Is Therapy Worth It?

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I was recently evaluating a conversation I had with a friend, about therapy, counselling, the power of meditation and prayer and it occurred to me to do this blog post. So I am writing this from a place some second hand experience, I am writing it both for myself and for someone like this dear friend, who wishes she had bumped into a piece like this, when things peaked for her.

Cambridge dictionary has defined therapy as “treatment that helps someone feel better, grow stronger, especially after an illness”. Some common therapies include occupational therapy, speech therapy, group therapy, behavioural therapy. For the purpose of this post, I would like to focus on therapies that improve the well being of the mind. There are many instances where one might need the right therapy to unpack and manage events in the past, or the present, to manage stress, or anxiety triggered by events or perhaps chemical imbalances in the body. There can be need for therapy following a new job, a big life change, a bereavement, a divorce, a difficult marriage, anxiety, depression of many kinds.

Life happens sometimes and things get overwhelming, confusing, or we find ourselves in very difficult and disagreeable situations. The power of talking things through and articulating how one feels can never be underestimated. As human beings, our minds play a vital role in how we process things and how our hearts and heads process various situations. Speaking out then can provide tremendous relief, and an avenue to express what exactly is going on, as well as why we are dealing with it in the way that we are.

Although both words (therapy and counselling) are often used interchangeably, they are slightly different. Both attempt to provide opportunities to unpack, discuss and heal, however counselling is usually more short term (6 to 12 weeks) than therapy. Increasingly, people use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help with  some eating disorder such as bulimia, depression,  phobias, obssessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In order to deal with other things such as bereavement, onset of a serious illness, infertility, relationship/marriage issues, loss of a job, retirement, childbirth, professionals use talking therapies to help people who may be affected.

More recently, the use of therapy is becoming increasingly popular, with more people, at least in my immediate circle, considering it. It is as though the rest of the world is finally catching up on a recipe the Americans have had and used for a long time. Remember the inferences and the jokes about shrinks and people dreaming on a couch, being a fad in the US? Well it seems that suddenly, the whole world realises that actually, this is valid treatment that can save lives. So is therapy worth it? I think as with most things in life, the intention and the theory are great, it is finding the appropriate diagnosis and the correct treatment that can be hit or miss. I have to say that not everyone who claims to be a counsellor or a therapist is one, or a good one at that.

My friend who inspired this piece had therapy for six months when she was dealing with certain childhood/growing up problems which had begun to rear their ugly heads as she got older and tried to have a thriving and lasting relationship. According to her, it was worth it, it saved her marriage, saved her job, and made her a better person. Therapy is worth it if one finds the appropriate professional for help. Most countries will have a list of qualified, licensed and certified therapies who are allowed to practice. Additionally, some regions will have independent reviews regarding the therapist in question. I would suggest doing some research before deciding on one. It might also help to discuss needs and problems within the trusted safety net of family and/or friends and your family general practitioner, before the introduction of a professional.

Family doctors, your best friend, your mentor, your neighbour, that trusted colleague, your pastor, a career coach, are great places to start. However, invariably, a trained therapist is always the best place to stop.

Have you ever had therapy or counselling? If not, is it something that you would ever consider?

Routine For An 11 Month Old

As you may have rightly guessed, I am currently a stay at home mum with the sprog who is 11 months. I never thought that I would spend more than 6 to 9 months with my baby. I always thought she would go to Nursery once she was weaned on to solids, but that hasn’t happened. I think that in many ways, we are quite lucky to be able to give her the foundation that we think she needs before handing her over to early years experts at Nursery. Of course not every family is able to do this, and there is no right or wrong way. If a mother has to return to work, then another primary care giver must be found.

Being at home provides me the opportunity to spend ample time with my baby. It can be both satisfying and rewarding, but also exhausting at times. There are days when I just want to send her to Nursery, and there are other days when I cannot stop smiling at her big bright smiles and precious antics. It’s great to spend the day when she eats what I feed her, naps when she should, and plays away if mama has to tackle a few tasks around the house. Not so great when she cries all the time, and is generally cranky as babies can be sometimes.

