Q & A: How do different cultures/regions understand depression and mental health?

Being an immigrant, I’ve come to see that depression & mental health are understood very differently, especially comparing the 1st & 3rd world.

I’m originally from a 3rd world country in Africa & I recently moved to Canada. The way we understand depression at home (Zimbabwe) is: ‘I’m going through something terrible, so I feel terrible’, but generally there is hope in the way we view depression because we associate it more with events rather than it being our state of being. The way we see it, once you get past the terrible phase, you’ll be fine & content with life again.

On the other hand in 1st world countries it seems depression is more than just about going through a bad phase but… I’ll call it a ‘core’ defeat. And because depression is a deeper issue here, there is naturally a fear of self harm because of it, in other words if you are too depressed we are afraid you’ll think of ‘ending it all’ (suicide).

Furthermore there is this new focus on mental health in the West, which is odd from a foreign perspective because it seems as if government & other leading organisations & institutions suddenly released people are really sad & aren’t mentally coping in life, hence all the new attention on the subject. Whereas were I’m from your mental health is still very much a private concern & something that should be self-managed.

Also because there aren’t that many publicly reported/ known instances of mental breakdown, chronic depression or suicide, we don’t see these subjects as major issues. Even when you do hear about a certain incident, it’s still just linked to an event, eg: I heard about a man from my childhood neighbourhood who committed suicide & it was concluded that he was depressed because of debt he had acquired over the years which he couldn’t handle anymore. Of course depression is a complex subject because each person who faces depression, handles it differently & it is triggered by different issues, but my focus today is the fact that where I am from, people simplify depression by linking it to events ie: you were in debt, you couldn’t find a way out of it, hence you sank into depression. However here, it seems that depression is a clinical issue something that should be diagnosed, medically treated & generally something you should have a long continuous conversation about & seek counselling for.

Of course mental health is important, people do need to be healthy both in body and mind, but the way we understand mental health, really is world’s apart.

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Thread #1: Stories My Mother Told Me Part 2

maxresdefaultThere was a certain bad man in my mother’s old neighbourhood, we’ll call him Mr W. Mr W was notorious for his heinous crimes against young girls, he would sexually harass and abuse them then when he was done with them he would, at times, murder them.

Mr W. was so wicked that he would sometimes even cut off the young girls’ breasts after attacking them. He was a really dangerous and scary guy. He always walked around armed and things were so bad that even the local police were afraid of him, so unfortunately, there was no help for people who lived near him.

Mr W. became even more infamous, appearing in the newspaper for his crimes, he became literally feared by all. Everybody in the neighborhood would get in early, making sure all doors and gates were locked before a certain hour; grown strong men, fathers, brothers and sons wouldn’t dare to be caught late at night in his way.

 

My mom said all girls would run for their lives at the sight of him and one time she and her sister (my aunt) were almost victims after being caught, but luckily one of this villain’s friends told Mr W. to let them go because they were the children of “the supervisor”.

My grandfather, “the supervisor”, was well respected in this poor neighborhood, he was one of the few wealthier men around, moreover he was quite helpful to the neighbourhood and friendly to everyone. So because of this my mother and aunt were spared, but at that time my grandfather’s anger had already past it’s peak.

My grandfather was sick and tired of Mr W. terrorising the neighbourhood. My mom said he (my grandfather) probably hated the fact that another man controlled how early he had to come home and lock his door, and this was particularly sore because even though Mr W. was tall, frightful-looking and an active boxer, my grandfather was quite a tall, large man himself and a revered fighter too.

So my grandfather, now fed-up, devised a plan. He stormed to the police station & shouted out a deal: “If you are not going to do anything about him”, he said, “then just don’t get in the way or try to arrest me when I deal with him!”

“If he gets me then that’s that and if I get him then let it be”.

9606441_origThat evening my grandfather pretended to drive around the neighbourhood, baiting Mr W. who was known to own the streets at night. When Mr W. caught up to him, he banged on the car window and asked who my grandfather thought he was out at this time. My grandfather, ready for war told him: “I won’t have anybody telling me what to do, I’ll beat you and your friend there”, and with that the fight began. That night, neighbours who were peeking through their barred windows on hearing the fuss, all feared for my grandfather’s life, but as soon as he seemed to be winning the struggle, they came out. They cheered for him, but were more in shock at this victory than in any real joy.

