The Unbearable Lightness of Crying

I hate crying because I tear easily. I’m convinced something is wrong with my tear ducts because it makes no sense how the littlest and most nonsensical things make me tear up.

And as a result, whenever it was I could control the flow of my tears I did. But most times it doesn’t work. I googled how to control it, biting the inside your mouth, pinching between your thumb and second finger, hitting yourself to forget the crying….. None of them have worked for me. And this is when I am exhibiting tears over what is something that people wouldn’t otherwise be tearing over.

And because of this, when I need to actually cry, I try to stop myself, or at least I did. As if it was some show of strength that I had. Stopping yourself from crying isn’t easy to begin with and mine also has side effects including an aching jaw and a splitting headache; due to clenching, i think.

I’ve also come to learn than bottling up all that anger and frustration will lead to one gigantic cry fest. Not a pretty sight.

Lately, I’ve been crying. Most times I am alone. Wailing, sobbing… You name it. The slow tear dropping down my face…. has become quite therapeutic to me, better than talking to people sometimes if I’m being honest.

I care less about the crying is weakness brigade because I see no value in pretending to fit a mould that doesn’t serve me.

And you know what? Life is hard and painful and challenging and it takes a toll.

Ask Ciiku: He isn’t a good communicator

Hello Ciiku

Thanks for setting this platform to provide advice. I have a guy friend who I like very much. We both are interested in each other but haven’t taken any steps to start a relationship. However, we don’t talk or meet up as much as I would like and the main reasons are that he is not the best communicator (he has told me so) and he has a crazy schedule. We usually don’t talk unless I reach out and this sucks. From your experience, can someone truly be super busy to the point where meeting up is a real struggle? Sometimes I feel like I am trying too hard to be in his life. I don’t know what to do about this as communication is very important to me.

Miss A

Miss A,

Thank you for your comment and for reaching out.

Now to your question, what about this friend do you like? That was my first question when I read your message. How do you know that he is interested in a relationship? I am only curious because you say he is not a good communicator. Being a good communicator is about many things: What is said, why it is said, how it is said and how often things are being said.

Based on what you say, I feel like the issue is how often you chat and I am going to assume that when it is you do talk, the man communicates clearly what he wants. One thing that I am reading from the subtext is that the man has said that he is a bad communicator with no intention of working on it. So you find yourself in a situation where you will have to accept him the way he is.

I know you said that you don’t know what to do but you do, don’t you Miss A. You say it in that same sentence…… “communication is very important to me”…. you even used “very”. This pretty much tells me that this is not something you are willing to look the other way about – and that is why you haven’t taken any steps to start the relationship, isn’t it? Why should you look away anyway? I am happy that you know what it is that you seek from someone you want to be in a relationship with. And you should remain true to yourself Miss A.

All the best,
Ciiku

Ask Ciiku: I need to define boundaries with my friend with benefits

Dear Ciiku,

I have a FWB who is also a very close friend. I would like to ensure that it remains that way without feelings getting caught in the process but to also not treat them poorly in order to maintain this. How do I/we build the boundaries this relationship needs?

Anon

Dear Anon,

A dilemma of the ages if ever there was one. A close friend, a sexual relationship and boundaries. Will your friendship exist after the sexual relationship ends? That’s what the boundaries are supposed to ensure? From your letter I’m reading that you don’t want this to develop into a romantic relationship, that it remains a friendship plus sex. Is it possible that feelings can be caught by one party? Yes. Is it possible that the friendship might not exist once either of you get different sexual partners (on the assumption that it is monogamous)? Probably.

I’m glad that you acknowledge that one doesn’t and shouldn’t treat a FWB poorly. A FWB is like any other relationship in the sense that communication is key. And when I say communication I mean that conversations need to happen about what is happening, what is wanted, what isn’t. From your short note I see that you are clear about what you want, something you have thought about and this must be expressed to your FWB. Relationships work when the people in it are on the same page and have the same understanding of the expectations of each other. Not when we make assumptions of what the other person must be thinking or feeling. I must stress that this is achieved through honest, open communication. Talk with your friend. Lay your cards on the table. Soon. And remain true to yourself. Always.