The one thing that keeps me sane, is a routine. Within that routine, a list of games and at least one trip out of the house keeps things manageable and interesting for the sprog and myself. Below is a typical routine for weekdays.

6.30-7.30am: I can hear her humming and sucking on Peter Rabbit, I have an hour to have a shower and get ready for the day.

7.30-8.00am: Go down to her room, morning cuddles, nappy change and go to the kitchen for milk.

8.00-8.30am: Read a story or just play.

8.30-9.00am: Breakfast.

9.00-10am: Play

10.00-12noon: Wash and get dressed, have a small mid-morning snack, go to a baby class or sit and play session run locally. She naps in her pushchair.

12noon-2.00pm: Might go home and have lunch, or go into town to run errands. Have lunch on the go.

2.00-4.000pm: Sing and play. She cruises around the house, exploring things, while I run errands next to her. Then offer a mid-afternoon snack and water.

4.00- 5.00pm: Convince her to have a nap. In the last 3 days, this has now become increasingly difficult. I think she may be dropping the afternoon nap.

5.00-6pm: Dinner.

6pm-7.30pm: Finish dinner, play, do her bedtime routine including a nice warm bath, lights out, go to sleep.

Now this is only the perfect scenario, there are days when we end up staying indoors although I try to keep these at a minimum because she is much easier to manage and less bored when she’s been outdoors. There are days, like yesterday, when she is so cranky as a result of the missed nap, that she won’t stop crying. Other days, she chooses to cling to the back of my legs and thus I am unable to do much around the house.

Whatever the case, the best advice I received regarding looking after babies is to establish a routine which includes leaving the house at least once a day, and I am glad I listened. Going out makes a world of difference to a baby’s temperament because the fresh air, and the world out there, feed their curiosity and they sleep so well afterwards, at least our baby does.

Losing Weight After Childbirth

 

Losing weight after childbirth is one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do. Before conception, I weighed 67kg and gained a whooping 20kg by the time the sprog was born. So we returned home from hospital, baby in arms, logging around about 15kg. To be honest, I was surprised that I was still weighing that much, my belly was still a huge watermelon, and I was hungry all the time.

I breastfed my baby for the first six months of her life, and I can tell you that it is an intense experience, especially as she was hungry all the time. Some friends expressed surprise that the weight wasn’t falling off because I breastfed, but I knew it didn’t happen because I ate as much as I breastfed, and I ate all the wrong things. I think because I was exhausted from logging around a baby who refused to be put down on her own, and I was sleep deprived, I just ate whatever was available. She was born a month before Christmas and thus the house was full of chocolate and biscuits. I indulged. Yes, I indulged very much.

The result is that almost a year on, it has been a vicious cycle, the weight is still there -5kg. My belly is still the size of a watermelon, I still see the images of Beyonce and Serena Williams who seem to have lost their weight in 2 days, and I remain the primary care giver for the sprog who leaves me exhausted and exercise averse at the end of the day.

So how can I lose the rest of the weight and shape up? I do know what to do, I just need to dig deep and find the energy, motivation, discipline, patience and the time. It may require waking up at 6am, an hour before the sprog wakes up, to work out using some YouTube videos. I will need to do healthy meal preps at the weekends so that I can have meals to eat whenever I am hungry. I will have to cut out biscuits and all the bad stuff that I reward myself with when she goes to bed. If I start to walk more, and get to 10,000 steps per day I know the kilograms will fall off.

Going forward, I have now learned that the best way to recover quickly after a pregnancy is to eat as healthily as possible while pregnant, and to stay as active as possible. Should we be blessed with another baby, I intend to carry on working out, energy and health permitting, until my due date. Additionally, after the baby arrives, I will start to eat healthy from day 1, and ask for help to avoid the burnout that comes from exhaustion. I will plan many family meals in advance and freeze them to avoid the chaos that comes when a newborn arrives. I will start to workout hopefully after 3 weeks, which is the timeline for recovery recommended after vaginal delivery.

