realizing your full potential. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood and ageing. 

The theme for World Mental Health Day this year is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’.  The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a hard blow to mental health by causing more prevalence of mental disorders and rattling already limited mental health services in Kenya and Africa as a whole. 

What can be done.

Our mission at Village2nation Academy is to serve the youth with up to date life-long learning. We recognize that mental well-being is the foundation upon which any kind of learning can build and thrive. We believe that we all have a part to play in ensuring the world orbits in normalcy. 

This can only be done if our physical, mental and emotional well-being is in check. Not being mentally okay will cause you to shrink and dim your light and this does not serve your purpose. When you let your own light shine, you unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. Because the intricacies of life are like a woven fabric; each thread is connected to the other and is equally important.  

We need to break the stigma around mental health. It all starts with admission, one statement, ‘’I need help’’. It demands honesty and vulnerability to admit that you are not doing well and need help, it’s very brave. It also calls for us to be a little bit observant and show some concern with people around us, a simple ‘’Are you okay?’’ can go a long way in even saving a life. Let us be more intentional about our mental health and that of those around us. Do not be afraid to seek help. Extend empathy to those battling mental health disorders.

Mercy’s story was told anonymously by a friend who took care of her and took her through this difficult time of her life. Some details,such as her real name have been slightly changed or completely erased to maintain anonymity and privacy. The story is nonetheless real and meant to teach and remind everyone that they are not alone in the struggle of dealing with a mental disorder. Thank you very much and please, look out for each other!

    12 Comments

  1. Someone who actually understands what it’s like being depressed
    October 12, 2021
    Reply

    The beginning was way too stretched and the healing process was way too fast tracked. I feel like the writer didn’t really capture what it’s like in the day to day, how to recognize the signs early enough, triggers, and whatnot. The icing on the cake however, Mercy being James 👀

  2. Kimanzi
    October 14, 2021
    Reply

    I am glad that V2N as a community is having this conversation, it’s a long overdue subject and I only wish only more people talked openly about this

  3. Dismas
    October 15, 2021
    Reply

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