The Invisible Man

Yesterday a man died in my hometown. Cause of death: Suicide. Suicide rates have shot up in recent years and are highest among men. I want to believe the true cause of suicide death is lack of mental health services and social support because with the right support anyone can get through anything.

Accessing mental health practitioners should be as common place as consulting a GP to treat a headache or flu. Yet this is not possible in Zimbabwe and in many African countries. We should be concerned.

The deceased was a well known local, a family man, distinguished in his trade as a photographer. He was the first to take polaroid pictures in our town and was seen as a bit of an innovator for it. He was a serial entrepreneur, always hustling, always cheerful. He also happened to have been born with a physical impairment that necessitated use of a wheelchair. Many loved him, his disability was never inability as the saying goes.

Then last week one of his children drowned while playing with friends at a nearby stream. Soon after the funeral he discovered his wife had been cheating on him with a neighbor. The love birds eloped together leaving him heartbroken and grieving as a father and husband. So he drank poison and ended it all.

Now that’s a tough week for anyone! It’s a lot to take and would feel like the world is crushing down all around you. But it did not have to end in suicide.

Death and betrayal are perhaps two of the hardest feelings to deal with. Both leave you asking “Why?”. Why did this have to happen to me? You wonder what you did to deserve this tragedy. You wonder what you could have done differently to stop it. Anger follows not far behind and so many other feelings and thoughts we cannot even begin to imagine. It’s a really dark space to be in.

Here’s the thing, it is possible to walk through these phases of life. With the right support we can deal with the most painful experiences and not only survive but heal and maybe even emerge stronger. There are a wide range of mental health services available in the world now to help with this yet they remain inaccessible to many.

Counsellors, therapists, psychologists and a plethora of others mental health professionals are specifically trained to help us navigate the turbulent parts of our lives. They have the language to help us process the things we go through and the tools to help us heal.

The mental health professionals that are in practice tend to be expensive and based in the capital city. As a result many turn to social support to help manage stressful life events. They talk to a trusted friend or family or they talk to their pastor. Talking in any form helps release the worst of our emotions and the advices we share with each other can help with ideas on how to handle things. But not everyone has a community of people of who care, though, and often people are left feeling isolated and desperate trying to get through their storms alone.

When you are in your feelings it’s easy to think ending your life is the only option. But it should never come to that. I dream of an Africa where therapy is common place and carries zero stigma. I long for universal access to affordable, quality mental health care for all.

The silver lining in all of this is men are starting to normal acknowledging, sharing and managing stress. Albeit at the pub with half joking advices on how to deal with the issues they are struggling with but it’s a start. And while we wait for governments to take mental health seriously and invest in universal access, lets be there for one another. There is nothing that can happen in this life which you can’t get through. Absolutely nothing. We are strong enough to handle anything that can come our way. We get stronger as we break.

Creative muses: Upile Chisala

Yet another creative muse of mine is Upile Chisala, a poet and published author this time. Her pen spits beautiful words that speak to my soul of healing, power, love and other languages I can understand. I also love how visually creative she is. I won’t say much but just feast on these, please.

Creative muses: Nneka Julia

Nneka J – creative muse #2

One of my main creative muses is Nneka Julia. Though she is actually a photographer it’s her evolution that drew me in and continues to have me in awe.

I came across Nneka when I was struggling with my own authenticity, felt out of touch with my voice and was increasingly tempted to create what I thought would get the most likes and shares. Everybody likes a big following, right? Then there was Nneka with her 65,5k followers on Instagram yet she was raw, original, candid, deep, everything I am and wanted to bring to the TL.

Something about how deeply sitted and comfortable in her talent felt just right and I wanted to know how she got there. So I read up on her, scrolled all the way back to when she joined IG. I found something intriguing and learnt an important lesson about evolution.

Back when Nneka joined IG she was barely getting 10 likes on a post. Her feed was full of visuals completely different from now and nothing much was happening for her back then. Her presence didn’t carry the force of her personality and charisma- not in the way it does now.

Then she started to show face more, bought a real camera, started gaining skills and the photography definitely improved. Nneka has a love for travel, food, family and people watching just like me and she started to capture that with her camera. That’s when the following started to grow and 10 likes turned to 500 then a 1000 and shot into the tens of thousands.

But Nneka only really exploded when she brought her voice onto the platform. You see, the woman has an amazing gift with words and an angels voice! And somewhere along this creative journey she began writing and finding these wonderful captions, wordsmithing and telling the most beautiful stories about all her many passions. Her podcast, Passing Through, is a gem too and another milestone in the evolution of Nneka

The lesson I take from all of this is we must evolve if we are to tap into the true potential of our creative talents. Nnekas is at the top of her game as a story teller and shows how evolution can take through many stages into something different from what we started out. Nneka’s creative evolution shows we can master more than one medium too, if we like. The channel does not matter.

You can see your own evolution, or lack of, clear as day when you scroll through your feed. Go look through yours. Are you bringing your all as a creative? Are you growing?

Winter blogging challenge: Let’s go

It’s time again for the Afrobloggers Winter blogging challenge – a month long digital story telling festival. It’s easily the highlight of the year for bloggers on the continent and definitely takes the boring out of winter.

I hadn’t realised until now just how much the Afrobloggers platform has given me a sense of community and introduced me to so many creatives on the continent. It’s not so lonely out here anymore! And seeing as this week is themed Creatives Week, it’s for us fam. It’s all about us!

As a tribute to my fellow creatives my very first post for this challenge shares some tips for keeping the creative juices flowing this June.

1. Let the big magic find you: You see the universe is full of ideas looking for a home, for a kind soul to bring them to life. Ideas can be unruly and come to you at the weirdest times, they can arise from the most banal moments and they come in all sorts of forms. Allowing the magic to find you involves welcoming ideas when they come knocking, even the not so big ones. It means sometimes acting on them even if it’s not your best work. Because ideas are like visitors, if you are nice to them they come back and they give more. So play nice. Be a good host otherwise they will go off and find someone else to inhabit.

2. Schedule posts in advance: We all know it’s not everyday that the ink from our pens flows non-stop, not everyday photoshoots yield art for that vlog – get the drift? Prepare content in advance, write and proof or shoot and edit ahead of time, schedule your blog posts to publish when you need them to. That’s how you get to “post daily” and still live your life. Befriend Hootsuite or whatever autoscheduler you prefer for sharing to social media. Pick 1-2 days a week when you do content creation, let the beauty lose and then spend your days engaging with your followers not worrying about what to write/photograph/video/podcast.

3. Rinse and repeat: Find the kind of content that really gets people going, that draws people into your circle, the stuff you create that goes viral – do it again and again and again. I mean the point is to put good stuff out into the world, to create masterpieces! Check your statistics on the regular and do more of what’s resonating with people. Don’t be boring 😜

4. Have fun: The idea of all of this is to have fun creating. Do you best, do it well. The rest is up to the algorithm!

Here’s to a great winter challenge. Remember to like, comment and share each other’s content. Let’s go comrades!

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