As for my weight and health situation at the moment, I have started working out and have lost about 5kg so far, but the truth is that I have another 10kg to shake, and I have a whale of a belly to reduce and shape up. I have now set a goal for myself, I want to try to reach 70kg by February 2018. I want to do it right, no diets, no tricks, just good old fashioned exercise and eating right. Have you tried to lose weight recently? What worked for you? Any tips and ideas for shredding are very welcome.

 

Ageing: Much Ado About Nothing

Ageing or getting older is something that I have totally and completely embraced. Perhaps because I have struggled literally all my life with my age; people never believe my age. I remember when I was five years old, and my mother took my to Nursery school for my first day at school. I still remember (and my mum tells this story all the time) the teachers exclaiming when they heard I was five, because I was quite big. They put me in the final class of Nursery, and at 6, I went to primary 1. I was at home playing with Lego and extended family until I was 5. I guess I was lucky because although my mum went back to work when I turned three months, there was no need to put me in a creche or playgroup because we had people around the house.

Anyway, fast forward a few years later, my hair developed sprinkles of grey by 8 years old, so much so that when I see old classmates now, they all still ask what became of the “white hair”. They disappeared by the time I hit 20. very odd; not that I am complaining though. I guess what I am saying is that my age was always in question and I grew up hearing people mumble “that’s not her age”, etc. I am writing this post because I read a piece about a successful Nollywood actress, and as usual, I scrolled down to the comments section. If you ever want to feel the pulse of the people, how mean, how prejudiced, how kind or free spirited, read the comments section of newspapers or blogs. The venom, mostly! Anyway, a lot of people argued that she couldn’t be that age, how she was a liar, how they had watched her films for over 20 years. Did it occur to anyone that she was discovered in her teenage years?

Someone in my family hates birthdays because it means getting older, but as I always say every year to their annoyance, what’s life if we do not age? Ageing means we have another chance to be happier, to get it right, to be more fulfilled and to accomplish that for which we are journeying through life. Age is nothing but a number, we are lucky to be living at a time when lifestyle changes and advancement in science mean prolonged life expectancy and a chance to look well. Consider how amazing people like Michelle Obama, Funmi Iyanda, and Maxine Johnson look; all redefining ageing. I am thoroughly enjoying my 30s, and already imagining how accomplished and exciting my 40s will be, the fact that it won’t be until a good number of years, notwithstanding.

Invariably, I do not think it is only about the physical, but also about one’s mental and spiritual well being. I choose to embrace ageing, it’s much ado about nothing.

Returning to Naija? Culture Shock, and Personal Struggles

If you are returning to Nigeria after spending some time in another country, particularly a developed one, be prepared for the reverse culture shock which will surely hit you. First of all, a lot of people will dodge you because they perceive that you are here to ask them for a job. Ha! Then there are these fun points to consider.

1. There is no constant and consistent electricity supply. Be prepared for power cuts and excruciating heat. For example, last night, I spent the night hugging a coke bottle in a bid to cool off and get some sleep. Carry your phone charger around and be prepared to charge it in your car, in restaurants, at work, even in church. Water supply is also a luxury, the city mains in Nigerian cities and towns barely work. People have taken laws into their hands and have what we call bore hole, which is a deep well with a water pump that distributes water to the entire house.

2. You must have two phone sim cards because you see, one network will shut down, and you will miss that job interview. You will also miss that contract you have been sowing for. Equally important is the purchase of 2 different internet sources, don’t believe the adverts on billboards. Some poor naive JJC actually believed something about one provider and bought their modem because of an advert hahaha. A word is enough for the wise.

