What do you see?
Between the devil and the deep blue sea. Whenever I think of that those words I always put on my analysis hat, like what are my options were I in that position:
- The devil: death- physical and spiritual
- The deep blue sea: I could thread water to safety for as long as my strength can carry me, I could be rescued, or I could drown; and die physically. But with the hope of life everlasting.
It’s never that bad.
It really truly isn’t ever that bad!
I had a whole different post ready and in my drafts, but this came to me and I just had to type up and share. The recent reports of suicide is alarming. I’m just going to stay in my neck of the woods and talk about Nigeria’s recent suicide crisis. We never used to be like this. We used to be so resilient. Remember the jokes about how if you pushed a Nigerian to the wall he/she will break the wall down and keep going, surviving, thriving. Recently it appears as though everything has gone south and a lot of us are taking the suicide route. The despair and hopelessness I see in people is alarming. People are sad, and solace, through joy can only be found in God (I don’t care what anyone thinks).
A lot of people are weighed down with the cares of the world and with the feeling that no one knows what you’ve been through or are going through. Truth is; everyone has their own pain, no one lives on easy street.
There’s always hope!
We need to move beyond seeing the mountains and seeing the miracles. Take each victory and mining it for all its worth.
Where have we gone wrong?
I think part of the problem is our judgmental attitude as Nigerians (my opinion). Every one of us are ‘Judge Judy’ prototypes and card carrying members of ‘The Fault Finders Association’. We are always seeking for where to lay blame or a fault to highlight. I’ve heard people share their burden and find themselves being blamed for something or the other.
We have such a terrible culture of shaming and judging the victims that people are wary of opening up. There’s no shame in being depressed, in every mental illness; it’s an ailment such as malaria and typhoid. There’s also not shame in having made bad decisions; financial, marital, career, etc. There’s no shame in having done something bad. Truth is, as much as we like to think we grow older and wiser; we still and will still make mistakes.
Dearest Nigerians, it’s not all the time find fault, or proffer solution. Sometimes, just listen. Half the time a solution comes to the ‘sharer’ by just voicing the thoughts. I think Nigerians generally have a problem with listening in silence but….. that’s a topic for another day.
Another reason I think could be responsible for this is the fact that we have few licensed mental health practitioners. And please this does not read: motivational speaker, life coach, religious leader or community elder. The available ones are few and far between. Psychologist and Psychiatrist are not glamorous professions! I remember when in school and even currently, people do not understand what Psychology or Psychiatry is all about. They read Psychiatry to mean; Mad people’s doctor and Psychology to mean: mind reader, and they are like: ‘why should anyone spend school time studying how to read minds’. The more enlightened will think: counselor, and think: anyone can be a counselor. Yes some people are naturally gifted in counselling, but hello?? Are you licensed?
The few times I open up myself to listen and counsel, it almost always ends with; ‘Chinma you are good at this, I feel better already, you should practice your discipline.’ I always remind the person that a first degree in Psychology does not a counselor make, in fact I need at least a Masters with PhD in view to be able to practice. What helps me and what people find most valuable is a lesson I actually learnt from my sister. She might not remember this conversation but years ago she had once unburdened herself to me and I responded in kind. She later told me that there are some times when the person just wants to be listened to and not joined in the pity party. I never forgot that lesson. It sunk in better than the classes my mom paid for. Added to the fact that I’m more of a listener than a speaker.
A problem shared is a problem solved/ halved?
Depends on who you share with, it can quickly become a problem compounded. I know for a lot of people it’s about not being able to see past their problems and getting to a neutral point where they can give good advice, for some others it’s also about not having the full picture of the situation. Which is why full disclosure is required to be able to be helped.
If someone happens to approach you for counselling, listen, pray with the person, encourage the person to get professional help (prayer and medical help are not mutually exclusive). Don’t counter with a ‘if I tell you my own problems you will feel sorry for me’. Listen and offer advice as your opinion, not as the gospel (except unless you are quoting the gospel purely and not giving it your own interpretation). Help the person to see the miracles and opportunities that can arise from the situation no matter how bad. Don’t give advice you won’t take, if you are at a loss for what to say; don’t say anything, refer the person to someone else you think can help. A hug, a prayer, a reassuring ‘it is well’, will serve better than a judgement or ill advice.
I say to you who feels like the walls are closing in on you, get help. Your need, pain, feelings are valid. Get help, professional help! Yes, you are not the worst hit in whatever situation you find yourself, but get help. yes, no be your own bad pass, but get help! Keep seeking help until you find it. And when all else fails, look to God not man. I pray that your eyes be opened like the prophet’s servant in the Bible to see the angels who are for you and to recognize that they are more than they that are against you.
Most importantly, keep your head up!