During the beating and shouting among the three men, once my grandfather had both men down he shouted for his blade. One of my little aunts ran:
“yes father, here!”, and just like that my granddad stabbed Mr W. in the back.
Mr W. screamed “are you trying to kill me!?”.
In all the commotion Mr. W.’s wife appeared and upon seeing her own fallen and bleeding, she ran to her in-laws’ for help. They quickly managed to get Mr W. to the hospital before he bled to death.
From that day on, my grandfather became an official hero to the neighbourhood, and Mr W. never bothered anyone again, in fact, for the longest time Mr W. didn’t even set a foot in that street, until much later when he came to apologize to my grandfather.
The End.
R.I.P. Grandfather, you were a true fighter and a real hero. Please continue to look over our family, and I’ll write all your stories 🙂
…………………………………………………………
Notes:
1. I was able to verify Mr W. was a real person and a real criminal through my sister’s teacher who in her time read about him in the news & through people who still reside in that neighbourhood. He really was an infamous criminal in so this isn’t fiction.
2. Everything happened in Shona, because I’m from Zim.
…………….

PS: This script is part 2 because I haven’t written part 1 yet, hopefully I will before I forget.

PPS: I had a bit of a hiatus not because I’m a lazy writer who doesn’t stick to their plans, but rather because I had a big move recently; the-whole-family-immigrated-kinda-big-move so I had to halt my writing plans while I sorted new living arrangements and new lifestyle, so in other words I’m a lazy writer with a good excuse for not posting enough 😀 (jk)

PPPS: I will work on writing about immigrating and my experience, but it might take a while before that post ever sees the light of the internet, because like I’ve mentioned on my previous post on writing, poetry comes more naturally to me than any other type of narrative, so other types of writing take me longer. Also because I’m still going through the experience I’ll have to see what it’s like first and fully before I write about it.

 

Tinotenda P. Masando

Me on Writing

The best way to start writing is to START: a poem, a letter, a short story, your steam of conscience or you can just talk. Talk on the page: talk about your hopes, your failures, your past & future. You can narrate from afar or speak to your audience directly.

Hello, I’m Avid_Reader, or Tino (if calling people by their username isn’t your thing). I often cringe at written introductions like this, but for now it is a necessary discomfort if I’m going to be continually using this platform.

I thought it would be a sensible move, to lay a formal foundation, instead of writing aimlessly and anonymously; to really own my space, even if it’s just a small free WordPress page, by introducing myself and stating my intentions, plans & vision. I think it’s right for me to lay out a plan, for me to look at & keep as I build myself as a writer, also for those interested in my writing to see where this is going.

For a while I’ve been focusing on poems, because for some reason they come more naturally to me, even though when I first started writing I wanted to do fiction. So I will primarily focus on poetry; my objective being to pump as much out of me as I can in order to: practice, gain experience, ‘hone my skill’, and figure myself out in the process. I have set a more detailed plan of action with quotas for myself but generally, I want to write so much that I begin to recognise myself in my writing. I want to figure out my style, my tone, my inclination, my likes & dislikes. I want to figure out what I know, what I am still to learn, and also see how many people I can relate with, impact or capture with my stories.

So far I’ve posted about a poem or 2/ month, to test the waters, but a new drive for writing has me pumping more & more, so please look forward to great things.

I’m not giving up on fiction: I plan to pump a book out of me this year, one way or the other. I have no idea of the end, all I can do is to start to map from the start, whatever routes I end up taking only God knows, I just hope I chose the right one. For now, I mostly hope to find the true meaning of: ‘self’, ‘authenticity’, ‘originality’ and to untrench a deeper reason for writing; to realise ‘purpose’, which will add meaning to my writing career. What I do not want, and what may be inevitable for a beginner like me, is to end up regurgitating what I’ve read before, but then again it has been said that “there is no such thing as originality [we just recycle ideas we’ve seen somewhere else]” ㄟ(ツ)ㄏ

I thank God for the Internet because amidst the junk, there are lots of jewels that have been helping me plan & figure out writing, the most inspiring for me so far, being the quote: “you are a writer, now all you need to do is write” [You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins].

I will also write other articles based on things that inspire me, that I find important, or other, the point being that as much as I love poetry in particular, I aspire to be a successful & published writer not just a poet, I want to triple major in Poetry, Fiction & nonfiction.

Of course in my efforts to take my writing more seriously I will get a website & upgrade to fancier WordPress account, with my own domain & everything, but for now my main focus is writing- the fancy books/ fountain pens of the Internet will come a bit later with some help from my more tech-savey friends (again I cringe at myself for making it sound like I’m some old person with no tech knowledge, but really, I’m a young person, who’s just not that interested in that side of things).

There is more to be said but for now this is my basic intro.