Source: Commons Getty Collection Galleries
Source: Commons Getty Collection Galleries

3. To drive here, forget the driving rules you learnt during the theory and practical tests that you managed to pass “in abroad”. To drive in Naija, you better play those car racing games on your Ps3 or whatever series your neighbour allows you to partake of occasionally. The practice will help you to effectively weave in and out of traffic appropriately and dodge the owners of the road. Traffic rules and traffic lights are discretionary, pray that your instinct proves useful for when to and when not to obey them. If you like, try walking casually across that zebra crossing on the road. You will be dead in minutes. You may find that the drivers prefer to speed up upon approaching a zebra crossing, it means “move move move”.

4. When you go into the banks, restaurants, government offices, you are an annoying relative who is disturbing them. Forget all that nonsense about you bringing your business, or your tax paying their salaries (do you even pay tax?) Are you the only one? This is a country of 170 million people (methinks there are more of us), someone else will bring business to the banks and restaurants and airlines. We are so used to being treated badly that we just get on to it. Have you had the waiter watch and discuss Chelsea, while saying to you “Order nooow” and then ask for a tip? Have you had a local airline delay and cancel their flights without saying a word to their partners. Be clear about what you want and insist on it. Goodluck…

5. Sorry if you look foreign i.e have an accent, or look fairer than usual. Better get a tan quickly and learn to speak with a Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa accent, whichever comes to you naturally or prices will keep going up.

6. God bless you, or we thank God, or God is faithful, does not mean that man is good or that woman should run your business. People pray to God and rob you at the same time. Religion in Nigeria does not translate into goodness. Don’t be deceived.

7. If you are a woman, you are fair game. Why have you not married? Why have you not had children? It is well, etc. Everything male will flirt with you and treat you as fair game. You may have a bit of respect if you have children in tow or a ring on your finger, but men will act weird; old, young, married, single, colleagues,etc. Be prepared.

8. Your old mum or dad will be treated with tremendous respect and kindness. Our attitude towards older people is very sweet, unless they have dementia, then they may be a witch and their senile rambling is them confessing their witchery and all the people they have killed.

Urbanization. Source:www.spyghana.com
Urbanization. Source:www.spyghana.com

9. There’s no need to discuss religion, women’s rights, or anything progressive such as online shopping for groceries (meat, vegetables, God forbid, are you not ashamed to buy meat online? If my wife does that, I will chase her back to her father’s house, etc). “It is not our culture” to do anything differently than the everyday norm in Naija.

10. Finally, there is a huge sense of entitlement that you will notice. That person did not help me. He did not employ anyone. When I was struggling, that my uncle went and bought another car, he wants to be the only rich person in our family. Maybe he bought the car because he works very hard and saved to buy himself a nice car?

Finally, if you are female, and a man tells you that he loves you (as you may hear without knowing anything about the person and vice-versa) thrust one or two plastic gallons or cans into his hands and ask him to prove his love by buying you a minimum of 10 litres of petrol for your car, and another 10 litres for your generator, nobody has time to do love where there are significant queues for petrol. I rest my case

Buhari’s AIT Ban: Is the Dictator Back?

The President elect of Nigeria in a move that critics say has just given Nigerians a glimpse of his old dictator self, banned the media house African Independent Television (AIT) from covering his activities. AIT reporters were escorted off the premises of Defence House where Buhari presently lives pending the transition. He was due to meet with the Cuban and Swiss Ambassadors when the incident took place. This move by the retired General and president elect Muhammad Buhari (GMB) has stunned even his most ardent supporters. His spokesperson said this was as a result of some security and family matters.

