“Just shut up, you epileptic man. You are the cause for my father’s suffering and poverty. In fact, you are the cause for all of us to suffer. You just need to die and leave us in peace. You’re suffering us. Look at me, I can’t even play football with my friends because they think I will give them epilepsy. You are a curse.”
This is my own voice almost eighteen years ago. In 1994, I subjected my late epileptic uncle to inhuman treatment and suffering.
Nearly two decades later, this voice continues to reverberate in my mind and ears. It haunts me like a ghost since I last attended a workshop on mental health and mental illness conducted by the Carter Center and the Ministry of Health & Social Wealth in Monrovia, Liberia.
Epilepsy, I learned, is not a mental illness. However, it is included and discussed as such because it is a brain sickness.
I was born to see my late uncle suffer from epilepsy. Matter of fact, the illness treated him very badly — so badly that I hated him for it.
I meted out the most severe treatment against him because of his condition. Among other things, I ‘drowned’ his head in a calabash of unfiltered water; I even publicly humiliated him. Evidently, whenever I chained him besides a fire or ‘drowned’ him in the water, he became violent. This violent response I understood as a lesson for him to steer clear of me and a motivation within him to want to die earlier to end his suffering at my hands.