2022: When Everything Comes Crashing
Thursday, 7:33 p.m.
I am on the phone with Scholar; I am trying to send her voice notes, but my voice keeps breaking. It is something simple that I want to say; Thank you for affirming me. Thank you for seeing my work. Thank you for praising me publicly, even in my absence. Thank you for all you have been in my writing. In my life. In my everything.
They are simple words;I say them all the time to almost everyone. But somehow, this day, they seem stuck in my throat. My fingers are too heavy to type these words. So that I am backspacing and deleting everything. Then finally, to get it off my chest, I begin one voice note.
Then I feel the sadness start to gather again in my chest. I feel the tears start to linger in my eyes, so I use my left thumb to rub them off, and beg my heartbeat to be steady. It does not.
I pause mid the recording to heave, and say, “I hope my voice is not breaking…”
Then, as if on cue, the tears come tenfold. I cry like a baby. I cry as if my life depends on it. I remember Eddy saying I do not come across like a cryer, and I cry even more. I cry until my head starts spinning. Until my mucus starts dripping onto my pillow. I cry until I see that the voice note has been delivered, and Scholar is listening to it.
I pull myself together; I try the best I can, and start to say what I wanted to say. But it is awkward, I feel, this saying thank you while crying like a child. So I try to justify the breaking of my voice, and the crying.
I tell her that something bad has happened/is happening at my work place. That I am getting too anxious every time I think of work. That they might be insinuating that I am nothing; they are just extending me favours. I tell her that I want to believe this is false, because I know just how much devotion I give my work. I tell her that I so much want to believe that they are mistaken, these people at my work place, but a part of me is slightly convinced that I am on the wrong. That I have become a burden. That there is nothing I am doing, even when I seem to be doing too much. That these people’s voices have gotten into my head, and I have started to believe them.
I tell Scholar I am crying because her words, saying I am brilliant, and doing the most, came just at the time when I was almost accepting that I am nothing.
Thinking about it, that Thursday one week ago at 7.33 p.m., was the day I finally decided, fully, that I was leaving my job.
Later, when I finally get the courage to tell Herald that I was crying, he looks at me softly and asks, “Why? About your job? Kwani what happened yesterday at work?”
He listens as I narrate everything. As I say how and why I am battling this feeling of worthlessness. As I say I am too afraid of another bout of extreme anxiety, and staying at this job will drive me to those ends.
Herald has seen me at my worst; when anxiety had a full grip on my existence. He has seen me go for nights without sleep. He has seen me go for days without food. He has seen me rapidly lose weight because of anxiety. He has seen me falling, hard, because I was losing grip of the things that I hold close to my heart. He has seen me wait, in vain, for my heart to stop racing. He has held, and rubbed my hands when everything was falling apart and my body was shaking.
He knows something is up when I am not talking, or when I laugh as if it hurts to laugh.
So when I say I am leaving my job because I do not want to go back to darkness, Herald does not ask questions. He does not ask whether I have a backup plan. He does not pry further. He holds my hands, softly, and says, “All will be well.”
When I talk to Jamlick about this leaving, he is stunned. He does not quite understand how I shall survive in the wilderness that is Nairobi, without a job. He asks, and asks, and asks, whether I have another job, and when I insist that I have no other, he asks, “Aren’t you scared?"
I tell him I am not scared of leaving a job; the only thing that scares me is staying, and risking my health for it, and living in misery, forever, unable to erase those days, months, or years of trauma.
But Sharoe has been by my side for years, so when I mention to her that I am finally leaving my job, and I do not know why I am excited about it, she laughs out loud, saying, “You are excited because that leaving has been bugging you for some time now. You are excited because now it is off your table; you do not have to think about it anymore. That way, it brings you more peace.”
And maybe, this peace is the one thing that I have been chasing this year, which has managed to escape me every time.
This cannot be the very year that I walked out of a very solid relationship, and spent weeks in bed, on the verge of death, asking my heart to just stop racing. Asking the Universe to restore my sanity. Asking for miracles to erase the memories.
This cannot be the very year that I frequented hospitals for scans of my spine, and was almost confined to a wheelchair, permanently. Until I was, better off, confined to an orthopaedic chair that I couldn’t even afford, so my friends had to come together and make sure I bought that chair.
This cannot be the same year that in the midst of all my crippling anxiety, I welcomed a friend into my house for shelter, and almost ended up locked up in Langata Women Prison because they attempted to murder someone in my presence.
This cannot be the very year that I suffered from COVID, spending days and weeks in bed, drowned in pain, nausea, loneliness, and nearing death.
