What i decide to do daily.Its definitely worth it
We met at a social gathering we both frequent. I remember she told her name defined her and I totally agree because, most times she is all smiles and radiance.The doctor in me however starts to catch some signs and I can’t help the questions that pop up in my mind. Snippets from what she shares once In a while confirm my thoughts; It’s not all sunshine for her either. Since its not in my place to ask i swallow my words and bite my tongue.Yet she is not afraid of her story. Not scared of her truth. There is no fear in her eyes as we sit cross legged across each other and talk. Her guy, seated close by was catching up on a movie or two, giving us all the time we needed. (He actually ended up watching a couple of those).Bless his soul.”So what do you want to know,” she asks me after we are done with our small talk. Am not sure how to phrase my questions so I decided on “Ammm tell me your story,”
“I was a sickly child. My mum would constantly console me that i would grow out of it. So my childhood was really like snow white waiting for her prince, Only my prince would have been the day i’d wake up not feeling unwell. Let’s just say my prince was a no show and when i was around 9 years, in my 5th year of primary school, my health took a dip for the worse. I was diagnosed with TB and had to start my anti TB meds. That’s a whooping 6 months of daily pills. ‘At least I know what ails me,’ I thought to myself, ‘ and finally,once am done with this meds, ill be fine.’
I actually did feel better after my 6 months of treatment and as I swallowed the last bunch of pills, i was confident i was in the clear.
That evening my mum handed me some tablets. I shrugged them off without a second thought,”Nilimaliza dawa asubuhi (I finished my drugs in the morning)” I reminded her. “Doctor’s orders” she replied simply but with finality and stuffed them in my tiny hand. I obediently took them. Not that i had a choice; because you see my mum is the typical Kenyan mum. Her word was final. Only I was oblivious to the fact that from that moment, daily medication had become part of my life.The constant scheduled drugs sometimes still feel drowning. Sometimes I roll with it and sometimes am okay with it.I would accompany my mum to a clinic, go through some motions of checks and pricks then get some meds. There was no room for questions.Yet truth always finds ways to burst through the seams. Or maybe we are the ones who go looking for truths we are not ready to handle.
So this day my curiosity got the better of me, I had accompanied my mum to the clinic. (Okay, we had gone for one of my checks.) After the pricks and the checks, they left me in the office for a bit and forgot to carry my file along. Or they just thought I wouldn’t think to look. Of course I would snoop! I quickly slid over to where my file was and frantically started flipping through the pages. Palms sweating, heart out of my chest and my ears to the door. Deep down I dint quite care if I was found. I had to know. So i searched for the words that would answer my why questions.I found my answers, no doubt and for a moment, i forgot i was breaking some rules. Truth has that effect you know. It numbs you to all this other cares that don’t really matter and focuses your attention to its reality. As I reread the words on that page, I wondered why I had been curious in the first place. Ignorance had been my friend.Now gone, all i had was truth. And it did not look pretty.
We were at that time learning about HIV/AIDS in our science class. Those classes were scary. The teachers dint try to sugar coat a thing. HIV was a death sentence and all who contracted the virus were doomed. That was the message.No consolation for those affected. It actually felt like they dint deserve it. I remember thinking to myself,”man i wouldn’t want to catch that…” Ha! Joke was on me. That was my predicament. I was doomed for sure.The worst bit was that i dint know who to confide in. My mind was in turmoil. I desperately needed someone to talk to. My sister and i were quite distant at the time. Never really bonding over much.She had her own world to figure out.Talking to her was not an option and as for my mum, this topic was clearly not up for discussion.
