My name is Edgar J. Odhiambo, a 31 year old male who was diagnosed with PTSD in 2016 as a result of mommy and daddy issues. I have suffered from Anxiety and Panic Attacks for several years and at some point suffered from Depression for two years.
My story began when I was 10 years old back in 1998 when my mother asked me to accompany her to a near-by market to get some groceries for our house. Our aunties dropped us and mother told me to turn around with her and walk back as if we were going back home. That caught me off-guard because I was sure that we were going to the market like she said. But anyway, I followed her instructions and we began our walk home. She explained the reason why we were dropped off and were walking back home was because she needed to tell me something important. Her and my father had a fight the previous night and the reason for that was because my father was being unfaithful in his marriage to my mother. The fight went on for a long time and it got to a point of physical abuse between my parents. I was too young to be told about such emotionally heavy and traumatic incidences between my folks that I obviously didn’t know how to process and deal with. I remember once we got home I told my mother that what she told me will come to affect me one day. She was hearing none of it but it came to be true years later.
My upbringing wasn’t easy. I grew being compared to other kids from our estate and my school by my mother and on the other hand I feared my father because he was very angry and strict. I had a tough time adjusting which affected my performance on and off. It was hard for me to focus on what I was being taught so I could grasp, study and do well in my homework and exams. It’s not that I wasn’t a bright student but I was dealing with issues far much bigger than me and I couldn’t handle it. Every time I spoke to my mother about it she would dismiss what I was saying and switch it to make it about her. I never bothered telling my father because he liked things done his way and I also feared him due to the anger he showed me on many occasions. I felt alone even if I had able parents I was living with and I always saw myself as different while growing up. I never really got to enjoy my childhood because my parents never allowed it. I was made to feel guilty that playing with the other kids was going to distract me from my school work which according to them was more important. Asking for money to go swimming at Splash or to the movies wasn’t easy in our home because I was lectured about money being scarce and not ‘picked from trees’ as my father used to say a lot. I never knew how to stand up for myself whenever I was physically or emotionally bullied by my peers or those older than me. I was never taught so I allowed them to do what they wanted. I knew I didn’t like it but I never said anything to them. I was very shy growing up which messed with my self-confidence. I never knew how to flirt with girls, be on stage and act in plays even if I liked them so much, or ask the teacher for permission to go to the toilet when I was pressed because I always assumed the worst case scenario. The things people did so normally I wasn’t able to do because I was too scared and would always think of the worst case scenario.
The issues my parents faced in their marriage were dumped on me. My mother used to tell me every bad thing my father did day in – day out without a care of how it would affect me. My father used to be angry and take that out on me too often. I was caught in the middle and I didn’t know what to do. I never knew how to talk about what I was feeling because truth be told nobody cared enough to listen to me and in turn help me get through it. My parents’ issues and how they felt about them always took precedence over my own. There were times I spoke to them either together or separately but they never really did anything about it to change things around for the better.
In 2014 after coming back from doing my Masters’ Degree in the United Kingdom I got into a relationship shortly after that. Things were good until they weren’t for various reasons. Also, the noise that I was away from for a year while abroad returned and I got triggered all over again. I began regretting why I came back home even if I had to because it was a hell hole I had been away from for the time I was away and now I was back in it. In addition to all that I didn’t have a job. I was barely getting any money from my father as it was and somehow I needed to survive. The way things were tailored at home was that I would always be relying on my father to make things happen because he was the one with the contacts, networks and resources. I spoke to many of his people in an effort to get interviews or connections to jobs that I would like. They all either made empty promises, avoided my calls and messages or turned me back and asked that I speak to my father concerning the same. It was demoralizing to say the least because I really wanted something to work in my favour but I just couldn’t seem to get hold of it. I begged, wrote emails, sent messages, cried, begged again, showed up for meetings but I wasn’t lucky. My outlook on life changed. I was sad, angry and looking at everyone around me differently. I hated my life and the direction it was taking but again I had nobody to tell about this so I internalised it all like I was used to it.
In February 2015 my relationship ended. I couldn’t be in it anymore and it was time for me to move on but I just didn’t know how to. I hadn’t been sleeping well, my mind was always racing with so many thoughts. I wasn’t eating well yet I live for food. I was very pessimistic; I avoided people and only met them when I felt I had the energy to. I got overwhelmed and reached out to my mother to get me numbers of an able counsellor that I could see. She shared three contacts with me and after reaching out to them, I settled on one. I began seeing her shortly after and we began my journey to recovery together. After two sessions where I shared my history up to the point I approached her, I was given a written assessment to do and in my 3rd session I got my results. I was suffering from Anxiety, Depression and Panic Attacks. I didn’t know what those terms meant, let alone I never expected to be the person going through them. However, it was my new reality which had to be accepted. The counsellor explained each and every condition and linked them to my family background, my feelings, reactions and mental space at the time. Things began to make sense and it’s then that I realised that I had been battling with anxiety and panic attacks since I was 13 years old but it went undetected for otherwise immediate treatment.
I saw that counsellor between March and August 2015. She really helped me understand a lot about myself and why I ended up in that situation. I learnt a lot about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy but because I got very busy with the job I got into in February I was occupied most of the time. I was either working or in the gym so I stopped seeing the counsellor in August that year and in September my internship contract ended. I was back to looking for a job again. I wasn’t successful enough and I was still not being connected with the right people. My father’s life continued without a slight sincere care in the world. His work, our nuclear family and his friend’s needs were prioritized over ours, his immediate family. He did so much for those people and very little for us and he used to say that as long as you have food to eat, a place to sleep, shower and even get the privilege of driving a car you should be grateful. That was beside the point but that is what he believed and my mother on the flip side never stopped complaining about my father’s behaviour, neither did she protect me from what I was exposed to. Nobody ever cared to find out how I was really doing.
In 2016, I felt like I was hitting rock bottom again and I decided to go talk to my late friend’s mother in her office. I told her my story and how I was just not happy with my life especially my mental and emotional state. She quickly booked an appointment with a psychiatrist for a review to be done. I showed up on the day of the appointment 30 minutes early and waited my turn. As soon as that time came I was ushered in by my friend’s mother and introduced to the doctor. I was asked what brought me there and so I opened my journal and began to speak. I ended up talking for 3 hours. I honestly couldn’t believe it but the pain was evident and the doctor allowed me to release it all in that session.
It’s then I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and it was manifesting through the depression I suffered between 2015 and 2016, my anxiety and panic attacks. This was definitely a bitter-sweet moment for me but at the same time I felt some sort of relief. I finally knew what wrong with me and the doctor assured me that it’s something we could deal with. I had to be put on medication to raise my serotonin levels to the optimum and also another to cut off my adrenaline levels which were very high at the time and causing me a lot of anxiety and panic attacks. After two months I was referred to a different counsellor who has been a great help in my recovery until this day. I have made major strides towards knowing myself better, asserting myself respectfully when need be, building on my self-confidence, perception of situations when triggered and more. It hasn’t been an easy journey but a fruitful one nonetheless.
In 2018 I decided to use my story to inspire others who may be going through the same thing or worse. I have spoken to many people and heard their stories. One thing that is clear is many are wounded and lost in this world with no idea where or who to turn to for the right kind of help. For those that have reached out they have either been judged, misunderstood, compared or have their pain dismissed which has led them to turn to unhealthy ways of coping which have been destructive. It is my wish to stand up, speak out and share my story with as many people as possible at any chance I get. It is my wish that people will join me in this journey and help me spread awareness, encourage people to speak up about their pain and most importantly change the narrative and perceptions of those that go through any sort of mental illness.