|We discover ourselves every day|
When Conjestina was first admitted into Mathari months ago, it was around the time CNN did a clip on the state of Mental Illness in Kenya and around that time I wrote this post; World's Untold Stories; Locked up and Forgotten; The Sequel and I will quote from it.
Part of the Problem;
We are people easy to forget for a few short weeks ago, we made fun of Conjestina and her admission to Mathari Hosp, we updated our social media status, saw it as a smashing blog post hell we googled blogs just to be part of the convo by commenting left, right and centre. I would like us to play hypothetical for a moment, so with the images you saw on the feature, think of Conjestina in Mathari, the place you saw on CNN, the same one people pay to have family they cant deal with because of ignorance and lack of information, think about her when she comes out, world's no.5 female boxer with almost nothing left since you had a hahafest over what some of her pride yet you have never paid a single cent to watch her play, to see her put Kenya on the boxing map. Chances are if no intervention is taken, she will slip into a village where her ancestors once hailed, a place where people will be too busy running around chasing the wind we call life to stay home with her but since they love her and are scared to leave her in the house alone, chances are, they will lock her up, for her own safety they will say hypothetically speaking. But that is story of so many Kenyans, the Kenyans you saw, Kenyans who made you ashamed to be Kenyan, Kenyans tied and chained on trees or beds, I am not trying to justify anyone or anything for I believe that every one has a right to life, to good health, a right not to be locked up or tied to tree, but get this how many taxi people will want to carry someone who will jump all over the car, how many district hospitals want to deal with 'hao watu' and the cost of medication.
My hypothetical thinking came to pass and instead of a village somewhere Conjestina slipped into a house whose rent she cannot pay. Reading this yesterday coupled with all the calls and emails on what I am doing about it just put me on edge. I have gotten to the point where I know my triggers, I know when to shout, when to cry, when to write and when to just recoil, yesterday I recoiled and I thank God I did because I have woken up with words, so here goes.
1. Conjestina a HUMAN BEING before everything else
Yes the doctor who saw her on TV like the rest of us (I am not sure if he is the same who saw her in Mathari when she was admitted) decided she has Attention Seeking Behaviour and/or bipolar. One thing I have highlighted over and over on my blog is the less than 100 psychiatric doctors to cater for a population of 40 M Kenyans, cases of MISDIAGNOSIS are high and if this guy did not treat her then and has not evaluated her ever since, he has no authority to one say out in public without consent what Conjestina is suffering from (think about her when she is well what wil that do to her - It is the same thing with HIV et al, until the patient agrees) and two to just look at a two minute clip and decide that Conjestina has Attention Seeking Disorder or Bipolar is not even ethical...this is to some extend a human right violation. I also need to point out that if Conjestina's sister did not give consent or was stressed or cajoled to do that interview because Conjestina is not in the right frame of mind, that is also a human rights violation. Everyone is entitled to privacy, we all are irregardless of whether you are Conjestina or plain old Sitawa. You may all look at it from oooh she is our star and we need to know what she is going through how else could all the efforts done yesterday be achieved if we did not know. From my angle, that of someone who not only represents the rights of persons with mental illnesses in Kenya but as one who has one, that space that is all I have. I bore some of my friends to death, I am warm or cold at times, other times I am doing everything - fashion, poetry, campaigns other times I dont want to leave bed but the fact that I have space, I know I am human, that I am here so I rarely hallucinate and build my space elsewhere. I have had a few suicide attempts in search of more space but thats when the one I live in has been violated so please resepect her space. Let one body as far as the campaign drives go, work with her sister and it would be nice if the whole of Kiss didnt give her address out.She is a human being first of all, above all the boxing and all the mental health issues, respect her rights...and if you do stuff for her do not take pictures and post on twitter, it is NOT RIGHT!!!
