Aisha had an appointment with her good friend at 2:00pm, but owing to certain circumstances she could not make it at the slated time. “Could she have refused to show up in good time because she does not want to be friends with me anymore?”, one of the many thoughts Aisha had. That delay made...
Between the people involved in making sure that I get the adequate support before returning to University in September and having a meltdown, I think it is safe to say I have not had the greatest start to the year.
After watching a motivational video from one of my favourite spoken word artists, Nego True, honestly, I am not sure how I feel. Not that I am even supposed to feel anything, but putting the issue of success to one side for one moment I found that this video tapped into my biggest insecurity – self-worth. I will hold my hands up and admit I do not believe I am worthy of anything; love, affection, gifts, you name it! In my head, I do not deserve it. However, I strive to make sure everyone around me knows that they are worth everything the world has to offer and if you ever start to believe otherwise, I will be the first to shower you with praises and reassure you that you are destined for greatness.
I am a hypocrite, I know. As much as possible, I try to uplift people close to me who talk down about themselves. It breaks me to see them in that state. But when you try to uplift me when I talk down about myself, I will tell you it is too late. I feel I am only deserving of pain and just learning to live with it. My heart pangs a little, but this is what I truly believe and for the longest time, I did everything to make sure I got pain because that is what I subdued my worth to. Whether I am physically harming myself in some way or constantly telling myself how worthless I am (to the point where I refuse to look in the mirror), I would rather result to self-pity than hate what I see. Even worse than this, I absolutely hate to be doted on in every sense of the word. Do not make me the centre of attention. Do not spend money on me (this goes as far as my family). Let me look after you in every way, be there for you and, as delusional as it sounds, take away your pain. I feel this is where my worth is.
Admittedly, I am probably a leech. I find it strange how my friends deal with me. I guess I have some good in me after all.
The other thing Nego spoke about that touched me was the issue of perfection and planning. Now, I cannot plan for the life of me. Ordinarily, you would think I plan everything to the last detail, but as long as I can figure out how I can get there and if I can get inside, planning evades me. I am what my cousin calls a Panster (Google it), but when it comes to writing I am meticulous and everything has to be perfect (seeing the link to my self-worth yet?)
I have been writing spoken word poems for as long as I can remember, but till this day, I am yet to gain enough courage to jump on stage owing to my social anxiety and my issue with vulnerability. Come to think of it, I always thought last year was a disaster, but having the opportunity to meet Nego True (Yo! I had to maintain a high level of composure that day) and discussing my issue with vulnerability, it was not as bad as I thought!
Know what he told me? There is no such thing as being too vulnerable. If people react, you have most likely struck a chord. And most of all, “Just close your eyes and hit send”. A part of me wishes I remembered this when I had the opportunity to perform at the end of last year. I wish to be this confident a-person, and the fictional character in my head is everything I aspire to be, yet the mere sight of happiness or even the warmest feeling makes me want to flee because I still stand in this mental cage that constantly repeats, “I am not worthy”.
My challenge for us this month? Close your eyes and hit send. Be open with where you are right now and what you are going through. Yes you may get some negative responses, but take pride in the fact that you tried. A step further? Tell yourself every day, “I love myself”. I will probably cringe trying to do this, but I will try.
ABOUT BLESSING ODUKOYA: On all fours is how her life began; Growing into a young adult in the past is where she remains; Occasionally sitting on two wheels; She saw life through a different lens but her strive to be the same was almost her end game; Failing to see past her self inflicted pain; They undoubtedly became best friends; Only to realise society didn’t live up to her standards anyway.
Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. It is often skewed towards negativity, and sometimes it is just plain wrong. Negative self-talk can lower your self-esteem, self-confidence, happiness, and keep you from accomplishing your goals.
It is one of the most common issues a person struggles in search of solutions; which could be to get rid of it, reduce it, or be fully in control of it. If you are one of those people who constantly looks for ways to effectively get rid of negative self-talk, take note of the following tips:
- Accept Your Imperfections
You are not perfect. No one is! You will make mistakes and have faults but this is normal. This is what makes you whom you are. You may know or come across a few people who seem ‘perfect’, but this is what they want you to see.
