Nubian Narratives: Mental Health & Healing feat. Kala

I recently e-met Kala (pronounced Kayla), and was intrigued by her story and her ambitions. Needless to say, I was happy when she asked to be featured in Nubian Narratives. As a Nigerian, I'm positively biased regarding my thoughts on her upcoming project, which you'll read more about below. 

In this article, Kala shares with us her mental health reality and research intentions, as well as a bit of her growth through betrayal and dishonesty. I hope her story is as insightful to you as it was to me.

Please enjoy!


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Welcome, Kala! Could you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Hi everyone, I’m Kala. This year I was diagnosed with moderate autism. I’m also a Fulbright scholar and I’m about to embark on a 9 month adventure to conduct mental health research in Nigeria. After that, I’ll be attending the University of Oxford for graduate school. I’ve never lived outside of the country alone before this! When I’m not conducting research, I enjoy reading, writing and running.

 

How has being diagnosed with autism changed your perception of yourself and of the world, if at all?

There’s a quote I read earlier, that I can’t seem to find anywhere, but it went something like “...the world isn’t kind, just ask anyone with autism and they’ll tell you how unkind the world is”. I have mixed feelings about this quote. I do feel that I’ve run into some really mean and harsh people throughout my life, people who do not accept me for who I am. However, for every person I’ve met who’s been unkind, I’ve met twice as many people who’ve been by my side in the past, throughout my diagnosis, and will be a huge support in my life in the future.

This diagnosis also changed my perception of myself by showing me it’s okay to be different. Like most people, I was a tad nervous to hear my autism results, but when I heard the news, I realized that I was still the exact same person I’d always been, and nothing about me had changed. I also used to be so hard on myself when stumbling in social situations, and these results have allowed me to relax and be kinder to myself when I make minor social errors.

Difficult times leave you bruised at first, but after the wound heals, the new layer always seems to be stronger, tougher, and more beautiful.

What’s been your most notable moment of growth lately?

Less than a year ago I had a boyfriend who cheated on me with a couple other girls in a meetup group I was in. Our relationship was so private that many of my friends didn’t believe that I was even dating him in the first place, and I was accused of lying about the situation. Then, after having what was, in hindsight, an autistic meltdown, I was exiled from my friend group and shunned. It was a very dramatic time in my life, and I’m proud to say that I’ve recently been able to heal, and even forgive everyone involved.

 

Congrats on that step forward, as it can be difficult to forgive. Describe your process of healing and forgiveness for us.

Matthew 5:44 has been an important part of my healing process. I’ve learned to simply pray for those who did me wrong, step away from the situation, and practice self-care. It’s been great to work on taking more time to myself. For example, I love reading, and I haven’t had the time to pick up a book in so long. This year I made a promise to myself to set time aside to read 26 books, or one book every 2 weeks. From books by black authors to any Christian book, I’m proud to say that I’ve been reading so ahead of pace that I recently had to increase it to 30 books for the year!

I’ve also been going to therapy and going on walks to clear my head and further process. I’ve been able to look inward at myself rather than putting the blame solely on others, and I’ve turned a traumatic situation into lessons on how to be a better girlfriend and friend in the future.

 Kala, enjoying a solo adventure in Giza, Egypt

Kala, enjoying a solo adventure in Giza, Egypt

Is there a mantra you live by? If so, could you share it with us?

Ile oba t'o jo, ewa lo busi.

I’ll be studying the Yoruba community in Nigeria, and I’ve also found out from a DNA test that my maternal DNA matches with those of the Yoruba people! I was browsing through Yoruba proverbs recently and this one really hit home. It translates to: “When a king's palace burns down, the re-built palace is more beautiful,” which basically means that creativity is often achieved after overcoming many difficulties. I’ve come to realize that life has a lot of ups and downs, but everything always seems to work out in the end. For example, if I hadn’t joined the old meetup group, I would’ve never been inspired to apply to Nigeria for my Fulbright fellowship, and if I would’ve never left my old friend group, I wouldn’t have applied to Oxford. Difficult times leave you bruised at first, but after the wound heals, the new layer always seems to be stronger, tougher, and more beautiful.

 

What prompted you to want to research mental health in Nigeria as opposed to within your home country?

I'm originally from Western New York. I've been working in the mental health field in the United States for a couple years now and I've known I wanted to do this line of work abroad for a couple reasons. First, studying perceptions of mental health and suicide will open my eyes to the perspective and viewpoints of another country, further allowing me to look at the States with a different lens when I return. Second, one of my main goals in life is to be a leading scientist on mental health and suicidality in the black community - and there's no better way to look at the black community than to look at the motherland! Besides, analyzing these perceptions in Nigeria will allow me to get a small glimpse in the mindset of Nigerian-Americans, our most educated immigrant group, and a group that has an increasing impact on black culture today. This will all hopefully inspire me to conduct novel, creative follow-up studies when I return.

 

What’s something you’re working on these days that you’re excited about?

I’m excited about a couple things at the moment. In addition to my research, I’m going to be working with Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative to form a mental health awareness organization at the university. There, we will inspire others to work on self-care, and take their mental health as seriously as one would take their physical health.

However, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without taking care of myself first. I’m excited to continue with my growth and healing process by continuing to read, pray and exercise. I’m also going to keep up with therapy and my medicine when I’m in Nigeria and read my Bible and other books. I’m proud of the amount of growth I’ve attained this year and am excited for what’s ahead these next couple of years while abroad.

 

Thanks for sharing your thought-provoking and inspirational story, Kala! Best of luck in Nigeria and the UK!

To check out more of Kala's work and keep up with her adventures to Nigeria and beyond, visit her website, whereintheworldiskala.com.


For the delightful readers in the building: What does healing and forgiveness look like for you? Is it a simple process or is there generally more weight attached? Also, how do you tend to process situations to aid in your mental health?

 

Interested in being featured in Nubian Narratives? Contact me here.