LOUD WHISPERS: Red Tomatoes

 Sharon did not know how long she had been asleep for.  She listened to the voices of the nurses in her room and the sounds of the medicine cart they were wheeling around. One of the nurses asked her if she would like to eat anything. She shook her head, but the nurse reminded her that she had to take her next round of drugs within the hour. Her cousin Tiwa who was there urged her to have some bread and tea. Her head started to throb and she felt a headache coming on, but she was happy that she could actually feel something. It was a good sign.

She had been a happy child, her parents were model citizens and she did not lack anything. She had an older brother and a younger sister. Sharon never wanted to share toys with her sister so they fought all the time. When she was around seven years old she got into a fight in school. Her parents were invited to a meeting to discuss the matter. Sharon’s teachers were very concerned that she had beaten her classmate so much that she needed stitches on her face. Her parents glanced at each other. This was not news to them. Sharon could be as sweet as candy one minute and fly into a violent rage the next.

Her parents were always concerned about her, but people told them that she was just spoilt and used to getting her way. One of her Aunts told her mother, ‘Don’t let that girl push you around. She needs to learn what it is like to be a woman. If she does not watch her ways her husband will beat her daily, no man will put up with that behaviour’. Her paternal grandmother took her to a one week ‘deliverance’ camp somewhere in Kwara State when she was twelve years old. She dutifully followed her mother and both her paternal and maternal grandmothers to ‘consult’ with strange people. On one of such visits her head was shaved and she was given incisions with a razor, on another occasion she was bathed at a river with a local sponge known as ‘kankan’ which hurt like hell when she was scrubbed with it. Her mother fasted and prayed ceaselessly, convinced that her daughter was the victim of a spiritual attack. Her father did not always agree with her mother’s actions but he kept his peace to avoid quarrels. As Sharon grew into a teenager and then a young woman, the pattern was the same. She did well academically, she became a Lawyer, but she hardly had any friends. Sometimes she was happy and warm with everyone around her. Within an hour she was in a shouting match with someone. She could go for days without talking to anyone, so she got used to her own company. She loved to write and to draw and for days, she would stay cooped up in her room. There were times when she did not feel like writing or drawing anything so she would just lie there staring at the ceiling. She saw a number of Doctors who advised therapy and prescribed medication but avoided telling her anything specific. Some of the medication made her feel too lethargic for her liking so she stopped taking it. When one Doctor told her very cautiously that she seemed to be suffering from depression, when she got home her mother told her that Nigerians do not have time to be depressed.

After living at home for a year after Law School, she decided to move out and rent a place with one of her cousins Tiwa.  Of all the people around her, it was Tiwa who ‘got her’. When people started going on about Sharon and her moods, Tiwa would tell them to leave her alone. She would sit with Sharon for hours, and if Sharon was writing or drawing, Tiwa would read.  In their silence, they forged a bond that would prove to be a lifeline Sharon could count on in the years to come. Sharon dated every now and then, but she was always afraid that she would never be found worthy enough of any lasting relationship, so she would find an excuse to end things before they got too serious. Tiwa would try to convince her to learn to let go and trust someone but Sharon was too scared.

Sharon worked for the Judicial Service Commission of Menge State. One day she overheard two colleagues at work talking about her. One of them said, ‘Se Sharon, omo were yen. Eni ti o ye ko wa ni Aro’, ‘You mean Sharon, that mad girl who is supposed to be in an asylum?’ Sharon walked into her office and picked up her bag and went home.  She said nothing to her colleagues because she felt nothing. She remembered going into the kitchen and slicing tomatoes for an omelette. She wondered why the tomatoes were so red. So red. A lot of red.  Tiwa found her on the kitchen floor.

That was eight days ago. Sharon took the painkillers from the nurse. Over the years the counselling, therapy, dietary changes, exercise and avoiding triggers had helped, but no one had spelt it out. Was it fear of stigma, ignorance, or denial ? Perhaps it was a combination of all of those things. Now, at the age of twenty-six, after a suicide attempt, Sharon Marinton, a bright Lawyer with a creative spirit was formally diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. Sharon started to cry. Tiwa got up and held her hands gently, careful not to touch her bandaged wrists. ‘Don’t cry. It is not the end of the world. You will be okay, at least now we know for sure’. Sharon smiled. ‘I am not crying because I am sad. My enemy now has a name. I am not afraid anymore. Now I can love the most important person in the world ’. ‘Who is that? I didn’t know you were seeing someone’ Tiwa said.  Sharon went on, ‘I used to hate myself. I was repulsed by my own behaviour, I used to blame myself for my moods, my inability to have friends. Now I know it is not my fault. I have bipolar disorder.  I will have good days and bad ones, but I will be okay. I will have a life. Now I can love myself. Then I can love the world’.

 

We have all met a Sharon. We probably have a Sharon as a friend or relative. We might even recognise her in ourselves. It could be a Joseph. Their gender, age, ethnicity, race, or social status does not matter. They need more than prayers and ‘deliverance’. A strong support system, empathy, compassion and sustained interventions by qualified medical personnel are very important. Let us think about this as we mark World Mental Health Day on October 10th. Have a great week.

