Open Secrets

1/5
 
“If two or more people know about something, it is no longer a secret. That is why I need to tell this story. I was conceived while my mother was studying in a foreign country. A young Nigerian man was said to be responsible, but because he said he was not prepared for a child, he demanded that my mother should abort the pregnancy, which she attempted, but it was not successful. In the end, she had the baby – that baby was me. Since her purpose of immigration was botched, she had to leave the country and in the process forfeited her studies.
 
 
As a kid, I always struggled with my mother whenever she bathed me. She was always hard on me with the sponge and she always let the lather cover my nostrils and eyes for too long. One day, my mother and I went to a white garment church. A prophet bathed for me, right in the middle of the river. The fear of the flowing current scared me. When one is going through a hard time, time drags and the event always seems to last forever. That was how the bathing session was, for me. When the bathing was done with, I got out of the river.
 
 
I was still shaking due to the cold when another horrifying thing happened. My mother stepped into the river to be bathed by the prophet. Questions brewed in my head, questions I had no answer to. It was a horrifying sight for me to watch her get into the water and be bathed by the prophet. Somehow, I knew that this was wrong, but I couldn’t tell what exactly was wrong.
 
 
When I turned five, my mother got married to a young, tall, good-looking man, and it was her chance for a new beginning. While the marriage lasted, things were rough – episodes of domestic violence persisted. Then they separated, go reunited, separated again, got reunited. It became an unending cycle of separation and reunification. Her failing marriage and disturbed mind turned her into a church devotee. Eventually, my mother and my step father separated. The marriage produced four kids.
 
 
It was at this point that her disturbed mind began to fully manifest. She became an evangelist, apostle and prophetess all at once. She claimed and insisted that she had these callings. At home, she would start to speak in tongues. If she hears an owl in the night, she could spend the rest of the night praying and binding the owl.
 
 
At first, we thought it was a normal thing that spiritual people did; we had no idea that something was wrong. Me, I am skeptic and because I didn’t believe in spiritual things, I always disagreed with her on some of these issues and prayers. We were living with my grandma – my mother’s mother.
 
 
One day in 2010, my grandmother received a call from a strange number – the caller said that my mom was with them in a church and that she couldn’t talk. The caller was actually calling from one of popular white garment churches in the city and they wanted us to come take her away. It was around 11pm.
 
 
My grandma and I trekked to the church because we had no money and we had no car and truly we found her there. She was lying down in front of one of the smaller buildings in the compound, her hands were behind her and her gaze was towards the sky. She wasn’t blinking or twitching in any way. It was later that we learnt that the building in front of which she laid was not open for females to enter; my guess is that perhaps she wanted to enter and so they restrained her.
 
 
When I talked to her, she said nothing. I tried to gain her attention but there was no response. It was when I tried to lift her up that she became violent and hysterical. She was our burden to bear and we had to take her away from there. Remember, we trekked to the place and so it was impossible to trek home with someone in that condition.
 
 
What we did was that we trekked back home to one of our neighbours who had a car and begged them to help us bring her home in their car. We took her straight to a general practice hospital and when she was examined, we were told nothing was wrong with her. We took her home afterwards and hope that truly, nothing was wrong with her.

 

Not long after we got home, she started acting strange again. She first started by always pouring water on her head. She would put a bible on her head, wear a white cap like those worn by the white garment churches and then she would begin to pour water on her head. She did this for many months and the whole house began to smell. At this point, we knew something was obviously wrong with her but we didn’t have the money to take her to a psychiatric hospital. My grandma was the only one taking care of me and my 5 younger ones so it was hard to come by money.

At some point, I got so angry that I pulled off the cap and the bible and threw them away. Of course she fought me, she resisted me but I guess my courage spurred from my anger. I just couldn’t bear it anymore. She kept exhibiting different strange behaviours. Sometimes she would disappear from the house and we would all be looking for her. It was always some family friend or neighbor that would sight her far away from home and would then call my grandma. The thing is, she would leave the house in her sutana and because it was white, it didn’t take very long before it got dirty.

Sometimes, she might be in the middle of a market and I’d have to devise a way to get her out of the open without upsetting her or creating a scene. I’d find ways to lure her to myself but there was always the challenge of transporting her back home. No cab driver will want to carry an unstable woman as a passenger and so I would have to charter a cab. Even as a charter, some drivers would say it to my face that ‘Ah, were lo fe gbe, mi o lo o’. A cab man that would carry us will also extort us, seeing the condition and the desperation that I was in. All of these were happening at a time when we had nothing.

My grandma is not someone who believes in medicine – she believes more in spiritual stuff than in orthodox medicine. She began to take my mother to different places for prayers. There was a time she took my mom to a white garment church for a special deliverance session. She was left in the church and my grandma returned home. The next day, we saw those church people around our place but they never came to our house. I went to my grandma and told her that I had sighted the church people in our area and that I felt strongly that they were looking for my mom; and that grandma should go talk to them. She listened to me and spoke to one of them. It was then that we knew that she had escaped from the church.

