• African Mental Health First Aid


I remember at the age of fourteen, wishing I could wave a magic wand that would zap me to a different planet or world, where I could become somebody else, because I hated my life and the person I was. This was when it all started. I felt I didn’t ‘fit in’, any where at all. Through primary school, I had been teased and bullied by children, who would tell me that I had ’big goggly eyes’ and  ’fat legs’, and would ‘wheezed’ like a train, from being asthmatic. My asthma also left me feeling very vulnerable. Every time I had an attack , I believed I was going to die…..and I had very many attacks. To overcome my ‘ugliness and loneliness and to hide my fear of  near ‘death experiences’ I excelled in sport and worked very hard in class. But the emotional scars from being teased and bullied were deeply ingrained in me….

I got accepted into one of the most prestigious girls boarding schools in Nairobi, where I met rich politician’s daughters and other extremely wealthy families. I didn’t fit into the ’whose who’s’ families, neither did I have the latest clothes or get picked up in the latest cars, or by drivers. I was a very ‘invisible’ teenager, only becoming  became visible as I carried on hiding behind being good at sport and working hard in my classes and involvement with extracurricular activities. This feeling of being a ‘nobody’, who couldn’t even look at herself in the mirror, kept getting worse. In addition to which that feeling of not being ’acceptable’ to people, began to fill me up with anger, and even more hate for myself.  I hadn’t a clue what was happening to me. It became a normal existence.

My emotions became buried deep inside, unwilling to be released. They became so deep that I was no longer sure what I was feeling, if anything at all, I became numb, confused, unsure of what the problem was. I was also being haunted by a dream, where  kept on falling and falling and falling, in this deep black hole, which would end just before I hit the bottom. I was so scared of what was going on inside of me. And my withdrawals accompanied by my asthma attacks continued. At home when I wasn’t out in the midst of nature (this is where I found my peace), I was in the house….being a ’sulky’ child and being tormented by this emotional distress that I couldn’t understand, which I couldn’t explain to Mum and Dad, whom I knew loved me.

It was in this state of mind that I went to the USA for my university. The opportunity to  run away from myself. My strategy for ‘survival’ and to be liked by people, was to be a ‘pleaser’, who couldn’t say ’no’, and whose needs were less important than others. Of course this opened me up to being abused. And I was.

The opportunity arose . A guy I had met off campus expressed an interest in me. Wow! Actually, that was the only reason I dated him for a period of about three months. One of my dearest friends (and still is), my house mate at the time,  couldn’t stand the man, she saw through him, but she couldn’t tell me. Throughout this period, I actually couldn’t stand the guy….as a matter of fact, what I felt about him came very close to hate. Of course during this period of being with him, knowing how he was treating me, (emotionally and sexually abusive) made me hate myself even more…was I that desperate? Yes…I must have been, but couldn’t tear myself away.

One evening, I caught him cheating on me…I cannot begin to express what that did to me…I felt like someone had put a knife into my heart, into that deep black hole… I was once again falling and falling and falling….everything as a big blur. I haven’t any idea how I made it back to my home.

Following morning, as I was going home from campus, feeling so lonely, very low, ugly, dirty and numb, I saw a car driving towards me. I remember clearly thinking….there’s no point carrying on…what for?..Go on jump… Jump….I stopped. And the voice carried on. Jump. Jump. It was totally surreal. I put my bag down. The voices carried on tormenting me. I shook my head in a daze. Who was that telling me to jump….before I knew it, the car had passed. I believe my God had sent His angels to save me.

I don’t remember how I got home. The following week, one wonderful caring American Italian family, who had opened up their home and cared for many a foreign students,  noticed all was not well with me at all. The husband and wife team were both into mental health, with one of them working at the student health center. The advised me on what to do. I went to the student health centre the following day and started my very first treatment for my depression. The depression to date still comes and goes, however, I am aware when  I am going downhill. I then call on God’s love and strength to keep me going in His joy.  There is HOPE. Never  give up.

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