Home Inspirational Stories Breaking the Silence: Confronting Mental Health Stigma and Healing Trauma in African Culture

Breaking the Silence: Confronting Mental Health Stigma and Healing Trauma in African Culture

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Growing up in an African culture, I cannot recall a single instance when people discussed mental health. To admit having mental health conditions was tantamount to declaring oneself “crazy”. Mental health stigma exists worldwide, but in African culture, it is different – such conversations are simply not held.

In my culture, there exists an unwritten rule that prohibits discussions on mental health. Many men resort to alcohol as a coping mechanism, while women often focus on raising children.

My personal struggle and the path to healing

I believed I was fine and tried to maintain that facade, but deep down, I was far from it. Like others who seek escape, I occasionally smoked and drank to numb the pain. However, there came a point when the darkness was impossible to ignore. For me, depression felt as if my soul was trapped in my body, leaving me alive but not truly living. I struggled to function in what others considered a “normal” world.

At 6:00am, I woke up feeling exhausted, hopeless, and disheartened. Somehow, everyone expects me to be at my best. Unsolicited advice pours in: “You should be more active, ambitious, enthusiastic, positive…” Yet, all I craved was a single day without suicidal thoughts plaguing my mind.

Why won’t this heavy feeling in my chest, anxiety, or panic attacks subside? These are just a few symptoms of depression. However, the most debilitating symptom is loneliness: the sense that nobody understands your struggle.

I cannot attribute my depression to a single factor – unemployment, single parenting, or witnessing domestic abuse as a child. All these elements played a role, but ultimately, I believe I just reached a breaking point.

Although youth is a time for exploration, many of us harbour significant fears about our futures. We strive to build careers and forge lasting relationships, often under immense pressure. Moreover, most young people lack the financial means to seek professional help for depression.

Surprisingly, my journey to recovery began with a book. I had never grasped how trauma operates or how to overcome it. I considered myself a victim, powerless to change my circumstances. A large part of me feared being eternally sad and miserable, which only intensified my depression.

How to get over a traumatic event

Most people encounter trauma as a result of loss, betrayal, or failure. The more intense your emotions are toward a specific event or person responsible for the trauma, the more attention you give to that experience. Consequently, you continually channel your energy from the present into the past, depleting the resources needed to create new opportunities. Traumatic experiences often revert us to primitive states, triggering our survival instincts.

Since energy attracts, your past will eventually dictate your future. For instance, if your spouse betrays you and you cannot let go of the negative emotions, you will continue to experience the same pattern of betrayal. In essence, you become trapped in an unconscious cycle, perpetuating the traumatic experience.

How can you move beyond this trauma?

As emotions are intrinsically linked to experiences, you must replace your past emotions with elevated ones to create new opportunities. You can achieve this by observing your thoughts and body. Meditation is an effective technique to help you process traumatic experiences and break free from dwelling on past emotions.

It is not the memory itself you need to overcome, but rather the emotion associated with it. Without the emotional attachment, the memory transforms into wisdom, allowing you to create a new future.

Consider this analogy: if you order the wrong dress online, do you spend hours lamenting the mistake, or do you place a new order? By choosing a new dress, you break the cycle and embrace the unknown.

In quantum physics, the quantum field offers infinite possibilities. You select your desired outcome based on the frequency you emit, which encompasses both your thoughts and emotions.

What possibilities are you choosing from the quantum field if you have experienced trauma and constantly relive it through your thoughts and emotions

Final thoughts

transforming a painful past experience into wisdom requires the release of emotional attachment. To effectively address depression and embark on a path to healing, it is essential to confront and overcome the emotions associated with past traumatic events.

By breaking the cycle of dwelling on negative emotions, you can open yourself up to new possibilities and experiences, allowing you to grow and flourish. Remember, the key to overcoming trauma and moving forward lies not in forgetting the memory, but in detaching from the emotions that hold you back. Embrace this wisdom, and you will be better equipped to tackle depression and create a more fulfilling, vibrant future.

Liz Wanja is a mental health blogger offering an African perspective, sharing personal struggles and solutions from her recovery journey.

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