Paps Wanyugi, 39, wife, and mother of two was once a suicidal teen, now she is a coach transforming her clients into the best version of themselves
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING?
I train as a corporate wellness coach with WellKom International. I am a certified confidence coach and author of two books. I am a psychologist, speaker, trainer and social justice enthusiast. I am also a family and marriage mentor.
HOW DID YOUR CHILDHOOD INFLUENCE WHO YOU ARE TODAY?
I grew up in Iten. Later, we relocated to Nyahururu when I was eight. I am the second born in a family of five and the most extroverted in our family, which often landed me in trouble. I grew up trying to minimise who I was so I could avoid being the ‘troublemaker’ and with time I lost my voice, especially towards adolescence.
I remember once being ambushed by 10 girls who picked me as their target, who decided to bully me because of something I had not done simply because they knew that I would not speak up and defend myself.
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When I look back, I realise that although I grew up in a family with both parents - the ‘deal’, I battled feelings of being misunderstood, rejected and put down. I grew up defensive, resigned to fate easily and always trying to please everyone. I was a doormat until my early 20s when I started psychology classes.
YOU WERE SUICIDAL AS A TEEN. WHAT DO YOU THINK CAUSED IT?
When I was 15 in Form Three third term, I felt like my life was hanging by a thread. I was struggling academically and had a D-. I looked together and confident outwardly, but would cry myself to sleep almost every night. I had too many conflicts in school and felt rejected by everyone.
I was battling deep agony, guilt, shame and dread. I had such a hopeless demeanour that my father did not know what to do with me and at one point during the December holidays sent me away to a relative to talk to me.
I felt like I was done with living. I had plans to plunge into a nearby borehole and end this misery. I walked to the borehole in the dead of the night and stood there for a while then lost the courage to do it. I went back to my room and broke down into sobs. I cried for God’s help as what I deemed ‘my hopeless life’ reeled in my mind.
After a while, I felt God’s reassurance and peace that all would be well. It is 25 years since that episode, and He is still holding me. Every time I achieve something great, I immediately remember the suicidal girl I was, and I hold all my little wins with deep gratitude.
LOOKING BACK NOW, WHY DO YOU THINK YOU WERE ABLE TO OVERCOME YOUR TEEN STRUGGLES WITH SUICIDAL THOUGHTS?
That night I was suicidal was a game changer. I was on the floor sobbing and crying to God to help me. Then I felt this wave of peace that has stayed 24 years later. It was a miracle that happened that night.
I remember promising God if he saw me through the darkness I was stuck in and gave me a C+ I would serve him the rest of my life. Which candidate did not make that prayer? When I went back to school in January hope was soaring.
My company changed, my grades started looking up, I became the jovial child I used to be, and that was the end of my suicidal thoughts. Since, my quest to mentor and coach adolescents has been relentless, I always desire to be the voice of hope that saved me that night. If I got unstuck from that season, I believe anyone can!
Further, my experience has also been the driving force that has motivated me to start mentoring other women because I realise that if women are purposeful, whole and confident they will influence their children towards the same. That is how Woman Arise was born and over time evolved into several Bold Woman Masterclasses.
WHAT ARE SIGNS THAT YOUR CHILD OR TEEN MIGHT BE SUICIDAL?
I will give three. To begin with, whenever your child is no longer themselves, and you can see the spark in their eye is gone, consider it a massive red flag. Secondly, any drastic change in their mannerisms, attitude and behaviour.
Also, disruptive behaviour at school or home and extreme emotional highs or lows. Parenting is intuitive, if you are feeling something is wrong most of the time it is worth getting to the root cause.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO MAY BE STRUGGLING WITH SUICIDAL THOUGHTS AS A TEEN?
Now is not forever. Just hang in there, every season shall pass after a while. As you wait, start connecting to close relations, and find ways to express how you are free through journaling, poetry and writing letters to yourself.
