In the description of my Mental Health category I refer to myself as a WIP. Following conversations with a few people in my DMs last month after I put up T Is For Therapy then Let The Light In, I feel it is important to open up about why I describe myself as a work in progress.
Before I get into today’s post, I need to reiterate that 2019 has been the best year of my life. In February I wrote that I’mma make 2019 my bitch and I did the damn thing. A comprehensive recap will come in Kwaheri 2019 on December 31st, but I have never been happier, or more at peace, than I am this year.
But that does not mean that I am happy 24/7. I am human after all, and it is not humanly possible to be happy all day every day. I have bad days just like everyone else, but in general I have been operating at an 80-20 split between being upbeat and being downcast.
Until quarter four (Q4) happened.
W/c 23rd September was when I first noticed that I was prone to sadness more than usual. At first I did not understand why and briefly wondered if Mercury was in retrograde again. Fun fact, it is in retrograde now. *rolls eyes*
With time I figured out that I was dreading Q4 because it kicks off with Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. My mum died from breast cancer (fuck cancer!) on December 13, 2017 so vile all of October is breast cancer this, breast cancer that … it is very triggering for me. Then after October is over, the countdown to my mum’s anniversary begins in earnest; as of today it is 37 days to her two year anniversary. In summary, Q4 is now synonymous with the death of the love of my life.
Which explains why by mid-October my emotions were all over the place and this was me on any given day:
Lemme tell you guys going through all the emotions in a day is exhausting AF and I needed it to stop. So I set up an appointment with my therapist because, while I am usually adept at controlling my emotions, I needed some help this time around.
I have two therapists: Kendi Ashitiva and Dr. Frida Kameti. As it hits me that some people might think I have sooo many problems mpaka I need two therapists. Lol. That is not the case. I met Kendi first and we did nine months of therapy in 2017 and it saved my life. I saw her once again in January 2018 when I was on unpaid leave for the month. She wanted to check in on me (in fact she did not charge me for the session) once I settled down after the burial because, in her own words, “therapists also grieve.” I did not resume therapy after that session, though I cannot remember why I made that (possibly poor) decision.
But as 2018 went by every 13th became increasingly unbearable; the September anniversary was particularly painful. Kendi had previously referred me to Dr. Kameti as she specialises in trauma, so I made an appointment with her for October 12th which was the day before my mum’s 10 month anniversary. It made a difference, but once again I did not resume therapy after that session. And once again I cannot remember why I made that (possibly poor) decision.
Before last month I had not done any therapy this year because it is very hard to go for therapy when you are happy. Meaning before last month I had had over 10 sessions with Kendi but only 1 with Frida. So for my peeps in the DM, that is why I referred y’all to Kendi as I am more familiar with her, even though Frida is my current therapist.
But I was tired of my emotions making me their bitch, so I set up an appointment with Frida for October 24th at 11 a.m. I am a very punctual person so I got to her office with a few minutes to spare. But she was held up, by no fault of her own, and was not free until around 11:30 a.m. But having to wait irritated the fuck out of me, and even though she explained herself and apologised, I was unable to un-irritate myself. So we had a quick, unofficial session as I was just not in the mood, but by the time I left I was feeling better. Not great. Not even good. But better than when I walked in.
In the evening I went to the gym after work and did my best to work out my emotions. But I was still feeling down after the workout so I went to Mugz & Brewz for some food-centric self-care. I rarely do food-centric self-care anymore otherwise I risk negating all my hard work at the gym but that day I really needed it. I had a salad for health, fish fingers x tartar sauce for happiness and a too strong cocktail that I enjoyed as I tucked into The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. After that I went home, had two!! fantastic back-to-back wank sessions to my current fave Pombe Sigara (Let’s Talk Masturbation coming in 2020 🙂 ), showered and slept. The next day I woke up in a great mood, albeit slightly hangover, and kicked major ass in my morning workout. I did a full body workout that took me around 40 minutes the last time I did it, but that morning I did it in 30 goddamn minutes!
That Friday I also got the chance to be The Vibrating Lawyer’s assistant in the evening, where I helped her sell sex toys c/o G Spot Kenya at the live recording of The Spread. Which, as you can imagine, is a blog post for another day. I got home that night a very happy woman, feeling more like my “2019 self” than I had all week.
My emotions may have gotten the best of me the previous day, but I was back in charge.
Or so I thought.
I did not leave the house that weekend, which is a major sign that I am not in a good place. When my mum was dreadfully ill between 2014 and 2015 I would get home from work on Friday evening and, unless I was going to visit her in the hospital, I would not leave the house until Monday morning when it was time to go to work again. That weekend one of my cousin’s was moving houses on the 26th and I had previously offered to help out, but on the day I had neither the energy nor the will to leave the house.
The following week (w/c 28th October) I really struggled with going to the gym. It was a battle to convince myself to go in because I was just not in the mood to say hi to people, smile and crack jokes. I only wanted to go home and wallow. That is when I first began to sense that something bigger is at play because I love the gym. The gym is my happy place. I may not always enjoy the workout in the moment (kwanza on Monday as that is my cardio day) but I always love how I feel after. I also love love love the energy in the gym and look forward to chitchatting and cracking jokes with a few people there every evening.