So in as much as efforts are out there which I highly commend to get her accomodation, that is not her immediate need. Her immediate need is to get proper diagnosis, get proper medication, get therapy both group and self therapy. Through this, she will be able like most of us, to understand what is happening to her.Whether it is true or not she has Attention Seeking Behaviour is for her first before anyone to know, to understand what it is, to know how to deal with it. This is going to be a long process of a mixture of denial, confusion and with proper support and enough SPACE to accept herself she will be back on her feet.
What we all can do; Have a centralized system of collecting funds but to also certain degree, personally pity is one of the things I hate most. Anyone who knows me well knows I always try, my twitching can be bad but you will find me hosting my poetry. All we need is that chance to be human. So if there are harambees or anything let them not have pity or all that "this thing is very sad should stop". Through her recovery process this can make her or break her. So instead of saying this is sad, I am not sure how Google hangout works but y'all can record messages of how she inspires you. All your emails of how strong or how of a role model I am wake me up half the times when I am going through a depressive moment. So during her recovery and when she is not sure where to go or what to do or who she was or if her role still stands; the positive energy as opposed to the woiyee will work for her, you would have helped big time.
2. Conjestina needs PROPER DIAGNOSIS
I think I mentioned this but I feel the need to re-emphasize. By bed time, I know Mwalimu King'ang'i has offered to pay rent for one year, Nonini had cleared the arrears, some girls had skipped lunch et al. That is amazing but focus of getting her to hospital. Medication which will be her life line for a long time is not cheap, the reactions and side effects are not a walk in the park (Remember this post I wrote; Would you rather slap yourself all day or be high). As I constantly say, there is need for mental health care at the primary level. If Conjestina had malaria or a headache, her sister could easily take her to the nearest dispensary and it could be a story of the past, but there is no mental helath care in the primary level, people are more opften than not taken to Mathari, and the attitude of that doctor is to go by, loads needs to be done. I sit in the committee working on the National Mental Health Polciy and among the things we have highlighted are the availability of mental health care in the primary level. The constitutions gives me a right to the highest attainable medical care. How will that help me if I am in Kitale and the nearest mental health care unit is Mathari? When my only options are to either stay at home or visit the less than 100 psychatrists charging ridiculous prices because they can?
On Monday, I did these two tweets
So one of my doctors believes he has found THE MEDS for me,Ratiopharm, one tab retails for Ksh 450...we need that #mentalhealth policy
— Sitawa Wafula (@SitawaWafula) September 3, 2012
Some side effects of those 450 a tab drugs; Akathisia (restlessness), constipation,urinary retention,heart failure, red eye...#mentalhealth
— Sitawa Wafula (@SitawaWafula) September 3, 2012
Do the Mathematics and include that in efforts to help Conjestina. I will also come forth and say, cases of relapsing are always. always there. So we can fundraise, pressure the government et al but it has to be a tangible and sustainable medical solution.
I am not a doctor but when that guy on TV said that Conjestina is not ill, that she has a mild form of mental illness called Attention seeking aka bipolar, I almost flipped. His take of mental illness is Schizophrenia what y'all call Uwenda wazimu but there is no mild or severe form of mental illness, you can be in a mild or severe form of a particular mental illness so nooooo i refuse, all mental illnesses be it depression or ADD or bipolar, as long as they stop you from doing your daily chores are severe so proper diagnosis needs to be done, the stage gotten and intervention through the methods I listed taken.
3. Care takers
Everyone with a mental illness needs a care giver. Your caregiver is that person who knows you 'more' than you. I am blessed to have my family. My uncle took a chance on me despite the fact that they had a little baby. I have had loads and loads of cases and trances and a whole load of drama you can get when you read through my blog and him and his family take me as the big sister here. My cousins are adorable and through that I get less frequent seizures, my trances have reduced to not happening anymore, I mean I am more 'normal' than the next guy, I do more for my country for the average dude and that is all we need. In Conjestina's case, her younger sister is a care giver. She is the one who has to give consent for reporters to film Conjestina, she has to deal with all the stigma assosiated with Conjestina's illness, she maybe is the one taking care of Conjestina's son but is she well equiped? She also needs to get her grove on but with this Kenyan economy which man would want to have her and all the things she has going on. She also has her dreams and ambitions.
