The Underdog who proved himself right Fight like the underdog and finish like the favorite.
“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them” Joubert Botha
My name is Michael, I am 28, and this is the second chapter of my story. It narrates some of the events that transpired when I got back to Nigeria.
you can read the first part titled Turning the corner. This would provide the background for this second part of my journey.
Thoughts of the 6 weeks I spent in the mental health hospital began to saturate my mind. I could remember more of what happened while at the hospital.
Thinking about the nurses and my ward mates always made me smile. I remember vividly the Eid Party we had on June 25 2017, as part of the Eid al-Fitr celebrations. Everyone was present including the nurses, cleaners, and therapists. We had lots of food, drink, and YouTube music with ward mates as DJ’s.
When it was my turn to DJ, I played Azonto (Wizkid), Skelewu (Davido), and Love Don’t Care (Simi). We danced like we didn’t care. If someone had come in, they won’t have been able to differentiate the mentally ill from the sane. We were having so much fun. There is something about music that heals the soul and brings people together. The Eid Party was my happiest moment at the hospital and it marked the beginning of my recovery.
The mental health ward was state-of-the-art. It had music rooms, computer rooms, a gym, a games room, an outdoor basketball court, a table-tennis court, a mini football pitch, and a laundry. The food was sumptuous! We had three-course meals for lunch and dinner and I still miss it. Imagine having fruit juice, yoghurt, ice cream, potatoes, rice, meat, fish, vegetables, and cheese every day!
The nurses and therapists made us feel like family. They were professional, kind, and respectful even though we were a complete nuisance. Bridget and Ivana were my favourites. They had a smile on their faces anytime they saw me and it made me happy. I even had a crush on a Somalian nurse. It sounds crazy but it isn’t remotely close to the madness displayed in the ward daily.
60 percent of the patients in my ward were Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic groups (BAME), despite only accounting for 13% of the UK population. A staggering 80% of patients were below age 35. There is a global trend of poor and minority ethnic communities being hard hit by severe mental disorders.
The ward had people diagnosed of various forms of mental illness including bipolar disorder, dissociative identity disorder, depression, schizophrenia, psychosis, PTSD, and substance abuse disorders.
Long Term Stress
A person suffering from bipolar disorder must avoid long-term mental and emotional stress to prevent relapses and rehospitalisation. I remember my psychiatrist telling me to avoid people that constantly stress me no matter how much I love them. Besides, only a sane man can show and appreciate love.
I came back to Nigeria in August 2017 thinking that I would continue my recovery process and make tangible plans for the near future. I planned to take 4 weeks of rest before starting work at my Dad’s consulting firm. My first milestone was to have my COREN registration by mid-2019. After which, I planned to actively search for a better job. In the meantime, my job search was mainly casual.
My first stress test came two weeks into my stay at home.
My mum walked into my room wearing a stern look. She wanted to talk about my girlfriend. She said:
“I called Yewande (not her real name) in early January (this was 3 weeks after my sister’s wedding which Yewande and I attended) to check on her. She told me she was planning to travel to Abuja for a job interview (Yewande is a public health professional) and she claimed to have an uncle who was helping her find a job.”
“I told her that she shouldn’t be like those “girls” who travel to Abuja to sleep with men in exchange for a job. I called again two weeks later to ask her about the Abuja trip. Yewande told me that she didn’t travel to Abuja anymore because her uncle couldn’t find a job opening for her.”
“I believe that she didn’t make the Abuja trip because she was going to sleep with her “uncle” to secure a job. I am saying this because Yoruba Women are like that, they cannot stay with one man and they will do anything for money.”
“During my secondary school days in Ondo, my hostel mates were Yoruba girls and they slept with different men. We (the Esan girls) hadn’t even seen a condom yet. Yoruba women are promiscuous; they cannot take care of a home or keep a man. All they know how to do is travel abroad and use charms to entice and control men. I want you to end the relationship and keep away from Yewande. Don’t ever go to her house or eat her food.”
I felt like a bomb exploded in my head. I was stunned, confused, and agitated. I told my mum that Yewande travelled to Abuja in June for a job interview based on a referral by her MPH classmate. She got a job with a multinational NGO.
I also told her that I had met Yewande’s uncle on several occasions and I was aware he was helping her find a job. My mum wasn’t buying it; her mind was made up.
I spoke to Yewande to understand what transpired while I was mentally ill. I said a lot of nonsense about people as is expected from someone being treated for mania and psychosis.
Apparently, I told my mum that my girlfriend was sleeping around and I broke up with her. Ironically, the same girlfriend that I claimed was sleeping around was the first person I contacted when I started losing my mind. She was the one who informed my parents.
My parents belong to the school of thought that a psychotic can speak the truth. They were defiant in their belief that Yewande was a “slut”.
For them, the words of a manic and psychotic being can be tendered as evidence against his girlfriend.
After all, she is a Yoruba woman.
Some days later, my mum continued her rant against Yoruba women and praised Esan women. She added that the only women that become good wives/mothers are Esan women and women from a part of Delta State. She admonished me to date Esan girls including two Esan girls that were her friends’ children. My dad introduced me to an architect from Delta State who he wanted me to date. They told me that I should get married to one of them by May 2018.
My life had become a blockbuster Nollywood movie. Yewande was devastated by the situation. My mum had told Yewande, when I was mentally ill, that she doesn’t want to see her again. I informed my parents that I wasn’t interested in their “offers” and I would not be getting married in 2018.
Moreover, my psychiatrist advised me to study myself and learn to manage my stress levels before getting married. Since my parents were trying to make me do things against my will, he advised that I must be financially independent before getting married. My parents had become a source of long-term stress.
In October 2017, I told Yewande to come to Benin so we can have a discussion with my parents. My parents were upset when I mentioned that Yewande was coming. When she arrived, they looked at her with utmost disdain.
Their facial expressions throughout that day got me very angry. I realized there wasn’t going to be a discussion.
I couldn’t sleep throughout the night. The following day, I dropped Yewande at the airport and returned home. As soon as I arrived home, I received a lecture from two extended family members on why I shouldn’t marry Yewande.
This was my parents firing their last shots against Yewande.
For the second consecutive night, I hardly slept. My thoughts started racing and I was so angry. Was I about to have a relapse? I thought to myself. Thankfully, as days went by, I started feeling better and I gained more control of my thoughts. Confessing positive words to myself helped, so did listening to Hillsong, playing games, and generally fixing my mind on other activities.
My parents were still adamant that I marry one of their “girls” but that’s not all. My parents were upset by my search for a better job (I began my casual job search in September 2018). They strongly believe that the best thing I can do with my life is to run my dad’s company.
My Dad didn’t want me to ever work for another company. He believes that since he financed my education I am indebted to him and his company. Working for someone else is an ungrateful and disrespectful act.
The stress continued to ramp up but I continued dating Yewande.
By December 2018, my mind was saturated and my head felt heavy. My thoughts went racing again. There was no way I could spend the holidays in Benin because my mind simply won’t rest. So, I made a bold decision (which I am still paying for) to spend the holidays with Yewande in Abuja. It was one of the best decisions of my life. It allowed me to de-stress, normalize my mood, and elevate my energy levels.
I began the new year refreshed and full of enthusiasm.
Above all, I learnt a vital lesson about managing my mental health. The most potent remedy against stress or any mental illness is being around people that give you peace.
My story is definitely not over, there is more to come.
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