Thankfully I wasn’t caught snooping , and It was another 6 years before my mum discovered I knew the truth. That was after my form 4 exams. We had the talk then…. 6 years later… I do wish the talk had happened earlier though. Sometimes, all I needed was to talk to her; Not that my mum doesn’t love me. She does.A whole lot. I just feel she wasn’t there for me in the way I needed her to be. And ,no I don’t blame her. She does what she considers best for me.So i kept living like everything was normal. The next week was a school week.I went to school and hoped i’d deal. Tried to convince myself I would be fine. I could feel the fear building up as each day dawned. The science classes continued and each felt like a seal to my fate. I was dying for sure. I could feel the strength to keep going slowly sipping out of me.Is it a wonder then that i spilled my heart out to my desk mate when she asked what was wrong? It felt so good to talk to someone. She said it was going to be okay, and I remember clinging to those words so hard. They were a sign of hope i madly needed.My glimmer of hope was short lived. I got to school the next day and wondered why everyone was giving me side looks and clearing the path for me. Why are they dispersing when i join a group to play, and why is class weirdly silent today? Turns out my friend couldn’t keep the news to herself.I learnt how to listen selectively because talk ain’t going anywhere.And so began the chronicles of being exhibit “A” for a population that had no apathy for my condition.
I didn’t blame them for the stigma. We were all sailing in the same boat of ignorance anyway. Thank God we were done with the health science classes. But everyone’s perspective was already painted for them and I, would have bare that weight.My days from there drugged on (lol,no pun intended). I had some good days and bad days. Some days my mind was my worst enemy.Fueling self pity, anger and sadness so deep it numbed me. Some days, it was my friend, reassuring me it was going to be okay and that life is beautiful no matter the circumstance. Despite all this,my physical health was great! My mum ensured I took my drugs in time and that I was on a healthy diet.My mental health however was a mess. It was the total inverse of what i was expecting.Oh, Did I mention that some guy decided my condition was “evil” and tried to exorcize demons from me? Yeah… you laugh but it was not funny at the time. He came over to my school desk one morning as we were doing our morning studies. Stood there towering over me in his white shirt, blue shorts and tie in place. I looked up at him confused. Who’s this guy? Then he stretches his bible over me…. I hid out in the school compound for the rest of the day. I was so embarrassed. There were counselling sessions after that. They helped a bit…. good news is I finished my primary school and qualified for high school. Whoopi!! Bad news is it was not before I attempted suicide for the first time.Both times i attempted suicide, i took an overdose of my medications. One time i ended up feeling high for hours on end. The second time, I almost hurled my guts out. Point is both plans crushed and burned big time. I thank God.So except the fact that;Boys were off my list (who would date me anyway) Ps; I am currently dating and it’s going pretty well.I had to get my drugs daily from the nurse(who was not always on time). They don’t allow high school students to keep drugs in the dorms.My school mates somehow found out about my HIV status. It’s highschool anyway. It’s like people can read minds. At the time, i was already struggling with depression and low self esteem. So automatically, opinions were not top of my list.
I attempted suicide a second time at school.The one academic day my mum showed up for, I had performed my worst. (How is it that this almost always happens.) She called me names in front of everyone and told me I should go back to form two so I can improve.Except all this, I think my high school experience was okay. I learnt to rebuild some trust and I made some friends. I discovered and got to love art. The art room was my favourite place. I would hide out there when I needed to.I found art, or maybe art found me. Here’s one of my pieces. What do you see?I did pass my high school exams and qualified for university!I am currently doing my fourth year of studies in interior design. Campus has been quite an experience. Though I’ve had to differ school for an year as I developed a tuberculoma ( brain mass due to TB infection) and had to deal with mental illness(all in the past now), I’ve learnt to embrace my journey. So far, so good. Why? Because I have decided am not defined by my condition. Besides, health is not the absence of disease.
She left my place quite late. She and her guy had come to visit after one of her hospital checkups. I had promised to show of my cooking skills sometime and it had turned out to be a great time.”Next time lunch at my place.” She offers.”Absolutely.” I replied “I have to try one of your cakes.Cake is food right?”Now i know it is a choice, and i choose hope everyday. The journey is definitely easier when people accept my acceptance. The best part though, is that it doesn’t depend on it.