This is not a story about darkness but of light. God’s light. May the darkness that hides our light be cast out. I have always loved the Allegory of the Cave by Plato as it is a clear depiction of what crawling out of darkness infers too…because the humor of it is that the light is always there and it never leaves. Just as the sky is always blue irrespective of it being covered with clouds, sometimes very dark clouds.
But when we are perceiving or experiencing this darkness the last thing that we may see is the light. Even if it is being shone so brightly upon our faces. Lisa Nichols, a famous international transformational speaker said that we should learn to stand on the ashes of our pain stories and not let these stories pull us down. Our stories are so powerful. I told my daughter Portia how I would like to share my story and the first thing she asked me was, ‘Do you feel free from your story?’ Who raised this profound young lady ? Only God did. I take a minute to ponder this question and I confidently answer that : ‘Yes, I do feel free.’ We consequently go on with an enriching conversation of how shame hold us back and the power of our mind. We finish our conversation with a prayer as I drop her off at school as she sits for her final KCPE paper…As she walks away with so much grace, tears well up in my eyes, tears of gratitude as I reflect on my life journey with my children-Portia, Ashley and Raphael have been my heartbeat. I feel even more strongly implored to share my story and the little powerful nuggets of wisdom that God has allowed me to learn on my journey. OH! I have equally learnt to unlearn so much and I am so aware that I still have so much to learn in this life’s journey. I am ready to be guided and led by the Holy Spirit.
My name is Taka Magero. I have been known as Ziprosa Magero throughout my school days and career life. I always assume that my parents, more so my father, guessed that name. It has been so heavy to carry that name- not to mention that the person who stands up when this name was called was equally so loud in every sense of the word. I am a teacher and currently a student at Strathmore University struggling to complete my Masters Programme in Educational Management…Oh yes, I say struggle because it has been a real struggle! I had to take out one year out of my studies to heal my life…I can now say that. When my supervisor advised me to take a dead year in 2021, I remember being so devastated. I literally cried ( yes, I love crying)…dead year? In all honesty, I was a zombie, dead man walking….WA! Teachers tend to have so many words….finally at this point is when my story begins. Dead you said? Yes…but I was alive.
But something tragic happened to me in September 2020, I got Covid 19, the real covid…not the cough that people seem to be getting now…I got Covid when Covid was Covid! I ended up in the isolation center at MP shah hospital. You understand fear on a whole new level when you see your life dwindling out of your lungs. I am an extremely healthy woman, your typical luhya woman…endowed in every aspect of the word. So, it wasn’t a surprise when the biggest concern was my sugar levels and evidently, they spiked up to 19….this really scared the doctors as my blood started to clot and my heartbeat went to as low as 40beats a minute…I was slowly fading away and my family was really scared but I was more scared for my children. I could hear the sadness in their voices when I called them. It seemed so sad and unfair that they were going to lose their mother at an incredibly young age. Yes, I am forty…39 then. To my students I am 18 till I die…Bon Jovi song never leaves my head. Clearly, I might have been dancing this song on a table somewhere when I was 18...ha ha.
Back to Covid, when you are at this point it is when you understand the true meaning of surrender and that your life is not in your hands…my potassium levels were equally so low…causing my low heartbeat….potassium- what you actually get from bananas! My lungs were highly infected with pneumonia. My oxygen levels went low and I was put on machines. This God’s free oxygen. I couldn’t wait to go through my bill to see how much God’s free oxygen cost…mmmm….I felt like I was in the movies. One day I made a video call to my kids, I will never forget the fear and sadness that I saw on my son’s face. He was so devastated to see the oxygen lines across my nose. He is mummy’s boy. Ashley and Portia were equally sad but that was the look that evoked my drive to fight and stay alive for my babies…Each time I called them, I had to remove the lines and struggle to talk without the oxygen. It was tough…but for them I had to do it. I had to fight for my life. I could not even count how many times in a day they removed my blood for testing. I felt like I was a specimen with which the labs were conducting experiments on…not to top it up ...doctors and nurses dressed to the tee to come and handle me…I feared for the cleaners but they were equally armed. I was the plague …or had the plague. I could not differentiate…talk of trauma on a whole new level…The drips of medicine that I took were uncountable. The doctors threw every medicine at me! I felt their fear but I equally admired their courage as they tried to fight this unknown battle with me. My biggest accolades will definitely go to my sister Dr.Nasirumbi Magero who was like the key umbrella that oversaw my treatment and guided the doctors and nurses at the hospital. She did all these while delivering a beautiful bouncing baby boy. Talk of strength of a woman.
