Dreams, Hopes, Plans and Life

Standard

A few weeks ago, someone challenged me to dream about the woman I wanted to be. It did not seem like much of a challenge because I felt the answer was obvious: I want(ed) to be a rich, healthy woman. Simple! But it was not going to be that easy . Or that short. I had to dream about her according to specific guidelines: what she would wear, eat, watch, read, do, etc. I had to actively imagine these things in detail! It has been six weeks and I am still working on the document, not because I cannot dream, but because for a long time, I would not dream. Why? Because I had become afraid to.

I used to dream a lot. More like imagine. I lived for the things I could dream about and for many years I got out of bed in the morning because I hoped these dreams were real. I dreamt of travelling around the world, being swept off my feet by love, working at a high-flying, important job, relocating temporarily to some far-flung country, being relevant,being necessary, being happy, being adequate. I was able to glimpse the beginnings of the actualisation of a few of my dreams, I traveled, I did one or two exotic jobs, I was almost self-sufficient, almost happy…then life happened.

The dreams didn’t go instantly, they just down-sized. I stopped dreaming about touring the world and started hoping for just a single room in a house that I had rented myself not someone else’s as has been the case, dreams of a high-flying job were replaced by prayers for a source of income/ a means to put at least one meal in mine and my daughter’s belly, love was restricted to being relevant to my daughter, and feelings of adequacy just had to wait….My dreams became utilitarian, necessary only for survival, limited in scope and use, like those  bite-sized or travel-size packages manufacturers produced for expediency. It was with this mindset that I had been asked to dream.

I stumbled upon this post on Kitchen Butterfly’s blog  and, suddenly, something sad and unpleasant finally hit home. In 2009 at the onset of all my issues, I had to pack up my property and deposit them in a friend’s house . Those things stayed in that house for 3 years! Everything I had ever worked for was at the mercy of someone else, and/or going to waste. At the same time I spent the next 2-3 years living out of my suitcase, in different conditions. Naturally, I lost a lot of stuff when I finally came went to retrieve my property: some had been stolen, appropriated and/or damaged. This jarred me a lot more than I knew because, for the year I had a place of my own, a lot of my property was still in boxes- and there they are till today.   The post made me remember that I had never really turned any house into a home other than the one I was in before I got pregnant, and even that, not so much. It made me discover that I was afraid to unpack or make my living conditions comfortable, because deep down, I do not believe I will ever find stability, nor do I trust that I will not be unceremoniously uprooted from any place I call home. More importantly, it made me understand why I had been having difficulty dreaming: I had forgotten what was possible and I had lost faith in what was achievable. I was too scared to ‘unpack’ my aspirations once more.

So I began to force myself to acknowledge what I feared, to desire what I felt was impossible. I always wanted to relocate temporarily just to experience life and work outside the country,but while I thought the dream died because I definitely could not afford to fund it I realised that my concerns about being HIV positive killed it. This same reason was why I never allowed my my dreams drift towards going for international certification in my field. I was literally too frightened to write it down. Who was going to give a student visa (and temporary residency) to PLWHA?  And how would I know where to go for check ups (and treatment if necessary). Even as I write I am apprehensive about even thinking it a possibility. I had always wanted a nice-looking place, decorated in my own quirky way with the art I had managed to procure over the years. The art, my pictures, any decor I had, never made it out of the cartons due to all my upheavals and I just believed there would be never be any reason to change the situation. I remember wanting a romantic relationship when I was younger-I probably wanted to be someone’s wife I don’t even remember now-all that became buried under years of disappointment, abuse, dishonesty and finally HIV so much that I am embarrassed to admit that I, in all my brokenness, desire male companionship.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.” 

A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson.

 

So I have begun to dream again,to allow my mind drift unfettered by doubts, my imagination create as much magnificence it can muster. And gently, oh so gently, I have begun allowing myself take small steps that may help actualize these dreams. And the Universe, God, is stooping to meet me. And, for once in my life, I feel the stirrings of hope and faith.

