Monday the 19th was International Men’s Day. I wonder how long this day has been in existence. Truth be told, this was the first time I learned about it. It’s likely I would have missed it again had it not been for an invite I got to attend a talk at Safaricom House. My pal Don from Engage referred me and that’s how I got invited to be a panellist on that forum. It was targeting men only and the topic of discussion was on men’s mental health. Thanks to this blog, they found me fit to chip in and share a little wisdom from my own journey and also insights gained from my men readers.

I silently hoped that since Safaricom is the richest company in the region they would give me a cheque. Or a nice phone at the bare minimum. Don’t they just fish them from a well behind the building and you choose the one you want? I thought. He-he.

I arrived on time and went through tight security checks to access the building. I felt like I was entering a maximum prison on a deserted island I guess it’s because of the chums made in this place. After parking in the basement, I had to go through doors that can only be opened by security guards with swipe cards. I finally got to Michael Joseph Centre and was ushered in by two ladies into the room. We waited for the room to fill up a bit more then after the speakers’ briefing, we went and sat at the front row in the auditorium.

Dr. Frank Njenga was the guest speaker. He took us through the stark reality of depression in men, its causes and symptoms. I liked that his talk was focused on preventive measures to depression. He told us signs to look out for that indicate one is (or about to be) depressed. For example, loss of sleep, lack of interest in life, being irritable and fighting with family and friends, and the list continues.

Let me confess that after that evening, I realised I may have been depressed at some point on my half time journey. Scary thing is that I didn’t know I was depressed and neither did my family. I had lost interest in my work and life in general and my mind-set was almost always negative. Thank God I didn’t slide further deeper into it. My baby sharks were my main motivation for working at reversing my downward spiral. It took and continues to take a lot of conscious effort. This whole season seemed to be in private as no one knew about it, me included. I had a version of depression but in the closet.

Three of the panellists shared their personal stories on loss of a loved one, fighting cancer and how they are coping with it. You could feel the heaviness in the room as these men shared their experience. It was special and rare to witness men being vulnerable and candid about their deep struggles. The take away from this session was that men need to embrace going for regular check-ups and not ignore changes in their bodies – however minor. Fellas also need to have a true ally to fight depression, loss or cancer with because there are things in life you just cannot go through solo.

After that session, Dr Njenga, myself and Oyunga Pala got on stage to share our stories. I couldn’t believe I was sharing a stage with Oyunga Pala of the famous Man talk Column. Growing up, I would always look for the Saturday Nation just to read Man talk. I felt very motivated and validated sharing a platform with this great columnist and writer. Kweli my dreams are valid.

I spoke on the need for us men to accept seasons in our lives where we feel out of control and vulnerable. Let’s try and look deeper into the meaning of those seasons and try to exercise our faith. That will take a lot of mental discipline to keep anxiety at bay, and resist the temptation to manufacture answers to our prayers. Faith in God has been a great ally for me here. Don was a very good facilitator and he also shared some inputs from his own journey as a male in  Nairobi.

Once again I came alive just being part of such a forum which reaffirmed that this is partially what my future looks like. Building folks through conversation and service. Even more exciting was Oyunga showing interest in my blog, which he promised to look up. He also offered to help me with his vast wisdom should I need it along the way. Of course I will take up his offer soon. Maybe he should be my second guest writer after my wonderful editor Purey. Better still, maybe I should request that I write on his blog and get some mentorship from him.

The event ended with a very lively session from a guy who’s part of a movement or business called Mandevu (beard). He took us through the dos and don’ts of having a good beard since this is Movember, the month where men grow their beards in support of the fight against cancer. I was one of the lucky few to get a grooming kit from Mandevu. I just think my kit should have been for kandevu. I think it’s more of a goatee than a beard but for this month we shall call it kandevu he-he.

I left safaricom with three things that Monday night. My grooming kit, a satchel giveaway (I still think they should have thrown an S9 phone in there) and most importantly, feeling proud to be a man in this day and age despite what life throws at us. It felt so good being in the company of good men just talking about us and building one another through sharing experiences. Maybe we should have International Men’s Day monthly instead of annually.

Happy International Men’s Day gents.

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One thought on “Movember”

  1. George Nuthu says:

    Congrats on sharing the stage with renowned presenters; my brother this is a glimpse of things to come! Keep it up!

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