Do you still love me?

A letter of fear, shame & a tortured heart

*****

Hey baby,

I’m sorry about last night. I love you too.  I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  I just panicked when I saw the ring.  I know you meant every word you said while you were down on one knee.  And I really truly feel those things too, I just freaked because I love you but I haven’t told you everything.

You see there’s this huge secret I’ve been keeping.  And as much as I want to be yours forever, it wouldn’t be fair to you if I said yes. You’ve loved me and all my baggage. I’ve always wanted to tell you. From the first day we kissed I wanted to tell you.  But I was scared that you wouldn’t want me.  I was scared that you would run.

Baby, the truth is I’m sick. And I have been for quite some time.  And it’s not curable; if you want me forever then you’re agreeing to deal with this forever.

It started when I was 12. One day at my school assembly, my legs buckled. I lost control of my body.  I lost control of my mind.  One moment I was standing at attention and singing the anthem, the next moment I’m rolling around in the dirt and scream and shaking and crying.  I lost consciousness that day but I never forgot it.

Moments later, I woke up in the sick bay and I had turned into a circus act. I opened my eyes and met many eyes staring at me. None of these eyes held worry, none of them held concern.  The nurses and the teachers and students, they all started at me with a mixture of fear and condemnation. That morning I had woken up a normal prepubescent happy healthy child, but by noon I was a freak.

The school authorities had me sent home. I tried to explain what happened to my parents.  But how could I put into words what I couldn’t understand?  For weeks after that day, I had tremors in my hands.  I had trouble breathing. Trouble sleeping. Trouble thinking.  I was afraid that I might have another episode and I was filled with anxiety trying to prevent it.  Trying to prevent something I didn’t understand the cause of.

My parents took to see doctor after doctor.  I took test upon test.  There was x-raying and blood taking .At one point I got hooked up this machine: the one they show in the movies where they stick wires in the head of the lunatic. I sat in my chair, with wires in my head, trying to remember what my mind was like before. Trying to trick the machine to believe I was well.

But yeah, that didn’t work.

They called it a seizure disorder. Epileptic seizure disorder.

My parents prayed and prayed. They called pastor after pastor. Hands layed on my head.  They shook me till my head nearly came off its socket. I kept having attack after attack.  Triggered by nothing at all.  Lasting sometimes as long as 30 minutes. Then after the attack was the after shock tremors and tossing in my sleep.

My life changed when I was 12, and really I haven’t recovered from that.

I never went back to that school again.

But still, I suffered this stigma.  No matter how many schools I went through, I’d have an episode and people would see me differently.  They’d whisper names like Ogbanje, witch, some said I was possessed. Once I had a crush on this guy and he embarrassed me in front of my class. He yelled “Don’t come near me, I don’t want that thing that you have ” and the class burst into fits of laughter.

In all honesty though, what scared me the most wasn’t what outsiders said. It was my parents. It was how they said “This thing is an attack from the devil and we will fight it” and they said I needed to have faith or I would never be healed. They refused to buy me medication for a very long time. The problem was me, I didn’t have enough faith. I didn’t pray hard enough. I didn’t mediate on healing scriptures well enough.  But I did. I prayed my heart out. Many times I’d be praying in church and I’d breakdown in tears. But somewhere along the line, I did accept it as my testimony. I would live with this thing and still succeed. And when I tell my story it would amaze the world.

 

As I grew older, something became less severe. It never went away though. Somewhere along the way, I was rediagnosed with an anxiety disorder.  They believed my condition had evolved somehow. It had become more predictable, more manageable. To be honest, I don’t believe Nigerian doctors. I still intend on having myself examined when I have money for specialist doctors.

So by my university years, I could feel an episode before it started and I would go and hide and wait till it passed. Few people ever saw me have an episode. But I carried my scars with me.

I told no one. And those who happened to see me, I gave explanations that would satisfy their curiosity but never the full story.

I found it hard to make any real connection with anyone.  My condition, it coloured all my friendships and all my relationships. So I stopped telling people and I’ve never wanted to tell anyone till I met you.  But I was afraid

So I told myself, I’d see if things got serious before I said anything. And even when things between us progressed as it did, I kept putting it off telling you.  Because I was afraid.

I AM afraid.

And I’m sorry it took me so long to tell you this. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.  I want to be yours forever.

I want to wake up to you everyday.

But I couldn’t say yes when I had this baggage I hadn’t shared.

I’m sorry baby. I’m so sorry.

Do you still want me?

Do you still love me?

*********

Dedicated to all those who suffer silently. All those whose scars are invisible. You are not alone. And you will find happiness

And when the time comes, you scars won’t be signs of weaknesses.

Your scars will be your strength

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