There are some things I know for certain; my living with HIV, and everything else I have experienced, is  for a reason. I am here to give hope to a lot of people who feel trapped in this situation. And more than ever before I feel I am so close to making that happen.

Love, Light and Dreams

Joie!

Advertisements

LUTH Chronicles 2015 Edition

Standard

I have been mulling on the direction to take in writing this post because I am not angry and in need of a rant nor am I depressed and looking for an outlet. Actually I am in a very funny but good place right now. 

My first appointment for 2015 fell in January and I just couldn’t wait to get it out of the way so I could get on with more important things (you all know how I hate hospitals). As usual I left pretty early for the hospital all the while anticipating the needles that I was going to receive. It was my day for tests.

The hospital attendants were nicer than usual, primarily because it was the beginning of the year and they had not had time to gather up their frustrations and bring them to work. That said, there are two ladies who are so professional and nice. They are the nurses that take our vitals.  They are always pleasant and friendly and they sometimes giggle mischievously. There used to be one who had serious issues that she obviously could not conceal but she has been removed from there. These two newer ladies are a breath of fresh air in a sea of gloom. I was told I had lost 4 kilogrammes. Yaaay!

The morning was not devoid of drama, that would be so out of character. The matron who is usually calm and very level-headed was seen screaming at a patient. She later explained that the patient had self- medicated and was terribly ill and looking for a solution at the hospital even though that was  not her appointment day. (People are getting desperate.) And then my simple name was so mispronounced that I had no idea I had been called in until over an hour later.

This would be my first time having my blood drawn in the new dispensation, so I was not a little curious as to how the process would go. I was sent to another building to pay, by the doctor I was consulting. I arrived there to meet a man, alone in a room, who seemed like he had nothing to do. He quickly wrote my receipt and I left. Someone came in immediately after me, but other than her, there was no-one else. If that did not confirm my suspicions about the effect of a charge on the people’s willingness to be treated, the fact that there was no queue leading to the laboratory, did. Usually there would be several people waiting on a queue, and several others popping up in between, who stepped out for one thing or the other, waiting to have their blood drawn. This time, the waiting area was bare, and when I asked a lady if she was waiting to go into the lab, she told me to just go in. I went in and there were only two people ahead of me. I gave my blood and left.

As an aside, if not for anything, I have a vested interest in the elections that are supposed to occur this year, for reasons of improvement in healthcare in the country. If we continue like this HIV/AIDS will become a lifestyle epidemic and all the good work done to control it will be undone in just a year. People did not turn up to draw their blood for the test because they could not afford the requisite 5k naira. This just makes me sad.

Anyway I was happy to go home early and prepare for my future.

Watch this space

 

Happy New Year/ Thank You

Standard

Joie is back.

I want to thank everyone who took out time to console me with their comments and/or emails. You have time for an anonymous stranger who may or may not exist; I appreciate it. Thanks especially to my ride or die chick, Sykik, and the master of words, Owi. You both know what you did. God bless you.

It is funny but I came to myself when I read my new year’s post of last year. The answer was before me all the time and I did not see it. This is why I like to document my experiences, not for now but for the future and for posterity. As I read that post and remembered the benefits a renewed mindset brought me I also remembered various situations when things turned around unexpectedly and miraculously.In truth there is nothing God cannot do. I have also been listening to and watching people with inspirational stories and I learnt these few things:

1. You cannot give up. Do not close the chapter for yourself because God will not close it for you. Things can turn around in a split second. It is okay to cry and mourn but do not park your future at that spot. A lot of the time you need to be broken down to be built up.

2.Be anxious for nothing. This is a biblical quote which comes as an order for Christians for reasons best known to God, but for me it is the most sensible, healthy advice ever. It prevents hypertension, ans stress. Why worry when you have no control? Worrying has no effect on external objects

3. Believe. In whatever it is that anchors your faith. Or as Owi puts it, ‘reference your centre of gravity’. Several people over a couple of days pasted this same excerpt from the bible and I know when the universe is sending a subliminal message, so I took it to heart. The passage is Isaiah 40:27 – 31. It is a popular verse but the MSG translation – which coincidentally everyone was posting- spoke powerfully to me. It is reprinted below with the parts that spoke to me in bold

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,
God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.