I will end this post by thanking you for reading this far, and for taking time to read my other posts, hopefully I’m not just a dreamer but turn out to be the real deal. I also look forward to reading more of your work, being supportive & giving as much feedback as I can.

♡ Avid_Reader

4/11/2018

Hell in a Week

We were young strong bark birthed from different trees,
Thrown together in a single pile,
One by one we were placed,
To form a circle to learn of time and life.

There we laid under the stars encased by nature, & the monkeys laughed.
A match was struck,
And pretty soon
We felt a heat of light of flame,
The wind blew,
The smoke too followed suit,
And one by one each log began to burn.
With crashing cracks, & bursting pops,
We complained about the strain,
As we burnt at the edges.
Over time the fire began to blaze,
And soon we grew to love the heat,
Stretching ourselves, we let the fire spread.

Soon we were done,
With the journey we had begun
What was left of us?
Piles & piles of lessons & ash,
And still a small glowing glint
Of some truth we could light the whole world with.

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Perfection is a crumbling wall who’s cracks have all met.
It’s a noble but vain strife,
It’s a wanting that is not becoming.

It is a bright painting of acrylics & oils, who’s boldness & vigor our water-washed colours fail to imitate.

Perfection is God’s secret, and the vain attempt of man.

When We Meet.

I don’t want to meet,
At least not tomorrow,
I don’t want to discuss how great things are…
Even though they’re not:
I don’t want to explain my absence
Or justify my silence,
I don’t want to feel the light tingle of anxiety,
nor sit through feelings of unease.
Over and over, I rehearse my thoughts: 😥
“I am so awkward”,
But from afar I seem cool,
My gift from the heavens is to be ever with calm, inviting smile, and friendly eyes 🙂

Though we are good friends, separation & time have made us more like strangers,
Or, perhaps it is my own shy cynicism & introversion that have clouded my memory of who we are and how we ought to be.

I know a little of who you are & even less of who I am,
But who are we?

If we are to meet,
This is how it should be:
You will sit across me, but not look right at me, but rather past me,
You may not stare into my eyes nor try to read my soul,
No, you should look beyond me, at some past memory or future wish,
At a pretty design on the coffeeshop walls,
And we’ll slowly sip at sweetness, secure behind our mind’s fences,
And let us laugh,
We’ll laugh about silly, trivial things,
And frown at concerning things:
About headlines, and the economy, don’t forget the state if the economy!

We won’t get personal,
We won’t dig, we’ll only scratch the surface,
For now that is enough,
For now let’s not really talk,
Let us lightly converse, lightly sip, faintly smile,
Until we again begin to build bridges and discover trust,
For now let’s just wing it!
Let us be satisfied to sip at the milk of our lives, withholding the meat.
Until I’m ready,
Until you are free,
Let’s splash in the shallows,

Life is complicated and simple, but let’s forget it all when we meet.

Tinotenda P. Masando

The Man is a Flame, His Love is Fire.

His beauty is like fire,
He leaves a trail of smoke…
His bright warm flame is alluring, but though you bring your hands close-
He is untouchable,

His love burns too hot.

He is a beautiful wild thing,
A different kind of light:
He brightens but also Cracks, Blackens, Stings, and leaves a pile of ash,
Throw over some coal and he’ll only burn more.

Yes,
He is like fire,
But even fire needs air:
If you stifle him,
He’ll suffocate:
In this, he too is human,
He is like a flame,
But even flames can struggle
And die.
He is a flame who needs winds of encouragement as he rages.

I,
Feel like Water:
I am like a lazy river or steady stream,
Sometimes my love is still
Sometimes it flows,
But we are too different:
His world is all vigorous gasses,
Mine liquid particles & water crystals.

He eats away at his path,
His law is simple and crude:
Consume, Grow, Burn!
He runs to his mark,
I take my time,
Slowly making my way,
Curving a path, one drop at a time…

When we’re together, I sometimes feel like sand,
Pieces of me popping glass under pressure,
Him burning but unable to spread, Blocked by grainy sand.

…If I too were a flame,
Then we would both blaze.
But flames die down,
And so did my gaze,
And the fires have drowned in neglect.

Begin Anew,

I woke up a different person,

One who is done with yesterday

And ready to celebrate today.

I’ve shed my skin of fear,

Washed my tears of doubt,

And learnt that the past’s place is behind me.

“What can I be without fear?”

“I can manifest my dreams:

I’ll build something significant,

I’ll never frown, for long.

I’ll go there,

I’ll spread my wings and feel the cool breeze of freedom.