- Know That “It’s Not All in Your Head”
Self-talk is not just mindless chatter. It has a way of creating its own reality. Telling yourself you can do something can make it happen. Telling yourself you cannot do something can make that come true as well. Your self-talks form your mindsets. If you keep telling yourself, “I’m not smart”, soon enough you will feel and think like one who is not.
- Put Things into A Wider Perspective
When your inner voice starts filling your head with negative thoughts, sit down, take a deep breath and relax. Then, listen to what your inner voice is telling you from a wider perspective. For example, there is a difference between two students who failed a class test where the first thinks, “I’m a failure”, and the second thinks, “It’s just one test. I wasn’t at my best. I’ll work harder next time”.
- Don’t Say to Yourself What You Won’t Say to Other People
What you cannot say out loud to other people, banish it from your own thoughts. When your friend spills something on her shirt, you do not tell her, “You are such a stupid slob, how can you spill that?”. Instead, you would probably have a few laughs and move on. You are your own friend so use proper manners and courtesy when talking to yourself.
- Take A Break from Social Media
We often judge our self-worth by what we see in other people on social media. If that voice in your head is getting loud, take a break from social media, reflect and evaluate your life from your own perspective.
- Watch Who You Spend Time With
Remember the old saying, “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are”? The kind of people we associate with tell us a lot about ourselves. Surround yourself with people who think positively, make you happy, and make you feel good about yourself. As much as possible, avoid people who constantly bring you down and make you think bad about yourself.
- Learn to Separate Fact from Fiction
The hard part about negative self-talk is that it always feels true. Even though your thoughts might often be biased or incorrect, you tend to assume that they are facts. Quite often, negative thoughts have to do with prejudices against yourself. It does not reflect the reality of the situation. You should learn to separate what you know to be true and what is false. If you are thinking, “I’m so careless, I’m always forgetting my keys”, analyze that thought. Do you always forget your keys or that happens occasionally? By doing this, you are making clear to yourself where your real problems lie.
- Act the Way You Want to Feel
If you want to be happy, act like it. Before you know it, it will become your reality. It is hard to pretend to be happy when you just want to curl up in bed and forget about the world, but it is worth trying if you want to feel better.
- Build Your Self-Confidence
Boosting your self-confidence tends to increase your belief in your skills and abilities. So how do you build your self-confidence? You can do so by doing more and trying new things. The more you do, the more competent you become, and thus the more confident you will be. Ultimately, the more confident you are, the lower the negative inner voice becomes.
- Talk to Someone You Trust
Whenever the negative thoughts surface, talk to someone about them. Sometimes, love, care and affection can make you feel good about yourself and make the negative thoughts go away.
If you are used to having negative self-talks, do not expect to be an optimist overnight. With practice, your self-talk will contain less self-criticism and instill more self-confidence. You can learn to be more conscious of your negative self-talk as it happens and choose to think about the situation in a more realistic and helpful way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nusaybah Al-Adeebah Raani Bint AbdulFattah is an aspiring psychiatrist. She feeds on books. She is an amateur photographer in love with nature. She loves to write and believes she can change the world a few words at a time.
How people acquire a mental illness still remains a mystery.
Is it communicable? Is it spiritual? Is it a curse? Is it hereditary? Or does it have to do with an imbalance in our neuro-chemicals? With so many different theories out there, it is hard to know which one is widely accepted.
I will not claim to have the answers to these burdening questions, but I will shed some light based on my experience working in mental health institutions. Therefore, the contents of this article are strictly my opinion.
