Dear Ms. @KameneGoro I don’t know you, but I have heard about you in the social circles, I am a mental health advocate and I have been raising awareness since my diagnosis in 2017, I was a budding Photojournalist and I even worked for the same company you work for, you might not read this letter, but it’s not meant to shame you, hurt your feelings, patronize you or demean you. It was written with compassion.
I have realized many people are bashing you for the unfortunate comments you made recently, some getting as outrageous and justifying why you should be sacked, your individual sentiment have been overshadowed by lame trolls, trolling your weight, looks and persona. Does attacking who you are help solve the situation?, Simply no. Many people look up to you, especially many young people in your field, you speak to their generation and understand their taste in pop culture and style.
Your comments were a mistake and trust me we all make mistakes, even the best in the business have made mistakes, and you don’t have to lose your job for it, I lost my job as a Photojournalist because of my mental health, I was hospitalized at Mathare mental hospital and I had to endure the stress and high hospital bills and TBH we don’t need another jobless Kenyan.
I assume you are almost my age or maybe in my age group, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but open your heart and mind to knowledge. I invite you to become an ambassador for mental health from now on, let champion this cause. Not only that, but I invite you to learn about mental health and walk with us, visit a mental health hospital, lobby government policy, challenge HR departments to have a mental health policy in all companies, so people like me do have to lose their jobs when we have disorders and bouts of depression that only Carbomazpine, Tegretal and Olazapine can cure.
Many people are still ignorant about mental health, even the best of us and I hope you find it in your heart to apologize and to be led by love and light, this is a chance to start the discussion about mental especially for many who are struggling with affording therapy, access to medicine and access to quality health care in the middle of a pandemic.
Join me in calling for the zero ration of mental health resources in Kenya. I pray that the backlash doesn’t affect your mental health.
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I recently finished a book by Jamie Kern Lima, becoming unstoppable, I would have never known about it if it wasn’t for a much appreciated recommendation. It was a book I was reading when I needed it the most. The language of the book spoke to me in a way that I think nobody could. In my late teens I was a determined young chap. I tried to ‘make it’ through life using my talent as a video creator. I was one of the first youtubers at the age of 18 winning an international film award, I was destined for greatness. I enjoyed inspiring people to reach for the goals. A few years later, I got gobbled up by the realities of the world. I was awaken by the fact that I was not too special and that the world is not as simple as I had thought.
I was angry, I tried to make a difference in my small way but all my efforts were simply not enough, subsequently I fell into depression and later in a psychosis, I had put so much effort and suddenly all that I had done was simply worthless. Retrospectively I don’t regret and I only wish to have done some things a little bit better.
In the midst of the attention I enjoyed as teen had, I never really knew the value I had, I have sold myself short one to many times, because I simply thought that didn’t matter. In embarking in a new chapter I want to be more in tune with myself. Sifting through life but with a goal of only giving myself the best that I deserve. We are all worthy enough to have pleasant things, rewarding myself would do my mental health a whole lot of justice. In between toxic relationships and exploitive friendships I have lowered my standards trying to accommodate everyone in my circle, always placing myself last. Growing up I was told “Don’t be too cocky”, “Nobody likes a Know-it-all”, “You are annoying”, “you are still too young to know”, at a personal level, I am a very shy person and I am not really extravagant. It’s not the best thing to tell a teenager, especially one that grew up troubled.
Two of the biggest mistakes I did as a teen was to listen to other people’s opinion and not spending enough time with people of my age, as a result I was supposedly inferior with the adults and having a feeling of false seniority towards my age mates, either way I was always trying to fit in despite which crowd I was with.
As I turn 29 I want to have the same enthusiasm I had as a teen, devoid of what other people say and think of me. I want to assess what I think about myself, I want to create memories with genuine friends and I want create self-value and I want be happy with who I am as a person.
Only the best for me, so I can be the best that I can.
I spent 10 days in Pakwach, northern Uganda, it was an extraordinary experience for me as a first-timer in the North of Uganda. I embarked on a 399 Kilometer to the extensive Murchison falls National Park, a game-ridden park almost which lies almost 8 hours from the capital. I was keen to get in touch with my adventurous side, being my first time camping I decided I will be staying with Vilakazi Murchison falls Safari camp which is 2 kilometers before the Pakwach trading center. The drive to the camp was fine save for a few potholes, I highly recommend private means because there might be interesting stopovers like Karuma Dam where a few minutes there will set you in the mood for what to expect in the wild. Vilakazi has a warm homely ambiance, the staff is local to the area hence they are well conversant, it was my luck I understand the dialect so it made me feel close, I was staying in a room cozy enough to accommodate up to 3 people. The first night was characterized by enthusiasm and enthusiastic mosquitoes, coming from Kenya I never knew about the importance of mosquito repellant before. That night the camp was hosting dinner for almost 50 people, only 17 out of the 50 were staying over the rest had planned accommodation in other camps. A warm dinner of Agar fish with Maatoke, the hosts told us about Aagar fish, one of 38 fishes prevalent after the falls Murchison making Murchison falls have the bigger variety than Lake Victoria.