I saw a woman today with 8 children, 4 out of which are special needs kids. What is even more distressing is that they are all grown but still have to be taken care of like babies. Four grown kids that did not really grow, and 8 mouths to feed! Needless to say she and her husband were living in penury and had been for years.And I thought I had problems…

I am grateful to God that I gave birth to a healthy, active child, despite the numerous issues. I am grateful that I have a support network to take care of her. I am grateful that I am not impaired in any way and I can still go out and attempt to pursue my dreams. That, I am Joie.

So, for this year, I have some dreams and I will strive, work hard and pray hard to achieve them; that is my worship to God.

I want to move to my own house, not necessarily owned by me but at least paid for by me, for me. A nice, neat, well- constructed place in a serene neighbourhood, with light and water. At least to the extent that is possible in Nigeria.

I want to create (a) stream(s)of income from the ventures that I have identified as my passion. I want them to go beyond paper and planning and into reality and fruition.

I want to bring my daughter and mother on a holiday.

He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.

So help me God.

I pray that you all have a great year of learning,of progress, of amazing achievements. Happy New Year

Joie

I Couldn’t Bother With A Title

Standard

I had intended  to write this post ages ago but I have been so crushed I just could not bring myself to. A few things have happened since then so this post will take up the randomness that I feel.

I need a new life.

I have never really minded having HIV , ever until now. Now I feel like there is really no point in life, in living. This feeling was brought on by a new announcement at  the HIV clinic in October. We no longer have foreign funding for treatment so we have to pay for treatment and checks. The amount might seem a token to a few but when you consider that it is the poor and indigent people that come for treatment at the centre then you see that we are really in trouble with this sickness in Nigeria. Mark my words, HIV will soon become a major problem in this country following this change.

As it is with all misfortune, this news about treatment has been followed by one or two other issues for me. I really do not have the strength to discuss my life on these pages but suffice it to say that this christmas is definitely the blackest ever for me and my family.  I have gone through what has been a terrible time for my family shortly after which I fell very ill. Now a few days after the illness I have been feeling like I am walking through a haze. Like I am experiencing life outside my body. I am half-expecting the  world to end or my own life to end because that is the only way I can express this strange feeling I have been experiencing. I feel no need or desire to eat, to do anything.I just feel like I am waiting … for the end.

If I sound strange and random it is primarily because I feel that way. I think my soul, my spirit is weary.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

HIV In The Time of Ebola (LUTH Chronicles and Doctors’ Strike)

Standard

Almost as soon as it was decided by the doctor, it was one month and time for me to go for my checkup. I do not know any other time I was more reluctant to go to the clinic than this time. I had a lot of personal issues on my mind and the news of the Ebola vurus finding its way to Nigeria added to my apprehension about going to a hospital.
Ebola. That was one word Nigeria never believed would enter its vocabulary. And in terms of misfortune and ill luck, the country could have done without this epidemic. (As at today 7 people have been quarantined with 5 of them testing positive and one dead from the virus.) I imagine the general emotional atmosphere in the country can be summarized in feelings of helplessness, overwhelming fear and neglect. Kind of like how I felt when I was pregnant and assailed with a multitude of issues. There have been kidnappings, extra-judicial killings, massive corruption, Boko Haram/ terrorism, and now there is Ebola. A virus that has no known cure, is super-contagious and makes no distinction between caregiver and patient. Suddenly we are scrutinizing our neighbours, suspicious of every cough and irritated by every unguarded flick of the arm. The fear of Ebola is the beginning of antisocial behaviour.
I wasnt the only person worried about  infection by the Ebola virus, it seemed. At some point while we were sitting and waiting to be attended to, one woman half-jokingly remarked that she wanted the clinic to speed up the consultations to reduce our chances of being exposed to the Ebola virus. As if on cue little pockets of discussion about Ebola began all around the gathering. One group which involved a misinformed healthcare worker pondered on how doctors were always the first to be infected by any virus naming SARS and swine flu as examples. Another group was in agreement that HIV was a much better virus to contract. One woman right behind me was particularly informed, talking about  preventive measures and ‘shutting down’ a lady who had started on the ‘we reject it in Jesus name’ path by emphasising the need to prevent not pray.
Ignorance and denial are a major factor in the spread of disease in Nigeria. I know this for a fact, and have spoken about this severally, with reference to HIV. Ignorance allows people to unwittingly continue unhealthy practices that perpetuate the transmission of the illness and/or prevents them from seeking a proper medical solution to it. Denial is worse because in this case people are deliberately constituting a hazard to the health of others. And it is helped by over zealous religious and cultural practices. There are those who still go to churches to seek solution to their HIV+ status even though clinics exist. There are those who have not bothered to ever check their status but engage in high-risk behaviour. Then there are the ones who know their status, seek treatment but do nothing to protect their partners and loved ones. My fear now is if we have people like this with an illness as treatable as HIV will we not have this with Ebola? The incubation period is 3 weeks at most, is that not enough time for damage to be done? For the person to move inter-state before he/she is weakened by the disease? How many of his primary contacts would they have been able to trace then?

