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Physical Pain Vs Mental Health Pain

I know pain inside and out. For the past 28 years, the number of days I’ve gone without any kind of pain are countable. While many of my peers were responding to the various calls of puberty, I was busy tracking down the new triggers that made my system go haywire. The years between the age of 12-16 were a 4-year package that kept me on tenterhooks. Various triggers which sometimes would not make sense from a lens of a “normal person” kept unveiling. I was wild yet frail.

At about 20, I saw Asthma holding my hand gently, leading me to death. In my head, all I could think was that “oh so this is how the other asthmatics died too?” All this happened at a time when I thought I had started outgrowing the ailment. It had been over a year since I last had an attack. Hell broke loose when I inhaled a lot of dust. On that day I travelled to the village. It all started at about 11 pm. I had no single drug – for such emergencies, on me that day (I walk with my medication every day) because I knew I had healed.

Nearby drug shops had closed by then. I cannot tell how long it took us to get to the main hospital (it could have been an hour) but I know for sure that by the time we had reached, I was tired of trying to get oxygen to my lungs. I was done fighting. I wanted to rest. ¬†It was the first time I’d ever seen my mother panic. She had always been the one to convince me that I’d be well in no time. One would assume that being a medic, she’d seen it all but that didn’t seem to be the case that night. Or maybe she had seen it all but the patient before her was no stranger.

There’s that particular drug that calms the storm (won’t say its name). What it does is that it relaxes the bronchial smooth muscle and opens air passages in the lungs. It is supposed to be administered slowly because a rapid administration can cause cardiac arrest. There I was with everyone trying to be as fast as they could to get me back to normal. I remember calling mom to let her know that the drug was being administered rapidly. She swore she didn’t hear me calling yet she was close to me. I remember calling her as loud as I could but she said, the following morning when I told her, that she didn’t hear and I believe her because on all counts I called her, she wasn’t responsive. No one else was. To date, it beats my mind that I called out loud and the four people who were by my side didn’t hear nothing.

Three years later or thereabouts, I suffered a major mental health crisis. It made sense why people die by suicide. I had no idea what mental health is. I don’t think I’d ever heard anything about it but it hurt so bad that only offing myself, looked like the easiest remedy. I took right to suppression, as my coping mechanism, for three years thereafter. I was zombified for the better part of those years. My core values. The things that defined me. I walked away from them, they didn’t make sense anymore. It hurt to walk away from them but it didn’t make sense for me to hold onto them either.

In that third year, I was exhausted. I was tired of the anxiety that I walked around with and I wanted just one reason to make sense of life but I could not really come up with one. The suicidal thoughts I’d successfully suppressed (or so I thought), laid bare. I cried for help yet I made sure that my cry for help wasn’t obvious. They were subliminal calls in form of Facebook posts. I don’t remember for how long but an acquaintance reached out. I explained to her what it was I was feeling and she mentioned that I had to see a professional. I didn’t know that I had been ill but she made me aware of my condition. It wasn’t a diagnosis but she explained to me that I needed help. I embarked on self-help while I planned to figure out where exactly I could find professional help. I started looking out for myself and it was weird. I knew how to look out for others but kindness to self was so much of a rarity that I felt like I was a foreigner in my own body.

See, the thing with mental health, many of us are unaware and an illness that gnaws at your system without awareness of it, does have adverse effects. I cannot compare the three years of suffering mentally, to the 28 years of having asthma.

Over the weekend I was talking to a friend. I said to him that it hurts to have my lungs acting up on me but I have moments when I do things well knowing that I’d end up with an asthatic attack, but what I will never do is to walk myself into something that I very well know would compromise my mental health because to me, that hurts more than any of the physical ailments I have.

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Written by Nabuguzi. Kiwanuka (0)

Lawyer. Founder, Director, CEO at Equate Foundation. Podcaster - Hash Time with Nabuguzi Kiwanuka. Drawer. Dance lover. Music lover. Risk-taker. Daily learner.

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