In addition to not wanting to leave the house or go to the gym, other ways I knew I was not okay were:
- I was unable to muster happiness for my loved ones. For example, my BFF Adelle Onyango was in Dakar, Senegal last month for the Africa Regional Meeting For People Of African Descent, by the African Union and United Nations. Usually I would be hyping her all over social media as well as on WhatsApp. But while I was thrilled for her, I found myself unable to convey that happiness beyond a like or a retweet on social media. Believe me when I tell you that I wanted to sing her praises from the top of the mountain and could not understand why I was unable to do so.
- I no longer want to smoke weed. Mary Jane is my lover because love is fleeting but marijuana is forever. Sana sana on #weedWednesday I love to smoke up and jam to gengetone or watch Family Feud/Ellen/James Corden, depending on what I am in the mood for. But last week I only wanted to go home and wallow, and till today I am still not in the mood to smoke up.
Quick aside: If you know me well point two probably made you go like:
Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.
Another quick aside: I love that quote so much I intend to get it tattooed on me as soon as I figure out placement and script.
It took me my whole life – the therapy I did in 2017 greatly escalated my progress – but I am finally adept at controlling my thoughts. So I was certain that I was not having your typical shitty day(s) because no matter how hard I tried I was unable to find my happy. My melancholy clung to me like a possessive, jealous, unhinged lover, refusing to let me out of its sight.
So I did some research and it sounded like I had adjustment disorder with depressed mood, also known as situational depression. It is similar to major depression but the difference lies in the fact that your depressive symptoms are clearly in response to an identifiable stressor, do not meet the full criteria for a major depressive episode, and will be resolved when either the stressor no longer exists or you are able to adapt to the situation.
There are certain factors that may increase the risk of situational depression. These include:
- Having an existing mental health condition (raises hand because anxiety and OCD)
- Past childhood stress and trauma (raises hand because did you read Let The Light In)
- Experiencing multiple traumas or stressors at the same time
- A family history of depression
But I was not entirely convinced because situational depression usually occurs within three months of a traumatic event such as a serious accident, divorce, job loss, or death of a loved one. Mine, on the other hand, was occurring three months before my mum’s two year anniversary.
So I set up an appointment with Frida for the 31st and I vowed to stick to it no matter what. I also vowed to un-irritate myself no matter what. Prior to the appointment I sent her Let The Light In so she could be familiar with the history of my mental health. After she read it she felt it was necessary for me to fill an assessment form to gauge where I am now. So on 31st I came in a bit early for the session, filled the assessment form and after that we had our first official session which took approximately 1 hour 30 minutes.
I am choosing not to divulge details from our session in today’s post because Frida and I are still figuring things out. If anything, after one session we have more questions than answers. Any and all posts I put up in the Mental Health category will always be treated with the utmost seriousness, and so it feels irresponsible to share information that is still a WIP.
But I will share that in the assessment I filled I scored high on anxiety. In August I put up O Is For OCD so it is no secret that I have OCD. But it turns out that OCD is a symptom of anxiety, which explains why my OCD has been getting worse as the days go by; it is increasing in tandem with my anxiety. Why do I have such high anxiety? I do not know, but I am confident we shall figure it out with Frida.
It must weird some people out to see me write so freely about my mental health struggles. I would not be surprised if there are people outchea who may have been interested in me, but after reading anything in my Mental Health category decided to fall all the way back. But, if I do not own my story how can I expect anyone else to do so? Besides, anyone who thinks less of me because of my mental health struggles does not deserve to be in my life in the first place.
2019 has been the best year of my life, but it is important to me to show what it looks like when I am sad in between all the genuine happiness. Let The Light In may have inadvertently misled people to believe that I am 100% healed yet that could not be further from the truth. My recovery and healing is an everyday process. I am a WIP continuously striving to live life as fully and as passionately as I possibly can, something we are all trying to do.
Unfortunately the digital world we live in today has made it too easy for one to feel inadequate as people typically share only the beautiful parts of life on social media. It is too easy to see someone on Instagram living their best life and wonder why you, on the other hand, are struggling to just get out of bed in the morning. While I am not here to tell people how to live their social media lives, I am all about authenticity; always have been, always will be. Conversations around mental health are not easy to have but I choose to open up because I am trying to show anyone struggling with their own mental fitness that if I can do it, so can they. Whatever it takes! *Avengers voice*
Last but definitely not least, I want to thank the little “community” of Lwile the Leo in my DMs. I will not name y’all as I do not have the consent to do so, but mnajijua. I was there for y’all when you reached out to me about therapy, and y’all were there for me when I opened up about just how trying Q4 is. I am glad the Universe conspired for our paths to cross because you fuel my fire for doing what I do. Let us keep chatting and encouraging each other and I promise we shall win this life thing together whatever it takes!