I am inspired to share my story because to an extent I understand why some people are seemingly hostile, aggressive and cold to people, especially to those they love. I have a physical condition which was caused by an injection that was administered wrongly when I was younger. It left my legs completely paralyzed. The doctors said I had zero chances at regaining the control over my legs and I would never be able to walk again. My parents tried all they could and were left devasted when the doctors informed them. But, I wasn’t going to have any of that, I refused to believe the words of the doctors.
My mum said, I was in the living room when she heard me make a vow to God, that if he healed me and I’m able to walk again, I would spend the rest of my life singing praises to him. ( for the life of me, I can’t believe I vowed to sing because my voice is horrible). I was only 4 years old and my mum couldn’t believe I understood what it meant to make a vow to God. She was also scared of the power of vows and the implications of not keeping it.
Fast forward to few weeks after making the vow, I tried to stand up from my bed to pray and then it happened, I didn’t fall. I stood upright. I screamed so loudly it woke my dad up, he rushed to my room thinking I fell from the bed. He was astounded to find me standing not only that , I was walking, although, I was limping what could we care? Jesus healed me and did the impossible. And we were glad.
I remember using myself to preach to people as a kid. Oh Yes! I was a bubbly kid who got along with people, a little shy, but never found it difficult making friends. My mum says she was always shocked at how I would in her words “commandeer” people when they came to our home. Young and old, I would captivate them and we would automatically become friends. I was bubbly, happy and full of life.
All that changed when I became I teenager. I guess you can say, that “self-consciousness” teenagers battle with had set in, but it wasn’t just that. I started to feel inferior to others. I felt I wasn’t good enough. I had friends who would mock me whenever there was a little misunderstanding. “Go and sit down with your bendy, bendy leg”. “You are here talking, you that I would break your leg” those are some of the words I was mocked with then.
This got at me, and slowly, I started to lose myself. The first person to notice this was my dad. My grades were slipping and slipping terribly, unfortunately, I didn’t care. My Dad couldn’t figure out what was happening. By the time my parents knew what was happening, it was already too late. I tried so hard to act cool but deep inside, I was lonely and guarded. Then something happened, while a class was going on in secondary school one day, I was a little chatty with some friends. Then the teacher turned and looked in my direction. He said a lot of things to me and ended it with, “You are using your disability as an excuse to misbehave. Don’t think I can’t punish you”.
I tried to act tough and pretend those words didn’t hurt me, but when I got home, I cried my heart out. That was the first time anyone had called me disable. He did not scold the others who were chatty, he scolded only me, in the most degrading way, publicly. I didn’t want to go to school the following day, because I was ashamed of myself. Slowly, I started to build walls around myself. I struggled through school, not because I was exactly dull, but because I didn’t care anymore, I had told myself I wasn’t good enough and I was inferior to everyone else.
If secondary school was hard, then I wasn’t prepared for what was thrown my way when I got into the university. I would walk past people, and they would laugh at me. I found it difficult walking with my head raised high especially when I was alone. When my dad eventually got me a phone that could play music, it was heaven for me. I would walk with my ears plugged because I did not want to hear the laughs.
The incidence that scarred me deeply and changed me totally happened in my mom’s boutique. The sales girls in my mum’s boutique were writing GCE exams and I offered to step in to help out whenever they had papers. On this particular day, 2 girls walked in and I immediately recognised them, even though I could not immediately place their faces. I initially thought I had met them either through friends or in church, so I tried to be friendly with them. I noticed they were snubs, but I brushed it aside, I told myself I was imagining things.
I showed them around, then they came across a pair of slippers which they picked up. Then one of them said, “this is the slippers that girl wey leg dey pain dey struggle waka with for faculty. E no know say leg dey pain am, but e go dey do shakara”. They busted out laughing while one of them looked at me and continued laughing.
I was the girl they were talking about. The slippers were unique, weirdly unique and that is why I loved it. They did what they wanted to do and left but not without making one or two unpleasant remarks again. When they left, I was dazed. I could not believe what had just happened. I zoned out. I was blank. I ca n’t describe what happened but I know I felt so much pain that this time around I could not cry.
I was in that state for what may have been hours, because I only became aware physically when the driver came to pick me. According to him, he thought I was sleeping because he blared the horn of the car for me to come out, but I didn’t.
When I got home, I avoided my parents, I did not utter a word. I did not have the energy to eat. I went straight to bed. When I woke up the following day, I was a completely different person. The first thing I did was break up with my boyfriend at the time. He wasn’t putting any effort into the relationship and I figured it was because I am flawed.
I vowed not to ever allow myself to be disrespected anymore. If I built walls around myself before, I fortified those walls with anger. I would never look for your trouble, but if I sensed any form of disrespect me, I would pop off on you. It did not matter how little the offence was. Unfortunately, this rage soon consumed me. I became this angry person whose tongue will let loose to “put you in your place”. I had accepted my fate that I was flawed and ugly. Heck, there were days I woke up and could not look at myself in the mirror. There were days when I woke up and did not want to leave the house. I remember missing some tests at a point because I could not leave the house the fear of being mocked held me bound. However, when I did leave the house, I wasn’t going to let anyone put me down. I continued through life like this until one day I had a spat with my mum. After I had screamed in blind rage and fury, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “I don’t know what happened to you. You were sweet and kind, now I don’t know what you have turned to. Whatever happened, I want my baby back”.
Those words cut me I felt guilty, ashamed and sorry. You see, I want to change, but it is almost impossible with people constantly mocking me besides I don’t know how to anymore. I live in fear of people, especially total strangers. Fear that they would be mean to me. I am not open or friendly anymore and the truth is the fortified walls of anger I have built around me have become so difficult to break.
I am not trying to justify this behaviour, I am just trying to make people understand, that most times, people were never born angry and bitter, but they were made this way. Some people want to change, but unfortunately, they have been so hurt, they don’t know what being genuinely happy and loving really is. They have forgotten the definition of self-acceptance. Sometimes, anger comes from a place of self-hate borne from rejection and heartbreak and the need for love and acceptance. Most times it’s a defence mechanism.
Written by Yvonne O for Diaryofanaija girl