I went out for a game drive the following morning it was filled with majestic elephants and strong buffalos, leopards, and shy hippos the tour guide had stories that enchanted the tour group with wonder and suspense. That evening I retired back to the camp to the camp for a sundowner, a one hour half-hour period that I selfishly indulge alone, under sinking shimmering sunset a cold sprite and listening to classics from the 70s, 80s, 90s sundowner time always gives me time to think take account of the day and celebrate my little achievements, a sundowner at Vilakazi Murchison Camp was pristine because it was beside a fireplace and a swimming pool. The third day was committed to work even though I had decided that my stay would be internet and work free, I had to keep tabs with the outside world. They had a bush disco that night well It was amazing jamming to hits by Acholi and Alur musicians the warm wind in my face, The West Nile in the background, and the smell of mosquito repellant in the air, Just the perfect atmosphere especially since I didn’t do any adventure travel in 2019. The camp has a flexible approach with no menu, any meal can be prepared on request, I got the sense that proper planning before the actual arrival date ensures good services, the downsides of the camps include the swimming which I only got to swim in once because they change the water every time they get new guests and that Wi-Fi is only available in the conference room. For its pocket-friendliness and the memories I have there I would give them a 4 star, it’s somewhere I want to go back to.
I can’t believe I am now in my 7th month here. I think I have outdone myself. I have been lucky to have people stand by me during this journey and I am grateful.
I had wanted to relocate to Uganda for almost 7 years now. This felt life the right time to come here, and when I came, I knew this is where I wanted to be, this is where I wanted to live for the rest of my life.
The first month here was characterized by a lot of hope, drive and ambition. I felt I was rekindling my passion as a photographer and a story teller. Starting a new adventure is always exciting. For me, Uganda is a land of opportunities and second chances.
I again thank all my friends from Malaba, Uganda who helped me cross the boarder with 3 huge bags and my equipment some of which I would have been forced to pay duty tax for, to my friend Hussein, a young Ugandan who hosted me in Makindye, area of down town Kampala.
Heartsounds Uganda, a mental health NGO run by Jimmy Odoki played a big role in helping me settle down, Jimmy is one of the most resourceful mental health advocate out here, he has a network of colleagues who work hand in hand for the mental health cause in northern Uganda.
I had projected that my Cape to Cairo hike would start late this year, the commencement was subject to sponsorships, donations and grants availability all of which are not available at the moment and the COVID 19 situation also halted most of planning of the hike especially when the Ugandan government ordered a 3-months total lockdown which resulted in completely no movement for 3 months.
As soon as I had settled, I met Dr. Stella Nyanzi who was fresh out prison, for her political and freedom of speech-related- activism activity in Uganda, we met in the most unlikely circumstances and I ended up staying at her residence during lockdown.
I wondered how a mother of three intelligent kids would spent a year in prison locked up because of her ideas and ideals, the idea of being locked up in a prison cell itself is unfathomable. Here I was under the comfort of her house but the whole country was locked down due to the pandemic, Uganda turned in to a prison. I didn’t meet any of my friends or work for all those three months. I didn’t boarded a vehicle. It felt very strange.
I had all the time in the world. I had started a reading, meditation and jogging routine, but even running and sports was later banned by the government. With so much time and nothing much to do many during this time experienced depression as the whole world came to a halt.
I stayed under care and kindness of Dr. Stella Nyanzi for 3 months before moving out on my own place in a suburb in northern Kampala. I started life in a new country without a job, by now my 3-months Visa had already expired but there is no way of renewing my Visa as the law requires an exit and a re-entry. I bought the basics essentials and started making meals and cooking for myself.
After the lock down I worked as freelance photographer, taking pictures for my clients and I ran my mental health activism online. I still have plans to continue with the hike but I need more planning and resources, help with the execution of the plan, it’s an ambitious task but very possible, because it would mostly be overland-travel across Africa.
It’s been a difficult time but I have the advantage the basics here are a little bit affordable here rather than back home. So whatever little I have can be stretched. So many people have helped me along the way, and I can’t thank them enough. But I took out loans to sustain me as well and I have no idea how to repay them. Now due to the fact many people ask how I survive, I won’t lie to you, I am knee deep in debt but I owe my 7 months stay to the almighty and generous friends who helped more ways than one but it also has be nothing short of miraculous. Many people where I live have once or twice alluded that I am either rich or a spy or both I guarantee you as sexy as it may be being a Kenyan James Bond is, it’s totally not the case.
Eventually, I got a depressive slump last month in August which was contributed the constant worry about how life would be, an anxiety to which direction things are going, which led to seeking professional help from a psychiatrist in a private clinic in Entebbe, Prof. Musisi congratulated me on how far I have come since 2017 and suggests a daily routine or an occupation, the set, my mind back into the “grind” mode. Being busy would be more of a therapy to me as oppose to pills, he first prescribed Fluoxetine and later changed it Ipiramine, have gained a few kilos from it but my mental health situation is great now, he also thought that I can make money as tutor especially during this pandemic a tutor teach basic maths and English to primary level kids, I know I am not cut out for that but it was a good challenge to me to be more receptive to change and to be more adaptable.