America tried a secret serum on its two citizens infected with the Ebola virus and they are said to be in stable condition. I hear Nigeria is requesting that trial drug and honestly I do not know if I want that request to be granted. If the country’s handling of the HIV APIN and PEPFAR schemes have been anything to go by -and they have- then for a long time people will be dying of Ebola even when the serum is available. Poor people. The serum will be super-expensive if sold, or if dispensed free in a controlled situation will only be available to the super rich, highly connected and healthcare staff. And leaving such critical life-saving decisions in the hands of the present crop of staff I meet at the clinic is not a happy prospect. I will explain.

When the Ebola- centred discussion was going on one lady made to go into the consultation rooms to get her vitals done but a member of staff stopped her saying there was no light (electricity). Probably thinking the staff did not understand the lady explained that she was only going to get her weight and blood pressure checked. “There’s no light!” the staff screamed, grumbling about ‘all these people who dont listen’. (For some reason when the electricity goes out, everything stops even if it is in broad daylight where everything is visible.) Two ladies to my left were very disgusted with the rudeness of the staff and began discussing among themselves how one matron was the only courteous person in the whole building. I was surprised they still felt that badly because the general reaction all the years I had been coming there was for these people to act as if it was okay to be spoken to rudely. The doctors barely even glanced at you when you sat in front of them -I know mine didnt- except you said something to startle them. They were rude, curt and condescending and explained nothing that was not absolutely necessary. (After receiving my CD4 count results -which had risen by almost 20 points- I took the stub of paper to the doctor who said ‘youre ineligible for drugs’ and gave me my next appointment date.) But they had friends who they skipped the queue for, attended to while you stood waiting and so on. Would you trust them with a much-needed serum if Ebola came knocking?
It is these doctors’ attitude that earns them almost no sympathy from the public on this strike they have begun. Almost every Nigerian has a story about the shoddy treatment they receive in public hospitals from doctors and healthcare staff. I have shared mine here. These are people who take out their remuneration frustration on the patients; why will they then ever put their lives on the line all in the name of containing Ebola? They do not treat pregnant women with any care so why would they treat any patient well who has a 90% chance of dying?

Whatever the case, this is one time where HIV does not seem that bad afterall. I mean look at inconsistent me getting healthier without medication. In discussions with my teen and preteen neighbours about Ebola the general concensus was “HIV is better o”. I just wish we had a responsible government that understood its priorities not one that loots with impunity.

Joie

LUTH Chronicles ( July 2014)

Standard

My last appointment was in July but I was worried, wondering if the clinic would operate, as doctors in Nigeria had embarked on a national strike. Finally, I found a number of the healthcare staff who always demanded money from me and with much hesitation I called to find out. He assured me that only the clinic would be functioning. Thumbs up to LUTH for that.

