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One chance – Searching for home

“One chance” is a Lagos slang used to describe public transport busses that double as vessels to rob unsuspecting passengers. If you are lucky you will be robbed and dropped off in an unfamiliar place and if not, you may or may not live to tell the story. By hiding the action behind the familiar, the thieves are often able to get away with it time and time again.

I often wonder when I will feel like I am at home. As I start this piece, can feel my perspective as a privileged Nigerian born in America infused with idealism from other experiences in “the abroad” coming through in every word.

This morning I started counting down from 3. In 3 days I will be back home. Not in the place where I feel at home but in the physical space where I grew up. Something I have found interesting is how the rules of the home dictate behavior. It is like driving in Lagos after years of avoiding it. Your muscle memory kicks in and suddenly you know how to almost hit pedestrians and forget that the break is used for stopping. While I am always thankful to have the ability to be self aware enough to recognize my growth, I am also usually quite saddened by the knowledge of the rules that govern certain spaces. It almost feels like time traveling as you step into the curated space of someone else. Your familiarity lets you know how to behave but that does little of regarding your individuality.

When I step through that grey door with the wobbly handle and weak hinge, I will enter my own version of one chance. For me one chance is a self constructed prison in the mind so comfortable you do not realize you are in it until you have lost everything that makes you yourself. As I flesh out this description you may be wondering why it is then that I continue to go back to my prison willingly. To that I will respond by saying obligation. It is perhaps a shame that I have never been able to see the necessity to cling to ones family. Perhaps that stems from not being able to feel connection really to anything but the things that are in my imagination or out of my reach. When the moment it is within my grasp it starts to fall away like grains of sand. The more I grab on the faster it falls.

There is something destructive about being conscious within this reality of mine. Always planning, imagining and chasing but never truly attaining anything really. Like a dog programmed to chase its tail on occasion but he enjoying it because in the moment there is no better thing to do for a few hours. I often start to wonder if there is any point to trying to live what will be perceived as a full life even though I am fully capable of doing it.

Enough rambling for now.

In 3 days I will be home.

October 10 – World Mental Health Day

I was tagged on twitter by @AwareAfrica to hold up a sign and upload a picture using a hashtag but I thought I would try and do a bit more due to an InsideJob Video I saw on Facebook. This led me down the rabbit hole of trying to find statistics about mental health in Nigeria and though I was not surprised, I was still shocked.

Mental health is always an interesting topic for me because it always needs a bit of convincing before you can mention it to people who do not understand it. I gravitated towards making a video because of my history with mental health


Resources – Nigeria
PsyndUp
Upcoming resource for Mental Health resources in Nigeria launching on October 10 2016
http://www.psyndup.com/

Aware Africa
Twitter: @AwareAfricaNG

World Suicide Prevention Day – A week of writing

This the last post in the series that followed World suicide prevention day.

Over this week, I have discussed quite a few topics that can lead to suicidal ideation in one way or another. The reason was simply to show that we all have thoughts and ideas within us that at times serve us well an other times do not. For me some combination of all of these things I have discussed this week became the reason for my suicidal ideation. If your thoughts are negative for too long they can lead to sadness, depression and suicidal ideation quite easily. There is nothing wrong with this as there is nothing wrong with being happy or confused but the important thing is recognizing what is going on and taking active steps to make changes. If you notice that you are unable to navigate through your mental space alone talk to  the people close to you an if they are unable to help, look for a professional.

Mental health professionals are just that. They make a living out of helping people better understand their own mind. I know the thought of seeing a therapist is scary and I had my own share of extreme anxiety before I went to regular therapy for the first time. Without a doubt, I can say that I have only been able to tackle the tough topics in my life this year because I reached out. Half the time, I felt awkward and most times I did not want to believe what my therapist said. The reality however is that without those honest and harsh truths, I would still be on the couch not even aware that there was a problem,

If you stuck through and read all the posts this week, let me know. I would love some feedback.

Thank you and continue being awesome.

Last weeks posts:

World Suicide Prevention Day – Sept 10

Instagram and Depression – They know how you feel?

Expressing Emotions – How do you feel?

