Here I was in this white room, sitting face to face with a therapist, about to lay to bare the past I had buried for years.
I’ve struggled with admitting my battle with anxiety and depression, writing it off as a stressful day or week and burying myself in work. But the lockdown put a stop to all that, I no longer had deadlines to distract me and soon experienced a mental breakdown after six weeks at home.
Never did I imagine sitting in a therapist’s office, awaiting my first session, especially as I was one of those who assumed seeing a therapist meant one was crazy and believed counselling was the job of church leaders. But here I was in this white room, sitting face to face with a therapist, about to lay to bare the past I had buried for years.
Orphaned at age five following the murder of my father, I grew up in various foster homes in Uganda, a story I rarely shared, and certainly not with a stranger. Extremely nervous, I initially scanned the room for an escape route but my quest for freedom from my past got the best of me.
The therapist recommended reorganising my life. Her prescription for my pain was not what I expected, which included structuring a new daily routine, meaning I had to write down a routine each day like, say, a specific wake-up and bed time. I also had to write four things for which I was grateful before the end of every day. I must admit journaling made me notice the small things, like breakfast, my health, the feeling of rain on my skin, and the ability of my legs to transport my body from place to place. Even a smoothie made me thankful for the sense of taste and smell at a time when covid has robbed many of their ability to breathe and relish the gift of a delicious drink.
Also, I focussed on the things that mattered personally to me without looking for external validation that included sitting in silence, eating healthy, meditating, and last of all, drinking lots of water, which was a surprisingly difficult task despite downloading an app to track my daily consumption rate.
In 2020, I learnt how to live again. I love deeper, laugh at myself, dance in the rain, and live boldly and fiercely, embracing hobbies like tennis, gaming, film, and travelling within my neighbourhood and across Kampala city from Nalya town, where I’ve made fascinating discoveries. For one, I milked a cow for the first time in western Uganda on a farm in Ibanda district and got around to making cheese. In the interim, I have learnt to make peace with my past, knowing it couldn’t have been any different. These days, I find it’s easier on me to forgive and move on than hold on to hurts. I practice positive self-talk, take deep breaths in stressful moments, and am unabashedly comfortable seeking the help of a psychotherapist when life bogs me down.