“You can quote me that I said that we have asked them to step aside and that we are resolving the the issues of ethics and standards with them.” GMB confirmed

GEJ and GMB: Outgoing president and president elect, respectively. Source:www.nairaland.com
GEJ and GMB: Outgoing president and president elect, respectively. Source:www.nairaland.com

Ethics and standards, security and family matters, these seem like censorship. Freedom of press is an incredibly essential ingredient for Nigeria’s democracy, indeed any democracy. Censorship and any kind of heavy handedness are equally bad for our democracy. For all the criticism leveraged against it, GEJ’s government was the most criticised and it took it on the chin, sometimes responding on social media platforms through the presidential spokespersons. Are we then off to a bad start with GMB?

World Press Freedom Day arrives in a week. Nigeria cannot go back to the time when its press was unable to investigate stories and criticise the polity. At last year’s world press day May 3, 2014, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, released a statement.

“Journalism provides a platform for informed discussion across a wide range of development issues – from environmental challenges and scientific progress to gender equality, youth engagement and peacebuilding. Only when journalists are at liberty to monitor, investigate and criticize policies and actions can good governance exist.”What exactly does Recalling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”

Source:www.wire2014.eu
Source:www.wire2014.eu

In 1991, when Nigeria and many other African countries were going through some of its worst times with dictatorships and human rights abuses, the UN declaration of Windhoek was adopted and included the following regarding the press:

Recalling General Assembly resolution 59(I) of 14 December 1946 stating that freedom of information is a fundamental human right, and General Assembly resolution 45/76 A of 11 December 1990 on information in the service of humanity,

Recalling resolution 25C/104 of the General Conference of UNESCO of 1989 in which the main focus is the promotion of “the free flow of ideas by word and image at international as well as national levels”,

Declare that:

1. Consistent with article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the establishment, maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press is essential to the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation, and for economic development.

2. By an independent press, we mean a press independent from governmental, political or economic control or from control of materials and infrastructure essential for the production and dissemination of newspapers, magazines and periodicals.

3. By a pluralistic press, we mean the end of monopolies of any kind and the existence of the greatest possible number of newspapers, magazines and periodicals reflecting the widest possible range of opinion within the community.

4. The welcome changes that an increasing number of African States are now undergoing towards multi-party democracies provide the climate in which an independent and pluralistic press can emerge.
The world-wide trend towards democracy and freedom of information and expression is a fundamental contribution to the fulfilment of human aspirations.

5. In Africa today, despite the positive developments in some countries, in many countries journalists, editors and publishers are victims of repression-they are murdered, arrested, detained and censored, and are restricted by economic and political pressures such as restrictions on newsprint, licensing systems which restrict the opportunity to publish, visa restrictions which prevent the free movement of journalists, restrictions on the exchange of news and information, and limitations on the circulation of newspapers within countries and across national borders. In some countries, one-party States control the totality of information.

6. Today, at least 17 journalists, editors or publishers are in African prisons, and 48 African journalists were killed in the exercise of their profession between 1969 and 1990.

7. The General Assembly of the United Nations should include in the agenda of its next session an item on the declaration of censorship as a grave violation of human rights falling within the purview of the Commission on Human Rights.

8. African States should be encouraged to provide constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press and freedom of association.

9. To encourage and consolidate the positive changes taking place in Africa, and to counter the negative ones, the international community-specifically, international organizations (governmental as well as non-governmental), development agencies and professional associations-should as a matter of priority direct funding support towards the development and establishment of non-governmental newspapers, magazines and periodicals that reflect the society as a whole and the different points of view within the communities they serve.

There have been reports from AIT which many argue are one-sided and target the opposition. If this is the case, isn’t that what the courts of law are made for? Is GMB out of touch with the times? Does a president in a 21st century democracy arbitrarily send off the press or play pick and choose? Or does the president sue for defamation or you prosecute for whatever grievance it may have? How about some finesse then; write AIT a letter and have the security agencies investigate whatever this is?

This move is certainly ill-advised and the world will be watching keenly to see if this is extended to corruption and all who plundered the nation’s treasury. The world will be watching to see if the soon to be president of Africa’s largest economy and the world’s most populous black nation will have respect for the rule of law in the first democracy won by the opposition.