It is very important that she also gets therapy and training of how to cope. Many care givers end up locking their loved ones because it is too much. If she has to fend for the family, she is constantly worried what if today is the day she goes naked and starts picking papers and throwing stones? So the efforts should go a step further and get this lady and Conjestina's son too through therapy. So that they know what to do, how to live their lives, what things to note when Conjestina is relapsing and how to deal with it, when and how to have their stories as front page news.
I have learnt what my common triggers are and I got some yesterday and because I have an amazing support group, I called and BBM'ed and I made it to today and that's what they do for me.When I have issues, they will know when it is good to have a poetry gig, when to cancel and how to make me feel it is okay, you have been hosting poetry since 2009, missing one gig is not the end of it all. Her sister cannot do this alone, it is a community effort. We have done awareness drives and I assure you I am not tired of going round sensitizing the community but we need more and more people to train because we cannot go everywhere, we cannot talk to everyone. It is a collaborative effort. So if you need something to do to help, get a hall in Baba Dogo, have an awareness drive there. Tell the people some of the sign and symptoms, causes and triggers, highlight illnesses and most of all emphasize on the humanness (if that's a word) the need for proper intergration back to the society. Let's work on having community based care as opposed to just pumping people with drugs and thinking we have done our bit.
Conjestina is world No. 5, Conjestina is the best in Africa, Conjestina is...she is and she will always be. Depending on the diagnosis and the causes of her illness, the support she gets from her sister and community, Conjestina can be anything she wishes to be. Without any fashion skills, I did Runway254 and those who know what that was, know it. I have been a campaign manager, I have been anything and everything I so desire, I am a teacher, a Mathematic teacher to add on it and a good one, ask my students. I am a poet, I am an event organiser, I am... I am...I am because of the support I have around me and because I have known what I am going through, what my common triggers are, what I can take in and how I take it in, I have known that sometimes I need to recoil, my BFF may not understand it sometimes but he is kinda catching up but if that is what I have to do to avoid three months of being under, let it be...and that is what I did yesterday with all the media calling asking for my position in what Kiss aired. I recoiled and I can face today. So Conjestina should not be the once queen of Africa. She still is and will always be, the QUEEN OF AFRICA and Kenyans proved that yesterday with all the millions of hashtags. So if the doctors say boxing is a cause, since trauma to the head is one of the causes of mental illnesses and she cannot be an active boxer, let us all support her if she want to write a boxing manual or using boxing as a defence mechanism should she so wish but she has to have a source of livelihood. Her impact to society relies heavily on her own feelings of self worth. It is a loooooooooooooooong journey but she will get there, I mean she is the QUEEN OF AFRICA...and instead of giving hand outs, lets go see her next game. Last year I was so ready to go to Kisumu for come back game on 23rd Dec, if you are my FB pal you remember that status update, but it was cancelled last minute. So buy her book if that how she decides to go and pleeeeeease don't y'all publishers go forcing her to do a book, I fear Kenyans, invite her to your sister's school to do a boxing as a defense class, engage her. I sit in so many committees and do loads of talks, I have no time to think I am mentally ill. I do create a lot, I recently started a jewelry line(I know, what don't I do), I have my poetry, I do event conceptualization for companies and for me that all I need, to know I am here, doing something. But this is a slow gradual process and a step in her recovery journey.
5. The Government
A lot of people ask where the government is, A lot of people asked where the corporate society is which is good but SERIOUSLY...TUNAOMBA SERIKALI BADO????