Apparently during the deliverance session they beat my mom with omorogun and when she couldn’t take it anymore, she attacked them and ran away. Apparently, she fled the church and went to a relative’s place. The relative informed us that she was with them but she swore not to return home so the relative housed her for a while till she messed up the place and we were called upon to come get her. This happened in 2010 too.

In 2011, my grandma took my mom to another church for prayers – the prayer place was somewhere at Oluyole Estate. This pastor took her in and she lived in the Pastor’s boys quarters for one whole year and she witnessed significant changes – she was okay and calm.  In that period, she was fine and well – she dressed well, interacted well with people and did not pray excessively. That was the whole of 2011.

Again, her symptoms began in 2012. She would leave the house and go to a primary school in the neighbourhood to join the kids on the assembly ground. Sometimes, she could be on the street holding a bible, a book and a pen. Whenever she sighted a passerby, she would rip out a tiny piece of paper, write a bible verse in it and hand it over to the passerby as though she was a doctor filling out a prescription for a patient. She’d tell the passerby to read the verse and pray. It is a bit baffling that some people would still go to her.

I don’t know if the prayers worked for them sha but they believed in her strongly.

 
My mother and my step father had separated a few years before and I think he was seeing another woman and the new woman would visit him at his office. My step-dad had a job but the business was his side hustle. Somehow, my mother found out that my step-father was seeing someone else and she got the jealous streak. She would go to his office and harass him.
 
In 2013 when my step-father had been transferred to Akure, my mom went to the woman’s place of business and threatened to pour acid on her. The woman did not take it lightly either; she got a police woman, traced my mom to our house and got her arrested. At that time, I was not home. It sprung a lot of controversy but we just had to manage it.
 
My Step-father caught wind of everything and decided to come to Ibadan immediately. On his way back to Ibadan to address the issue, he had an accident. It was a serious one, it was fatal but he survived. He was rushed to the surgery and, according to what I heard; one of his legs had to be amputated immediately. The surgery was done but soon after, he died.
 
Despite these, my mother failed to acknowledge that her husband was dead. Even till now, she is still in denial; she would tell you “Oko mi o ku o – my husband isn’t dead” She would tell you he is in Ondo state or someplace outside the country. However, I’d say somewhere in her mind, perhaps the idea that it was possible that he truly died triggered her condition again.
 
In 2014, she began to roam the streets again; this time it was terrible. I was in Ekiti for a year and while there, my grandma would call me and tell me that they didn’t know her whereabouts, sometimes for as long as a week. There was a young boy in the area at the time who always told me that he always saw my mother with some men at D’Rovans. I thanked him for the information but there was nothing I could do about it, after all my mother was an adult in her own right too. At this point, this whole thing had become a thing of shame and I didn’t know how to deal with it.
 
I forced myself to develop a tough heart so that nothing moved me anymore – nothing bothered me anymore. It reflected in how I dressed and the things I did. There was a year that all I wore all through were white and black clothes. I think I actually did that for two years. I kept my hair uncut for a very long time. At that time, we did not have money and because we couldn’t buy new clothes, I began to wear my late grand-father’s clothes.
 
 
People never really understood why I was wearing old clothes and grand-father-style clothes, they rather just assumed that I was an old school or something. People segregated me because of all these, in the bus on my way to school, people would not want to sit near me. I have an accentuated sense of hearing so when people around me gossip, I hear them.
 
 
I have heard people say about me that I was an old man. Some even spread news round that I am mad. Even in school a lecturer once summoned me and told me that I looked like a madman. All these people did not understand my battles or the things I had been through.
 
I came home from Ekiti sometime in 2014 and on when I was prepared to go back, I went to my mom’s room to inform her of my impending departure. As she was praying for me for safe travels, she grabbed a relaxer container and spat into it. After the prayers, I asked her: “Iya, shey e ti loyun ni – are you pregnant, mother?”
 
She answered me and said, “If I am pregnant, am I too young or am I too old to be pregnant?” I left her room and went to my grandmother and asked her if my mother was pregnant.
She replied and said “Bi mo shey ri niyen o.
 
I was so devastated – it was one of the toughest days of my life.”

There was a man in our neighbourhood who was about twice my age and who I always talked to and I decided to go see him and pour my heart out to him but I didn’t meet him and so I walked round the neighbourhood crying. I met people I respected as I took that walk and they asked me why I was crying. With hot tears streaming down my face, I would tell them and they would pet me and console me but nothing would do. After I had walked around for a while, I returned home, picked my bag and returned to Ekiti.

That news was a new low in the whole chain of shameful events that we had been dealing with as a family over the years. My mother’s mental health was one issue that was hard to deal with; adding the pregnancy when everyone around knew that her husband was already late was harder to deal with. The question on many people’s minds which was not been asked out loud was “who is responsible for the pregnancy?”