The Chronic Pain Tag

Grieving – It is okay to be sad or depressed

Becoming you – I am okay with myself

Becoming you – I am okay with myself

I am all for and about change. If there is something you don’t like, I believe in taking active steps to change it when you get the chance. When I mention change here, I do not mean the outward things like your job, friend circle or where you live. I mean the things at your core that make you who you are.

For the longest time, I disliked myself completely. I did not like that I was overweight, that I have brown eyes and big big feet, that I did not produce perfect work all the time and biggest of all that I was not the person I thought I should be.

We all have things that we do not like about ourselves for that is what spurs change but are you willing to accept yourself for who you are right now in this very moment? Are you okay with accepting that a lot of the things you want to change will not bring you the happiness you think it will? Are you okay with looking in the mirror right now and loving that person more than anyone else in your life?

For me in this moment, loving myself is an uphill battle. When I make progress the negative thoughts in my stream of consciousness find a way to make me forget. One day at a time.

Grieving – It is okay to be sad or depressed

Grief is an emotion that I have only heard used in the context of death. When someone close to you passes on, it is common to expect those who are close to the diseased to grieve. That traditionally comes with deep rooted rituals that mark the event.

Recently, I have been wondering about grief. I did not know that it was used to describe loss of any kind and it does not necessarily have to be a death.

I experienced true grief for the first time this year. Due to the chronic pain that I started to experience, I had to redefine the list of things that I am able to do because of it. In my mind it was a trivial task. I made a physical list of thing that I have done, things I want to do and things I want to do but may not be able to. I did not realize at the time that compiling this list would me taking me deep within myself.

With very little effort, I saw the dreams that I had for my life slowly move from the can do to the can not do list. With each one, my heart sank deeper and deeper. Keep in mind that these realities had been apparent for a while but I did not give myself permission to be okay with it. For the first time, I was okay with being depressed. I was okay with sitting in the sadness that growing up entailed. I was okay with guiding myself through the grieving process as I figured out what step would be next.

There is really nothing wrong with experiencing sadness and letting it consume your every thought. However it becomes a problem if it persists and you are unable to rise from the ashes of sadness as a Phoenix does.

Have you let yourself grieve certain important losses in your life?

Tomorrows topic: Becoming you – I am okay with myself

The Chronic Pain Tag

I stumbled upon this for the first time a few months ago. I was going through Annie Elainey’s youtube videos. Previously I had seen a few of her videos but I did not know about her struggles with chronic pain and being disabled. It was quite inspiring and I thought I would do my own chronic pain tag. The original one had only 9 questions but I added one in.

  1. How/when did your chronic pain begin?
    • It started around 2010 if I remember well. There was a small dark spot on my ankle that I noticed around 2009.
  2. Do you know the cause of your pain?
    • Venous insufficiency

  3. What kind of pain do you experience? What does it feel like?
    • I always feel like there is someone giving my legs a hot bear hug. Apart from being hugged, sometimes I think there is a needle being run through the length of my calf.
  4. Is it consistent or on and off?
    • It is consistent but some times are more intense than others
  5. Do you have of any specific triggers for your pain?
    • It is usually at a low baseline but if I stand or walk around it gets worse. The more activity I do with my legs the more intense the pain. There are certain chairs that also make it worse
  6. How does your pain limit you?
    • Before the pain showed up, I was working hard at becoming a professional chef. I used aids to help me cope but after a while I had to pause that dream for a bit. I am not sure if I will have to morph it into something else or press stop. I also do not go to a lot of places because I know I will have to stand, walk and participate actively.

  7. How do you cope with your pain?
    • Doodling, writing, cooking, taking naps (it is like a temporary reset button), video editing
  8. When are you most comfortable?
    • Sitting down on a chair that is appropriate for my height
  9. How do you feel least supported?
    • I feel least supported when assumptions about my pain level are made without asking me first. I do have good days
  10. How do you feel most supported?
    • I feel most supported when I get included in things. It gives me motivation to push through my perceived limits and surprise myself.

If you struggle with chronic pain, do your own chronic pain tag and tag me in it.

Tomorrows topic: Grieving – It is okay to be sad or depressed

Expressing Emotions – How do you feel?

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It is suicide prevention day. What better way to celebrate than talking about weird misunderstood emotions.