 

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

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23 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: Red Tomatoes

  1. Femi Diipo October 9, 2017 at 7:10 am

    Yeah we’ve met Sharon and probably been one of those people that castigated them, calling them names and tagging them possessed. It is time to stop making all human problems spiritual and doing deliverance for everything. We just need to show some love, understanding and care for those who ain’t like us. Let’s make this world a better place and stop being part of another person’s suicide attempt story

    Reply
  2. Dom Dom October 9, 2017 at 7:15 am

    It’s hard to imagine the lives of people like Sharon, to imagine what they are going through and the ridiculous things people say about them everyday. We just all have to be careful and learn to be more understanding with others. It’s not always just black and white with everyone, perhaps with no one

    Reply
  3. Stephen Onu October 9, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    I used to think they were attention seekers. But, now I know better. Thank you for this enlightenment.

    Reply
  4. Shola Ademide October 9, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    We just jump into conclusions easily. Most of us don’t know the people we think we know. We just see them, house them and laugh with them. We need to genuinely study people before we jump into conclusions. God bless you ma.

    Reply
  5. Sharon Miller October 9, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    It’s funny that she bears my name. Sincerely, I have a niece who is like this. She has no friends, she doesn’t like to speak with people and before she says anything it takes a while. I am happy I read this, now, I know how to care for her.

    God bless you ma. You have saved a lot of homes with this article.

    Reply
  6. Maureen Adams October 9, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    This is deep. The part that struck me most is the spiritual guidance stuff. I have noticed that we replace reasoning for gullible practice disguised under religiosity. Everything, is not natural and that’s how people die and waste away.

    Reply
  7. Tehilah Johnson October 10, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Mental health is something that we overlook, scorn and laugh at in this part of the world. It’s something we ignore and turn a blind eye at. I am happy that such a deep dissection is done here so we can learn and share what we have learnt.

    I have learnt so much here. God bless you ma.

    Reply
  8. Victoria E October 10, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    Thank you ma. It’s good to read this on a day like this. May God help us to be alert and genuinely love our fellow humans. I think we don’t love enough. When we love, we will care and we will work. Thank you ma.

    Reply
  9. Laura Dameson October 10, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    Every bit of this made sense. I am happy I came here. Every bit of what I have read went deep to my soul.

    Reply
  10. Olajumoke James October 10, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    God bless you ma. A friend of mine suffered from this a long time ago and we didn’t know what it was. We were just doing the whole ‘spiritual thing’. In fact, she slept in the church for months just to cast out this devil and unfortunately, we lost her.

    she committed suicide. Reading this right now just pulled me back to memory lane, telling what we should have done and what we shouldn’t have done. Thank you so much ma.

    Reply
  11. kolade Wilson October 11, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    I have seen it many times and have said it quite a number of times too, we should allow ourselves to be taught. We should allow ourselves to diligently grow. God help us.

    Reply
  12. Vivian. October 11, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    This article is Light. That’s all I can say. This is light!

    Reply
  13. Shawn Daniels October 11, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    May we never forget what we have been taught when such times come hitting at us. Thank you for this article ma. God bless you.

    Reply
  14. Olakunle Olajide October 11, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Sincerely, we base so much on spiritual attack, whereas it could be just a mental issue that could have been resolved with love and care. A lot of mental patients that are exceptionally gifted rotten away because of some beliefs which causes more harm than good. Thank you for this great write up ma’am.

    Reply
  15. Samuel October 11, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    Truly we have them around, and we can only hope to show them more love and be there for them. Thank you for enlightening us ma’am

    Reply
  16. Princess October 11, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    They are everywhere, in our offices, homes and religious gathering. We need to show them love and affection. Some people say it to their face that they are mad which is not supposed to be.

    Reply
  17. Ebonychyqui2 October 11, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Am glad Sharon had someone to talk to during her time, if not her case would have been worse, living with mental illness is not easy at all and those that have them as relatives are really trying. As world’s mental health day is being celebrated my prayer for everyone suffering from one mental illness or the other is that, God grant them divine healing in Jesus name. Amen!

    Reply
  18. Akpes October 11, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    Truth be told no one can cure any mental ailment but only God can. It’s time to start praying for those that are mentally disabled.

    Reply
  19. DSEED October 12, 2017 at 10:25 am

    So deep. Am able to pick some things that can actually work for me. Am not like Sharon but I think about some traces. Thank you ma for sharing these.

    Reply
  20. Modupeoluwa October 12, 2017 at 10:28 am

    Knowing actually what the problem is will help a lot. Sharon was later happy with herself because of the discovery.

    Reply
  21. Eric Onuoha October 12, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    A beautiful story. It is always good to find out the root cause of a problem to know how to handle it. Not all problems are as a result of a spiritual attack

    Reply
  22. Perpetua Dandeson October 12, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    This was an eye opener. Now we know how to respond to people who suffer!bipolar disorder.

    Reply
  23. Amarachi Isiguzo October 12, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    Hmm. Some of us have had near experiences ourselves. We need to be sensitive to the actions and inactions of people, rather than judge.
    I love this piece.

    Reply

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