All the best,

Ciiku

Ask Ciiku: How do I deal with a toxic friend?

Dear Ciiku,

So I’ve had this friend for about 10 years. I use the term ‘friend’ very loosely here, reason being she’s very toxic. We were very close in college but drifted apart soon after. We lost track but she somehow managed to find her way back into my life. Thing is: she gossips a lot. The stuff she says about other people is so horrible and sometimes made up. And no one is safe, even her own parents & siblings have been trash talked. My way of dealing with this has been to ghost: I avoid her completely (I haven’t physically seen her in years but she always reaches out by phone). I tell her absolutely nothing about my personal life so she doesn’t have material to spread. I suspect there’s a bigger problem. Some mutual friends have told me that the issue may also be mental/psychological and the more I assess her behaviour over the years the more I think there may be some truth to it. My theory is she’s become so ostracized by friends and family cz of this behavior that she feels there’s nothing to lose by being a total bitch. So my question is this, how do I communicate that I think she needs to get therapy or some kind of help without offending her and without becoming a victim of her shenanigans? I think it’s a very sensitive conversation and I don’t know how to broach it since we’re no longer close (I’d rather not meet her to have this talk). Or should I just forget trying to help and continue to avoid her like everyone does?

Regards, Remote friend

Dear Remote friend,

I think we can both agree that she is not your friend. I don’t believe that just because you have history with someone that they deserve presence in your life as they please or even to be called friend.

Also, without a professional diagnosis, there is no need to say that this person has mental issues because they exhibit the behaviour you mention in your letter. People can be and are not good, they lie and are vile. I think assigning this to a mental issue to try and explain certain behaviour stigmatises those who genuinely suffer from mental illness. I understand that people tend to assign mental issues because they want to believe in the goodness of others. We really should not.

Let me repeat that: terrible, bad people exist. It is not your job to “fix” them. What you can do, what is truly in your control in this case and for your peace of mind, is accept that this person is not someone who exhibits behaviour you would associate with a friend and remove her from your life to the extent that if others begin to talk about her, you refuse to be part of the conversation. Completely dissociate yourself. So no, I don’t think you should have any conversation with her.

All the best,

Ciiku

Ask Ciiku: Will our friendship survive?

Hi Ciiku,

I am friends with a girl and I think I’m developing feelings for her. We hang out a lot and enjoy each other’s company. I haven’t yet told her how I feel yet, but this is because I think it might ruin what we have. I am not sure my feelings are reciprocated. Should I tell her and risk our really good friendship?

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

I feel like I keep repeating myself when I say this but it is also apt for your scenario…. “the greatest predictor of love is proximity.” Do you know why this is so? Once you spend time with someone, talk a lot, share etc, it seems to only make sense that the relationship should turn romantic. Why is this so? I think that it is because a romantic relationship is seen as the pinnacle, the relationship above all other relationships. Therefore if there is a person in your life who makes you feel things, it makes sense in your head that it must be romantic feelings. Is that the case with you?

A couple of scenarios : She reciprocates your feelings and then you become a couple and live happily ever after. Second, she doesn’t reciprocate your feelings and you stop being in each other’s lives due to the tension. Three, you decide not to tell her and every time she gets into a relationship you are jealous and unreasonable. Four, you decide to not tell her and realise that the feelings that you felt were really related to a platonic intimate friendship and you realise that the relationship is a deep friendship and that only.

How do you then figure out what to do? For one, spend time with yourself figuring out what exactly you feel for your friend and if indeed it turns out to be romantic feelings, then you must decide what to do about that. And if she doesn’t reciprocate your feelings, you have to be willing to accept that the friendship will probably not exist after. Make the right choice because the only person you can control here is you.

All the best,

Ciiku

Ask Ciiku: I have internalised fatphobia

Hi Ciiku.

