You are invited to launch the Gabriel Bebonbechem Center for Epilepsy & Mental Well-being, AZI, and his memoir titled “My brother’s journey from Genius to Simpleton” by Marie Angele ABANGA. The center and the Book that will celebrate and immortalize Gabriel will be launched by the Regional delegate for Social Affairs for the SW Region, HRM Fon FOREKE ASONGTIA II, under the patronage of His Excellency, the Governor of the SW Region on the 3rd of December 2014 as part of the events marking the celebration of the International Day of Persons with disabilities.
Venue: Council Hall Buea South West Province
Time: 1 pm
For further information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S: Come and meet my mother, share with her and exchange ideas. Lets break the silence, the pain, the shame, the stigma, the rejection.
My dearest blogging granny of all times, is the first person to send in a review of My latest release. I was so excited to receive same, and I share with you. I hope many of us download the free kindle for this weekend, and find it in them to do a review sometime. Thank you Granny, I love you too so much and hope to come see you someday. I lovingly deny I was the most able sibling, I just tried to be a loving sibbling just like my other two sisters.
” My Brother’s Journey from Genius to Simpleton, is a deeply moving, sensitively written account of one family’s struggle with a sick son. To compound matters, it took a long time before the correct diagnosis was given. Marie Abanga describes her brother Gabriel’s deterioration into a deep depression and how her family battled to cope with the destruction of their once happy family caused by mental illness, without their father’s support. Marie seemed to be the most able sibling to give her brother the support he so badly needed and she gave of her time selflessly an endlessly.
This book was a hard read because mental illness and the subsequent death of the patient are such difficult subjects to deal with. I put myself in the family’s shoes while reading it. I discovered that many fathers are unable to handle mental illness when it affects their immediate families, and find solace elsewhere even though marriages seldom run smoothly. In the case of mental illness, families need the strength of fathers and mothers combined, more than ever.
In addition to endless other problems, Gabriel’s family had to somehow handle the stigma accorded mental illness. Marie’s dream is that one day, there will be no blame, shame and stigma associated with mental illness. And, that is exactly the way I feel and the reason I started blogging about mental illness. If we all speak out, there will be no more stigma.
In the midst of all this upheaval and upset, Marie continued to love her brother. I recommend this book to families with similar problems as well as to professionals working in the field of mental health.”
And what do I say, feel or do when I wake up to comments like this?
” AYO,indeed,the subject matter of your novel emanates from the death of your beloved brother,yet the THEME you have handled is Universal and truly controversial at the same time.The issues raised keep haunting us on a daily basis and at different rungs of the society.A subject matter that many would avoid to discuss and may be scared to talk about but which demands the tack,skills,courage and determination of your type to handle.There is the pressing need for every individual,the world at large to turn attention to the most burning issues raised in this MUST READ NOVEL. Comments by ALEMJI SAMUEL ATABONG, Buea,Cameroon.” GM of ANUCAM Publishing.
One day, after our parents had split, we were at mum’s about to eat before returning to what we called ‘limbo’. Yes, that is what our father’s house had become to us especially since he got married to this other woman who wouldn’t let us touch ‘her things’ (fridge, pans, spoons, just name it). It was then during that meal, a sumptuous one of different dishes, that my brother coined the term ‘last supper’.
On that particular day, a Saturday which I very well remember, the fun was that it wasn’t even in the evening. We had just returned from some shopping and I had insisted we go into a photo studio and take the above picture. We had our ‘last supper’ and returned to ‘limbo’ with some more foodstuffs which I would cook on the stove we had in our room.
Our meals in ‘limbo’ very often consisted of rice and whatever. There is no doubt I think that rice up to this date is my favorite dish , just like he wrote in his journal it was his. In short, I must have his rice cooker whatever it takes.
And so, each time we were having a delicious meal, we would joke that it is our ‘last supper’.
Yes, and sadly so, when my brother started living and toiling on his own, his cooking abilities were eventually limited to doing rice in his cooker and mixing ketchup and water in a large sauce pan. He would eat only that day in day out, as many times a day as the side effects of his meds urged him to appease ‘hunger’.
Mum got him to send her a picture of what he was going to have for supper on the eve of his death. She had been there recently and did cook lots of stuff and leave with him. He had maybe eaten all by then and so this is the picture he sent her:
When a neat guy, a gentleman like the one we see on that picture, starts having trouble doing even the most basic of tasks – shouldn’t it be a cause for concern?