This cannot be the very year that I have spent my days in total darkness, too afraid of the light outside my house.
I have been overwhelmed throughout the year, but mostly ever since December began, shifting between long hours of sleep to keep away the thoughts, and too much exposure to TV to create an image of perfection in my head.
But things have continued to crumble. My heart is racing. I am procrastinating like never before. I am asking myself a million ‘what ifs?’ I am stuck in my head. I am sad. And angry. And jealous. And conflicted. I am lost. I am overwhelmed.
Herald asked me whether I know why I am feeling this way. And maybe, for the first time in my life, I have seen the doors of healing, and walked through them. Because when he asked, I told him it is because I feel like I am not in control of my life anymore. I am not doing the things that bring me fulfilment. Life is cruising past me, and blowing the winds and dust of the aftermath into my eyes, so that I am in total darkness.
I tell him that I figure out December is cruel for my emotions, because going home is not pleasant. Because it reminds me of grief. Because my mind is still stuck in everything that crippled me during the year.
He does not say he understands. He does not say it shall be well. He does not laugh it off. Instead, he treats me as softly as before, trying in all ways to bring laughter to my eyes.
My heart and soul has been through so much pain and agony this year, that it is easy to forget that this is the very year that I wrote a book in two months. That Nyque woke me up daily, at 6 a.m., and asked me what I needed to make the writing easier. And even when I told him that I could not write because the anxiety had snipped my tongue, he softly asked me to take my time, but to not lose track of what I really wanted to do with my writing.
Surely, this cannot be the very year that I held such a magnificent launch for my book, filled with faces I never thought I could ever meet.
This cannot be the very year that in the midst of the anxiety, I packed my bags and went for a solo vacation to Watamu, sat with myself, and talked to myself in the mirror for hours; nursing the child in me. Forgiving myself for everything that had happened. Believing that I am the best version of myself, and that there are still traces of beauty within all this brokenness.
Surely, this cannot be the very year that the media has asked me for the most interviews about my books, my writing, my life.
This cannot be the year that strangers are fangirling over me when they meet me for the first time, and I have often gone home asking myself, “What is this in me, or what is this I am doing, that I myself cannot see, yet other people are breaking their necks and legs over it?"
Truth is, I have lived through this year in incognito mode; things have happened too fast, and O have often been left wondering, or asking, “What was that?”
During the last conversation my ex and I had before we parted ways, he asked me the most important question: When did you really leave this relationship?
You know, because even he knew that I did not make that decision in a day. Or a week. Not even a month.
“October 2021,” I said, and I realised just how much pretence. And hurt. And self sabotage I lived with since October 2021 to June 2022.
Now, I look back at that conversation and see nothing but growth. That I could tell him exactly how I felt. That I could tell myself that I was not being too much; I deserved, rightly so, to be treated better.
Did I die? No. Did I breathe better? Yes.
And sometimes, life does not require you to have figured everything out. It does not require you to be at the right place at the right time. It might not require you to attain all milestones you set for yourself. Sometimes, when the storms are raging and the world is caving in, life only requires you to learn new ways of breathing better.
Somehow, I am still here. Still breathing. Still living. Still sitting with my friends and marvelling at how much they adore me. Still treating myself with love and care. Still relishing in this beautiful solitude. Still learning to allow people to treat me softly. Still allowing myself to let others do things for me, without feeling guilty. Still holding those I can, and letting myself be held. Still sitting with myself and acknowledging that I am a mess, but a work in progress.
Somehow, I am still writing. I am still reading; heck, Herald is buying me more books than I ever thought someone could ever buy for me. My arms are wide open. I am not on a wheelchair, even though I still have difficulties sleeping on my left side. I am laughing more with my father. My feet are still, and my heart is at peace.
Somehow, I am still alive, right now, when I thought all these storms that have raged this year would take me out.
I am still here; troubled, but happy. Uncertain about tomorrow, but with zero anxiety.
I am still here; contented. Happy. Fulfilled. Nurturing. Growing. Building resilience. Finding joy. Getting lost in my own maze.
I am still here; THRIVING.
May 2023 be kinder. May we find our voices again. May we hold ourselves together. May the things that threaten to break us, give us new lenses to face life. May life shower us with beautiful solitude. May this solitude never turn into loneliness. May our laughters reach our eyes. May we treat our skins softer, appreciating the battles they have carried us through. May happiness make us bubble like children. May we be where our feet stand.
In 2023, may the stars align in our favour.