When I returned from Ekiti after a while, I realized that every time I asked my mother who was responsible for the pregnancy her answer always changed. One day, it is Mr. A. next time you ask it is Mr. X. It became a worrisome situation so I just let her be. I had an escape spot – it was a gigantic stone by the side of the road, not far away from our house. I’ll go there, sit on the stone, take in the breeze, watch people walk past and just free my mind of all the struggles.

One day, I was sitting on the stone with a member of our church – a man who was like an uncle, then my mom walked past. My mom didn’t look at me nor did I. As she passed, the man sitting with me on the stone asked me to look at the woman. The next thing he said was, “I hear say the woman husband just die and she don get belle already.” With a straight face, I replied that “yes o, na so we see am. By the way, that is my mom.” The man was shocked at my response. He didn’t believe me at first but when I asked him if I would ever joke with a thing as that, he believed me. After that evening, he withdrew from me totally.

I took on the responsibility of taking her to the diagnostic centre for her ultrasound and whenever it was time for her antenatal, I would go with her. At some point some even thought I was responsible for the pregnancy. The interesting thing is that during the pregnancy she was fine and okay. She dressed well and comported herself very well. During that period, we bonded and interacted well.

Many months later, she told me she wanted to give birth. I took her to Adeoyo Hospital at Ring-Road. We spent two days in the hospital but she didn’t give birth. On the third day, I decided to go see a client to get their measurement for their clothes because I was into branding of clothes. I spent less than 30 mins with the clients and by the time I returned to the hospital she was carrying a little baby in her arms. I was shocked to find out that in less than 30mins, she had birthed her child. She named the girl Glory. Immediately she gave birth, she slipped right back into her state of derailment. She wouldn’t let anyone come near the baby.

In 2018, my mom’s condition grew worse and was beyond what we could deal with. I reached out to my friends abroad and to some of my paternal relatives. My grandmother also tried to raise some money for her treatment. We had wanted to take her to UCH but UCH was on strike so we took her to private hospital. In a week of treatment, she was restored to normalcy but I didn’t know that her mental treatment was something that shouldn’t be rushed. Also, grandmother was also not patient with the therapy.

The truth is that we were pressed for money. At the private hospital, we paid N200,000 for two weeks, there was no way we could keep up.

 
 
“When the UCH strike was over I wanted us to take her to UCH but grandma just wanted to take her home since she already looked okay. After we took her home, she had a relapse right back into her former state and so we had to, once again, raise money for her treatment. This time, we took her to UCH where she was hospitalized and treated for two months. In those two months, I saw the best of her. I even took my friends to see her at the hospital and she was warm and hospitable. All these was late 2018 into February 2019. In February 2019 she was discharged from UCH.
 
 
For the first few weeks she got home she steadfastly used her drugs and she was okay. Then afterwards, she stopped using the drugs claiming that Jesus had healed her and she needn’t use any drugs anymore. In a way I couldn’t blame her for stopping the drugs because they had side effects on her. The drugs made it difficult for her to open her mouth and she was always drooling too. I think the drugs also triggered her cataract. I advised her to not stop using the drug but when she had made up her mind; there was nothing I could do.
 
This time when she relapsed, things went really bad and she has been in that state till now. She burnt all her clothes and only has one cloth. She doesn’t sleep, she talks to herself unending. As we speak, I can’t tell you the last time she had a bath but it must be a long time now. I don’t think she recognizes people anymore. My cousin came home some days ago and she talked to him as though he was a young man she was just coming across her whole life. She even said to him, “it is nice to meet you.” It has become really overwhelming now. I feel like she is in a faraway place and she is lost.
 
 
Today, I am a bit laid back about life. The idea of good scares me because my reality is that when something good is happening, bad is not so far away – it is lurking around the corner, waiting to overshadow the good. So I am always edgy when good is happening – I keep asking myself, when is bad going to happen and from what angle will it be coming from? When bad things are happening, I feel numb, no agitation.
 
 
My approach to life is pessimistic and despondent. It is how I have been able to cope with my realities, my own survival mechanisms. Pessimism helps me not to be disappointed when people let me down. When people mock me, it doesn’t bother me anymore.
 
 
The only thing that breaks my heart is watching my siblings going through these things too. They act like they are used to it but they are not used to it, really. Every day brings a new version of an extreme that they should never be used to. They are young – within the range of 19 years to 5 years and this kind of anomaly has become their reality. They act like they are fine on the outside but I am sure that it troubles them deep inside their hearts.
 
 
I wish I could do something to right the wrongs of the situation. It breaks my heart. I wish there was something I could do to take away her condition, I wish there was something I could do to remedy this whole thing. Even for my grandma, I feel bad for her. She’s going into her 80s and I can only imagine how she feels looking at her daughter mentally deranged. I don’t know.
 
 
Remember that I said that she became clingy to her baby after the birth and she wouldn’t let anyone come near her. Her stay in the hospital was the window we had to wean her off the baby and to enroll the child in a school and have her socialize. She’s growing fast into a brilliant wonderful girl.
 
 
Today, she is 5 years going on 6.”
 
 
(THE END)
 
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