Kigali

The Pains We Don’t Speak: A Letter to the Youth

Author: Umutesiwase Raudwa
On:27/10/2022 13:04
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“I am bent, but not broken. I am scarred, but not disfigured. I am sad, but not hopeless. I am tired, but not powerless. I am angry, but not bitter. I am depressed, but not giving up.” — Anonymous

Never did the morning light not follow the night. Never did it fail to pierce through obscurity.

Still, darkness, testing as it may be, must be navigated.

Are we asking the wrong questions?

They claim that we do not know our own children, they attack the genuineness of exchange within families and communities. They blame society for not extending a hand to those that have needed one. They guilt us, for an increased fragility in those we have supposedly abandoned, by not deciphering the causes of their pains.

Perhaps there are some truths to consider here - perhaps some dangerous deflections, too. Uninformed reactions to mental illness don’t necessarily point to a lack of love, but to the dangers of unawareness and denial, and so do uninformed choices of coping mechanisms, disastrous as they can be.

How can we shatter the ignorance that surrounds mental illness, and depression in particular?

Pain can be caused by an infinite number of factors, and of some, we are only scratching the surface.

Transgenerational, genetically inherited trauma. Culture loss driven by globalization. Widening economic gaps. The encouragement of materialism. The craze for instant gratification.

….To name a few.

Overwhelming, is it not?

How helpless parents can feel. How cruel, that it should be so.

How oblivious, society can be. How common that it should be so.

How demanding recovery can be, but how unavoidable, that it would be so.

While some obstinately stigmatise mental illness, its frequent consequences (such as unemployment, social volatility, substance abuse and the reckless behavior it can engender, self-harm and suicide) peer at us mockingly, evidently unfazed by the progress that we have fought so desperately for our children to know.

These calamities shrug, and tell us we could never understand.

But today, I no longer believe in debates; in throwing the ball of blame to the other side. This isn’t about being right or wrong; this is about going from sickness to health.

Addressing mental illness among our youth shouldn’t be a match between opponents, between generations accusing each other of either weakness, or insensitivity, not knowing how much families and friends equally suffer from the pain of their depression.

It should be a race to the finish line, to wellness, hand in hand.

So I write to ask youth in need the following:

What can we do to help you?

And what can be, in turn, your responsibility in making the best of this help?

As we strive to make our structures more accommodating to your creativity and modern experiences, to your fresh conceptualizations of life, how can you navigate the life you have been given, as a den of new opportunities?

To those that say we don’t “get it”, believe me, many of us know pain all too well. Though today, you are addressed directly - perhaps out of the affection we owe the young - depression and mental illness are in fact, ageless.

To those that call our youth incapable, I must state assurance that they, our dynamic and innovative youth, will take us to the development we seek, to the progressive world for which we fight.

My parting words must be a piece of advice; a habit I believe, of every parent. Remember to honour the love you are given, by your country, communities and families, by loving yourself too.

Love yourself enough to know that you are worthy of receiving the help you need.

Love yourself enough to be honest about what is within your power to change.

Love yourself enough to picture a future where you are fulfilled.

Love yourself enough to leap forward, with might and strength, to go and grab it.

To brave the night can seem daunting indeed, but I have drawn solace, hope and determination, from a prayer you might know:

“God, grant me the serenity,

to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.”

-  J.K

 




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