Day 7 of the AfroBloggers WABC2021!
“Shoutout to all the men going through a lot, with no one to turn to because this world wrongly taught our males to mask their emotions, and that strong means silent.”
– Alex Myers
Life gets heavy.
“And what’s interesting is that many many people are going through very dark things but are walking the streets as if everything was okay. And it’s a lot worse for men. They have all these social expectations, and breaking down is hardly one of them.”
“So maybe Kojo is away so often, so nobody sees him break down?”
“Mental health is almost a taboo in these parts, and it’s even worse when it’s the mental health of men were talking about. Yet the vast majority of suicides end up being men! Men are not allowed to feel their feelings.”
I really had never thought of all that. I mean I knew that we all processed Ol’man’s sudden loss very differently, but I didn’t realise that being a man, Kojo would likely be seen as weird if he cried and cried or made any show of his grief. I didn’t know what I’d do if we woke up one day and Kojo had up and committed suicide!
I’d been very thoughtless!
Kuuku was a lot younger, so maybe it was easier for him to show his ‘soft side’ without having weird glares from people! Or maybe Kuuku was just a man who could show his emotions.
Kojo was only about ten months younger than me. (I think he was how my parents – two learned people, learnt that contrary to popular belief, breastfeeding didn’t in fact serve as a natural contraceptive method. It was a lesson well learnt, because Kuuku came a whole three years later.) So, in many senses of the word, he was considered the man of the home. And his stout structure made everyone think he was the first child. Clearly he must have been having it really hard, and all I was thinking about is how he kept disappearing!
“But you also need to keep in mind that your trauma is valid. Your feelings are valid. And they are valid even if people have it worse, even if it’s been a long time, even if people react differently to it, and even if you are the only person that knows about it.”
Therapy was proving to be such a release. It was taking its sweet time, but it was definitely helping, and I was very glad I agreed to start in the first place. Journaling was also getting lot easier, and gradually, I was getting back to my activities. Mawuli and I discussed my sessions often. And that also helped.
Mama was also back to doing life as normally as the circumstances allowed. She had to take over Ol’mans businesses, and that was quite interesting. Seeing her go back to wearing pencil heels and lovely suits brought back many memories of my childhood. I loved how Mama dressed! Ol’man had adored her!
I have treated you very unfairly in my mind. You’ve been away so often since Ol’man died, and I felt as if you were running away from us, from responsibility from everything that was going on. But I talked about you in therapy and the doctor had me realising so many things I had never even considered!
So this note is just to say, I see you… and I know that it’s hard for you too. And maybe it’s even harder dealing with it because you’re a man. I’m happy to talk if you want to. You’ve never been the talky type, but that’s okay. I can schedule some of my sessions for you if you’re interested. And I can help talk you through journaling, because it seems to be helping me somehow. I don’t know what else to write to you, other than I see you, and I know you are trying.
I love you, and I know it’s hard.
PS. Ol’man was always so proud of you. I don’t think that’s gonna stop! You follow so well in his footsteps. And one day, you will be an even grander lawyer than he or Mama ever were!
So many men go through very difficult times, and have learnt over time to either mask it, deny it, or walk away from it. Because not only does society expect them to be strong for themselves, they’re expected to be strong for their female counterparts too. It’s a narrative that is proving hard to change, but I hope that in your small corner, you can help make a change. Let them know that you see them, and you don’t only expect strength from them. And also that vulnerability is also a sign of strength.
– Elise Tirza