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ELECTION 2022

Emotional open letter to Uhuru and Raila on Mashujaa Day

UREPORT
By Iregi Mwenja | Oct 20th 2017 | 4 min read

Sirs, I am writing this open letter to you my esteemed leaders as a citizen, a voter and most important as a person living with GAD. I know you may not understand what GAD stand for as your background is in political science and engineering respectively.

I understand you. I am a trained conservation biologist who only came to understand this term when I turned into turned mental health advocate a couple of years ago.

GAD is short for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a type of anxiety characterized by excessive, intrusive, persistent and disruptive worry that becomes worse in times of stress.

Sirs, GAD is mentally and physically exhausting. It drains my energy, interferes with sleep, and wears my body out. My physical and emotional well-being and productivity as citizen is severely affected.

I am sure you’re wondering what this has to do with you. Please allow me to explain. I know your schedules are tight at this point in time, for very obvious reasons. So I will try to be brief and to the point.

Feeling nervous or worried about things from time to time is a totally normal part of the human experience. However, excessive, ongoing anxiety and worry that are difficult to control (like worrying about our current political standoff) and interfere with day-to-day activities is what defines GAD.

Sirs, people with GAD battle it every day and sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. During this time of heightened political tension and violence, I feel intense worry about my safety or that of my loved ones, and feel a general sense that something bad is about to happen. It’s debilitating, it’s tiring, and it’s exhausting.

Whenever I watch the news, my worry spikes. I don’t know what will happen after 26th October just like all Kenyans but the level of my worry and anxiety goes to another level. It stops me for thinking, from concentrating at work and I am consumed by worry about my children’s future and safety all day.

Sirs, please understand that for every little facet of normal, daily tasks that you do with ease, for someone with GAD, doing those tasks takes a monumental feat of strength and bravery.

Even on a fine day, we will see it as being strikingly riddled with problems. We see the world differently, which is not always a bad thing as we can be totally insightful. But it can also result in getting lost in a mental whirlwind of what-ifs and worst case scenarios.

Sirs, I only want to make one very humble request. Think about the dozens of your supports who are dying, maimed, laid off from work, losing business, houses and cars.

Think about the millions of hardworking Kenyans who just want peace so that they can go out and fend for their families. Remember the 12 million Kenyans with different mental health conditions, including myself, which is getting exacerbated by the current toxic environment.

Sirs, I am a Kenya and live in this country. I know too well that there are no quick fixes to the current problem we are experiencing. But a commitment to easing tension in the country from both of you will go a long way in alleviating my anxiety symptoms and that of millions of Kenyans going through the same problem.

 

Since my condition is life long, I don’t mind if you are going to take some hard decisions that could be painful in the short term if it will address our perennial problems of election crisis every five years. I would rather I deal with it now, albeit painfully, but rest assured that there will be no other election crisis in this country.

The tension of 2013 was bad enough for me while 2007/2008 PEV was a total disaster in terms of my mental health. I lived with the psychological consequences of PEV for almost a year that almost made me withdraw from a post-graduate course I was talking at the time.

I would like to end my letter by saying this; I don't love any part of living with GAD. I go to therapy, take drugs whenever necessary and live positively to mitigate the damage anxiety does to my life.

I am not this way because I want to be. Living with GAD means living permanently engrossed in worry and anxiety. I wish you could help me manage the damage that political tension and violence causes to me. In return, I promise to manage all other triggers of anxiety that are within my control so that I can remain a healthy productive citizen of this great nation.

 

Respectfully,

Iregi Mwenja

GAD/ADHD Survivor

Mental health advocate

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