It began with a broken mirror, the mirror did not break on it’s on. A hammer did it, a hammer that happen to be in my hand.
I was trying to take steps to reconstruct my life after a man with his own mission ruined it. The first step I had decided on that day was be thwarted by my mother, who frequently makes plans and expects yours to cease. After a lifetime of microaggression I had finally had it. My mother’s solution was to have a strange man physically drag me to the car. As I felt my freedom had been taken I opted to be belligerent, if I was miserable everyone else must be too. The promises kept evolving, from a chat, to medication, to words in kale. A language I do not understand. I decide while we wait on this late doctor I could run an errand and be back this read as me trying to escape and thus three more people assault my body. Eventually, the doctor arrives. She is pleasant, I appreciate her hair I notice the large but fake ring on her hand, she tells me I was misdiagnosed and what was depression and anxiety was symptoms to bipolar mood disorder* The only thing shittier than dealing with mental illness is having a new one.
As she spoke to me and her phone and suggested I be admitted into a psychiatric ward in the words of Zora Neale Hurston ‘Something fell off the shelf inside me’
The psych ward was noisy, smelt like piss and the unbathed. The ‘doctor’ was not bothered to give me an orientation or even direct me to a bed, he felt a shove and a point was enough. I stood confused, face tear-stained my body aching from earlier assault. As I looked around characters began to form. The most prominent during my night stay.
The very first was the clearly the house mother, when she told the women and girls to be quiet they obeyed. Stern but far from cruel. Her skin was sublime, but her eyes had been exhausted by life. I chose to like her because she wore a sweater and lesso over the mandatory uniform, her act of defiance. And, I favour defiance. She pointed to an empty spot and said ‘you and I will sleep there’ it was a spot for one. As we lay there me, sobbing trying to get my mind to think of everything but this, house mother pat me on the back and said ‘you will be alright, someone is coming for us’. She used English only with me, as she explained the schedules and the missing lights. I assume an attempt to make me more comfortable. I admired how she treated my pain like here pain and mine were exactly alike, even if she had survived this place longer.
The accepted streaker
Unprovoked she began to strip, I assumed there was a familiarity among the women that I simply had not yet assimilated to. I was wrong. She then she began to recite her ABCs at the top of her lungs and when she got stuck she switched to nursery rhymes and when that failed she attempted the alphabet once more. The other women would beat her until she was dressed and subdued. Her quiet never lasted long. I had no clue why she was there or for how long, I was too tired to ask or care. I wondered if her actions were her last acts of freedom in a place that strips you of it, of any autonomy.
The girl who wanted a friend.
I barely saw her face, she wore an orange sweater over the mandatory uniform, which made her look like she was on her way to class. She stood on her bed to reach the high heavily barred window. She leaned in like someone was about to tell her a secret. She then laughed, the whispers eventually graduated to loud storytelling and I learned she was speaking to Shiro. I was later informed that her visits to Shiro were dutiful she only left for food and mediation. But, Shiro never responded.
The morning was difficult to tell, with the bright security lights outside and broken lights inside. But, everyone was up and about and the person who banged the grill door all night had stopped. I had not slept. I mostly cried and imagined the beach. When house mother gently touched my arm and let me know it was morning. I lay a moment and sat up to find a wide-eyed woman with a beanie and unnecessarily massive jacket on. She blurted ‘where are you from?… are you Kenyan?’ I nodded before I could say anything else she began to tell me where she was from and where she had been. She was from Botswana, Kenyan Coast and South Africa but she very much prefers Ghana. Before I could say anything, she said she was from Kampala and was only visiting before she heads to Europe. Before I could ask about when she travelled she burst into Christian hymns and house mother made her go back to her bed.
My Kindred Spirit
The morning continued a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from, I was standing still, doing my best to match the wall doing my best to catch up with my mind who was running fast and faster with anger
How could she do this to me, she didn’t check if it was safe, does she care? I begged to go home and pack a bag of clothes, is she even coming!? does she give a fuc…
‘Hi what’s your name?’ a young voice cut through my mental race… I turned to see this petite girl who I suddenly wanted to protect. I muttered my name, still dazed, I neglected to ask her name. The yellow in the lesso around her reminded me of the headscarf that was snatched from my head as I pushed toward the ward. She cut my staring and said ‘why are you here?’ I pause a moment and touched the wound on my knee caused by men my mother trusted more than me. I then realised I had said nothing so I told her the truth ‘I was forced, I said no but no one would listen.’ I asked her the same question she looked down at her mismatched shoes her eyes never leaving her feet ‘me too’. After our encounter we exchanged looks, nods, we even attempted smiles but our spirits were broken and our emotions too molested to allow ourselves meaningful conversation. I hope she is okay.
Mental Health Care in Kenya is abysmal at best, within one day I was misdiagnosed twice injected with medication and had tests done none of which I consented to. I was then forcefully confined these people deserve their humanity despite their class. They deserve care, love and understanding on their journey to recovery. Similar to a broken leg, pneumonia mental illness is an alignment and must be treated as such not as an embarrassing thing you lock away and hope goes away,
And on a petty feminist note, to all medical practitioners, don’t refer to women as ‘good girls’ or ‘that’s my girl’ last I checked I do not bark or play dead for a treat. I am also not your ‘dia’. My name is on your chart!
(*after a second consultation, we found that I am not bipolar. But was suffering from an acute stress disorder.)