As usual I was out of my house by 5.30 am and at the hospital in less than an hour, later waiting the 3 or so hours before the clinic began stirring. Sure enough, an hour and a half later we began to file in for our weight to be checked. Usually to avoid chaos people are asked to file in in groups of three, row by row. More often than not, some people, probably seeking to prove their ‘Nigerianness’, will jump the queue and go in even when their row is not anywhere near being next. Of course this irritates patients, especially the early comers. And  it really makes no sense to rush because eventually people are only attended to, by the doctors, according to the order of appointment cards ( earliest to latest) not their vitals- except for the occasional cases of unscrupulousness now and again.  A few minutes after I arrived and as I was settling in, I had noticed a young man walking in, to me he seemed well-dressed and somewhat attractive. I was a bit curious about him because of the aforesaid virtues and also because I had never seen a man fitting that description since I began to attend clinic. When the queue-jumpers made their moves however, he was one of them , and suddenly all his qualities faded before my eyes. (LOL).

A short while later, one of the healthcare attendants, a rather pleasant, soft-spoken man came to address us. (Now this man unlike most other staff is particularly loquacious but very humble towards the patients and I always wondered why. I found out from his conversation that day, that he too, is a PLWHA and realistic about his situation.) He started by scolding those of us who never attended support group meetings, saying he could not understand why the crowd he sees on clinic days thinned out considerably during support group meetings. He said apart from it being a forum to find a partner for marriage, there were things discussed at those meetings that we would not hear at the clinic until later. After a bit of hesitation- for effect- he gave an example.The consultant in charge of the clinic had attended the last support group meeting and had informed them that from October or thereabouts HIV treatment would no longer be free.  International donor agencies on which Nigeria is dependent for HIV treatment were experiencing what they referred to as ‘financial fatigue’, the rate of infection in Nigeria instead of dropping was rising so they had decided to cut off some support. The overall effect would be that drugs would be free but the accompanying tests done at regular intervals to check for proper liver, heart, kidney,etc function would have to be paid for. He assured that they were trying to make the costs as low as possible. With everyone being very silent as he spoke, the piercing wail of a caregiver, whose patient had lost their life, ostensibly due to the doctors’ strike, brought our realities painfully home.

I already anticipated the end of free HIV treatment/care in Nigeria because it had been in the news for weeks, however I do not think that that is a solution to curbing the rising rate of infection. Of course there’s no gainsaying that it is a huge shame and an indication of how badly we have mismanaged (and are mismanaging) our resources in Nigeria that we have to depend on aid for any aspect of our healthcare,and we cannot even manage that properly, but for the dependent few it is what it is. Even now that treatment is free a lot of people find it hard to come to the centres. This is because like I have said previously most of the attendees are low-income earners who have to plan their finances to travel to the very few treatment centres available. Some of them who do not have treatment centres in their states, or who may experience stigmatization in their locale, have to travel out of state for treatment. Even I can attest to how much of a struggle it has been for me to come up with the transport fare since my period of unemployment. It was for these reasons that the visit intervals were extended from 1 to 3 months. I reckon that this is the same reason for the low attendance at the support group meetings for a lot of people. For me, however, that and the fact that, unless I have to, I do not want to be at the treatment centre for any reason. I am also very distrustful of a support group run by people who for the most part treat you like you are an unwelcome, inevitable distraction. I am certain that with the introduction of these fees the centre will lose a few patients,depending on how high the fees are. In my opinion, the answer to actually reducing the rate of infection and effective treatment is to decentralise these treatment centres and increase education/awareness. I am talking mobile treatment centres in rural areas, in campuses, at bus stops. Stop making the drugs controlled substances because that only just makes it more available for the rich. Make it easier for people to ask for and receive treatment and things will change. But of course these cannot be done if there is an irresponsible government in charge.   Another nurse came to speak on free cervical cancer screening and then it was time for consultation.

