Singing a Lullaby to Myself | Anxiety & Mental Health in Rwanda
“My whole life became worry,” Florence Mukagenzi, a medical student from Rwanda says about her world. “It all felt so unsafe.”
And so begins Florence’s recovery journey from paralyzing anxiety, which she exquisitely details in the OC87 Recovery Diaries essay “Playing Hide and Seek with a Demon: My Struggle with Anxiety.” This month, OC87 Recovery Diaries is pleased to present a video that showcases Florence’s strong voice and thoughtful reflections about this delicate time in her life.
“Mental health resources are very limited in Rwanda,” Florence notes. “Being a person with mental illness is incredibly shameful in my community. It isn’t recognized as a health issue and doesn’t get the same acknowledgement that a disease like malaria receives, no matter how debilitating mental illness can be.”
In spite of the intense stigma about mental illness that exists in Rwanda, Florence realized that she was very unwell, that she couldn’t go on in the state of intense anxiety that she was experiencing. Thankfully, she listened to a voice within that encouraged her to find help.
“Seeking help has been a huge part of the me of right now,” she says in the video. An extremely brave action, when one considers the cultural barriers to mental health support in Rwanda.
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Florence was one of five international guests at the 2019 Write on the Ocean Women Writers’ Retreat that OC87 Recovery Diaries hosted in Cape May, NJ.
We took the opportunity of this gathering to interview our international guests. The interviews resulted in a new OC87 Recovery Diaries video series titled “Writers Talk,” in which we meet people discussing the important relationship between writing and mental health recovery.
We will post interviews with each of the “fabulous five” writers featured in this special OC87 Recovery Diary series. They include Liza Brock (Australia) , Claire Eastham (England), Florence Mukangenzi, (Rwanda), Pinar Tarhan (Turkey), and Sanjukta Chauhan (India).
We hope you’ll enjoy getting this international perspective on writing and mental health. We know you’ll enjoy meeting these terrific, articulate women.