I’m a fattie, and I love the work you do for body positivity. I like to think I’m body positive myself- except for *myself*. I can’t stand my body. I hate my flabs and tummy and how round my face has become. I cannot look in the mirror and call myself a beautiful person. I feel hideous. I hate that I put in so much work into unlearning beauty standards, but it never works to help me, only others. The thoughts still plague me. My relationship with food is also horrible. I feel like it is something that condemns me to fatness. At the same time, I’m a binge-eater when I’m sad, so this only worsens what I feel about myself. Most of all, I’m seeking a relationship, and I feel like I am unwantable in my fatness, and so I can only ever be in a happy relationship while thin. I have been unlearning beauty standards at least 3 years now, and most days I’m fine, but over the past 2 months or so, I have spiraled and cannot seem to get myself out. How do I channel my body positivity inwards? I feel like a ‘body posi fraud’. How to form a healthy relationship with food? I am spiraling and don’t know how to stop myself

Anon

Dear Anon,

Something you typed made me pause:  “My relationship with food is also horrible. I feel like it’s something that condemns me to fatness.” Words mean things you and “condemns me to fatness” shows me that you associate fatness with something bad, a punishment that you shouldn’t be experiencing. You say you are able to see how body positivity helps other fat people but it seems you believe that fatness is a punishment, suffering and shouldn’t be something that happens to you, you hate your body, can’t stand it. That is a lot to carry.

I am curious as to your understanding of the body positivity movement. Especially in relation to you saying that you hate your flabs and tummy and how your face has become round. I must ask, how do you use these identifiers of fatness on yourself and say you are hideous yet you say you are unlearning beauty standards? How then are you able to love it on other people if you don’t love it on yourself? Body positivity has to start from oneself, when you are able to love your self, your body, then are you able to extend that same love to others. There is beauty in every body, no matter the size and if you that is part of your value system then you are indeed body positive and if not, you aren’t. Self acceptance and self love are key to being body positive.

Some questions for you: What does loving your body look like? Why do you associate thinness with happiness? When did you first realise that you hate your body? What precipitates those thoughts? What would happen if you lost weight then you gained it back? How do you think you would deal with that? What is a good body? What type of body deserves good things?  Do you spend time with your body? Have you explored why you have such a negative association with fatness?

Internalised fatphobia manifests in different ways, in not seeing yourself as worthy – which is what you are talking about. It shows itself in seeing yourself as the good fattie because you work out, watch what you eat “unlike other fat people” and also in seeing yourself as better because you aren’t “that fat” – example being those who are size 18 seeing themselves as better than those who are say size 28. All these indicate that there is still some unlearning and unpacking that needs to be done.

Matters relating to standards of beauty are fed to us, in my opinion, before gender roles. If your whole life you have been told that your body isn’t beautiful, is a mistake that needs to be corrected through diet, exercise, surgery etc, that you are not worthy, you are lazy, you are indisciplined. If your whole life has been a series of negative association, then you are bound to internalise this and hate yourself as you hate your body. There are days when I do not like how I look, years of being fed this does that to you, but I do not hate my body, I will not hate my body, myself, if I gain weight and I have no desire to be thin. I do not think my happiness is tied to thinness or in changing my body. That has taken years of work and I think you need to work on it.

Regarding your question, some key aids that I have found to be useful are following body positive and fat acceptance people either on twitter (Simone Mariposa for one) or watching their videos, reading articles – for example those by Your Fat Friend , spending time with your body – understanding it, listening to it, touching it. Finding another coping mechanism for when you feel sad outside of binge eating can also help, something that gives you comfort. I might not be the one to help with this one since my thoughts on what “healthy relationship with food” means, what message it sends, might be seen as radical. Perhaps speaking to a counselor can be of assistance.

Finally, sometimes we think that finding someone who will love us must mean that we are worthy to be loved, no matter how they treat us.  I think seeking a relationship when you have not yet learned to love yourself or when you think you do not deserve happiness or when you carry feelings of not being wanted MAY attract people who will take advantage of how you feel. What needs to be the focus is loving yourself which in turn leads to seeking out healthy relationships.

All bodies are beautiful. All bodies are worthy. All bodies are good. This isn’t an empty platitude. It is a fact that you have to accept and begin the journey to loving your body.

