You Do Not Look Like Your Problems -  Solitude Broke My Heart

You Do Not Look Like Your Problems -  Solitude Broke My Heart

One day in early August 2022, my lower back snapped and as the pain rippled through my body, I found my way to a hospital next to my house, thinking I would be out in no time.

I have never been wrong like I was that day.

They did all blood tests they could. Nothing. Mulled over an X-ray, but their machine was broken. After hours of pain and nothingness, they sent me to a physiotherapist, booked me for a consultation with an orthopaedic surgeon, but asked me to get an MRI elsewhere, then come back with the results.

Sometimes when I tell this story, I hate going to the details, because I hate to re-traumatize myself, so I simply put it as, “I was almost permanently confined to a wheelchair”, and when they ask a million whys, I shrug it off with a lazy, “But I wasn’t; I am here now."

A day  after that initial hospital visit, I found myself at MP Shah’s waiting lounge, filling out a form, consenting to the MRI, saying I understand I could die during the process, but I am letting the doctors do it. No matter how hard I try, I have never forgotten that doctor’s voice asking, “Are you here alone? Do you want to call someone before we begin?”

I bawled in that changing room until they knocked, over and over again, saying it was okay if I had changed my mind. I desperately wished I had someone there with me, to hold my hand, squeeze it, and tell me, “It will be okay”.

But instead, I was there alone, and solitude was slowly descending upon me.

It was barely a month since I had left my years-long romantic relationship. My feet were still wobbly, the ground beneath my feet still sinking sand. I was still coming to terms with existing as myself, no longer an appendage to this person. I was battling intense anxiety, unable to sleep at night, no matter how long or hard I cried. My fingers were still hovering over their name on my phone, wanting to call them, and say I did not know how to live without them. 

It was barely two weeks since my best friend at that time and I had parted ways. It was a silent-ish breakup, but looking back, I should have done better. I should have told her what was wrong. Which boundaries I felt she was crossing. Why I felt we needed a little bit of space apart. I should have spoken to her, seeing that she dropped everything of hers when she had heard I was breaking up with my boyfriend. She had tried to keep me sane. To make me laugh. To take me to lunch dates. To show me that life was still beautiful despite the pain that was shattering my heart. 

But I didn’t. I gave her the silent treatment. I watched as she tried to reach me, but said nothing. I left her in the dark, to worry, and wonder about what wrong she had done. My voice was stuck somewhere between anger and fear. Hopelessness and  wishful thinking. Regret and pain. So I swallowed my voice until all that was left between us was cold and more regret.

That afternoon at the MRI, as I cried my heart out, I contemplated calling her (she would have dropped everything to come for me), but shame took over my body, so I stepped out of my clothes, wrapped myself in the hospital gown, and let me body slide into the MRI machine.

Two weeks after the MRI revealed that two of the discs of my lower back were compressed, compressed a nerve, and it might be permanent damage, one of my employers sent a message declaring everyone redundant; the company’s operations had been closed.

Heart & Soul - You Do Not Look Like Your Problems -  Solitude Broke My Heart

 When it Rains, it Pours

Two weeks after my diagnosis and losing my first job, I had depleted my health insurance (issued by my second job). My emergency fund was well close towards end. Everything was spiralling out of control so fast, I didn’t know how to mourn these parts of mine that I was losing.

There is no single day in September, October, November, and December 2022 that I did not cry. I can count the number of nights I slept for more than four hours. I lost so much weight my clothes started falling off. I could taste the sadness in my mouth. I could feel the weight of the emptiness in my eyes. I was drowning, fast, and trying, failing, at clutching at straws. 

I hated dawn, because it meant I needed to put on a straight face, pretend everything was okay, and wing it like I am used to. I was so bubbly on the outside, seeking, finding, laughing, while breaking on the inside. My house felt too big for me, haunted even, so I resorted to sleeping on one of my new friends’ couches during the day, not telling them what exactly was going on.

Sometimes when I tell this story, I hate going to the details, because I hate to re-traumatize myself, so I simply put it as, “It was a blur; I don’t remember much of it. I almost died. And when they ask a million whys, I shrug it off with a lazy, “But I didn’t die; I am here now.”

I was a still a slave to anxiety. I was still bowing in front of the restlessness god. I was still living on the edge of life, wishing I could disappear forever. I started, unknowingly, looking for comfort in other people’s arms. I was in and out of people’s homes, spending hours, days, without getting back to myself. I’d ldrop all my worries, my truths, whenever anyone called and asked to hang out. I felt alive with people, living outside myself.

Slowly by slowly, I became entirely codependent, spiralling into panic attacks whenever I was alone.

Then, as if on cue, I started having problems on my second job. The workload had doubled, new employees were streaming in, new rules began taking shape, and amidst all the noise, I started getting anxiety attacks while at work, spending hours in the bathroom trying to calm down. I tried my hand at having my JD changed, now that it had been made clear that a salary increment was off the table. I failed.

As December inched closer, I suddenly realized I was being shortchanged – someone, my junior, had been offered the exact JD I was asking for, their salary increased, and they were now ‘teaching’ me how to work ‘before I could ask for a salary raise.’

Again. Like clock work, my imposter syndrome syndrome kicked in.

