I have this friend, her name is Joyce. Okay, I am not one to brag about my friends, but this one is quite worth the mention. Joyce is not the kind of friends you talk to every day, but the friend who always wants to make sure you are fine, and when they discover you are fine, it’s quite done for the day. I think if friendship tendencies will be the determinant ticket into Heaven, Joyce- like friends will have a special well-lit corner, with free non-buffering Wi-Fi, and Kenya Power will not be the monopoly power company.
Joyce-kind of friends are the stubborn kind. The stubbornness of a nurse serving medication to dementia patients. I don’t think anything beats a friend stubborn enough to know if you are happy.
I recently did a WhatsApp status reaching out to people who paint a picture that they are leading a happy life, but are battling depression behind closed doors. The status was inspired by the heartbreaking news I received through a local channel that my high school teacher had committed suicide.
Crushing as it was that a man had taken his life; a man in the noble profession of molding the lives of young men, the suicide note he left behind is what killed me much.
In the note, he desperately urged people to try and reach out to those languishing in the gnawing bites of depression. This provoked my thoughts. What kind of friend am I?
On seeing the status, Joyce was on my neck.
‘Are YOU okay?’ she quizzed.
I laughed, said an extended ‘heeey’ , and told her how devastated I was by the rising cases of people with mental ailments. She was not taking any of that, and her usual stubbornness was starting to kick in.
In a few moments, my phone buzzed. ‘How ‘okay’ are you?’
That got me off balance momentarily. I was never prepared for this kind of question, having grown up into a generation which stops probing at ‘am doing good’. I had to improvise in order to not look like I was taught Sunday school by an improper teacher.
‘In a scale of 1-10, I can say am a happy 9.’ With that, I thought the debate was over, and that we would now start discussing her love for bikes though we all doubt whether she knows the difference between the clutch and brakes.
‘Can I give you a different scale?’ The message came with a deep tone of persuasion. It was more of a notice than a request.
‘Have a go at it…’ I managed, and added a smiley emoji.
The scale she sent took me a healthy amount of time to land on my right measure of happiness and mental health status, leaving me wondering just how happy I really was. It’s okey I laugh a lot, most of the time alone or around serious people. Sometimes I shake with suppressed laughter when grilled in a meeting for failing to do an email, because the big guy in the upper office says ‘email’ in a way close to ‘ameru’; but suddenly I realized laughing is as important to happiness as K is to knife.
The scale I was to use to prove my happiness was divided into three categories – mild, moderate and severe.
1. Everything is an O-key! There is absolutely nothing wrong. You are probably cuddling a fluffy kitten right now. Enjoy!
2. You’re a bit frustrated or disappointed, but you’re easily distracted and cheered up with little effort.
3. Things are bothering you, but you’re coping. You might be overtired or hungry. The emotional equivalent of a headache.
4. Today is a bad day (or a few bad days). You still have the skills to get through it, but be gentle with yourself. Use self-care strategies.
5. Your mental health is starting to impact your everyday life. Easy things are becoming difficult. You should talk to your doctor.
6. You can’t do things the way you usually do them due to your mental health. Impulsive and compulsive thoughts may be hard to cope with.
7. You’re avoiding things that make you more distressed, but that will make it worse. You should definitely seek help, this is serious.
8. You can’t hide your struggles any more. You may have issues sleeping. Eating, having fun, socializing and work/study. Your mental health is affecting almost all parts of your life.
9. You’re at a critical point. You aren’t functioning any more. You need urgent help. You may be a risk to yourself or to others if left untreated.
10. The worst mental and emotional distress possible. You can no longer care for yourself. You can’t imagine things getting any worse, contact a crisis line immediately.
There are many schools of thought on happiness, what brings happiness and the long term effects of happiness. Fact is, happiness may look as insignificant as a small boy riding a worn out bicycle tire to the shop to fetch matchsticks, but whose importance you learn watching his parents burry him after a damn truck runs him over as he dashes across the busy road. Its presence can be easily taken as norm, but it’s absence burns more than a blue flame.
The scale may look damning, with negativity starting on the second step of the scale, which leaves a heavy question begging, ‘are we really happy?’ I could say am happy, well, who wouldn’t be happy as their blog turns a year older? (Ooh yes, we are turning one this November, and people have started asking for cake – because that is how humans celebrate best, by eating cake).
Are we happy about our jobs, family, people we have made out with – flings or otherwise? Are we happy about our choices or where we are in life as compared to where the society wants us to be? How we look – weight and complexion?
In the same way it takes tragedy to know how important the boy is to his parents, we know the significance of happiness by focusing on its antonym – sadness. Long durations of sadness are the main cause of most if not all mental health disorders, and being October, it’s only fair we mentioned depression, a leading cause for suicide cases. Imagine a world full of happy people? As impractical and possibly boring as it sounds, one thing for sure is there would be very few suicide cases, and fewer psychopathy acts.
One thing I hoped humans would borrow from bats is living life free from personal shackles. Imagine just letting your blind self glide through the dark only trusting echoes of the noises you make? Imagine what goes through a bat’s head while flying.
‘Ooops, that block must be what, 100 Meters away… So I fly for twelve seconds then turn left, and hope I don’t head butt a dying street lamp…”
Twelve seconds later
‘Suck it, am turning right… Phew I missed that by an inch… Are those humans beneath me? Lemmi drop something on their heads…Bulls eye!’
Happiness occurs as freely in the universe as oxygen, if only humans would drop all the society inflicted pressures like the bat and just accept life as it is. If only we could teach ourselves to change what we can to make life happier for others and also to accept what we cannot change to make life happier for ourselves!
My challenge to my readers, go and watch a kid playing with water falling from a tap. That is happiness in its raw form, the kid thinks only of him and the magic the water causes as it hits his feet. He is dazzled, and you can see his eyes glitter like the pebbles in the heart of Gikira River. He lives the moment, and regardless of where he sleeps that night, that split second matters the world.
Am not sure who to reference on the above scale, but wherever you are, I will pray that you live the life of a bat, not the blind one though, but a life free of life’s pressures. Like my lady says, ‘may your neighbor’s chicken always lay their eggs in your stables’.
Post photo credits – A post done on BBC on mental health and relationships being key to ‘Happiness.