All the best,

Ciiku

Ask Ciiku: How do you know when you like someone?

Hey,

how does one know that they actually like someone and it isn’t just as a consequence of that person saying they like them. I am starting to think I may not know the difference.

Missy

Dear Missy,

I read in a book; The single greatest predictor of love is proximity. Your point stands and to be honest, it happens often. We end up being friends and lovers with people because they give us attention, we see each other often, we @ each other on social media, they say they like us ….

Things like feeling fondness and attraction for someone even when you aren’t with them and the butterflies in your stomach serve a purpose so I won’t act like they don’t. But there has to be more to it than that.

If we approach relationships, romantic or otherwise, intentionally then we, in my opinion make better decisions on who we like, don’t like, want in our circles etc. Intentional in knowing ourselves and the the kind of people we want to surround ourselves with, what values they espouse and what values we deem important, what importance they place in having you in their lives, and other related things. Liking someone because they like you is a thing as well, reciprocity is also important but beyond that, what else is there?

I’ve read some engagement stories where based on the story, women were basically coerced into relationships. There is nothing good to reading that a man pestered a woman until she relented and agreed to go out with him. This manipulation tactic is still erroneously lauded as if women can’t know who they want to date or who they like unless the person has forced them. This isn’t what we are about, right Missy?

We are about mutual like, mutual attraction, mutual respect, mutual love etc.

And you know what? Give yourself more credit…. I think you know.

Ciiku

Ask Ciiku: I have never had a real relationship

Hi Ciiku,

I’m turning 28 soon and I never had a real relationship. By this I mean anything past four months, never really went on dates or spent a lot of time with anyone. I have a hard time making friends too and often spend a lot of time by myself. Lately, this feels lonely and I have no clue how to be more sociable or if this is something I even want. I feel like as I get older this will become tougher. What would you advise?

Loner.

Dear Loner,

I have to ask, are you comfortable by yourself? What does a real relationship look like to you? Do you go out with your friends? Do you have friends? Do you spend time trying to figure out what you want? Why do you feel like a relationship is something you need to have experienced? What has changed recently to make you feel this way? When did you last have sex? Is sex important to you?

Off the bat I am going to say that making friends doesn’t get harder as you grow older. And I say this with a lot of conviction not only as someone who keeps making new friends as I age but also as someone who believes that the people who peddle that story are holding onto friendships from their youth that don’t serve any purpose.

People make difference choices on how they live their lives and to be honest, most end up doing what seems to be the same thing because that is the template we are socialised to believe makes sense or the template of how a well lived life looks like. And if you have not done what a majority of people have done, it seems like you are not doing something “right.”

Please note I am not saying that you don’t need romantic relationships or friendships. Companionship has been scientifically proven to be a human need but what I believe to be more important is knowing yourself and therefore knowing what you want in terms of companionship. What does it look like? Who are the people you want in your life? What values do they espouse? That kind of thing.

Do you want to make friends? If so, then make the plans to do so. Do you want to be in a relationship? Same same. And I know this isn’t easy especially for someone who knows themselves in a world that doesn’t encourage self development (or encourages en masse self help led, development).

But do I think it’s possible? Yes. Friendship might be easier to do I think.

Finally, I think one of the greatest disservice we do to ourselves is keep people in our lives just because. You know what I mean? Like, being in a relationship with someone just because they gave you attention. Being friends with someone just because you’ve known them since high school. I wish we would be more intentional with our relationships. I hope you do too Loner.

💓💓💓

Ciiku

Ask Ciiku: I was abused by a woman

Hi…

So I’ll just get into it – I was emotionally and psychologically abused by someone very prominent in the KE Twittersphere – and she’s a woman. I will not come forward because I know I will not be believed and I have no way to prove it – I deleted all communication we had ever had and blocked her from ever contacting me. I need Twitter for work so I can’t delete the app but I get physically ill when I see her posts – I sweat and shake ,one bad day I threw up. I have tried to look for help online but a lot of the articles I find are about men being the abuser. What do you do when yours is a woman?

