By Dr. Angela Kariuki
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” —George Bernard Shaw.
Earlier this year – 2021, I began a journey to reinvent myself. I had reached a point in my life that I felt that I needed to change, transform, and be a better version of myself. Reinvention is a process of growth and exploration, but most importantly, it is acceptance.
In July 2018 I walked into Kenyatta Youth Center seeking answers to why I couldn’t sleep or eat, was sad, detached, moody and I cried a lot for no apparent reason. This was after a referral from a doctor who was a speaker at a mental health conference. On that day, I walked in seeking help, hoping for a quick fix and consultations with a Psychiatrist and a counseling psychologist I diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with severe depression and moderate anxiety. The PTSD was secondary to sexual assault at a very young age. Up to that point, I had always known the trauma of the abuse would be something that would go away and I had tried so hard to make sure it was distant memory. However, here I was fourth year in campus, and I could not function and I was not okay. The doctor wrote me a prescription for some medicines to help me sleep and scheduled for counseling sessions.
PTSD can leave you feeling crippled and your life in total shambles. It had ruined my studies, social life, family relationships, and relationship with men and most of all ruined my relationship with myself. It had dealt a blow to my self-esteem and self-confidence. The hardest things to live with was feeling bad about myself and feeling worthless. A voice in my head kept finding fault with myself. Self-doubt, even self-hate interfered with everything including school and my relationships with people. I blamed everything on myself, including things that I could not control.
I completed my mandatory psychotherapy sessions in 2019 December but I was still on medication. On my 24th birthday (2020, August) I came up with a plan to reinvent myself. I was no longer going to be that scared, scarred, and broken girl. I resolved to build a new me through making small and large changes from inside out to realign my life with my values, dreams and priorities. Change and growth is painful and I was ready for it. At the time, I was feeling that my life was not sustainable and was experiencing constant burn out. I still felt like I was running away from something. I was running away from myself, and the further I ran, the more I was hurting. I decided it was time to stop running and come home to myself.
First, I enrolled for counseling sessions. This time I wanted to discuss my future. I acknowledged that the past was gone, and I could not change it. I used those sessions to explore my life then, what I could change and discussing current issues. I learnt to forgive myself for past transgressions, and cut myself some slack. Most of us, especially women expect perfectionism from ourselves, and when we fail to meet these our expectations we beat ourselves up. I have learnt to extend myself grace and forgiveness. I have learnt to identify and embrace my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It is still a learning process.
Second, I learnt to look myself in the mirror. I have always had body image issues that contribute to low self-esteem. It involved embracing my body just the way it is. Most of the time we view our bodies from the lenses of others. We love the parts of ourselves others love and hate the parts they do. The way we view our bodies should be deeply personal. It is accepting every part of yourself as it is. This is not say that you do not work on living a healthy lifestyle. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. I have since set targets on my ideal body weight, and laid out a plan to achieve my goals. Believe me; dropping sugar has been the hardest part of that journey. Working out is also very great for mental health. It creates mental fortitude, and discipline. In addition, endorphins are great for your mood.
Clutter is clutter. As much as we declutter our physical spaces, we should declutter emotionally. Emotional clutter tends to weigh us down, and holds us back from achieving our goals. It is therefore important to let go toxic influences, negative mindset and any self-destructive thoughts. You have to close some doors so that others can open. Emotional decluttering for me has involved letting go of past hurts, anger and toxic relationships. This by far has been the hardest to achieve. Our pain, anger, heartbreaks, toxic relationships are familiar. We hold on to them because we are afraid of the unknown. We constantly ask ourselves, “Who are we without this person? Who am I without being perfect? Why am I not performing as well as the other person?” Emotional decluttering will help you cultivate joy and happiness, embrace your authentic self, practice unconditional love and forgiving yourself and others.
I have been exploring my purpose and my career. I am a pharmacist by profession. Often times we think that we should practice what we learnt in university. Part of my journey has to find my true path. It has been a process of deep reflection, analyzing my interests and trying to find where my heart lies. A career should be more than a means to earn money. I cannot say that I have truly figure it out. Currently, am in the process of learning Data Science. It has been a scary journey. I keep myself going by reminding myself that I want this, and I have room to make mistakes and learn from them. Robert Greene in his book Mastery writes, “The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” During the process of reinvention, it is important to find your true purpose, embrace change, and constantly learn new skills to secure your future. This is also a lesson from the current COVID-19 Pandemic. Unexpected events can happen any time, jolt us out of our comfort zones and it is important to always to be prepared.
The journey to reinvent myself has not been easy and it is not complete. I have learnt to fall and rise and to extend myself grace. I constantly remind myself that eventually I will get to my destination. My prayer is to live a wonderful, incredible, creative, fulfilling, adventurous, and fascinating life.
For those who want to start this journey remember to be brave and, “Reinvent yourself over and over and over and over and over until you find home. There is no timeline for the soul,” Malebo Sephodi.