I stepped into 2020 wearing a confidence hat and my colorful expectation cape.
I said to myself: “This year, nothing can stop me. No matter what comes my way, I am set and ready. I will win!”
I laughed hard writing the above because if this year were a novel, I would title it “The Year of Twists”.
At different points this year, I felt broken and lost, kept struggling to move, stayed in denial that I wasn’t dealing with issues, and I didn’t accept the hands stretched out to help me earlier because I thought it would make me look weak and needy.
Faced with the pandemic, the extrovert within me was forced to go on lockdown; no outings and limited-to-no physical connections. Staying indoors for 3 months had me questioning my personality; I wasn’t interested in calls anymore, I got tired of video chats, and even more tired of virtual training.
I was drained.
I would stay in my room and not step out to see the sun for weeks. I felt lost in the shadows wondering where the ME I knew was and I missed myself. When the lockdown got lifted in Nigeria, I didn’t remember what it felt like to have a long conversation or physical meetings anymore and as a result, I stayed at home even more…that is, until one day a reason to step out came:
The End SARS movement.
The protest against police brutality and oppression caught up with me; it was my reminder to be a diligent citizen and back up my words with actions. I joined the 2-week protest in Abuja and every day we were faced with different oppressing dynamics. I remember saying to my manager during a conversation: “In 2 weeks, I have had to run for my life. I have been chased with tear gas, ran from the Army and another occasion from thugs chasing us with sticks, had guns pointed at me and every youth that stepped out to protest, and almost lost a family member part of the movement.”
There are so many things I didn’t see coming this year and along the line, I have questioned myself and my sanity because of the effect the year has had on my plans, relationships, productivity.
It’s possible you have too.
Like many, I embraced the mantra “we keep going regardless”, which can keep us in denial and focused on covering our challenges and pain. It is draining and eventually leads to mental drainage and stress, as well as emotional turmoil.
The signs were obvious for me in October (e.g. questioning my sanity, constant stress despite less work) that it was time to check-in on my mental health. I signed up for therapy (MentallyAwareNG), opened up more, gave in to my vulnerability, and trusted it was all going to be fine while I asked for help. I can boldly say that it was the best decision I made and I am in a better place.
I also understand now that asking for help does not take my confidence away.
It’s interesting that we easily avoid conversations about mental health or forget its importance yet we never forget the late nights spent trying to reassure ourselves of our worth, the continuous search for hope, or times we have had to repeatedly make and cancel plans.
It’s important that we pay attention to the signs that our mental health might be compromised and do what we can to protect it.
I’m doing my best to do so now.
In an amazing year filled with twists and turns, here are a few key tips I have learned that I hope you find useful:
- Permit yourself to feel.
- Refuse to let the pressure win.
- Learn to manage stress.
- Whatever happens, own your story.
- It’s okay to ask for help.
- Protect your mental health.
No matter what happens, please always remember that your life’s narrative is yours to control, your mental health matters, and it is okay to ask for the help you need.