“All the Way my Saviour Leads Me” is a hymn written by Rich Mullins. He ends the first verse with the following words; “For I know whate’er falls me Jesus doeth all things well.”
These are words of total surrender which, I guess, come at a point when one has come to that point of acknowledgement that on their own they cannot do anything. This is what should be the case for all believers but we do not come close. We are always striving to have things in control yet we can only do so much.
This book is a tale of Musinguzi Begumisa’s struggles with bipolar disorder. He tells of how he strives through his life to make things work out until a point when he loses total control. Thanks to his family that stubbornly refuses to give up on him.
In a world where conversations on mental health are scarce to come by, for one to come out and talk about their experience is a commendable job.
As a student at university, the last experience to endure is the shame associated with such an experience. And shame is both ways. Some people do not want to associate with you because of that experience while you lose your self esteem because of the experience.
Begumisa’s story comes with a very good twist given his childhood experience growing up in the neighbourhood of Butabika Hospital, the very place to which he returns as a patient. No one ever prepares one for the irony of life when it comes back to bite. The “mad man” who once comes over to their home asking for food looks to be such a stranger who deserves to be run away from yet on that fateful day when he escapes from hospital, he is that very man.
Today, the ice around mental health is slowly melting in the general discourse but not within the small circles. At family level, the conversation still remains in whispers. In our religious society it is always brushed away as a work of the devil. Mental health awareness is highly lacking. There is little to no awareness at all about it.
Reading Begumisa’s story reminds me of one of the most important currencies in this transactional world. Empathy. We need to be more empathetic than we ever were with strangers just as with our neighbours.
Every person is dealing with something only that you have no idea about it. We are called to be kind to ourselves as well as to those who we come across because we need kindness.
We are all searching for sanity only that we may not be able to put words to it. Different people have theorised madness differently. Everyone is mad. What differs is the degree of madness. It is easy to laugh about it and push it under the carpet. The same way we did when we read in the papers the other day that 14 million Ugandans have a mental challenge. It is easy to look on and smile because it is across the road. It’s not about you.
It only gets real when someone you know, a loved one is the victim. Even then because of our religiosity, we are quick to rubbish it off as witchcraft. We are a people that is uncomfortable with facing and owning up to our truth. Of course the truth hurts but also it heals.
What Begumisa shares in this book is his truth as he has lived it. It is a heavy truth that he tells lightly. He tickles your ribs with laughter as he wells up your eyes at the same time.
In his search for sanity, I find that the latter part of his life strikes the hardest. Being a father who has to double guess his life every other day must be a very cumbersome challenge. Never mind that it already is.
However, a chapter from his wife or his family, those people who have lived the experiences with him would have made the story richer.
Author: Musinguzi Begumisa
Title: In Search of Sanity
Feature image by Walter Kahuma