Struggling to write
My name is Cathra Jerop. Most of my friends know me as Cathra and sometimes by my other name Sambili. I’m an only child to my double parent mother. I am a fourth-year student at The University of Embu taking a degree in Education. In 2018 when I was a second-year student, during my first long holiday, I noted that I was struggling to write. I remember mentioning it to mum a few times and she would look at me and ask me how that was possible. So little by little I stopped carrying my notebook to church and would type my sermons notes. This happened for the whole time I was home for the long holidays that year.
One day I woke up with pain in my abdomen and later realized my wrist was aching too. I remember telling the nurse who was attending to me that I had pain in my wrist and mostly when writing and it was becoming unbearable. The nurse told me that maybe I was having Writer’s Cramp because I could be writing a lot and I was like yes that could be it because apart from writing notes on campus, I also am a poet, and scribbling things down is just a normal routine for me. Having gotten a professional’s thought on my case I dismissed the thought off my head and promised not to do a lot of writing then.
Misdiagnosed: They said I didn’t want to study
Things kept getting worse and I got to a point where my pen would actually fall off my fingers as I tried writing. Numbness also crept in and in a month’s time, I had pain from my right hand all the way to the neck and down to my right hip. So I started walking with a limp because the pain in my hip was starting to be a bit too much. I called my mother and told her that the writing problem was now serious something that really alarmed her so she sent me fare to go home for a check-up and this became the beginning of my worst nightmare until now. So my first visit started with a resident doctor who couldn’t quite understand what I was explaining to him He would look at me and ask “So you can do everything cook, clean a sufuria, mop the house but you cannot write?” This was followed by a giggle and a glance at my mom.
To be honest there’s nothing as frustrating as a doctor who thinks you are faking things yet you are going through torture. So apparently this doctor concluded that I did not want school and asked my mother to talk to me to find out what the problem was and another conclusion which became another battle in our minds was that a spell had been cast on me apparently by people who did not want me to study or progress in life. I remember coming out of that consultation room feeling torn, frustrated, and almost depressed. I mean how could this doctor just think I did not want to school?! That I was faking all this? And to make it worse the thought that maybe the wickedness of people with evil eyes had finally settled on me. I was clearly losing it.
Denial and sometimes suicidal thoughts
At the end of all these visits to and from hospital to school, I had to go through the pain of explaining to friends and lecturers that I can do everything but I just cannot write with no visible injury or wound. I even got referred to the school’s counselor Dr. Atuma, who was of great help because he believed my story and even recommended a neurosurgeon Dr. F. Koech whom I didn’t meet but opened another possibility of finding a diagnosis for my ailment because we now started visiting doctors who specialized on nerves.
Visiting such clinics left numerous thoughts in my mind especially when I see people on wheelchairs, some being carried, others totally crippled. I would silently cry in bed at night after the visit just asking God whether that was where I was headed, denial and sometimes suicidal thoughts would creep in. Some people would make it worse when they ask about my psychological life insinuating something was wrong at home, something which made me drown the more pain and mental torture.
Diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
My mental health deteriorated and I never really allowed it to show, my spiritual life as well and the chatty me began to sulk at life because no one really understood. My mother on the other hand was going through a tough phase in her spiritual life. All these happened in a span of a year. I had to type my last three main exams because I just couldn’t write anymore.
I finally got diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, had my surgery done on 31st January 2020, and went back to school to prepare for my teaching practice. I went back to school a week after my surgery with my right hand covered in bandages The healing phase is a whole story, I’d be humbled to document someday but to touch base, it is that I lost friends whom I thought would stay by my side.
God in His mercies sent new friends to walk with me; people I never expected would be concerned. It’s been ten months now since my surgery and still on the healing process and God has been faithful, in spite of the three breakdowns I have had this month which happens when I start writing.
I am most grateful to the people who have been there and always available to lend a listening ear. When I saw the campaign being done by FOCUS Kenya, I thought to myself that I have a part to play in this. Life may sometimes put us in situations where letting go, succumbing to depression and even suicide might seem better options BUT they are not. TALKING or SHARING your burdens with others is magical.
I hope that neither depression nor suicide becomes the way out for anyone regardless of what life puts them through. Believe that help is always a call away despite the fact that it may take a while before someone actually understands. It is okay to still hold on because someone out there may be waiting for you to be their hope. I am smiling right now while typing this wondering who would have said this if I had given in to all the ideas in my head. I may not have totally recovered my writing ability now but I believe I will get there in due time.