I find myself struggling with this as I write this post. It has been a long time since I put pen to paper. Even longer since I read a good book. In my youth, I used to adore the skill of a Zakes Mda and Chinua Achebe. They would effortlessly weave tales of protagonists turned to villainy and then back to heroes again.
I wish I were a magician. Better yet, a spider that could spin a web and enthrall the reader in my tales. But alas, I happen to be none of the above. I will do the best that I can, with nothing but my wits and the inkling of talent I have left over from my writing days.
This will not be Okonko’s tale neither will it be a story of heroism or even villainous acts, but hopefully one that some will relate to. I would rarely talk about my life unless I felt that my story could possibly benefit the life of another.
Especially that one person in despair who feels as if the walls are constantly closing in and there is no escape. Not only this, but that there is no one out there who can hear their screams of distress, so what use is there in trying to reach out for help?
Social anxiety is the fear of judgment by others. I have lived with this fear for the majority of my life. This has not been easy. There have been times in the past where it would feel as if my chest was caving in. I would literally feel the air escape my lungs and I would go into a panic attack at the thought of simply going outside, much less a simple excursion to the local supermarket to buy goods.
As is human nature, one can only imagine the torture that isolation brings. I believe that human connection through interaction is a human need and to detach a person from the rest of society is to stifle their growth and deeply affect their social skills. There is strength in numbers and those isolated from the herd soon find themselves vulnerable.
This vulnerability manifests itself in many ways. Some choose to accept their station and embrace their eccentricities, essentially becoming bright lights and charting their own path as they refuse to conform to societal norms. Yet some choose to close out the world for fear of rejection. I chose to become the latter.
As Basotho we rarely talk about mental health conditions that people face on a day to day basis. The English language probably has a plethora of words to describe different mental conditions and states of mental ‘dis-ease,’ while the Sesotho language only has one to my knowledge, and I do stand to be corrected, ‘Bohlanya!’
This is to say, we need to be more empathetic to our fellow human beings. Seek to understand and shed light on issues that people are facing daily.
It was Chekh Ante Diop who once opened my eyes to what it truly means to be African. In one of his dissertations, he claimed that Africans believe strongly in a sense of a community, in oneness, in UBUNTU or BOTHO.
I would like for anyone who maybe reading this to heed this great African minds’ work and to further the cause of BOTHO. To open up our hearts to one another. In that way through empathy, we might get to the root of not only the mental anguishes that people like myself have faced, but to other broader problems as they pertain to Africa.
This was just an introduction. Leseli, young African, we shall conquer our fears and rise up!