My case note was given to a doctor I had not interacted with previously.  I actually made my judgement of her from afar seeing how curt and aloof she was towards other patients before me, but something she did and said made me change my opinion of her, and indicated to me that a major factor in your treatment was the disposition of the doctor you were sent to.  As I pointed out in my previous post, my CD4 count was dropping as at the last test. The doctor picked on this immediately and, observing that I was meant to carry out another test that day, booked my next visit to fall a month from that day as opposed to the usual 3 months . She explained that if my CD4 was still dropping it was necessary to catch it early and begin treatment rather than wait 3 months. I was impressed because she was obviously paying attention unlike the other doctor I had been seeing. However, I was not sure if  I was ready to begin taking drugs; at least not from this treatment centre.

If I think going for consultation is tiresome and stressful then being placed on drugs is twice that. Everyday at the clinic, the patients are divided into two groups: those who come to collect drugs and those who come for consultation. Those who come to collect drugs have to be at the clinic twice in 2 months, once to collect their drugs and the other for consultation. Some people try to make their appointments coincide, especially those who have to come from out of town, but there is always a bit of a problem as sometimes when they are in consultation, or having their blood drawn, it could be their turn to pick up drugs, and if they are unavailable they are quickly glossed over. Another factor is the side effects of the drugs. You are advised to come to the clinic immediately you notice any side effect but it is a chicken-and-egg situation because if it is not your day of appointment you will have to wait until the end of the day before you are attended to.  A number of people resort to bribing the staff to help them pick up their refills, so they can come for only their consultation appointments or whatever works. There has got to be a better way. So all these were at the back of my mind as I walked away at the end of the day.

‘Are you done?’. I turned in the direction of the question. It was a man I had observed at the laboratory where we went to draw blood. He had been pretending to misunderstand his position in the queue and had insisted on going ahead of a few people who were very displeased about it. ‘Yes’, I said. ‘Oh, you must have come very early.’ I thought he was saying this in passing until I looked over and saw that he was actually coming close to me, probably attempting to make conversation. ‘Yes’, I said as I walked hurriedly away.  Even if I decided to overlook all my reservations about the centre, and miraculously developed any interest in its matchmaking efforts – which I wont – bad behaviour and indiscipline will not be uppermost on my partner selection criteria.

The Deep Dark Hole (final)

Standard

(If you thought the last post was too long you might want to hold off on reading this one and buy the movie when it comes out. :D)

 

