For the longest time of my young life, I had always been an emotionally solid brother. I had never experienced any extreme emotional turmoil in my life except for the few tensions within the family especially when the matriarch was administering discipline.
I was the kind of dude who was fast at dusting up and getting back on his feet even when life threw me a curveball. I was a master at making lemonades out of bitter lemons that life threw at me. It didn’t matter whether it was a heartbreak, a job loss, or extreme usoto; I always bounced back better and stronger.
I had built within me solid pillars to overcome any emotional challenges. Even when I had the first heartbreak in form two, it hurt really bad but I was able to dust myself up. When I went through broke college days, where I had to sell polythene paper bags and fruits in Korogocho market to make ends meet, life didn’t seem so difficult even in the trenches.
I was always optimistic that things were temporary and the sun would shine again. I had great comfort in Him who held my life together and I never doubted that one-day things would be better.
Even when I started my first job at Stima Sacco and I had to go to work in Ngara from Kayole for three months with 50 shillings in my pocket as the money I had for fare, lunch, breakfast and evening transport, I never gave up. I would wake up early and be on the road by 5 am to take advantage of low fare rates. Then I would find my way to Jesus is Alive Ministries church where I would pray till the sun came up before I trekked to my new job.
When my brother passed on in a tragic road accident in 2010, everyone was shocked just how strong I was. Yes, I mourned him. Yes, I was broken and it did take a while for me to heal but I somehow found the strength to carry on. I was very hopeful in the midst of his death, something that would completely crush me now. I was an emotionally healthy human being.
When I got involved in a road accident in 2011, I was more remorseful about the lives I endangered than the fact that I was injured too and my car was written off while it was on a third party insurance policy. I remember weeping at the scene of the accident in Isinya when I saw the people who were in the other car and how lucky we all were.
I somehow always knew how to bounce back. Like a bouncing castle, all I needed was some air to be pumped in me and I would rise up so fast you would doubt that I was ever down. From a horrible business deal, from a bad break up, from a job loss… Odongo was eternally optimistic and hopeful because, within his heart and psyche, he had built strong beams to withstand the waves of life. That was my life. That was who I was known.
Then one day the clouds became darker, I found myself in an emotionally filthy dungeon with crawling insects. This place that I had never been before was a dump, dark, terrifying, lonely and hopeless. For a man who was courageous and a risk taker, I found myself afraid. I had become a pendulum bob of emotions, swinging from one extreme place to the other.
Before this dark season arrived, I drew my energy from people but soon I didn’t want to leave my house over the weekends, I just wanted to stay in bed and regain the energy, which had been sucked out of me. I hated my job with passion just the way hawkers hate city council askaris. This job that had opened massive doors for me became a source of misery because of the dark place I found myself in.
I was lethargic, always tired and complaining. I found myself uttering more negative words than positive ones. I was a living and breathing heap of negativity and I bet some of my colleagues started avoiding me especially when I started to complain. Everywhere I walked, I imagined people would hold their noses just because of the stench of negativity I emitted.
On 22nd May 2017, a day after I had just celebrated my 30th birthday, at a hotel in town, I found myself weeping uncontrollably before a brother when I shared a horrendous episode of emotional turmoil I had gone through. He didn’t know how to console me because I had been such a strong guy and he was the ‘master’ of tears. All he could do was to pass me serviettes and for the first time, this man who had known me for over a decade and had never seen me in that state concluded that I was indeed broken.
In all my life, I wasn’t the type of guy who would break down easily. I’m not saying this was healthy but that’s just how I was. I was not the kind of guy to cry over heartbreaks. But on this particular day, tears flowed freely, especially when I remembered just how difficult the first half of the year had been.
My esteem, which had been painstakingly built on a solid rock, vanished. For a man who walked with his chest in front and his chin up, becoming a shy puppy that could be shouted away was not the kind of demeanour I had imagined. For those who know me, you all know this son of Kano has been accused of overconfidence several times but never a low self-esteem.
The voice I had cultivated over time vanished and in front of people, I realized that I was afraid to speak lest what I said became a source of laughter.
Before I reached this point, I was an alpha male. I was the life of the party. I was full of energy until one employer nicknamed me Machachari. “If you want any marketing job done fast and excellently well in this organization, just trust Odongo,” he would say with his Kamba accent. I was as fast as lightning and I delivered results.
My financial life took a dip. I discarded my ATM card because there was never any money to withdraw. Whatever I earned was just enough to pay my rent and that was it. All other needs could as well sort themselves out. I had gotten myself into debt, which was choking my life out. Before the deplorable state I had found myself in, I had worked for a financial institution where excellent financial management skills had been instilled.
I could go on and on about the hellish emotional gas chamber I lived in from August 2013 to July 2018 but there would be not enough words to even capture the depth of pain I felt.
Never take your emotional health for granted. If it falls apart, every other area of your life will definitely collapse. Therefore I want to urge you to guard your emotional health with all you have. Be a selfish person who doesn’t just give without receiving. The moment you see a hint of emotional abuse in any manifestation, run for your life. Because when it starts, the cloud of darkness covers your head and your vision is completely blurred. You walk every day in your echo chamber of pain and soon it becomes a maze where you can’t find your way out. Like a hostage situation, you are held ransom by your erratic emotions.
Speak up about the abuse you are going through however difficult it may be. Find help if you can, possibly a professional help. Runaway and never look back from people who have abusive tendencies.
*If you are in a position like this, we can help you find help, just inbox this writer.
@DannishOdongo is a journalist who is passionate about governance