Happy Birthday, Cumin!

Today was a lovely day. Fantastic birthday 🙂

I’ve made a big song and dance on Twitter about it; complete with wishlist ten days ago. It’s not like me to put myself out there (self-deprecating humour and self-effacing behaviour are pretty standard) but it didn’t kill me to say, “Hey, I’d like this.”

Today, I had a wonderful time and this in the context of a great day with one of my best friends yesterday and another lined up for tomorrow. One’s birthday is one of the few times a year when they are allowed to have the spotlight on them. It was a nice to be treated specially but not to be the centre of attention.

Here’s to a lovely year ahead; may it be memorable.

Mathari Hospital (Part 1)

As some of you may know, things have come to seed in my head in the recent past. As some other ones may know, I am not currently swimming in a pool of cash. So when I needed some mental health help, I went to the nation’s shorthand for such services. Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital.

Two things struck me when I got there. The vast grounds (it feels like a maze) and the high staff/student to patient ratio. It felt like everywhere one turned there was a doctor, nurse, security guard, student nurse or doctor. Usually in packs. Two buses full of student doctors arrived while I was there and if there is a group word for doctors, I’d say the most apt was swarm.

Yet, somehow, this didn’t speed up the service.

Like a lot of government health facilities, one has to pay for services before they are given (read: what cost-sharing looks like). Unlike a place like Kenyatta, though, there is only one payment point. That means queuing before every single procedure and it makes fairly fast processes take ages.

Because I was a first-timer (and had not been referred by another facility), I went through the outpatient clinic to get face time with a psychiatrist. This meant queuing at 0800 to pay the KSh 50 consultation fee and then waiting my turn at the outpatient clinic (which doubles as the child and adolescent psych clinic).

There was only one GP at hand when I got back and a nurse issuing registration cards for newbies. Ergo, no one to check patients’ blood pressure, temperature, or weight. The GP was quite friendly and did a good job of talking me through the tests she wanted to run but she’d made it clear in conversation with the nurse that she wanted to leave soon. You could feel it in the air; this urgency around being elsewhere.

Lab tests ordered meant a trip back to the cashier, a queue, and payment (maximum KSh 150 for tests) and a trip to the main lab which is at the farthest reaches of the hospital (a place ominously called ‘Maximum’).

What happened next will be revealed in Part 2.

Note: This post is part of #CuminWrites366, my year-long attempt to write a post a day. Find the rest over at readability.com/cuminwrites/

Questions, comments, suggestions or thoughts on mental health? Send them to cuminwrites@gmail.com 🙂

Shukran

I’m really horrible at asking for help. This is not a good thing less than ideal.

Every so often, though, I ask. Meekly, pretty certain *nobody* will say yes, or maybe, or even no. Assured, for whatever reason, that the answer will be no. Yet, over and over again, the generosity of people astounds me.

This is for the people who messaged me after my SOS message on Twitter, the ones who continue to reach out, the ones who say, “Hey, are you OK?” even in the knowledge that the answer may be no.

Thank you all for the reminder to stay open, to stay willing to speak, and here’s yours that I’m an email away. And if I can, I shall, or I’ll try beam out a message.

Ann Daramola never fails to point out that we are surrounded by love. I have felt it keenly; I am overwhelmed and terribly grateful.

Related (because she is such a source of joy and light & this is something to highlight): Aisha Ali wrote about consent in Brainstorm today & will be moderating a session on consent and gender violence against women on Saturday. Go, if you can, the panel is amazing & the audience is bound to be interesting.

Note: This post is part of #CuminWrites366, my year-long attempt to write a post a day. Find the rest over at readability.com/cuminwrites/

Questions, comments, suggestions or looking for SOS-related contacts? Send them to cuminwrites@gmail.com 🙂

Let’s talk about $3x

Wanjeri Gakuru wrote about having honest conversations about sex over at Brainstorm today. She manages to capture the sex talk landscape in Kenya, or lack thereof.

I’m hopeful that this sparks a conversation about the things we do in the dark of night, in public, in random places.

Who knows? Wanjeri could start a podcast like Death, Sex & Money. Thank you for this, Wanjeri!

Note: This post is part of #CuminWrites366, my year-long attempt to write a post a day. Find the rest over at readability.com/cuminwrites/

Questions, comments, suggestions or sex tips? Send them to cuminwrites@gmail.com 🙂