The recovery phase

Gabriel had gone through so much in a very short time, from suicide attempts to being very agitated. Things needed to change before we all lost control. We needed to be rescued from this nightmare that crept into our lives and drastically changed our thoughts and beliefs.

My parents are very religious people and this was such the point where God was our only hope. My mum prayed day and night. She fasted for days even weeks. Her effort did not go unnoticed.

*********************** Healed and Healthy **********************

For the next 4 years, Gabriel led a normal life. It was not just the medication he kept taking that made him who he was; it was the ecosystem of support, understanding, meaningful labour and concerned relationships that kept him happy and whole.

He expressed an interest in other people’s story. I remember one day when he gave me his backpack to hold for him only to see him talking to a street boy. He later told me the boy’s story. It was incredible.

He always had an eye for art but this was the period it fully awakened. He drew portraits, flowers or anything asked to draw. He composed poems and songs which he would later perform to us in the living room.

He even fell in love with a very smart lady who was pursuing a course in Chemical Engineering. The couple grow both intellectually and emotionally. I knew the lady from my high school years. She had a good heart and an admirable personality.

We became very close with Gabriel. Going to eat viazi vya ukwaju with uji wa ngano in one of the local food joints in the heart of Changamwe. We listened to reggae as we enjoyed the delicacy of the coastal dishes together. We tried out new recipes at home. We tiled our floor and painted our house blue — his favorite color. This was the brother I had lost for so long. At last he was back to me. Funnier than before. Happier than ever. This is the Baraka I miss.

*********************** School & Leadership ***********************

Gabriel was admitted to Moi University School of Arts and Social Sciences to do a bachelors degree in Counseling Psychology. This was a dream come true.

Back at home, we were worried about his health although he was in good shape before he left. There were no more weird symptoms. No outbursts of curses nor suicidal thoughts. All we were left with was to believe in God and just let him follow his dreams.

In 2013, he vied for the post of secretary general in the university council. Unfortunately, he did not make it to the council but he became second runners up. This was inspiring. This was motivating. It felt like the gasp of air you get when you break through the surface after feeling hopeless for long.

He continued to demonstrate both leadership and success in his studies. He studied with a personal passion to help humanity. An intrinsic motivation to support mental health awareness. This encouraged me to research more about mental health. I did my homework and in a very deep way, I was able to understand my brother. I was able to understand why it hurts him so much if I do not listen to his music. Why it hurts him so much when he can not express his feelings to human beings but he can do that so well in writing.

******************** Internship & Work ***********************

For his internship, he worked at the Msambweni District Hospital Comprehensive Care Clinic. This is back at the coastal region along the Indian Ocean — our birth place. Gabriel demonstrated empathy at its best. Going back to the community to help and share his knowledge was a really big step that I would like to encourage everyone to try. This was not the most fancy hospital in the county but there were patients who needed him. He counseled the patients living with HIV. He counseled families with stigma or grief. He talked to the teenagers and young adults who were struggling with drug addiction.

After completing his undergraduate, he started working with AMREF in Kibwezi sub county. He mostly counseled HIV patients. This got harder and harder as he began to know his patients on a personal level. He would call me to tell me that his patient had passed away. This broke my heart as much as it broke his. Behind the bright work, there was a shadow: he needed an outlet for the pent up frustrations.

********************** Art and Music *********************

He became very popular in the town. He was the young doctor with an afro. The doctor that had the voice of an angel. The doctor that would write you a poem telling you how beautiful you are despite being in a hospital bed. That doctor who had the patient’s best interest at heart.

It was beautiful what he was doing. Little did I know what it was doing to him. How it was affecting his emotions day in day out. He loved his job, yes, but what about his health? It was deteriorating.

The lesson I learnt from these normal years of his life was that recovering from depression is not only attributed to medication. It is the relations you have with friends and family. It is how you feed your passions and interests to channel any tensions or negative thoughts.

Something else I learnt is secrets have weight and the longer you keep them, the harder it is to walk. Even when we are doing good listening to people’s troubles and problems, we also need to channel all the burden we are carrying. We need someone to help us shed some of the weight we are carrying in our hearts. We need a hobby, a passion that we can turn to once in a while to break from the sadness.

Follow the series The journey to the dark city of depression as I trace the journey from depression to demise of the late Gabriel BM. Masila