What’s the plan?
Basically seeing the situation as it is, it’s not the best but I enjoy being here, I have more prospects here than I have back home. If you want anything in Uganda, the Ugandan people are the best resource you can have, most of them are intelligent and kind also most of the people are fairly accessible. I have had coffee a 2 presidential aspirants and lived with 2 parliamentary aspirants and they are by far more down to earth than most of their Kenyan counterparts. But above all the respective nature is great, I enjoy to be called Ssebo. I will stick around for a lot more longer. Life is hard but living in Uganda is much simpler for me.
I think things are okey I am lucky to have gotten a partner who keeps in check and cares about me so much, I am just beginning to know her well, it’s still early. I have also to build a social life here, and I think most of them would not want me to go back.
But after 7 months I think I made a good choice moving.
I came back to Kenya after more than 8 month stint in Uganda, upon reaching I found a country disenfranchised by the effects of the pandemic. I was told stories of how Corona changed lives for ordinary Kenyans.
“People lost jobs, others lost their homes and businesses… generally many lost hope ” says the cab driver on my way to the airport. Others had chosen to move from the city to their rural homes.
The mental and emotional state of a nation took a beating with kids forced to stay home, movement was limited and parents bearing the burden of having to provide the needs with strained resources.
I decided to fly to Mombasa just to see what the impact of Covid 19 on Kenyan’s social life at the coast. I took a flight from Wilson Airport aboard a local Airline, it landed on time at the heart of Kwale county, the iconic white sandy beach glimmering as the plane descended, I was on a mission to see how resident preserved and what where the effects of the lockdown on peoples mental health.
A long time friend picked me up from the airport, we drove to have tea at her spa along Diani Beach road, the spa is popular alternative healing and wellness center at the heart of Diani. She told me they had to adjust to cater for new clientage, “many fell into were very affected by the pandemic others developed depression and anxiety brought about the lockdown in this coastal town but most were still shy to open up about it” said the proprietor Olga Adipo. Mombasa city being one the most adversely affected by the Corona virus at one point was leading in the number of infections and death in country.
“The spa lost clients during the lockdown period because some of our clients were not able to come to Kenya for holidays, but there was a surge in clients from Diani residents who were seeking alternative treatment for their anxiety, depression and stress caused by the effects of Covid 19 lockdown”, said one of the workers. Jasper body expirence offers products to sooth and helps in regaining regular sleep patterns, calm the brain and retaining a good mental balance.
“Many lost sleep during covid-19 lockdown due to stress and worrying about money issues, the situation was not good with kids running around the house because they were not in school” said Susan Atieno further explained that Jasper’s Expirence Diani and Asha Cottages Spa offer rejuvenation that ensures the load and tension of daily life hustle and bustle is eliminated, a client walks away feeling refreshed.
Olga Odipo also a supervisor at Jasper Expirence’s walking in spa says they have a surge in residents and local clients who live within Kwale, “Spa’s were often seen as fancy and something the rich would indulge in but recently we have locals who have embraced them” said Olga.
“nowadays get referrals from counselling centers who deal with trauma cases, after assessing therapy options they settled down on alternative therapy such as massages, facials, reflexology and aromatherapy, apart from calming the mind it also improves morale and esteem because clients walk out looking and feeling good about themselves” Susan.
Both Susan and Olga told me they use only organic products in their Spa’s and one can buy the products for home use. “I would personally recommend it as a perfect spot for a date especially this coming Valentine’s day”, a spa date here would be wonderful said a client who wanted to remain anonymous.
For clients from outside Mombasa they can choose to stay at Asha cottages Diani opposite Chandarana shopping center where they offer the same services plus offer top of the line beach cottage Experience. As for locals and residents they can come to Diani Bazaar at the walk in spa.
Diani holds a special place in my heart and coming back after years but now as Mental health advocate gives me hope that this region despite being a traditional touristy town holds a healing, self-improvement and renewal aspect.
Disclaimer: This article is written by someone who lives with mental illness, it doesn’t advocate for any mental health treatment advice, any advice shouldn’t be taken after consulting a mental health proffesional.
Over the past few weeks, I have be overwhelmed by media especially during the US election as a journalist. I was constantly looking for updates about the election, Corona, their effects in Uganda and Kenya. Since that episode of overload, I have been looking for ways heal and refresh from the constant bombardment of information. I stumbled upon Dopamine detox, I have been trying it and so far my concentration levels are getting better, and I focus more on tasks. A link to the tutorial can be found above.
* I am not a mental health proffesional and even though I am in no authority to give unsolicited medical advice, I comment about non medical remedies that’s can help one self assess his current mental health state.