The occurrence of mental illnesses is not random! Let me explain. I have had the privilege of examining the mental state of people from both the spiritual and scientific angles. At times, there is a need to eliminate life experiences and attribute the cause to certain conditions of the brain or spiritual problems. There is a psychological model called the diathesis-stress model which explains that someone may have a vulnerability to a mental health issue. The diathesis, for example, can be an early childhood trauma or a parent who suffered from mental illness. This predisposition would then need to interact with a life event (the stress) which could trigger the onset of a mental disorder. Some of these life events could be a breakdown in one’s marriage, the death of a loved one, etc. There are also protective factors that shield one from acquiring a mental illness such as a secure attachment with a childhood caregiver, employment, etc. Most times, these mental illnesses, triggered by these life events, manifest from the onset and impinge gradually until they become more serious.
We cannot treat mental health the same way as physical health. You cannot just treat the ‘illness’ or symptoms and forget about the individual. Mental health is personal and no two people are the same, even if they both have the same diagnosis. When we shift our perspective of mental health to the individual, this changes what treatment should be available for recovery. Certain clinical methods need to be prescribed so that one can fully understand their life story and how various factors may have contributed to their current state. An example of this is psychotherapy. It can be scary but also empowering because it gives the power to the individuals and makes them realize that they probably are not crazy or their brain decided to randomly stop functioning. Usually, the brain responds to the environment. If there were stressful life events, it may have manifested in the functioning of the brain.
I am a firm believer in not seeing people with mental illnesses as their clinical labels; Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, OCD, etc. I understand there are important descriptors to diagnose and implement the correct treatment. However, I believe we need to look beyond these labels to see the human being underneath. So, instead of seeing someone as only a mentally ill person, maybe we can say they are human beings going through a mentally ill experience.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kawthar is a psychology graduate currently working as a research assistant in mental health in the UK. She plans become a qualified clinical psychologist in the near future. She is passionate about removing the stigma around mental health and also examining the cultural and social context in which a person’s mental health evolves from.
The world keeps developing and our ways of thinking keep changing due to exposure to different developments around us. Although the way the society thinks of mental illness has changed, it has not changed as much as it ought to.
One of the major problems that mentally ill patients face, especially in collectivistic societies, is being termed as violent people. Many people still hold on to that misconception that every mentally ill patient is a violent person. The reverse is the case really; being mentally ill does not automatically make one violent. Even those that exhibit violent tendencies act that way not because they want to hurt others, but because it is a form of coping mechanism. Violent behaviours amongst mentally ill people is an externalized expression of symptoms and a way of dealing with conflict, fear, and goal-blockage.
People with mental disorders have a lot going for them, especially those in countries that think being mentally ill is something to be ashamed of. When patients are accused of being dangerous, it can have a demoralizing effect on their visions for relationships, employment, housing, and social functioning. A study stated that symptoms of psychiatric illnesses, rather than the diagnosis itself, appear to exhibit or show tendencies of violent behaviours. Another study by Harvard (2011), shows that not all people suffering from major mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia have high tendencies of acting violently, but rather people with the illness and history of psychotic thoughts that influence their behaviours that stand a higher risk of acting violently when they have symptoms of some mental disorders. Also, when a personality disorder happens in combination with another psychiatric disorder, the blend may escalate the risk of violence. Patients suffering from hallucinations or delusional thoughts are also at a higher risk of exhibiting violence because they may abide by their irrational thoughts hence misinterpreting the actions of others as dangerous, thus respond violently. On the other hand, patients with symptoms of social withdrawal, sleep-wake disorders etc. are at a lower risk of acting aggressively.
There are as many mental disorders that patients are at lower risk of acting aggressively just the way there are some that patients are at higher risk of acting violently.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Saratu Abubakar is a young lady who majors in Journalism and minors in Psychology at the American University of Sharjah. She is passionate about mental health and aims to pursue a masters in social psychology after her undergraduate. She loves writing and that has led her into writing a fictional novel.
It hasn’t always been easy to accept my condition; its perks and limitations. It wasn’t always easy to accept that I am different. I didn’t always have the courage to start a mental health conversation.
Coming out of the mental illness closet is as scary for me as it for anyone else. People begin to doubt you. They question your judgment. They discount your opinion. And begin to use your condition as a tool against you. All of which are NOT OKAY.
