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Mental Health Article: My Mental Health Journey: The day I died, but I had died many a times before:

“Excuse me Madam”

…No Response…

“We can’t seem to find your father and your mother is too emotional right now. We need your consent to pull the plug”.

That’s the day I died. But I had died many a times before, though I’ll talk about the latter.

There’s a saying that goes, ‘men though they must die, are not born in order to die, but in order to begin’. This conflicted me entirely because, some days it feels like I haven’t slept in two years. Other’s like it’s been 2 years since I slept. The difference being, when I say I haven’t slept in two years, it’s because I died two years ago. Whereas each day I wake up I die all over again, so it feels as if I haven’t slept at all. In all the pain and grief, I realised that there is no emotional preparation in this world that can adequately brace us for the stark reality of goodbye. Death is such an indignity, I thought, only to come to acknowledge that though we must die, what looks like death to us is rest to God. Just as rest is preparation for renewal, death is the preparation of something new and that something new resurrected in me.

In our society today, we judge each other depending on whether we are likely to increase or decrease our happiness. When my brother died, there was no happiness left for me to increase or decrease. So where would society place me, on my own? The mass of emotions consumed me, and lied to me, whispering in the night that the key to my happiness died with him. In every desperate attempt through my depression and anxiety in search of that key, all I could find was the haunting image of him on his death bed. I had told the doctors that I wanted to be alone with him. So, there I sat, staring at death in its face, speaking to it, waiting for a response. I placed his cold, lifeless head against mine and as the minutes went by, he and I became one. Everything he was, became everything I am. Including the empty coldness. 

From that day, I dreaded seeing the morning sun rise, as I was too cold to feel its warmth. I couldn’t help but think, how can life be worth living, if it no longer feels like I even have a ‘life’ to live, if the warmth of the sun no longer existed in my entity. So, I let it continue lying to me. I let it take control of my life. I accepted the miserable fate that was, the damned future which only seemed to be full of torture, suffering, loss, anger and wounds that refused to heal. The days I tried to look for this “happiness”, I ended up searching in denial, neglect, harmful substances, repression… I continued to look for it lies rather than the truth.

No one ever tells young people that in man’s conquest for happiness, the road could kill you over and over again before you reach your destination. They say it feels like a little piece of you dies when you lose something or someone important to you. I lost my brother, my best friend to suicide, my hope, my faith in God, my peace and my joy. I lost myself. The only thing that remained was death’s whispers in the night, convincing me that it’ll help me find everything that left, if I gave into its ever so sweet temptations. It told me that all the images and memories of the blood, pain and tears of my mother, from the domestic abuse would be dissolved if I drink its potion. That if I used its magic rope and stool, the sound of her screams and shouts that replay in my mind each time I hear my father’s voice, would be strangled with me. That the ingrafted words written in my heart, that I am a worthless, useless, foolish and a curse rather than a blessing would be erased if I followed its instruction.

So, I died. Over and over and over again I let death be the only voice that I could hear. But every time I died, I resurrected three times stronger. John 12:24 says “I am telling you the truth; a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies”. This is when I realized that, dying once wasn’t enough for me, because the type of grain that God was trying to mould me into, was a newness in the creation of man. That I am stronger than death. That we are stronger than death. But I will never stop dying as long as I am still alive. It’s almost like a video game. Sometimes you get stuck on one level, then on the 20th attempt, you finally understand why you keep dying. In that realization, we acquire this new revelation that will help us proceed to the next level, only to find out the levels only get harder. But our reward is the advanced weapons that give us an upper hand on the battle field. Once I applied that same concept in my life, I started dying less and less.

Later in all these epiphanies, I could no longer hear deaths whispers, only God’s. He explained to me why I was about to die, what it’s going to teach me and what it’s for. Sometimes he said that this time, it’s not for you. It’s for them. He was using me to help others move on to the next level. That was the day I realized that he wanted me to be a mental health advocate for the youth of my generation. He wanted to use my voice to reach his people. Reminding me through my brother and my best friend’s death, through the emotional and physical abuse, in witnessing close friends and family members become drug addicts and alcoholics and by learning about other people’s pain and suffering, that my voice wasn’t loud enough. That I needed to do more. That I needed to be more, to be louder, not only for me, but for us. So, I did.

I learned that the greatest gift isn’t the happiness, but the agony and heartache. Because I would never have managed to appreciate my life the way I do today, if the pain hadn’t broken me and killed me over and over again.

Although, we don’t die alone. Through all the funerals and memorials, reconciliations started to form. Bonds and friendships grew. Support and comfort increased. But it shouldn’t take a knife to one’s heart, a rope around one’s neck, that leap off a building for us to realize that we are here for each other, not for ourselves. Thus, I made a vow to devote my life, to remind the few people who could hear my voice that they are not alone.

I believe the youth of my generation have the capacity to rewrite the narrative of mental health. Together we need to understand that our destiny is not in its history. We need to create our own destiny, to rewrite mental health from scratch, because there is nothing worth going back to. We need to enforce that shift from the contemporary opinion that mental illness is a weakness. It’s time we broke the stigma suffocating mental health and our youth today. Preventing our voices from being heard. For as long as I live, I will pick up my tools, and start hammering on those chains that are holding us back. Until we are set free.



 Published on the daily nation 

Pauline Gethi,
May 10, 2021

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