When I received this note below from my brother, I wept!!!
“… I did my laundry today … Gabriel Bebonbechem 13/05/2014 20:36.”
Frankly speaking, I felt so bad, not because I had never felt depressed enough not to even want to get out of bed, bathe or even talk to anyone, but because I realized how distorted my hero’s brain and thought pattern had become. I could identify with that feeling of ‘huge accomplishment’ after you had battled to even take that laundry to the washing machine and just dump it in there.
I must confess that some day, not to far ago (yes only last week), I did dump some laundry in there and just forgot about them until two days later. On another ocassion, I saw 1 pm meet me in bed, not asleep – but not finding it to get out of the ‘bad bed’.
And so what’s the big deal?
These episodes may be mild especially for those mentally challenged and ill who find even taking their meds, brushing their teeth, eating or refrain from eating – doing the mundane on a daily basis, an excruciating challenge.
When I read my lovely granny Jill’s memoir of her son David, one think that struck me was her determination to help her boy keep or stay neat. I am sure she understood that he just couldn’t do it anymore, and she even hired a help once or twice. Then she took it upon herself to go to his apartment on the agreed tuesday evenings – as she writes that they had agreed to do ‘cleaning’ of his apartment together. She says she ended up doing it all by herself and took his laundry back with her. Yes, this was an even bigger deal than my brother’s.
It is easy for those who have never had to face such a challenge or be a caregiver to a loved one going through such, to understand or even empathise. They are quick to remind you to ‘put a grip on yourself’, ‘pull yourself together’, ‘take care of your shit’ and what have you?
We see the people we often label ‘mad’, pulling their ‘gabs’ on the street, having the same outfit on since New Year’s eve whereas Christmas is already around the corner. They stench, irritate, embarass, and maybe get a nasty stare from us? Simpletons like that, how dare they even walk on the same streets right?
Many Families give up, they are helpless and hopeless. What resources do you have to feed yourselves before thinking on picking up and understanding such perilous care of a now mentally ill member? Has it boiled down to his not even able to bathe or do his laundry? No that’s not my son some may say.
I sincerely hope we do a lot of retrospection and take on resolutions. Yes, doing your laundry may be an uphill task for some. I once had a blogger friend in here whom I haven’t read from for long: She blogged over at paddling for Peace – but I just checked and they say the blog has been deleted. She once tracked her efforts to do her laundry and it took almost two weeks. I called her Pax and I always wished her to find peace.
Dear gentle readers and followers, maybe we can’t do much much but we sure can feel and wish others well. May we start there, and may caregivers not give up on their faith for their loved one even if they can no longer do their Laundry.
Today is three months since I got that ugly midnight call. Was it not sad enough that I get woken up from my sparsely populated sleep, not that I didn’t even have a decent PJ on? Since I got so stunk that night, and almost lost whatever sleep I had tried to catch all these years, I promised myself to bring back at least one personal belonging of my brother’s. I ended up getting many but my delight was huge when I saw his PJ neatly folded in his luggage.
I love to request for either a PJ or a perfume as a gift from one of those bushfallers (our local slang from those coming in from abroad – well now I sure am one). Moreover, I needed to be very close to my brother. If in his fourth stage I hadn’t lived with or close to him, I will not miss sleeping in his PJ.
Those first nights before mum came in from the US with his luggage, I had trouble sleeping. If in ‘peace’ time my sleep is that ruffled, you could imagine how in pieces it had now been cut by this tsunami.Yet, I was shaking when I first put his PJs on, not only were they a bit over size on me, but well he had just died. And so, I left the lights on for just in case…
But wow, I had a break through. I slept until 2 am and then after the loo, I mustered to turn the lights off. Come to think, that I slept in total 6 good hours that night. I did get up some, but just a few minutes can’t make a shift.
It shall be well I gathered. My brother is off to rest. Good for him maybe cause no more meds to call. I suppose in finding such peace in his PJ, adds him to my list of secret angels. Yes, the Pain was cruel, it’s just getting whatever… I still can’t understand and so will tell any tales which come my way – I really don’t care if some find them too pale. I am lucky and happy to grieve out my way, and to have so many fond memories, support structures and all my way.
I wrote most of his journey in those PJs, and they are now my PJ of choice. I won’t bother anyone to bring me PJs again, and neither will I go shop for any.
Dear gentle readers and followers, I release this memoir in exactly a month from now. It will be free on kindle for that entire week. Hope you help yourself to that thrilling tragedy. Thank you
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