I know what depression feels like. I know what it’s like to have thoughts so wild in your head that they feel like individual voices. I know what it feels like to cry ceaselessly for days for no reason whatsoever. And I know what it is to be suicidal.
But you know what’s most important? That I know what it feels like to feel alone in this. I know the misery that accompanies not being understood or feeling like you need to prove you are ill. I have felt the emptiness of not having someone to share my candid experience with.
That is why I choose to speak. I choose to lend my voice. I choose to listen. I bear #NoShame living with more than one mental illness and I implore every one reading this to create a safe environment for people to speak about mental health. End the stigma by asking questions. Let us who live with the illness tell you about it. Do not criticize what you don’t understand.
Finally, everyone living with a mental illness has a right to recover at their own pace. You need not jump out of the closet if you are not ready. There is no pressure whatsoever. But know this, WE BELIEVE YOU. YOU ARE NOT YOUR ILLNESS. YOU ARE A SYMBOL OF STRENGTH. AND YOU ARE #NOTALONE
Big thanks to The Siwe Project for this brilliant initiative. #NoShameDay
As part of the run up to World Mental Health Day, Aware Africa, a Nigerian owned mental health awareness platform, ran a social media campaign – #MentalHealthMatters #LetsBreakTheSilenceAfrica – calling all mental health enthusiasts to lend a voice to mental health in Africa. Our founder took to our Instagram page to lend her voice.
Here’s what she had to say –
My name is Hauwa and I believe #MentalHealthMatters. #LetsBreakTheSilenceAfrica.
I choose to speak because I know firsthand what it means to live with a mental disorder. I know what it means to be misunderstood. I can relate to anyone who is in denial or confused with the voices they hear and things they see. I know what #psychosis, #delusions and #paranoia feel like. I have had my fair share of #panicattacks and extreme #mood cycles. #Suicidal? You’re not alone.
Most of all, I know what stigma feels like and the many forms it comes in. Your judgment being questioned, your opinions discounted and utter derogatory statements and actions towards you. Mental health is not an easy topic, but how can we continue to swear the oath of silence when suicide rates are spiking and more and more people fall into the troughs of #depression, #anxiety, #bipolar, psychosis and the likes.
I speak for everyone like me and everyone who chooses to damn the consequences. #LetsBreakTheSilenceAfrica
Shola is hearing voices and having bloody hallucinations. Her parents have completely made her feel like she is overreacting. ‘Just strengthen your relationship with God and stop listening to your body so much’, they say. Since everyone else seems to make light of the situation, she now thinks that she may actually be overreacting. So Shola keeps her problems to herself and decides to ‘pull it together’.
Nnenna can’t make sense of the fact that she wakes up every night crying hysterically. Of course, she has to stomach that unexplained pain weighing on her and ensure that Mama doesn’t hear her sobbing in the dark. You see, Nnenna keeps having nightmares and flashbacks of the nights Uncle Chudi hurriedly entered her room. With one hand raised and one finger on his mouth, Nnenna knew there was no escape. He had been providing for Mama, herself and her younger ones ever since papa died. Mama let out a heavy sigh the day Nnenna told her of Uncle’s escapades. And that was it.
Everything seems to be going well for Hadiza. She works at a top finance company and has a man that loves her so much. Her family, like any other, has its challenges, but everything is looking good. But what are these bouts that plunge Hadiza to extreme happy moods that have her spending 6 figures a day and craving sexual adventures from any man that so much as smiles at her. The confusing bit is when all these sudden go away and she dives into at a low that makes wonder if life’s worth living.
Shola, Nnenna and Hadiza are three Nigerian women who live with mental disorders – schizophrenia, PTSD and bipolar respectively – and need answers. Rather than keeping their confusions and mystery to themselves in the midst of self-denial and denial from loved ones, there is a SAFEPLACE these lovely ladies can take masks off, rip off the fake smiles and be who they really are.
Finally, there is a safe place that holds love, hope and support. The first mental health support group in Nigeria, we can all feel safe among the misfits.
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