Unbecoming a schizophrenic


There is a proverbial saying that goes “above all else guard your heart for out of it stem the issues of life.” This came to mind in the last few days as I battled to understand psychological stress and trauma that breaks down an individual to a near shadow of them.

Being a black African woman whose socialisation is deep in religious rituals and actions, I have been taught that mental illnesses and psychological breakdowns are a direct result of demonic influences. Well, not entirely. Sometimes one fails to handle stress and trauma because their mind is incapable of dealing with the various lived realties and they simply lose it.
Many Zimbabweans are bordering on psychosis, hallucinations and delusion as they strive to balance life and what it offers. Schizophrenia has never been so real in a context like ours, sad.

Let us look at a couple of familiar scenarios: Imagine you are driving down a road and you reach to an intersection, as you slow down to give way, you see a vehicle whisk past you at an unimaginable speed. The driver and maybe the passengers do not even seem to notice. Or maybe it could be someone at a busy shopping centre cutting in front of your vehicle and “stealing” that much patiently waited for parking space.

Think of a father who rapes his two-year-old daughter or the teenager who rapes a girlfriend and pretends he doesn’t know her. Imagine the pastor who murders his wife and hides her under his bed and leaves for Zambia to facilitate a church conference. It could even be a colleague at work who has multiple lovers and he/she does not even remember the reason they are doing that.
Maybe it is the leader that is so archaic they do not even know they still lead or the corrupt official who abuses office power and authority.

scores of people throng Robert Mugabe street for  the  2015 Harare Carnival Street Party last  Saturday

It could be anything, anywhere and anyhow, there are clear signs that our mental states are slowly bordering on what is considered schizophrenic by those who care to do psychoanalysis. When I looked at it and how we are living our lives, I was surely convinced that we need urgent intervention in order for us to retain a near normal life at many levels. Possibly it is nothing to you, but to many people whose lives have become such an unimaginable burden, this could be the time for each one of us to think about making a transformation, one life at a time.

Zimbabwe has a number of mental health facilities that do their best to support those with varying mental illnesses. However, for most of us, we roam the streets undiagnosed and thus are a danger to the many people we interact with. Some are more dangerous than others. Those we meet who have a tendency to scream their way to being listened to, the not so caring person, the absent parent, the struggling poverty-stricken neighbour whose dignity has been compromised, those struggling with unemployment, the ones who have an inclination towards excessiveness of any nature, to the religious fundamentalists who tend to down any form of religiosity to whoever they meet and those who are corrupt, abusive and plain masochistic. These are noted as the many possible influences of schizophrenia. I am not saying we are all sick, but again most of us are and could be undiagnosed. My call today is of sheer patience, love and care for each other from wherever as each of us attempts to live to the best of our ability.

Life has many ups and downs for many of us, despite which spectrum of the social bracket you hail from. For each one of us, we do have some means of coping so we get through life in as normal and healthy as is possible. However, there are moments when we somehow find ourselves lost and seeking for meaning. It could be easier to find meaning and direction, but for some it is much more difficult. It is during those times that we tend to exude “weird” ways of being and we need to seek help.

But again, how do we seek help when it is rather difficult for us to even understand what it is that will be going on? This means that when we feel a little lost in our ways, we seek help. It could be from friends, family, colleagues or counsellors.
However, I am talking to those of us who have a tendency of noticing the absurd, so we stand in solidarity and support of those who are lost and seeking better ways of being. There will be moments in this life when we see someone who needs a little help to laugh, smile, lead, break a fall or even live a near normal life, that is when you and me come in.

We hold fort for them until they get back to their feet. We do not judge, or laugh or point fingers, we simply hold fort. For that sister, brother, friend, mother, father, child, aunt, uncle, nephew, leader or niece who needs a little help during a breaking point, we step in.

Life is rather difficult for many in Zimbabwe and surely there will be moments of madness at many levels and in many quarters like we all seem to witness from time to time. We look at leadership and wonder how we can come together and get help of the highest quality so we lead near normal lives. The call today is: Let us cut each other some slack and understand that schizophrenia is real and we all need to be a little bit patience for the time will come when normalcy is the original way of being. It will not help us to keep shouting, be angry and point fingers. We need to self care and care for the other so that in the end we are a nation of people who have a social fabric that promotes healthy living.

So from today going forwards, we can chose to lead happier lives. We can chose to be more polite, smile to a stranger, love the next person, be gracious with messed up leadership, understanding and stand in awe of the next person’s ability to live their life in the manner that they do. It is not about condoning bad behaviour but, it is about being a little kinder not just to us at a personal level but also to the next person. Like the wisdom guru once said: “Be kind to everyone you meet for we are each fighting a battle that the next person knows nothing about.”

It is more than good democratic governance and getting young leaders that will not stumble, it is also about you and me making it work from our small corners and ensuring that in whatever it is that we do, we are striving to make a difference and make Zimbabwe work again and we cease to be schizophrenic. Let’s do this!

lGrace Ruvimbo Chirenje writes in her personal capacity and loves stimulating conversation. She would be excited to hear from you. You can contact Grace on graceruvimbo@gmail.com, follow her on twitter @graceruvimbo or Facebook: Grace Ruvimbo Chirenje. Chat soon.


  1. No greater sign of schizophrenia than 100 000 people going to listen to a “Prophet” instead of working to solve their problems….

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