BOOK REVIEW: ‘WHAT IS THE WORST CASE SCENARIO? BY MARIE A. ABANGA
The memoir ‘What is the worst case scenario’ is a refined reality of life which I believe is a must read for every aspirant person seeking relief from the strong fears of life.
I am heavily inspired by the wordings of Winston Churchill in the foreword of this book found in page 18 wherein he says ‘Never give up, never give in. Never. Never. Never’.
The Preface introduces the memoir proper and brings out the worst case scenario to be the aspect of FEAR of what people will say, or do; defining fear meaning we should fold everything and run; face everything and rise; or false emotions appearing real.
The first chapter dubbed ‘The fear of staying’ opens up with the author describing how she had a mental hostage as she was growing up and the fear of staying was eminent and so the mind probably makes a mental note ‘you don’t want to stay, well you just try your best to cope hoping for the opportunity to escape’. The author describes various levels of her escape mechanisms which kick starts with her being enrolled in a boarding school, followed by the breakdown of her parents’ marriage, she further envisions marriage to be the best escape-she describes it as a wonderful refuge. She manifests her fear of staying broader when even before the Mayor, they argue on the matrimonial regime to opt for. Her fears to stay could solely be consoled in the arms of other men. She concludes by saying her problem was overcoming the fear of leaving, and not getting defeated by that fear which was threatening to make me hostage for the rest of her life.
The second chapter dubbed ‘The fear of leaving’ opens up with the author describing fear as such a terrible thing which can make you a prisoner right in your own bed. Hence, she had to leave her father’s house with her brother because her dad and his new wife were becoming unbearable. After an eight years hiatus, the author regained a prodigal daughter status and she and her dad were ‘seemingly happy’ in her own words though she now had two additional siblings and a third one on course. After the third step-sibling was born, lack of ‘personal resources ‘other than a ‘disturbed mind’, got her to ‘hang’ around some more years at her mum’s. The author got two sons after losing her first pregnancy and loosing another child at birth, then since her marriage was more of lip service, she asks herself if she could leave? This got to a stage where she took a knife and wanted to commit suicide and leave this world with its headaches. She closes up her fear of leaving by a choice to fold everything and run as she often did and then to eventually face everything and rise.
The third chapter dubbed ‘the fear of losing’ describes the greatest fear of losing to be that of losing your mind. She still figured out what to do to be suicidal as a fake wife, a loser, a miserable woman and a sham of a mother. The search for solace found her in marriage seeking refuge. Her fears to lose her esteem, marriage and reputation became primordial in her mind. Her years spent in Belgium were actually necessary for her personal journey towards emotional and mental wellbeing.
The fourth chapter –‘The fear of failing’ Opens up with her expressing her inability to see, face or talk to her lecturer and also her inability to study and work hard with severe skepticisms of her course outline. This made her to earn poor grades in school and had to resit her exams. she narrates her freshman experience as she goes in for her LL.M programme in Belgium to study International Law with International Relations. She encountered hearing problems in following up classes and had to get a Sesame Hearing Aid. She sees failure inevitable but decides to face her fears of failing when it comes knocking as a learning curve onwards. She describes all failures be it emotional, mental, professional, spiritual and otherwise as learning curves if we all exhale and inhale in all humility and modesty before resitting the lessons. The author further shares some 30 quotes which she googled about failure which in summery tries to tell us that no great success was ever achieved without failure as failure is seen as a stepping stone to achieve our dreams. Hence, like the great Barrack Obama says ‘You can’t let failure define you – you have to let your failure teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently the next time’. A quote which the author got from chapter five of Abraham Mutwol’s book titled ‘The 26 Inspiring Life Lessons from Barrack Obama….’This chapter in brief aims at saying you may encounter many defeats but you must not be defeated…as nothing will work unless you do. The author concludes this chapter with a teaser question of us finding out what is the worst case scenario if we fail? There is a choice, either we fold everything and run away forever or we learn from the events, face everything and rise. The author chooses the second option conclusively.
The fifth chapter – ‘The fear of being loved’ opens up with a pondering question of whom in his ‘right’ senses and emotions fears being loved? She writes about her desire to be able to face everything and rise when any love like gentleman comes along. She commits herself to trust her instincts and reasons and not her emotions on their spur of a moment. She exposes the zeal to rise and thrive amidst difficulties. She exposes her unconventional loves wherein she felt loved in the most unconventional of those relationships. She expresses her earnest desire to be loved and narrates her story of love and later expresses her fears of rejection and abandonments. This chapter that talks more on her love life tales ends with her fears of one thing or the other always looming her mind.
The sixth chapter labeled ‘The fear of loving’ expresses her dilemma in her fear of loving, whether receiving or giving, what she calls philophobia which ranks high amongst unusual phobias. She defines philophobia as an unwarranted and an irrational fear of falling in love though often times the sufferer does fall in love but it causes an intense emotional turmoil in his or her mind. The nature and causes of philophobia all vary from case to case and sometimes, it is a real mystery as to why it might have occurred in the first place. She narrates the story of the queen of England who was philophobic and furthermore says the symptoms vary from individual to individual. Most revering is the fact that she concludes this most delicate and VIP chapters by resolving to face this fear of loving after researching much about it and desires her three musketeers read this and are not philophobic.
The seventh chapter – ‘The fear of stigma ‘ opens with the author expressing her dislike for friends who run after mentally deranged people and sing songs and sometimes throw stones when she was a kid. She exposes her beloved brother’s outpour of foamy saliva today known as epilepsy as a stigma. She exposes the society for stigmatizing people’s bad mental states which can lead to seeking suicide as an option; but advocates that we should not give in to the fear of stigma maybe because we may be branded or marginalized. With a refusal to give in to fear, the author consciously decided to stigmatize stigma. She hails efforts done in this regard like that of Greg Mercer in his story titled A Nurse with a mental Illness; My story.
She further tells us how stigma kills people daily and if we help keep stigma alive, we cause more pain and death. She shares the tale of her fair lady and heroine friend Dyane Leshin-Harwood who suffers from postpartum bipolar disorder in one of her posts with the caption ‘A Stigma of one’s Own’ and secondly ‘ Stigma from the source’. She ridicules self stigma which is accepting prejudiced perceptions held by others which can lead too the reluctance to seek treatment, excessive reliance on relatives, social withdrawal, poor self- worth and may lead to abuse of alcohol and drugs. She ends this chapter by resolutely deciding to advocate much for the marginalized in our societies and says what matters to her most is her legacy and what she leaves behind for her sons and the world at large.
Chapter eight dubbed ‘The fear of advocating’ talks of the author’s dreams of becoming a doctor or a lawyer and she has indeed ended up as a lawyer and a fierce mental health advocate too. She exposes how her beloved brother’s crisis is admittedly the catalyst for her daring advocacy to the point of accepting the huge task of being the country director for the Gbm foundation for epilepsy and mental wellbeing. The mental malady has four distinct stages namely 1-Mild symptoms and warning signs; 2-Symptoms increase in Frequency and severity and interfere with life activities and roles; 3-Symptoms worsen with relapsing and recurring episodes accompanied by serious disruption in life activities and roles and lastly number 4- symptoms are persistent and severe and have jeopardized one’s life. She concludes by resolutely adhering to advocate against all odds while alive.
Chapter nine which is the shortest and last chapter is dubbed ‘The fear of Dying’. It is all about nothing can delay or deny death when its time comes. She exposes her case of losing three siblings but conclusively resolves that the worst case scenario is that if you live, you will one day die. By Banda Banda, Douala, Cameroon