Dear Diary

I saw a question on quora today. ‘What bothers you about Nigeria’. The answers were the usual; corruption, poor economy, terrorism, over population etc. I found myself engrossed in these answers, reading and shrinking in shame. Wondering when it would all get better. When we wouldn’t have to answer silly questions about the country.

The sight of a madman having breakfast of stale bread dunked in a puddle by the roadside reminded me of yet another problem in Nigeria. And yes, one of the things that bothers me most about Nigeria is the way mental issues are sidelined and tagged spiritual.

In secondary school I had a classmate who sometimes went delusional and acted zombie-like. We were in our penultimate year then. Little boys and girls who knew so little about ‘this things’. We were careful with her. Acted extremely nice and all that. But it didn’t stop her problem from skyrocketing.

Once in class, she sprang up from her seat and let out a loud scream. What followed next were bouts of laughter and murmur. The throaty kind that left one covered in goose pimples. By the time we could restrain her from hurting herself, she had flung herself hard on the floor, scratching her long legs.

The school authorities hurried her to a hospital. But by the time we went to visit her at the end of classes, we were told her mother had taken her away. Because the problem was a spiritual one. And staying at the hospital would only aggravate it.

The next time we saw our classmate, she was tied to a tree at the backyard of a white garment church, naked and in pains. She could barely recognize us. Her body was coated in reddish stripes that oozed blood, and her eyes were a burning flame that spoke volumes of her pain.We felt deeply for her. For this poor girl whose crime was to be mentally unstable.

Some nights I think about her. Wondering what became of her. I once had a relative in her shoes. Mentally unstable and delusional. The family thought it wise to send her to a prayer house for deliverance. And months later when she returned, she wasn’t fine but numb. Floating in an everyday motion of wake, eat, sleep, wake. Rarely talking to people for long.

The other day, I came across a post on Facebook. Kenyan lady saves her classmate from drug addiction cum madness. I had imagined it was me. Saving those people loitering our streets. Those that had remained mad because our churches became psychiatric hospitals.

I wish an awareness can be made about mental instability. So psychiatric hospitals wouldn’t be for fancy. It is really saddening how a sickness like cerebral malaria could be left to become something harsh.

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