Document your journey, and then one day you will look back and feel grateful. Also, try your best to move your body and look for something soulful to do.
WHAT WOULD YOU ADVISE SOMEONE STRUGGLING WITH SUICIDAL THOUGHTS?
You are not alone. You are not its victim - do not allow what is happening to you to define who you are. Get a support system - do not fight alone, get a fighting squad to journey with you through that valley with the shadows of death.
Family, friends, therapists, doctors, spiritual family members. Let someone who cares for you know it is all not well. You deserve to be fully known and fully loved even when you are battling mental health struggles.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE EACH OF YOUR BOOKS?
Confidence is all about getting your boldness back. The premise of this book is that everyone was born confident, we are all sperms that won! So where did that bold go? I also share my stories and lessons I have learnt on Purpose Bold, Self Bold and God Bold. Further, Leading Generations is a handbook for mentoring 21st-century preteens and teens in Africa.
It is based on research I did in 2016 and the programmes I have been running since then; issues we address with adolescents including mental health, family disruptions, and LGBTQ+ including 24 topics addressing the 21st-century crisis children are confronted with.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
I love the transformational stories I hear almost every week. No matter how challenging it gets at times, I never forget how impactful my work is to individuals, families, institutions, communities and the society at large.
Everything I do is a calling. I always have some passion projects and sessions because every session I have, and every event I plan becomes life-giving to me beyond my clients.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES IN WHAT YOU DO?
Many people underestimate or even dismiss how impactful coaching can be in getting them unstuck and exponentially thriving in life. I meet clients who can afford coaching, but are not willing to invest in its preventive and catalytic impact on themselves and their children’s inner abundance. Another challenge is my business model. I
t has been 10 years since I became a full-time therapist and later a certified coach. I may not brag about high visibility in my work with women and children because I have enjoyed giving each of my clients a personal touch. This means even our ideal group sessions would have 10 or fewer people. I want to know every client’s name, I want to remember their story, and I want to be involved in their family later.
This has meant pacing myself slower, but the rewards and transformation stories are priceless. Then there is the issue of lacking enough resources to give as many scholarships as I would love to. I wish I had the resources to do all I do for free and impact the lives of women, children and families in vulnerable communities who can never afford or access coaching in Africa.
We are already taking some faith steps towards a door that has opened in East Uganda. This community is plagued by teenage pregnancy GBV, illiteracy and poverty. In December we shall launch our first self-awareness project targeting teacher and community leaders dubbed Leading Change. I am so excited about this!
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BEING A MOTHER?
I had been written off by a sonographer after massive fibroids were revealed during my first pregnancy. I almost lost hope of ever being a mum and so whenever I look at our two biological children, I see walking miracles. I am also the ‘party parent’, and my kind gets an express permit to be and do all the fun and silly things.
Motherhood has also made me a better person. Gen Z and Gen Alpha children have zero chills calling you out. Our ancestors must be turning in the grave as they eavesdrop on some of the difficult conversations millennial parents are caught in with their children.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BEING A WIFE?
Several people pointed out even during the wedding morning that I was not a wife material, and I agreed with them. I was all the wrong things the Proverbs 31 woman in the Bible should be. It has been 11 years of being married to the most amazing man alive, and my heart has been transformed. I love saying I have experienced God’s unconditional love and acceptance through my marriage and this journey has deeply healed all my childhood brokenness.
What I love most about being a wife is that I can just be myself. I do not fear disapproval, I do not dim my light to be accepted. I do not fear to dream and chase those visions. I always knew James was my greatest cheerleader in life.
I also love the fact that we show up on all fronts of our marriage and family together. We serve together with our children at home, in church and wherever we are. We do not glorify gender roles in our family.
ANY PARTING WORDS?
You have the courage you need to face life. You deserve to experience all that life has to offer. There are many amazing experiences you have not had yet, which you deserve to be fully present for. No matter how horrible it feels right now, the storm will not last forever. You are tougher than you think.