TT

Dear TT,

I am so sorry you were assaulted. I am also very sorry that you keep seeing your abuser online and have this visceral reaction to her and her tweets. I hope you find peace and justice TT.

Men are socialized to believe that they cannot be a victim and many people believe this therefore I understand your hesitance in coming forward. Furthermore, emotional and psychological abuse is not treated with the same seriousness as physical abuse. I understand the hesitance. Women can be and are abusers and although there is less documentation (especially in Kenya) about resources, I believe that help is possible.

I suggest that if possible you should get professional counselling for this. (please see this list on my site for some suggestions). You will need to find a non-religious, non-patriarchal counsellor who is empathetic to abuse against men and this might mean some trial and error. But I think it is imperative that you find someone who works for you and your situation.
I don’t know how possible it is to completely not have to see this person’s tweets in your timeline but it might need you to completely curate your follower and following list and I am not sure if this somehow affects your work. But if possible, it is something you should spend time doing. Is there someone you can talk to about this? Someone who can listen to you, someone who will not doubt you and will love and empathize with you? Please reach out to someone who knows you and talk to them. I hope you have someone you can trust enough to talk to.

I feel as though my answers may not be as helpful as finding professional help would be. So please consider that urgently.

Best to you,

Ciiku

 

Ask Ciiku: I am confused about my marriage

Hi Ciiku

In a few weeks time, my husband and I will be celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary, and much as it should be exciting, it’s not. Hubby and I met when we were quite young and still in uni and we had a lot in common including friends and interests, in many ways we still do. Over time I took it upon myself to work on myself and how I understand the world, this had been something we did together, we read together, shared ideas and grew together. In my quest to grow I studied feminism among other things and found a community of people who supported me and helped. When I broached the subject with hubby, he would shrug it off and go on about some obscure white philosophers. I didn’t care much since I thought he would eventually see things my way but in this whole time he has stayed the same.

He hangs out with the same guys from uni and high school, he has become complacent and I feel he is stuck. You honestly can’t believe what it feels like to have a #notallmen person as a partner even after repeated talks about patriarchy and it’s effects. It’s soul draining. I feel ignored and I feel resentment welling up slowly.

Here is the issue, over the past two years, I met a colleague with whom I feel a strong emotional and intellectual connection. We discuss almost everything, except my marriage, and he is good listener and willing to learn. We have no sexual tension and it makes it a great blessing. In the recent weeks I have felt a change in my relationship with my friend, I am not sexually attracted to him but I have considered what it would be like to have him. I know the bond I have to hubby but I also know that it would be only once. I actually don’t think it would have to be my friend for fear of ruining something good, I just want an experience out of this tepid relationship. I love my husband and despite his shortcomings, he is a very good person, he loves me, undeniably. We have tried talking and even talked about counselling but we are in this situation. I’m confused.

Tee

Dear Tee,

What a dilemma you find yourself in. You and your husband are drifting apart, you have a close friend with whom you say there is no sexual tension but you are considering a one time thing with him or even a stranger.

I have a couple of questions: What does it mean for your marriage that you and your husband seem to be drifting apart? Is your marriage sexually monogamous? If it is what does wanting an experience outside of this “tepid relationship” mean? Is there an issue with the sex in your marriage? Have you spoken to your husband about all this? Including the wanting the experience outside of the marriage? What realisation have you come to that you are trying to ignore? What do you want at the end of the day? Do you know?

People over the years develop as human beings and I get wanting to understand more about the world and acquiring the tools you need to survive in this world. In my opinion, everyone should continously endeavour to grow and develop as human beings. This is a personal process and ideally we hope that people we are in intimate relationships in will join us on the journey. Sometimes that doesn’t happen and then you drift apart. As with your case.

Love is more than feelings. I feel I need to reiterate that there is more to staying together with someone outside of love. Also, even though someone is good, this does not always mean that they are good for you. You have admitted to feeling like your soul is being drained and that you are resenting your husband. Saying you are considering counselling indicates that you are trying to work something out. And I think you should. If possible you might also consider therapy by yourself as well to figure out what it is that you want.

Above all else, remain true to yourself.

Ciiku