The Ministry of Sport and that of Culture, not sure if they are one or two different, need to come up with something called Lifestyle Management for Sportspeople and our musicians/artists/creatives ok for everyone but mostly those who carry the flag high, they need to go through classes on finances, on dealing with the whole celebrity status and people knowing them and needing pictures of them, on keeping their head above water when their is good and/or bad publicity. We saw what happened to Wanjiru, I pray everyday I hear the name Rudisha that God goes before Him. I know our church together with Equity work with those who come to train in Ngong, they take them through spiritual well being and financials. Someone needs to take them through relationships, pombe na hivyo vitu vyote. I think the field visit should be to Parliament, those people get loads of pressure and they should be on some amazing cushions. But this is in the long run, now, it is a collective effort first of all make sure she is well, know what she can and cannot do and still love her whichever way she swings, get her good cushions through her family and the community she lives in for proper integration halafu we always always support her and not wait for her rent to be four months overdue. She does not need the government, yes they have a role to play but she does not need them. It is like me saying if I finished Actuarial School or if my dad didn't get retrenched and if we had enough money.....Yes my parents have a role to play so does the government, let it not just work for Conjestina now and here, let it have a proper policy, a National Mental Health Policy, let it make sure all primary health unit offer mental health services, let it take care of each and every Kenyan regardless of who they are. 25 % of our population has a mental illness or is on their way to getting one, it is the government's responsibility to make sure they get the highest attainable medical care.
The government also need to speed up the parliament actions on gazetting and passing the policy, with that we will know that this or that institution has been set up and is responsible for taking Conjestina and other persons with mental illness that roam our streets and taking care of them and not have people calling me asking which of the five campaign to help is legit and all these things.
6. Media reporting
Laaaaaawd where to begin, we have done media breakfasts, I have had not so sexy pictures of me crying taken over and over. You know how we all felt when the African picture was a dying kid in Somali surrounded by vultures, that how we persons with mental illnesses feel when you go out and do stories hivyo hivyo tu. Yes that white man was telling the 'African story' and yes people consume that story but as Chimamanda says, there is a danger to the single story and that is why my first point was all about humanness. Yes you have a story, I applaud you for bringing forth the state Conjestina is in and most of all the mental health discussion but nooooo i refuse, there needs to be more sensitization and everyone who decided to do a blog post, even I with my wonna be journalistic skills know that reasearch is key, that every story needs an intro, a middle and a conclusion. Someone looking for something to do, kindly help us in making a media kit and distributing it.
7. Awareness creation
Mental illnesses do not know age, status, economy bracket...anyone can get a mental illness at any time. We all need to know to know the signs and symptoms, causes and triggers. We all need to have information enough to know that the same reason someone with malaria is not called malarian, a person with mental illness hasn't gone HAM that was my best lattest description or all those names you call them. They are sick, they need medical attention and like with all illness, they get good. STIGMA is the end of us, reserve that comment and pass a positive one instead.
Lastly I want us to think of the 25% of the population that is not Conjestina, that have never been on TV, that only three people remember their names. I have been a constant Mugo Kibati stalker and it is only a week ago that he finally responed to my tweets and asked me to email him, still waiting for his response. My main question was, what is the social pillar of Vision 2030 says about persons with mental illnesses, what is our position, if any? Well we are waiting to hear what it is. I remember in the email I told him, Mental Health has no sexy, we did not have until two days ago someone who everyone can relate to and see this is serious, we need to do something. We have a 'sexy' now, let the wheels spin not for the sexy but each and every Kenyan.
We are currently working on a family fun day for this year's World Mental Health Day, Hugs, Kisses and Sunflowers so you are all welcome to join us on October 13th at the Railway Club to learn a lot more about mental health and how to discover signs and symptoms. We opted for a family day because, the family is the basic unit and in the pas twe have done conferences et al which rarely help the grass root persons so if you want to make a change come through and learn and have fun while doing it. We will also have the petition signing process which has been on going and educating people for the need of a policy which I have dedicated loads of blog posts towards.
Again thank you all for standing with Conjestina, thank you for standing with persons with mental illnesses.
Hugs, Kisses and Sunflowers to each and everyone of you.