I’ll find out, forever learning – a pupil of progress.

I’ll do it, that thing I’ve never dared to do;

Spread out before me are doors of greatness through which I step propelled by self-manufactured confidence.

I’ll face God boldly, without pleads or demands.

I’ll live, in spite of what others think.

I’ll learn.

And learn some more,

Then unlearn & begin anew.

I won’t give conditions to love

And make my commitments firm,

I’ll live on better terms,

And No, will be as easy as yes.

I’ve been learning to forge the future,

I’ve been discovering the record of faith, and trying to break it.

Let me be the next bar that’s set,

Let my name inspire brilliance,

And my life & ways used to polish others who wish to shine.

I used to think of Dreaming as easy & execution hard.

Now I see that even dreaming is a challenge.

Though I want to have it all,

Who am I to claim anything at all?

Dreaming big isn’t easy,

Really believing a dream is hard,

Until it becomes easy,

Until you discover your worth.

Lately, I’ve been Learning how to think,

How to see big as relatively big,

How to see luxury as not so exclusive,

How to be to be valuable & how to add value.

But really the difference between my philosophies & practices can only be judged by time”.

Strong Hard-Wood

There is a lone chair in our living room with only three legs.

It seems out of place and useless, after all it’s a chair with a missing leg.

But this chair does not see things the way people do: it doesn’t see itself as weak or pitiful, though it is the last-standing chair from a line of many broken and lost.

This chair is strong. Not with the strength of men but with an insentient will that has made it out-live it’s kin of similar make and grade.

It is the last chair standing, though it is maimed.

It stands firm, and faithful in it’s place at the table. Steadfast.

Though knowing at any moment it could be removed and replace. This chair is proud, not with the pride of men, for it is just a chair but this is a chair has fulfilled it’s duty to the end.

It does not need recognition, appreciation or praise. It did it’s job that is all.

And for a piece of hard-wood, that is enough.

 

Tinotenda P. Masando

Out on the Town: Living in a Different World

I find myself in a dusty rickety combi, which is the norm for these minibuses, it’s not too bad inside but I know I won’t be comfortable and free to stare into blank space while I daydream for long. And sure enough soon I and other passengers are all crammed past full capacity in the vehicle.

I am seated on the right-hand window seat in the front row of the bus, behind the driver’s seat. I’m not comfortable, particularly because my knees have been given the task of supporting someone’s sack of potatoes which sit on a little step in front me. Moreover I’m trying to figure out what to do with my left shoulder: should it be behind or in front of the shoulder of the suited man slotted next to me? I notice this man’s beige suit and immediately start to feel the heat on his behalf because it’s so hot and dry and dusty. Despite all of this the ride is still not that bad; when there are limited options for public transport you take what you can get, in Harare we’ve all got to just cram each other in whatever thing on wheels we find so we get to where we want to go.

No, it’s not bad at all, though it’s not excellent, but we are all used to it. Even I’ve become used to it and I grew up very ‘sheltered’ and wealthy, in my family we always had a car to take us where we needed to go, but then again I was raised during a better economic climate compared to my younger siblings today…

We finally arrive in town and well this is the bad part. For the CBD, Central Business District, this place is just sad and by ‘sad’, I mean it’s so underwhelming. Especially for anyone born in the 90s or before like me because we remember a more prosperous and thriving city but at the moment it seems development has come to a full stop.

(A prettier [older] picture of Harare)

Image source: experiencezimbabwe.com

Now our ‘town’ as we prefer to call it (actually a major city), is dirty and chaotic. I recall a humorous conversation about H-town:

Person A:

“It just gets worse and worse”

Person B:

“Soon we’re going to see animals (livestock) roaming around”

The downtown and outer edges of town have become a vendors’ campsite-paradise. A few weeks ago I watched a parliament session where the issue of our unsitely situation was raised but indeed as John Godfrey Saxe is believed to have said, we can loose our regard for certain things, like lawmaking and sausages, once we know how they are made. All I could conclude from the rowdy Parliament session was that our government doesn’t have a solution, or at least one they agree on. During this week there were authorities tasked with chasing away vendors and combis that cause a lot of the mess but that won’t stop them easily neither does it change the fact that it is our infrastructure itself that is dated and our economy that is lacking. The issue isn’t just cleaning up a mess it’s about cleaning up our economy and improving livelihoods. However, until there are improvements, many men and women will continue back and forth through town and will power through the tough time’s.

2017-10-13 05.19.26

(Crowds gathered in a corner of Town)

Image by T. P. Masando