I was so silent within me…ha ha…I was equally silent out of me… …when you crash it is when you know who your true people are. Never count your friends during your happy times…wait for trouble to knock your door…then and only then will you know who is for you and who is not for you. But I knew that there were prayer warriors who were crying out for me in their closets. Oh my, some called me crying out prayers for God to save my life. I felt their fear and equally their love. This was heavy.
Interesting fact is that this story is not about Covid…I kicked that thing in the butt ( excuse my French)…I was out and went for a two week isolation in my bedroom in my house….This is where my story begins….the experience that shook the core of my essence and threw me off balance that it took me one year to recover from the blow that life threw at me….the crushing started….and it was ugly.
For these two weeks, I celebrated with my friends and family that I had survived and heck I was alive! Oh, did we not feel so hopeful…but what I didn’t share with them is that I had not been sleeping. I think I reckoned that I would die if I fell asleep…I was haunted by all the masked men and women who handled me in the hospital…the constant monitoring of my oxygen levels. Now I was in a situation where I did not have a nurse to monitor my breathing and no emergency team to act and save my life quickly if something goes wrong… I lived in so much fear. The oxygen lines haunted me, chocked me.…the dreams that I had were too scary. I was still under very heavy medication. As I said the doctors threw every medicine my way….when fear drives a decision, anything will be done to save a life….more so in a pandemic trying to fight a disease that no one utterly understands. …they did an extremely awesome job. I truly salute those doctors and nurses. I am in deep awe of them. I owe them my life. I submissively took all the medicine…my healthy big body could endure it all…or so I thought. I was determined to survive this thing. If not for myself but for my children.
On the final day of my isolation…it happened. I woke up in the morning, excited to hold my kids. I had not touched them for a whole month! Wasn’t I excited to hold my angels! I felt their skinny bones underneath their clothes, my heart was crushed. I knew that they were not eating and that they were very distressed. I could see their shadows walking past my bedroom door everyday…and my heart had shattered so deeply….but today I held them and kissed them…I had missed my heartbeat…my joy…the ones who have held me so firmly onto this earth…my babies…then it happened…at that point. I lost my mind…I lost it completely…I pulled my children forcefully out of the house and down the stairs… I forced them to sing worship songs and then I started preaching all over the apartments. I do not want to even explore the complexities of all the things that I did…my children never want to remember this day…but the fact is that I lost my mind and the nanny called my sister and mother who organised to take me to Avenue Mental Clinic.
One year later, my sister narrated to me the intricacies of all the things that I did. She told me that I was extremely aggressive and that I would have really harmed myself if they had not come in. My brother who was in the Seminary was also there, praying vehemently for me. My whole household was shaken! I cannot dare explore what impact it had on my neighbors .I was tied with a rope when I was whisked to hospital. Oh my, hasn’t shame held me back from talking about this story. When I later heard the details of all the things that I did , I felt so embarrassed that I could not explore this story with anyone for a whole year. To be told that I was locked in a strongroom because of my aggressiveness was so painful. And that my parents sat outside this strongroom for more than twelve hours without moving as they were so shaken-this broke my heart. It is so sad for parents to experience this. Really painful. I can only imagine if it was my child, I would be finished. They were finished!