Ladies and gentlemen, depression is not a figment of someone’s imagination, in the sense that a lie is. Depression does not require common sense or placation. It is not something you ‘come out of’ or get over. It is an illness. And though it exists in the mind, it has physical symptoms. It is not something you can pray yourself or anyone out of. My earliest memories of being depressed are from when I was about 13/14. This is coincidentally the same period I was sexually abused. Although I did not relate the two incidents in my mind- and still cannot now because it has been a long time and my memory is unsure- I clearly remember trying to hang myself. The problem was that the place I tied the rope to was not high enough so here I am.
My latest bout of depression was brought on by the factors I outlined earlier and when I look at the whole situation in retrospect it occurs to me that there are things that depressed people battle with in their head. These things can be summed up in these two situations: we are afraid that some things in our life will never change and we are very angry about some other things.
In my own situation, the things I fear(ed) would never change in my life was my seeming inability to ‘settle down’ in the way adults settle with my own house, car, furniture, finances. It seemed every time I took a step forward to be in that space something came and overhauled my life again and I was left floating. Over the years I have lost so much property through these moves that I so not even bother to decorate my personal space anymore. In my room in my brother’s house all I have put in are a bed and a ceiling fan; just the basics. My property, or what is left of it, is in bags in the store. In relation to the anger/ rage we carry, I am angry that a lot of people who have deliberately led worse lives than I did, missed this illness. I am angry that I have all this talent and yet I seem so inconsequential to God, and in life.
So back to my depression; just by a series of thoughts bordering on hopelessness and constant worrying about my present situation fell into a dark state of hopelessness. That is the only way I can describe it. I felt – for the second time in my life- that I was worth nothing and my life would be better if it ended. I would sleep for several hours non-stop waking up at odd times of the day like 1.30 am, to eat. I used to make my meals, if I got up during the day, by 6/7 pm. And that was when I ate food. Otherwise, a coke and a snack worked. Anything with sugar, lots and lots of sugar. Depression is a hard thing to explain because to many people they see you in your self-destruct mode and they just dismiss you as lazy or stupid. The battle is in the person’s head and you must appreciate that to understand how to help. You hear of people who just wake up one day and walk into a railway line or traffic just to be killed. They fought the battle in their head and lost. And it’s not an evil spirit that can be prayed away; this is especially by those for whom God and prayer are an escape from life. I could go on.
I think I am here by virtue of the fact that my mother saw the signs in the text I sent to her and alerted my brothers. So because I knew I was being watched I was kept on my toes. My daughter was also another factor that made me seek an end to this problem. Also, personally, I did not like who/ what I was becoming. One day I picked up my phone and sent a direct Twitter message to a friend of mine. I think sending that message to that girl, of everyone else, was the result of the prayers of everyone praying for me. My friend was able to put things in perspective for me without patronising me or making me feel insane. In a nutshell she advised that I begin to rediscover and reinvent myself by only doing things I enjoy or am happy about, and be mindful of the things I am thinking about myself.
The thing about being faced with your own mortality is that you are also forced to decide what things really matter in your life. I think that is the point of every tragedy: to forge not find your own meaning ( words of Andrew Solomon). I did a mental check recently and found that I only have about 2 of my numerous friends left. I am fine with that. When your health and your life depends on the choices you make you tend to be drastic. So what choices did I make to get mentally healthy? Let me explain it this way.
A few years ago, I stumbled upon a commencement speech given by Steve Jobs. If you haven’t read it you can google it. From the moment I read it I adopted it as a mantra, a guide, a beacon. Many things within it spoke to me and read as if I had written it myself. I will extract some parts that are relevant to this post and my life at this stage
On Death
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
I somehow have always believed this but now more than ever, I have realised it is true. This explains many of my decisions at this point even times when I have just seemed difficult or stubborn to others. A few of my friends and even some people I met on the blog have tried to help me in their own way or the other. One of the situations they have met a brickwall has been when I am offered some work that is clearly not in line with my skillset and/or is something I would hate doing. For a lot of people they can do any job; work is work as long as it brings in money. I wish I could reason like that but I was not programmed that way. It is not pride or pomposity, I was just wired differently. For me, my identity is my work and I can literally not do anything that I do not like, I will become miserable and cantankerous fast. Even before I had been diagnosed I was leaving jobs because of dissatisfaction without a second thought. Now that a large part of my health depends on my happiness and avoidance of depression I take doing what makes me happy as a full time vocation. When the bible says guard your heart, this is what it means. Which brings me to the next Steve Jobs quote.
On Love and Loss
You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it
Steve wrote describing a time when he was fired from his job- from the company he started, he described himself as ‘lost’ at that point in time, but said he later realised it freed him to pursue his passion.This is why he mentions work a lot here. For me, more than work, this is about self re-discovery. When you are depressed, you are in disconnect with yourself, your identity, your aspirations. I lost all that because I had been seriously rattled psychologically. One thing I heard from my friend with whom I had the phone conversation was ‘ find the things that you like doing, and it’s not big things it’s little things’. This awakened me.
I have now begun my journey to rediscover myself. My abilities, my passions. I realised that though I did not really like exercising, I was always on a high for the whole day after doing it. So now I exercise EVERYDAY and I love it. Walking or running early in the morning with my iPod full of up-tempo songs is very exhilarating and my distance is increasing daily. I have also found out that sugar makes me very miserable and ill so I have cut it out. I mind what I think of myself, to myself; I really guard my thoughts. If I need to watch a movie or eat a particular meal or go swimming to be happy, I do, even if it is with the only money I have. If I need to turn down a job to avoid unhappiness I will even if I am broke. When I want to talk, I call my family and/or that friend. Work-wise, I am beginning to discover how far-reaching skills in media can be. There are so many things people with a media or TV/ film production background can do in this day and age and I am gradually finding my niche.
I am always learning daily to trust in God that in the words of Steve Jobs ‘the dots will connect’.
That’s the end of my PHD thesis o.

Love ‘n’ Light

Joie