When the pandemic hit Nigeria, I honestly never thought it would get to the extent it is presently. The first indication that this was quite intense was when schools had to shut down and every form of social and physical interaction was a hazard. My immediate response was fear, a substantial amount of it. My thoughts instantly went to my family who are miles away. I was concerned about their safety, health, protection, and their provisions. Were they aware of all the precautionary measures required to help them through this period? Were they observing them all? Did they have their face masks and gloves, and were they observing physical distancing as much as possible? What would become of their jobs and our family’s source of income? A billion and one questions came knocking on my door and I didn’t have the courage to open up.
For a while, I found my thoughts conjuring several worst-case scenarios. What if this dragged on too long a time? What if the world became like those in some dystopian novels where our lives suddenly change for the worst and never returns to what it once was? I’ll admit, that was quite a stretch, but the most logical and yet disturbing fears still looked me straight in the eye – What would become of my academics?
Already I have spent 7 years in a tertiary institution, yet finals are still nowhere in sight. I have to fight constantly to stay motivated in school, just to make sure I keep going. Like medical school isn’t hard enough already, add a protracted stay to the mix and you’ll get the crème of the crop. Daily, I had to remind myself why I am where I am and why I should not give up. Series of plastic smiles to my face amidst the scrutiny and questions from friends and sometimes family members- “When are you graduating? Constantly feels like I’m living my life in a circle because of how long I am spending in school. After all, isn’t it just the not-so-bright that spend so long?
It gets even worse when you remember there would be an assortment of road blocks along the way; accreditation issues, strikes by ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities), Resident doctors (that would greatly affect clinical postings), and even like this year when we got to have a strike by consultants. Not to say that a worker is not entitled to their pay, however the effects of these culminate into added months and eventually even years to an already stretched stay.
Now imagine having all these in mind then a pandemic of this magnitude hits. The uncertainties grow with each second. Picking up books to read when I’ve already spent two months out of school and don’t have a slightest incline as to when school would go back to normal. To literally hear voices in my head whispering fiercely that my little effort is all to no avail as far as academics were concerned, all this while trying to understand the mechanism of action of the drug Guanethidine!
Like that wasn’t enough, the numbers started rolling in. Every night, I would lay awake, tossing and turning till midnight when the NCDC (Nigerian Center for Disease Control) would post the updates on cases or live scores as folks on twitter would call it. The increasing number of affected people, discharged patients and of course, the increasing death toll. I remember waking up one morning practically panting because I had such a strong feeling that any minute I would get a call that one of my family members was admitted with symptoms of the COVID-19. My overactive and unnecessarily vivid imagination did not in the least help my situation. I had the entire scene playing out over and over in my mind with perfect clarity and detailing for so long a time.
Despite the chaos, I tried to stay calm and heartened. The CMDA [Christian Medical and Dental Association] prayers that were held daily were a huge source of help, keeping my mind and thoughts at bay. One of my favourite quotes by Joyce Meyer that lightened my spirit goes thus; “Think about what you are thinking about”. Consciously repeating and praying along those lines helped keep my thoughts on peace and hope for a better tomorrow.
Sometimes, when the devil cannot get you on the outside, he attempts to take you from the inside. The mind is indeed a battlefield. We ought to be conscious of this fact because the devil never rests. I was alone in my dorm room, when my attention shifted to the happenings around the world that struck all within a short period of time. We are battling a pandemic, racism, internet terrorists, multiple rape cases, violence and senseless murders. Massacres of our fellow humans with no remorse, innocent lives gone and becoming nothing more than a hashtag on social media. My heart went out to them and amidst it all, my hope started to falter until it was nothing more than a thin lifeline I have been trying desperately to hold on to.
I started drifting into a near depressed state. Nothing seemed to make sense anymore. I started asking so many questions but had an answer for none of them. My thoughts went to dark places. It became hard to pray. Every time I tried, I just ended up mumbling. “Just make it all stop” are the words that would roll off my tongue and then I would cry the rest of the way till my tears wouldn’t fall out. I was in a pathetic state. For every positive thought I tried to have, a thousand negatives roared out, dragging me deeper into self-pity and hopelessness. Needless to say, the thought of studying was practically nonexistent. I would cry myself to bed every night and be dragged out of sleep by the hands of the negativity that made my mind its residence. It became such a physical presence that I felt had come to stay.
One morning, I gathered the strength to tell myself ENOUGH. Enough of all the negativity and constant draining thoughts. I am made for much more, I said. I told myself that even though everything around me was not making sense at the moment, the truth is, it doesn’t always have to. I told myself that as long as The God Who created me was, is and will always be with me, whatever may be going on around me, in the end, I will be alright.
On one Tuesday morning, I froze all my social media apps to avoid getting overwhelmed by all the trends and messages coming in and decided to spend more time meditating on God. You see, there is a huge difference between reading God’s Word and meditating on It. By that evening, I decided to speak up and get help. I called CMDA HOPE and spoke to one of the counsellors about everything that had been going on in my mind. I didn’t care about the words that came out of my mouth and how they sounded, I was just glad I could speak to someone. The words kept spilling out, laced with several tears of anguish and sobs of despair. The doctor on the other side of the call patiently listened as I spoke. He let me pour out everything before he spoke. He started by reminding me of the most important information I should always have at the back of my mind, but yet seems to always forget…’’God loves me and he’ll always be there for me’’.
I broke down again and when I looked down at my handkerchief, I just knew if it could talk, it would be telling me how tired it was of my endless sobs. The counselor encouraged me more and prayed with me. He went on to send me e-books to help maintain a positive attitude. It’s been two days since we spoke and I’m back on my feet, the Joy of The Lord strengthening and empowering me.
I realized how much forgetting can affect us. I forgot to stay positive. I forgot about The Father’s love and promises for me. This life I live and air I breathe is not my own and I can never take care of it as well as The Father will. So why do I need to worry? I’ll tell you this, I had no reason to worry. There will always be something going on. There will always be something wrong in the world. However, in as much as we are to stand up for what is right and fight for it, we can’t let it take away our peace. Remember, we are no longer slaves to fear, we are children of God.