A Thin Line Between Sanity And Depression

Photo By Lechon Kirb

I posted this two years ago and sadly it is still relevant.

When I was at University, one of my friends was falsely accused of being in an occult fraternity which led to an investigation that cost him two years of his education. After a long drawn out battle, he was acquitted and was able to return to University. It was at this point he came to visit me; to share his story. He said a lot of things but one comment stuck with me ever since:

I almost lost my mind. I discovered that there is a thin line between insanity and sanity.

He was in his early twenties at the time. He was lucky; he had his faith and supportive family and friends. Nonetheless it was the loneliest time of his life and he led life as a recluse over those two years.

Today, we learnt in the news that the suicide rate for middle-age men with mental health issues has risen by 73% since 2006*.

When my friend was sharing his story with me, I remember thinking how incredibly brave he was. Not just coming through it but for being open about it and sharing his vulnerability. This is not how society generally socialises men to be – vulnerable. Certainly not in Nigeria where I grew up.

We know that today, men, particularly middle-aged men, are more at risk of taking their own lives.

I’m not a mental health worker nor do I profess to be an expert in any way. However, one thing I’ve learnt, after 10 years in pastoral care; is that people, men and women, need an opportunity to be honest and vulnerable without fear of stigma or reproach. People need to be able to share their pain, sorrow and fears and know that it’s O.K. People need a support network to help them through tough times. Before any recovery, there must be the space to be real with themselves.

Too often men are held to very high standards of masculinity and within that strata, there is very little room or respect for vulnerability let alone crying. We socialise our boys from an early age to adopt a false sense of masculinity. We ask them if they are girls when they cry or tell them to man up. We teach them at an early age to stifle their emotions and it’s little wonder that they grow up not learning to deal with them or ask for help. Clearly, this has to change if we want men to be sensitive to the state of their mental health.

Mental health is complex and there will be many issues to unpick in today’s news as to why men are at a higher risk of committing suicide. However, you and I can start by giving boys and men a break from machismo and let them just be.

Samaritans: 08457 90 90 90 (24-hour national helpline)

* University of Manchester’s National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness

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Double Standards

I’ve watched, with fascination, how Solange Knowles’ wedding has been splattered over popular women’s magazine and blog. And I cannot help but think what if Jay-Z was a woman and Solange was a man. What if the male-Solange was the one in that elevator hitting a woman. The world would not forgive him especially if he dared to get married to another woman soon after. He would lose all his sponsorship if he was famous; he certainly would not be entertained by any magazine except the lowest of the lowest tabloid. He would most definitely not be hailed as a fashion icon – no designer would touch that hot potato. And he would have to pay for it for the rest of his life.

I don’t know about you but the modern day feminism doesn’t really seem to be about equality but eating our cake and having it. We can’t on one hand vilify men who show aggression towards women and then let women get away with it. Where exactly is the equality in that? Oh I forgot, equality is only for women.

Happy Father’s Day

Divorce doesn’t necessarily mean your father isn’t there any more, but in my case it meant my father was absent from my life. My mother’s younger brother, my uncle Sola, voluntarily stepped into that vacuum with seamless ardour. I’m not sure if he ever had a discussion with my mum about it or if it was a conscious thing for him. He was, and still is, a deeply compassionate man and I guess that’s what motivated him.

Until we were much older and ‘settled’, every Sunday, he would stop by the house after church to spend time with us. He wasn’t a man of great means but whatever he had, he shared with us. He was there for every birthday; usually the first guest to arrive whether we had a party or not. When we did poorly in our exams, my mum would report us to him and he would calmly reprove us. He never lost his temper with us, he is such a gentle soul. I remember soon after the divorce, I told my cousin, his daughter, that I wished he was my father. Children have the weirdest way with words, she said something to the effect of she wished he could be too. Even at ten years old, she also knew she had a great dad. If I’m honest, I envied her.

His greatest sacrifice was sharing his time with his own family with us. Sometimes he would just pick us up, maybe to give my mum a break and we would spend the whole day with our cousins. Most times it was mayhem because we were all about the same age; restless children whose sole mission was to frustrate their parents. ;). My fondest memories are of our trips to Apapa amusement park (in Lagos). My uncle had three kids and one saloon car which was sufficient for a family of five but not for one of eight. That didn’t stop him packing us in his car like sardines for our trips to the amusement park. Those were the fun pre-health-and-safety days. He was also a Grammy award show fanatic and after every trip we would end up watching every video imaginable plus listen to him disapprove of any ‘wild’ performance he didn’t want us to emulate. Specifically -Madonna’s. 🙂

He was proud of every graduation and success we had. He sat by my mother at all our weddings; always her rock. He has celebrated every childbirth with her too like a doting grandfather. I am eternally grateful to my aunt and my cousins for sharing their husband and father respectively with us.

Thank you uncle Sola for being a wonderful father when we needed one the most.

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I Missed The Memo About Beards

Everywhere I look, men are sporting beards. Every race, colour or creed. There is no discrimination where these beards choose to hang themselves. Long ones, short ones, shaggy ones, slick one, grizzly ones, groomed ones, prickly ones and stubbly ones.

Oh spirit of the beard, please stay away from my home!

Why Should Equality Rob Me Of Being Feminine?

Men and women are different; we have different needs, we think differently and any working environment that leans only towards one sex, is robbing itself of the rich dynamism that those differences bring.

However, on a personal level. I don’t want men to treat me like they would treat a man. I want doors to be opened for me, heavy boxes carried on my behalf and if ,God forbid, I happen to cry, don’t look at me like I’m weird. They are only tears.

I’m not weaker, I’m just created differently.

This might cause confusion for some men who have been accosted by a woman vehemently refusing their help because for some reason that translates into being weak. After centuries of, lets face it, oppression by men I think it is understandable that some women feel this way. Nonetheless, let me help. Simply ask if help is required. If I saw someone, anyone, struggling with boxes, I would ask if help was required because that’s what decent people do. It wouldn’t matter whether they were male or female. I would ask.

I bet there are more women like me in the world who would appreciate not being treated with care. Chances are you are more likely to get a grateful thank you than a verbal walloping.

My name is Tomi and I am Redefining Wonder Woman!