Pit to Peak; My talk at Akili Dada's Scholars Leadership Academy5:53:00 PM
|Speaking at Akili Dada's Scholars Leadership Academy|
So on Saturday I had the privilege and honor to share with girls under the Akili Dada program at their Scholar’s Leadership Academy. We left for cold Limuru at 7.30am and got there in time to hear what the Akili Dada values are. The sessions were hosted in the beautiful Brackenhurst Hotel. I spoke to the girls on the topic pit to peak, derived from my life experience of living with epilepsy and bipolar, dropping out of school, getting fired from a job and emerging to be a three time award winner with a few millions in my account.
So dear reader, I’d like you to write your pits (lowest moments) and peaks (highest moments) and know whatever direction in life you go to, it is made up of a little more steps. I later shared the coffee bean story and took them through the three Ps; Pits, Peaks and Process
At age 17 while in Form 4, I got my first epilepsy attack and my life changed
At age 18, when I was still coming to terms with my epilepsy diagnosis, and while waiting for my university calling letter, I was raped by someone I knew and got thoroughly depressed and was very suicidal, I attempted suicide severally and failed. I didn’t have anyone to tell about my ordeal, I didn’t have a release and was happy when I went to University because I was so sure that all the Mathematics would block it out. But you cannot cover a live wound and just wish it away, so I developed a mental health condition; bipolar.
At age 21, I had to drop out of Actuarial School at the University of Nairobi because I wouldn’t cope, I had no support system and medical support was too expensive.
For a long time after that, I floated through life; I relied heavily on drugs (self-medicating and abusing prescribed ones) to cope with daily life.
I was the text book example of a bad girl, the type everyone here and your parents tell you to avoid.
But all that changed and it took a process.
But despite it all, I was a coffee bean deep inside and each and every one of you is a coffee bean.
Like me, you may have gone through the fire of getting an illness you had no idea of one evening after games, but you are still a coffee bean,
Like me, you may get sexually assaulted one Sunday morning but that doesn’t reduce your worth as a coffee bean,
Like me, you may develop a mental health condition but you are still a coffee bean,
Like me, you may drop out of school and feel that your life is over but you are still a coffee bean,
Like me, all your friends and family may run away from you and you may want to get out of this world, even attempt it, but you are still a coffee bean,
Like me, you may self-medicate and turn to drugs and alcohol to release the pain, but you are still a coffee bean.
Like me, you lose it all, lose your worth, lose your focus, lose your hope, lose all reason to live, lose it all, but that you can never lose the fact that you are a coffee bean.
So what are my peaks?
Through my work, I have won 3 awards so far; East Africa Youth Philanthropist of the Year, Malaika Trust Activist of the Year and recently Google’s Africa Connected Award which made me a millionaire under 30.
I run my mind, my funk which is a mental health information and support hub that offers information and support not just here in Kenya but world over
I sit in National decision making bodies in the area of mental health and epilepsy in this country because of my work yet I have never been to a medical class; I sit on the National Mental Health Policy review board, I serve as the Vice Sec at the NECC, my name is at the back of Kenya Human Rights book on Mental Health and also in the National Guidelines of Epilepsy…remember I have never sat in any class.
Anyone from around the world doing a paper on mental health in Kenya always has to look for me; International news agencies like BBC and Al Jazeera have quoted my work when reporting on mental health with the former doing a Skype interview with me.
I run a campaign here in Kenya dubbed #hugSitawa which some students in Netherlands picked up and are now running to promote the work I do in mental health.
I was invited to speak at Ghana’s First mental health conference
…and the list goes on and goes
1. Decree and Declare always that you are still a coffee bean
We have decreed and declared that we are still a coffee bean and we have written it down,but if you cannot remember that word and the story I gave, I want you to know you that you are not your experiences. If you have problems at home, if people are calling you names in school, you are not those experiences. I am not rape, I am not epilepsy, I am not bipolar. I am Sitawa Wafula, a beautiful and powerful lady going places.
2. Face your pit head on
I learnt the hard way that you cannot run or hide from your pit forever. You need to deal with it once and for all. I thought going to Uni, the sexual assault ordeal with dissolve in the numbers. I deal with emails of people who were molested as children and because it was not dealt with, it is now an issue; they either have dissociative behavior, they are promiscuous. Whatever your pit is, make sure you face it head on. It can be time keeping, managing your pocket money, planning your timetable and socializing time… you need to face it head on or you will be a manager who doesn’t honor appointments or spends all the company money or even bigger things like what I have mentioned.
3. Be yourself and be the best you
After you have faced your pit, you need to define you. All I wanted to do was learn about my illness and how to deal with it. Little did I know I was starting a movement and before I knew it, I was the best in getting information about my illness.
4. Have a vision
You need to know where you are going, have a plan for your life. I do something called vision boarding.
My vision was to start something that will help others who are going through the same. Once I got the info, I started blogging as a release and sharing what I knew and boom that blog, is now a reference for many people across the world.
5. Enjoy the journey; be patient
There is nothing like instant success, the coffee beans have to go through the fire to show their strength.
6. Networks and partnerships
No man is an island, one person cannot do everything. Know yourself, your limits.
7. Release, Relax, Rejuvenate
Have a routine of release
8. Go above yourself