YAY!

I never realized that I did not express emotions till I met emotional people. At the same time, I also realized that I just did not really know how to express them. I only express through bodily motions and not because of true feelings.

Throughout childhood expressing emotions was never really encouraged. I am not saying that there was a ban on being yourself or anything but emotional quesions were never asked. For that reason the emotional parts of me were not allowed to grow. Couple that with hanging out with people who were always much older than me and what ended up happening is that my mature characteristics developed but the more fundamental parts such as emotion, effective communication, setting boundaries and self acceptance didn’t grow.

What that has led to for me is deep seated hatred towards myself. As negatives carry more weight than positives somewhere I’ve latched on and internalized the negatives. That has lead me to further repress the weaker parts of myself.

It has only been over the last month that I have been expressing emotions consciously for the first time in my life. Before now I did not know that I had emotions to express. By unconsciously repressing myself I not only blinded myself to emotions but I also had no idea that I have been expressing things that others perceive as emotion. Emotions be it verbal or non verbal run the world. My inability to use and recognize them have hindered me in many ways. Somehow I made the connection that emotions mean weakness and whining and I stuck to that story.

Continue reading “Expressing Emotions – How do you feel?”

Instagram and Depression – They know how you feel?

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PC: theverge.com

The same way we were blissfully unaware of the effects of eating processed foods after the war, I have equally wondered about what the data being collected on all of us that use social media will yield in the near future.

Last week I stumbled upon an article of some research that came out of Harvard and the University of Vermont. They analyzed a bunch Instagram photos and looked for trends. What they were able to find was that users that used particular filters had a higher rate of depression while users that used other filters had a lower rate. I was immediately intrigued.

Apart from people making jokes about being depressed or wanting to kill themselves or being literally dead, I have wondered about this topic for a long time. According to this article, 430 Facebook users die every hour and I wonder what it is for twitter and Instagram. Could it be possible to sort through these profiles and use the data gathered to craft an algorithm that could be able to gauge the mental health of the diseased? Would gathering information about these people from close family and friends hold a clue? Should an autopsy report also include information about the individuals rapport with social media?

Of all the things, that has facinated me about mental health, I have been the most sad about the fact that the person who is mentally ill may not know and their friends probably will not know until it is too late. 2 out of 3 people do not know first aid and most people can not identify if someone is suicidal or depressed just by looking at them.

It is one thing to hear about an article like this but one step further, what do you do if you see warning signs and the actual person is not yet aware of it. Are you equipped to talk someone off the ledge? Are you able to do basic first aid if you catch your closest friend attempting suicide?

Continue reading “Instagram and Depression – They know how you feel?”

World Suicide Prevention Day – Sept 10

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I saw a post that mentioned that world suicide prevention day as coming up in 2 days. In the spirit of talking about mental health on this blog, I thought I would write a thing or two about it.

What is wrong with suicide? By definition it is the act of putting and end to ones life by ones self. The idea of thinking about ending ones life is called suicidal ideation. If someone else does it and it is against ones will it is murder however if it is done with consent, it is euthanasia. The reasons for it are irrelevant but these are all things that lead to death due to an intervention of some sort.

Growing up, I had very little interaction with death and suicide. I only knew one person who had attempted when I was younger and they were not successful. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I just assumed that it was far away form my reality. Why would someone even think it would be a rational thing to end their own life? What could be possibly going on within them that would warrant such and extreme action.

The first time I was suicidal, I did not know. At that period of time, I was quite sad for a prolonged period of time and on top of all of that, I was in a good amount of pain. The pain did not start off as a constant thing but at time progressed, it started to become more intense and constant. Before this point I had had periods where I rationalized that it would be nice to stop living but I did not know at the time that it was a problem. I just assumed that it was a regular reaction to life events. The thoughts or suicidal ideation continued for a long time but I had no intention of actually taking my life until one day.

It was a regular day. Nothing special or different compared to all the other days. I woke up, got ready for the day but at one point I remember sitting at the laptop working away and thinking “I am ready to kill myself”. Immediately I paused what I was doing and and questioned that thought in my head. What did my mind just tell me to do?

Continue reading “World Suicide Prevention Day – Sept 10”

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