I want to go back to the time when discomfort was just a grain of sand in my shoes and I only needed to kick the shoes off and be relieved. I miss the days when much of what I knew of discomfort was a small piece of beef stuck in between my premolars and simply lifting my dad’s hand, bringing it to my mouth, got him turning on his shiny silver torchlight and pointing the bright orange glow into my mouth to pull it out with a toothpick or a ‘clean’ broomstick.

I really don’t like how adulting gives new meanings to words. How it gives us a slice of reality that is too much for a mouthful, yet it contains so much cellulose for our mono-compartmental stomachs and we are expected to masticate every bit of it until old age when our gum divorces our teeth. I am learning that discomfort is an ingredient in nearly all the rations life would serve me. That I must take one dainty bite at a time. But is life anything like a nursing mother? Who waits till her son swallows the food in his mouth before she brings another heaped spoon near his mouth?

Since after my seventeenth, discomfort became different things to me. Like the air in my nostrils getting heavier than I can hold on more days than I can count with my fingers. Like hearing the echoes of my cracking heart every time he apologized and made excuses for verbally abusing me. Like having to look up “quick home remedies for heartburns” on the internet for the tenth time in one month.

The last time, before I sat across a table and read out a longlist of symptoms (I had made a list before leaving home to ensure I left out nothing) to a doctor in a small consultation room, I was angry. Angry that despite drinking an extract diced pawpaw soaked in water for days. Angry that in spite of enduring the smelly bitter extract─ because they said it worked like magic─ just after a fortnight and here I was, sitting across a doctor’s table. Watching him scribble as I read out a list of symptoms that left his forehead creased in confusion.

As usual, he’d proceed with the examination. Pulling down my lower eyelid, he’d look at my eyes and then ask me to stick out my tongue. Adjusting his glasses, he’d compress my stomach hard enough to make me whimper. The exact same thing he did the last time my mum brought me to him, before he wrote out the prescription, omeprazole, Gestid, an antibiotic. “Stop skipping your meals. You also need to cut down on fries and spicy foods” is his farewell hymn every single time.

I would nod, take my prescription and head to the pharmacy store but I knew that days would come when every spoonful of food will feel like sand grains in my mouth. When gloom will snatch my appetite from me and place it beyond my reach. When I would just want a bottle of coke instead of what mama puts on the table. When our last born, baby Esther, would be glad to have some extra food because I didn’t finish mine.

I take my doses strictly and prayerfully. I need the relieve fast. It’s difficult to concentrate on any other thing when there is a burning sensation right in the middle of your chest. My friend thinks I need to run a problem tree analysis for my unstable health. But I know it is this ever-present foggy sadness─ which blurs my vision with self-doubt and slows me down─ that is the root-cause of my lack of appetite and all the other health problems are simply its offspring.

Everyday life spits a thick mucus of questions in our faces and in search for answers, some of us have wandered into the territory of darkness and the most ill-fated ones have been abducted by demons which we give fancy names such as ‘muse’ and ‘creative genius’. The latter group which I feel like I am a part of, have our bodies as bridled horses, straddled by our minds and galloping away to philosophic islands and tourist attractions at the expense of our frail frames.

Maybe the appropriate medic to see is a psychiatrist, so he can help me put an end to this seemingly endless string of discomfort, by cutting open my soul and chipping off the cancerous anxiety and gloom growing in me. But I am aware that everyone who speaks of sessions with a therapist in this place, is an up and coming mad man. And everyone believes that his madness is in its larval stage and waiting for the right conditions to be in place for a complete metamorphosis to take place. So I try to hide my pain in the lines of another poem or in the laugh-lines which smiles form at the corners of my squinty little eyes.

The world needs to know that depression is not madness or a degree of weakness, rather it is the name given to the cancer of souls- a condition which does not come with hair loss or any variant of alopecia but must be treated as a terminal illness in the emergency ward of TLC¹.

  1. TLC: Tender Loving Care

First published by Kalahari Review