One of the great lessons of my life has been the acknowledgment that my family has often hated me. When I was young, I thought they disliked me because I was a flamboyant, exuberant kid who was too demonstrative – too gay.
As I got older, I realized my family’s hatred of me was a textured, prismatic enmity that went beyond my flamboyance and surpassed my simply being a gay dude. It took me years to realise that their resentment of me was also about my perceived vulnerability, as if I was persistently mocking them by being chipper and mentally ill; as if I was taking the piss by finding countless pockets of self-generated joy in a hostile environment where my very existence was misinterpreted as a taunt.
I learnt many years later that my family, having survived the Somali civil war, and countless other terrors, were victims of the profound post-traumatic stress that comes as naturally as breathing to survivors of war. I was lucky insofar that I had a lexicon for my maladies. By prioritising my mental health from an early age out of sheer necessity, I had tools that most members of my family — highly educated and intelligent though they were — were unable to access because of the stigmas that come with such diagnoses amongst diasporic communities. And so these fears, these pulsating animosities, get transfused into the younger generation from birth, until they too inherit the post-traumatic symptoms of their parents in a never-ending loop of psychological and emotional unrest.
This is not about generational curses. It’s about access to appropriate health services that might allow us to lead more fulfilled lives; access that is often denied to first generation immigrants due to cultural barriers. You cannot give what you do not have, and if you do not have the necessary resources to navigate the labyrinthine bureaucracies of the mental industrial complex, what therapeutic heirlooms can you then pass onto your children and their children? Cognitive health is generational wealth in concentrated form.
One of the great lessons of my life is that it’s one million percent alright if someone actively dislikes you or wishes you ill will. That’s entirely their prerogative. The trick is to leave those folks be. I don’t harbour any resentment towards my family. I lead a peaceful life surrounded by a circle of care and trust. There’s so much love, so much pleasure and kinship to be found in this world. Go ahead and find your people. They’re out there, waiting to love up on you and treat you with the dignity and kindness that you deserve.
Image by DIRIYE OSMAN