It’s been three months now since Brenda died. I thought I was past it but no, I still cried myself to sleep. Every night, I wondered what it would have been if maybe I called or even tried to check up on her. I blamed myself because I kinda knew what she was going through. Her condition started earlier than mine. However, Brenda knew how to hide it. She was in a church group. You couldn’t tell that she was going through anything. She was always so poised, a soul to like. Not too noisy, not too quiet, she always knew what to say and what to do. However, whenever you ask her if she was ok, she will always say yes and she will never reveal her true status. “It’s not everyone’s business to know” she would say. Recently she had just lost her baby that she got out of wedlock. Ever since she got pregnant, her parents wanted nothing to do with her. They were church elders and that pregnancy was bringing shame to the family. “I thought you are a church going person, you lied to us that you were saved then you go ahead and get pregnant with no man in sight to take responsibility.” Her mother lamented.
Brenda left home and went to stay with a friend in Mathare North. Althrough her pregnancy we talked only once. She finally gave birth, to a bouncing baby boy. No one from our family knew.Once she was shunned away no one bothered to look for her. Not many even knew she was pregnant. Her mother made up a story that she had travelled overseas and she wasn’t coming back soon. By that time,I had started dealing with the work pressures. Working every weekday till Saturday and having only Sunday to rest. Its a monotonous cycle and hence you are unable to keep touch with everyone except with the ones you dim close.
Life went on. Until recently about five months ago, I bumped into Brenda. She looked pale but she was always so cheerful with a perfect mask from her troubles. “How’s the baby?” I asked. “He went to be with the Lord,” She replied. I didn’t know what to say after that, I was already under attack by my own demons, I didn’t know how to calm someone else’s. I gave my condolenses and promised to visit her soon.(once I can be able to face the world again.)
I blamed myself for so many things, Brenda’s death, my business taking the deep end and drowning, loss of friends, everything that went wrong in my life. My life felt shattered and I couldn’t put the pieces together. My mum may have saved me from death but my episodes continued. I would stare into space for a longtime and say nothing to anyone. I would wake up so tired everyday and not do anything the whole day. Some days I would eat and others I be overcome by nausea and wouldn’t bother eating at all. This took a toll on my mum. She had tried everything but I wasn’t getting any better. However, she kept on trying and she prayed and prayed somemore. After sometime, I started praying for myself as well. I needed to get better, I wanted to get better so I prayed with the little hope that something will change.
My mum forced me to go back with her to the countryside. She could no longer stay with me back at my place. She had things to do back in shagz. We set off and now my life in the bunduz began.
The first two days, everyone was awake by 6am. There was movement everywhere. My grandma’s place is not exactly a castle but a three roomed structure. So every stool, table, spoon, plate and even the cat that moved, you will be fully aware. I was up but no one bothered with me. I stared into the ceiling to begin my pity party but the commotion was too much,I could barely concentrate so I just woke up and went to the sitting room. I did nothing for the first two days just sat around and watched the house function. The third day, my grandma sent to me to get milk from the neighbour’s at 6.30am. You can’t say no to cucu. Picture this, “I can’t go for the milk, my body feels tired!” which day and age would you be able to get away with that statement that early in the morning. I carried my tired body to the neighbour’s, a stone throw away distance.
Once I got there, we got over the pleasantries and questions of what am I upto? Where do I stay now? Am I married? Why aren’t you married? All those questions I did not have answers to but I tried to as polite as possible hoping it would steer the nosy Neighbour away for a while. Shagz people are too nosy!
Walking back, I met with an influx of school-going children, wearing uniform of different shades of green but they all look like they were going to the same destination. The difference between the girls and boys was that the girls had green dresses with pink collars and the boys shorts and pink shirts but all had shaved their heads, clean, like shiny bald clean.
I had never realized there’s was even a school nearby to start with. It’s not like Nairobi, you would know the school is close if you see children walking in school uniform but this one wasn’t, not even close. I wanted to follow them and find out where they would be going to but I had milk to deliver.
My curiosity got the better part of me and I had to ask where the children in green uniform were going to. My mum gently replied ” around 7km down the road.” “These kids got up every morning to go to school 7km down the road”I exclaimed. That thought got me and that’s when my attitude began to change.