Knowing what I know now, I wish someone had told me it was a matter of sexual favours. It was a give and take situation. I was being thrown under the bus because I couldn’t give in to the sexual.

Knowing what I know now, maybe I wouldn’t have sent voice notes to Scho that evening, my voice breaking, asking whether I was overthinking. Maybe I wouldn’t have repeatedly knocked my head against my bed. Maybe I wouldn’t have made the decision to leave that job, even though I knew all my savings had been taken up by my medication.

But I didn’t know what I know now, so on 31st December 2022, I sent my resignation email, buried my head in my pillow, and cried for everything I had lost in a few months. Surely, this was rock bottom; it couldn’t get any worse than this. Could it?

You Do Not Look Like Your Problems

If you ask anyone, they will tell you I have a million and one friends. How I smile and laugh easily, even with strangers. How my life looks like it is always in order. How I am surrounded by a community of the most grounded people. People know this, I used to think this.

Of course, I was jobless by new year 2023. It is not something I hid; I didn’t even try. I told everyone I knew, “I am jobless. I am looking for a job. Anything, really. Here is my CV and papers. I just need to survive."

I wish I could put to words how their laughter pierced my heart. How every time they said, “Wewe huezi kosa kazi wala pesa,” my heart shattered into more pieces. How as days went by, in my joblessness, 90% of people I called friends only said, “Your lifestyle hasn’t changed any bit. How will you convince us that you are serious? You do not look like these problems you say you have.”

But I was going through IT! I had moved from going to the supermarket and picking anything and everything I needed and wanted, without looking at the price tag, to now walking around with a calculator, looking for the cheapest, and crossing fingers that their prices don’t suddenly change while at the counter.

A hyper-independent since my days is campus, I was now learning to ask for help. To say, “I am stuck, could you send me x amount of money?” I was taking one meal a day, switched off both my fridge and freezer for months. I was taking cold showers, because I didn’t want to deplete my electricity tokens.

There is a time HH walked me into a supermarket, and asked me to pick whatever I wanted, and needed. Anything. Everything. Someone I had known for less than a year was basically giving me their bank card and asking me to use it as I pleased. Another time, another friend I had last seen months ago, spoken to very few times, paid my rent in full, because I had told them I was struggling, and might just pack my bags and leave for home. 

Yet, closer home, to the friends I thought were my ride or die, I was still getting the, “You are lying. Are you sure? Wewe huezi kosa pesa” responses whenever I tried to speak about my situation. I tried, I know I tried, to maintain these friendships I thought I had. I tried showing up, but conversations were almost always about their workplaces, and I was always lost, wanting to disappear forever.

With time, I backed out, slowly, recoiling into the solitude that is my house. I refused to show up whenever called upon, even though, at that time, I was only being called whenever my services were needed. I disappeared into the wormhole that is myself, and in the midst of these chaos, began to look for who I was, as a person. To look beyond surface-level understanding. To understand why I am the way I am. To understand why some things trigger me. Why I cry with the same intensity as when I laugh. My past traumas, and the messy in-between. 

Slowly, I slid further and further into solitude, ignoring the beeps of my phone, because I felt more at peace, more at home with myself, and before I knew it, I was deep in the trenches of solitude, I didn’t know how to live with people anymore.

Solitude Broke My Heart 

A couple of weeks ago, one of my friends, someone I have known for maybe just four months, was organizing something for me. Like a gift to my heart and soul. Mid-conversation and planning, they said, “It will be good if you went with a friend; the experience will be better.”

I racked my brain trying to find someone, anyone I am willing to share everything of myself with, and I couldn’t find any. I have lost all connections cum friendships. I am wallowing in a vast field of solitude that turned into loneliness long time ago. I have grown tired of always just being by myself, of not having someone to share my things with, yet, somehow, I am not ready to cultivate those relationships anymore.

I am walking on eggshells around myself, because I cannot help but feel that I am the problem. A major part of it. I expect too much from the people I call friends. I put them on a pedestal. I want them to give me their all, just the same way I give them my all. I want them to perform miracles and save me. And when they fail to do these things, I point all my fingers at them and drop them.

I want, and want, and want, without giving thought to the fact that they are human, and not everything comes easily to anyone. And in my anger, I let go off friendships as fast as possible, and sinking further and further into a lonely type of solitude. 

I want, and want, and want, and maybe that is why solitude is breaking my heart. That is why solitude broke my heart mid last year, and I willed myself to disappear. And even when Ben and Eddy called to ask whether I was okay, even after I cried and cried after those phone calls, I still wanted to just disappear, forever.

It might be my fault that I have all these broken friendships. It might be my fault that solitude is kicking my ass. It might be my fault that I am stuck in this maze of nothingness, where nothing makes sense, I am struggling to breathe, and hoping the darkness envelopes me forever.

It might be my fault that this is the first time I am being this honest with myself, because maybe, just maybe, I will disappear.



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Meet Eunniah Mbabazi
Eunniah Mbabazi is an Electrical and Electronic Engineer with a deep passion for books and literature. She has authored Breaking Down (a collection of short stories), If My Bones Could Speak (a poetry collection), The Unbirthed Souls (a collection of short stories), and My Heart Sings, Sometimes (a poetry collection). She has also co-authored Kas Kazi (a novel) and When a Stranger Called (an anthology of short stories).

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