It was so hard for the doctors to put me to sleep. Later on, I find out that they had tried to inject dormicum repeatedly but it was not effective. Oh goodness, I really do not want to explore the many times that I self-medicated with dormicum to fight my constant bouts of insomnia! That is why in this case, it could not work. The experience in the hospital was mostly a blur, till one day when my beautiful sister walked into the room with a big smile and I instantly recognized her. My memory came back at that time! I remember that day so vividly! I hugged her so tightly and we laughed so loudly….she really tickled me with her stories. Family is so important and the best support. I always think of the individuals who have to explore this alone, my heart breaks. My family has been my pillar. They took care of my children, comforted them and prayed with them. I proudly come from a big family of nine kids…. We are a strong football team!
Later on, I was moved to a ward and shared a room with four other women. One lady was an educated lawyer who constantly recited the constitution, another was a model, there was a professor and a business lady. All these were highly accomplished women. You could notice their refinement but alas, we were all here. Broken. The mental clinic was run so effectively and we were constantly asleep as we were all heavily drugged. The nurses encouraged us to keep on walking along the corridor. During these sessions I was able to see how packed this clinic was. Men and women lost in their world roaming a corridor in circles dressed in blue gowns….silence. No one talked. Just the television blasting the BBI referendum that my lawyer roommate insisted that she wanted to follow. I decided to sit on the sofa with her and read a book…it is interesting how one can forcefully hold onto sanity when it has been snatched from you. All these strong individuals, walking along this lonely corridor-it was literary one corridor-lost.
I have always deemed myself to be this strongwoman who can conquer all that life threw at her…and just like everyone else, it has thrown me a lot of curves. I have proudly soldiered on thinking that I am too strong. I have projected this strength through and through….and here I was crushed! I felt like a laughingstock and that my weakness had been put on utter display and I was so angry at God. I felt like He had failed me so miserably. I am sure the people who knew me in my past would be surprised by this story and wonder why I would share such vulnerabilities. But my daughter Portia told me today in the morning, that most of the time these levels of shame simply reside in our own head and may not be a true reflection of the reality outside…this girl is too deep.
Shame, shame….has been my biggest companion in the year 2021. My self-identity was extremely distorted and I no longer knew who I was. Now I was this person waiting in psychiatric clinics. Waiting for medicine to manage my mental wellbeing…the depression that was in my bones was so loud that I could hear it. Depression pills tend to numb you out. Here I was diagnosed with PTSD…was it because of the Covid ? So many friends asked. They hoped that this was the reason but deep down I guess that they knew that this wasn’t the reason. My face is so serious. A defensive mechanism that I have always had in order to keep people at bay from asking real questions….I have never been the most vulnerable individual in the room…I am excellent at giving facades of strength…People always refer to me as a strong person. Oh my, they need to ask my pillow. Deep down, I cried to God for strength daily.
Standing on our true stories takes so much courage. More so our pain stories. Fear holds us back so forcefully. The stigma towards individuals who face mental health challenges is real. When you are willing to hide nothing, you will be able to understand peace and joy. So, what brought me to this point? To be brave enough to share my wounds. Did shame leave me? Am I as free as Portia enquired? I have come to understand that two forces drives life-love and fear. Love comes from God and anything that is not love does not come from God. Shame and stigma are a form of fear that are mainly driven by the ego and this can stifle someone and limit one from being the best version of themselves. The unlearning and relearning that I have done in the past year has been extremely immense.
I have come to learn that our bodies keep scores…all the shame, loneliness, anger, fear, excess responsibilities, injustice, heart break, separation, abandonment, rejection, embarrassment, unworthiness, exhaustion, unforgiveness that we harbor within our minds and our bodies are all stored. It all waits for a certain trigger for it to catapult you to the contrasts of sanity which is actually insanity.