When I was a kid in primary school, I was allowed to style my plaited hair, I was picked by a school bus in which my school was probably the same distance as the kids in the green uniform but my mother wouldn’t allow me walking 500m to the stage alone. I had to be escorted.
The next day, at around lunch time, I saw the kids walking back home. Lively children they were. Some would be singing, others would be cracking jokes amongst themselves and others would be playing childish games but they all looked happy to be done with that part of the day. School was over by 1pm. In my school years, I had to stay until 4pm and dropped by the school bus right at the stage with the housekeeper waiting to escort me home. I stopped one of them and asked what she would want to become when she grows up. She excitedly said a pilot. I was amused. She didn’t even use a bus to go to school but that was the least of her worries. I want to believe she has never been on a plane, just seen one flying past them but she had a dream hence she was determined to go to school and achieve that.
My mind started racing. I started seeing how privileged I was both as a child and as a grown up. Every morning and afternoon watching the kids go and come from school made me realize that your dream doesn’t have to make sense right now but you have to hold on to it until it makes sense.I got motivated by small children whose conditions have not barred them from believing they are great human beings.
The next week, the girl I onced asked about her future dreams wasn’t with her usual lot. I asked her friends where she was. One of them informed me that it was that time of the month and she didn’t want to be seen with stained clothes in school. She added that boys would laugh at her the whole day. My mind went on overdrive, a feeling of anger mixed with worry curved on my face.Why would they laugh at her? It was not her fault? It was nature? I imagined how humiliating it was for a young girl who couldn’t control what was going on in her body get laughed at for a good three days. I wouldn’t have gone to school either. I felt sad and asked where she lived. They gave me directions and I made a vow to visit. That afternoon, I went into my bag and got my pack of pads and put them in a paper bag and set off to her home. Her name was Wanjira.
When I got there, her mum was at the farm and Wanjira was in the kitchen preparing food for the evening. She had a leso tired around her clothes. I called her and she recognized me and came running. “You are the girl from Nairobi, what is your name?” She eagerly asked. I assumed she knew I was from Nairobi from the way I was dressed. “I am Wanjiru. Where’s everyone?” “My mum is at the farm, my dad has gone to work, my brothers are in the house doing their homework,” she quickly answered.I gave her the sanitary towels and went ahead to show her how to put them on. She was only 11years but this was the first time she saw the sanitary towels. I told her she could go to school the next day and have a normal day without any embarrassment. She immediately rushed to tell her mum. Her mother came rushing back. She was familiar with what it was. She said thank you but she looked worried about how she was going to provide this for her daughter every month. I quickly told her that I will find a way.I didn’t stay long after that and started heading home.
Walking down the road, I realized that I haven’t felt sad for myself for more than 5days. My mind has been consumed with other thoughts. Thoughts of gratitude, thought of reaching out, thoughts of helping other people and I couldn’t help but smile. I high five myself and was happy that I was on the road to recovery. My mothers prayers and mine were finally coming to work.
We had never discussed with my mum what had transpired that day in my house but now I was ready to talk. I thanked her for saving me and I also told her about the story about Wanjira. She smiled. She could see that I was getting well. I smiled back too.
I started my journey to recovery. I moved back to Nairobi and started on my business. Brick by brick. I would send money to mum to buy Wanjira her pads and that was the highlight of every month. I had moments that I felt like my depression was creeping in again and I would call my sister and ask her to sleep over. At times, I would go back to shagz and see my mum, my shagz people, my dearest grandma and the school going children in green uniform and I remember I have a purpose and I am privileged.
The children taught me something that no matter what life or circumstances life throws at us, you have to keep showing up and eventually the circumstances will change and your dreams will align themselves with your thoughts.
Depression can steal everything you know, your friends, your dreams, your positivity, your sense to even help or sympathize. You may feel like giving up but when you get out and take a walk to mama smokie or mama mboga, a hawker on the streets ask them what keeps them going, they will tell you their story and you will realize that everyone has a story. Change your story and fight that depression thats creeping into your life and pray because God hears, he is waiting for you to listen to Him because He loves you.