I attended a great number of webinars during the lockdown. They kept me busy, sane and occupied. They were quite useful in distracting me from the problem at hand: the raging pandemic. I found it difficult to be creative during that period, so I just signed up for webinars as they came along. If there was a ‘show’ happening and I got to hear of it, I registered. It got so bad, I had to start keeping track in my calendar, so that I wouldn’t miss any.

Looking back now at those webinars, I realise a very useful benefit: talking about feelings. A lot of the webinars I chose to attend talked about feelings. How people felt about the pandemic, what people were experiencing, what could be done to make the situation more bearable etc. People talked freely and shared their experiences, even to the extent of talking about private matters that would ordinarily not have been discussed.

What surprised me about the discussions was that these were Africans talking about their feelings, experiences and their capacity to cope or not cope with the happenings in their lives. I was richly blessed, because a lot of what those people were experiencing resonated with me and I could identify with their pain and benefit from their tips, solutions and suggestions. Even when there was no solution, it was comforting to hear that someone else felt the way I did and were battling similar fears, issues or experiences. It was very soothing. Only a pandemic could have achieved that!

The interesting thing is that the webinars are still going on now as part of our new normal, and I am still attending, though not as frequently as before. Now I have other responsibilities that take me away, but I still get to attend a few. This is what we have missed in this part of the world; the opportunity to know that we are not alone in our troubles. Even if the troubles persist, it is comforting to know that you can share the experience with someone else and get survival tips and empathy.

When the shootings happened at the Lekki Toll Gate, I was deeply distressed, but I couldn’t identify what was wrong with me until I attended a webinar and someone mentioned that she had not been able to sleep for two days in a row after that event. I identified with her sorrow and immediately understood what was going on with me. I wasn’t sleep deprived, but there was a heaviness I just couldn’t shake. That webinar went on to prescribe ways of coping with such news, one of which was to talk about it. I was so relieved.

Africans hardly engage with their deep feelings. And when they do (though rarely), they would never put it into words. It’s unheard of. They would rather sweep it under the carpet and move on as if nothing happened. I have learnt that such behaviour is dangerous, because one day, that ‘secret tank’ is going to be full and burst open and everything comes spilling out in a way that is usually out of control.

We are trained to suppress emotional pain and discomfort, instead of confronting it. With what I’ve learnt so far, I believe there is safety in sharing, especially when you share with the right people who are willing to listen, empathise and proffer solutions where possible. In most cases, a listening ear is all a person needs. Like I have heard it said, a woman sharing her troubles about work is not looking for a suggestion or recommendation, just a validation of her pain, because she already knows what to do. She just needs to talk it out with someone, because that is how she is wired.

I am learning that it is okay to share deep thoughts with the right person(s) in an environment of mutual respect and trust. It frees you to heal, find solutions and move on from that event positively. It is like when a boil bursts and the pus leaks out. Once that is done, the pain reduces and eventually disappears, as the wound heals. Of course some situations require more ‘treatment’ but it doesn’t take away from the benefits obtained from sharing.

So, for me, one of the positive outcomes of this pandemic is that I have been able to benefit from fellow Nigerians talking about their feelings, good and bad, in a way that promotes healing and gives hope. It is now okay to say that you were hurt deeply by an event or experience. It is now acceptable to discuss these hurt feelings with others and get their empathy and possibly suggestions on how to cope. And I am the better for it. It clears the air for me, and my mental health is much improved because of it.

What do you think? Are you still harbouring strong feelings that you are afraid to share thinking, “What will people feel or say?”  Out with it! You’ll be surprised you’re not the only one feeling that way and a problem shared is a problem half solved. After all, the Bible says in James 5 verse 16 (AMP): Therefore, confess your sins to one another [your false steps, your offenses], and pray for one another, that you may be healed and restored. The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power].”

It also says in Galatians 6, verse 2 (NLT):  Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.

It’s high time we came out of our shells and the limitations of culture and tradition and open ourselves up for health and healing by sharing our feelings. Like has been popularly said in counselling situations, “ How does that make you feel?”

Better, I hope!