For the longest time I assumed that insanity solely occurs to ‘those’ people. It cannot happen to me. I am a teacher and a Masters student at a prestigious university. I have goals from here to Timbuktu…I love fashion and live for it…I am a serious movie addict and I read books for breakfast... I can be a party animal if I choose to. I laugh so loudly and love my children and students with the same measure. I am passionate to a fault… I love dancing and creating beautiful learning spaces . I love design. I love fiercely and loudly. I am loud! And here I was a zombie…drugged to the fullest. Siting on my bed with a silent soul and a silent mind…with a lost look …quiet…numbed out…sad? Happy...I don’t know. I am contained…but I am a single parent of three beautiful children. I ought to get back to work…the bills are piling….and I am broken to the core….but mum, ‘Gas is over….internet, rent, water, school fees…my shoes are torn. We need new towels…there is no bread…oh the car fuel’…the lists go on…adulting is the soup and I am just a fork…...that tickled me today.
How does one get back to normal when you are no longer normal? When shame has hugged you like a jacket….the awkwardness of friends is almost unbearable. I do not blame them. They have never had a friend who has ever lost their mind…If I would have been in their shoes, I would not have known what to do. The strong Ziprosa continues to fade, her dance is gone and the music in her life is dwindling. And she cannot even fake it. A stooge stands in her place. I am broken for her students. I am broken for her children. But they stand and still envelop her with so much love. Love has pulled me out of this darkness. But fear and shame had really chocked me. I stopped pursuing my masters. My mind is blocked. Words no longer flow. The design gene in me is chocked. The joy fades. And I come to work existing. I cry for my students daily. But deep down, I know that their love is what will pull me out of this darkness. I am inherently a teacher. I have always done it with so much glee. My favorite subject is Mathematics heck, I do have a degree in Mathematics. I so love to teach it…but I hate marking books with such a passion…every year, I gladly put it down as my area of development…16 years later, I am yet to develop in this area…but give me Math anytime, and I am alive and connected. I love it when students’ minds can open up and understand concepts. I give them the loudest high fives. Even when they grow older, they still keep on coming to my class to tell me of how they are progressing in Mathematics. For this I will have to pull myself up. This is my calling. This is my service. My service to my children heavily tugged at my heart. Sometimes I was scared that my sadness will be too immense and pull me down.
Ashley drew a beautiful piece of art for me. She called it her Lion of Judah…she had drawn it through out this season as she was praying for me to heal…the details she put in that piece still haunts me to this day…it was a fierce lion. So orange and red... teeth blaring out. Through the art, I could feel that my daughter had really deeply wanted me to heal. Her God had to come and fight for her mother. Her art is always so magical.
All areas of my life went down. My finances were so bad that we had to move a former old house that belonged to my ex-husband in Rongai. The house was in shambles. From living in Lavington to this, my soul crashed. Changing my kids’ schools was equally devastating. I lost friends because I did not know how to relate to them. I simply went into my silence. Work was so hard. But the strong woman in me was still determined to stand…but somedays, I simply wanted to crush. But my children….they could not bear the pain of losing me…as always, their love held me onto this earth. I had to start crawling…crawling out of this darkness….
I reached out to my friend and he recommended that I do therapy. I was on my knees. I was not breathing. Sometimes literally! I said yes and reached out to the Strathmore Counselor Dr. Lucy Muturi who gladly took me on. The first time I met her and she asked me what was happening, I simply said that I had lost my mind the previous year. After saying this statement, I instantly broke down like a baby and I realized that this was my core wound. The fact that I could lose my mind was extremely incomprehensible to me and it really pained me. I felt deserted by God. I felt that He had firmly affirmed that I was unlovable that even Him, he could not save me from this immense shame…This was my wound. The fact that I felt so ashamed and developed a belief that I may not be able to achieve the dreams that I had.! That who can possibly see me as worthy of leadership. This leadership that I had pursued for so long. The excellence that I have always preached so loudly , the impatience with mediocrity that I have carried my whole life. What I did not know is that my God had shown up and he was going to unpack me and that I should have been so ready for the UNDOING that was going to take place in the following months. Oh, the tyranny of the ego!