Photographer: Ewa Habdas

I loved watching her smile whenever she faced the mirror. Whether she had chocolate stains or spinach leaves from nkontomire stew stuck between her teeth, she found happiness in that moment of seeing herself. I loved the way she flung her hair like she were in a magazine, swaying her locks like the blonde and brunette models she tried hard to emulate, and laughed when she noticed her hair didn’t swing in quite the same way or that some parts of her hair remained still and apathetic, refusing to be flung. Maybe it was from this demonstration of cognisance that she vowed to never swoon for any man. Maybe it was between the stained smiles and awkward head bops that she recognised a light she saw in herself before any other eye. Maybe it was in the way she laughed that she knew she was not only into herself, but she really loved who she was.

When I reflect on my six-year old self I see this girl who laughed and loved, treating the two as synonymous. Who understood little of the world’s illnesses and disguises, and cradled small pockets of pain and confusion in the corners of her imagination. She hadn’t come to understand the realities she faced, but internalised them; one blink at a time. Locked within the joy she basked in was a creeping sorrow. Many years passed before I confronted this truth, and its consequences rippled my night skies.

When I reflect on my six-year old self I see this girl who laughed and loved, treating the two as synonymous.

One of life’s beauties, if I’m allowed to borrow my dad’s phrase, is each day is a new one. Each breath you take reminds you of a hope for tomorrow and a release from yesterday. Each step reminds you to keep moving forward, and that even if you do take a couple of steps back, the possibility to move forward is still ahead of you. Yet, there are moments where moving forward require you to look back and to investigate what is going on.

When reading on depression or anxiety, we try to find ways to connect (if we are treading through such difficult pastures) in the hope that these articles and essays can articulate this complicated lived experience in an uncomplicated language. So you search hungrily, desperately hoping to find some resemblance to your own and in some cases you find them, but in others you don’t. In this desperate headspace I began to ask myself, what am I looking for? Why am I scared to find the answer within myself? And I understood, there were certain questions I had to ask that my tongue could not find the courage to shape.

And I understood, there were certain questions I had to ask that my tongue could not find the courage to shape.

I grew comfortable in the not asking, comfortable in my lack of desire to do anything but to stay in it, completely devoted to its afflictions. There is a comfort in being sad, in feeling inadequate, in perpetuating lies that say you are not enough. It’s easier to believe this than it is to believe the opposite: that you are worthy, deserving and joyful. Something I recognise and fear is also the tendency to glorify such suffering or throw its weight as though it were light, forgetting it is a true burden for some.

This was when I began to write. Writing offered a freedom, it was and is my act of self-care and protection. I stab each fear and doubt I have with my written word. Even if in the moment it does not feel like it, I do it anyway. Even when I am not convinced, I pick up my pen. Even when sorrow is all I think, feel and breathe I tell myself ‘write’ and muster the courage to. There may be times where I struggle to face a blank page, and on those days I remind myself that I am trying. They may not be the best words or works I produce but they affirm that I am present with myself and present with my suffering. I write because I understand its power in my life and in the life of others.

Photographer: Beulah Davina

I write because I understand its power in my life and in the life of others.

In learning to confront whatever I had internalised over the years, through direct or indirect experiences, taught me that this was a manifestation I could handle. Investigating what has happened also requires you check your response to current developments around you, are you paying attention? Are you aware? How do you first take care of yourself and your community? Secondly, where are you drawing support? Situations and levels of suffering differ but there is the option to try. Even in the most dire of circumstances, there is the option to see or believe in the alternative: that you will come out of this.

When I write such posts I am sensitive to and conscious of varying degrees of extremity in suffering and do not want to make light of it through my writing on the blog. But if I do not write, then I find it difficult to establish another outlet for expression that is innate to me and crucial for my (and others’) healing. Freedom is yours. When I think of my six-year old gap-toothed self, I remember how she smiled in the face of imperfection and chose to laugh and love herself for who she was and what she did then and forever.

– with love + light, Mx


5 thoughts on “Writing To Find Freedom”

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