On September 7, 2018 Team Lead at CNN Africa and founder of Tedx Brixton, Stephanie Busari discussed how Lagos traffic could messing with mental health. I was passive about it, now I see what she meant.
While the statistics are largely speculative nigh unavailable, it is not beyond imagination that Lagos traffic and the overall stress phenomena, which demands a worrying way of life messes with mental health.
If you ride commercial transportation, you can relate with how a lot of people who probably wake up as early as 4am doze off on your shoulder in the transportation while you're trying to cool off with music.
It's crazy that sometimes, you're so unwilling to accommodate such nastiness, you shimmy your shoulder so hard, the dozer gets jolted back to life like someone screamed 'FIRE!'
It is no coincidence that people in Lagos are constantly on edge, ready to fight, combat or argue things that can be sorted with simple dialogue.
I lived in Abuja for a while and I grew up in Akure, Ondo State. I can tell you that nothing about Lagos is normal and it's not even about the high cost of living, but the imbibed culture.
While it is like Lagos in most cosmopolitan global cities, it still doesn't normalize the madness on Lagos. There's a reason your bus conductor feels you're stressing him by asking for your own change.
There's a reason the okrika (second-hand or fairly used clothes) seller in the market picks offence simply because you're standing harmlessly in front of his stall while you buy something totally unrelated from another shop or even try hail a bike.
There's a reason why you feel the only answer to a reluctant conductor is offensive language while in suit and tie. There's a reason why you feel entitled to another person's spot in traffic when you're shunting.
There's a reason why even eating feels stressful and it's simple; even the simple things are stressful in Lagos. You can't even down a plate of ewa agonyin without someone, somewhere doing some madness.
September 17, 2018
The morning of September 17, the 2018 was a special kind of madness. I left my house at 5:35am in the morning, boarded a bus at 5:45am, but I didn't get to my office in Lekki till 9pm.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Lagos, where traffic is caused by nothing but impatience and excessive number of cars.
While in that traffic, I was frustrated, anxious, depressed, hungry and sad all at the same time while having to deal with a passenger who felt my shoulder was a nice couch to doze on - he wasn't even a beautiful woman.
While I was short on sleep and could have used the time to replenish, my eyes were wide as a possessed owl transformation of a scorned Nigerian woman, looking for soul of the Yoruba demon who broke her heart to devour.
These days, the fear of Lagos traffic makes waking up early imperative. My alarm is set at 4:00am, but I'm so focused on waking early, I panic-wake-up around 1:00am at times, fearing I'd overslept.
You need to see me in the sufferhead sweatpants I sleep in, scrambling for my phone like it holds the secret to global peace only to get there and see that it's still 1:00am.
It's madder when even in my sleep, I'm mulling over ideas. Ladies and gentlemen, my mind has become Wall Street that never sleeps. These days, it's like my mind has a hard drive to show off that it's working over time. I hope it's not my village people working over time.
Overnight today, I could hear my mind discussing, creating and analysing 'gender diversity in the workplace' right after analysing random of equities which I slept thinking about - No, it wasn't a dream.
I literally write articles in my dream these days while I see Slack messages from my Editor, telling me to retouch a story.
My people, I raise my fist to tell you that Lagos is messing with my mental health.
How can it not be?
You wake up early and endure 3 hour traffic over what should be a 25-minute distance.
On your way back, after a hard day's work, you also queue for buses before a struggle ensues for a space you're paying for, with your money, from you bank account.
The bus driver will also not do you a favour by stopping right in front of you and by that alone, you already hate his guts like every other driver you meet.
That one time out of 50 that ONE driver stops right in front of you, he's the maker of rainbows, even though you lost your wristwatch while trying to force your way in.
You think that's all normal? It's not
Your mental health is being trifled with. You don't have to be a psych ward patient, or one who feels a darkness deep inside or another who is depressed and tired of life to have mental health issues.
ALSO READ: 5 ways to live a stress-free life
What is mental health?
It is simply the state of normalcy within your psyche where your emotions are at an expected level, like rich politicians in Abuja have.
It is when you offer the right type of emotion to the right type of situation. It is when your emotions are are not too cold or too hot. It is when your reactions are pretty expected, given the gravity of any scenario.
Hilariously, 'normal' in Lagos is an ingrained reality. It is almost laughable how iLagosians don't understand that we're all mostly not normal.
Fam, what is normal in Lagos in reaction or culture is like an outrage in Akure, Ibadan or Abuja. Even extreme situations in those places is like Lagos at 1:00am.
And therein lies the problem; most of us in Lagos are probably living with mental health issues and that is why we willingly jettison our previous definition of normal for our new 'Lagos-normal.'
We even defend the life and enjoy it
Abuja person: People in Lagos dey try o. U can't even deal
Me: Ehn ehn ehn, hold pause on your mouth with the way its running like an out of control 9/11.
Leave Lagos like that, nobody is begging you to come and stay. Where's that bottle make I break bottle for your over through Twitter.
Abi, let me even break this phone so you know I'm being serious.
Us Lagosians are so defensive about our city. It's like an in-tribe thing where Lagosians can only diss Lagos like only black people can say, 'nigga.'
It only means that we do not fully grasp the reality that Lagos is messing with our individual mental health.
It's like that woman with a philandering husband who lashes out at anyone that talks smack about that same husband until she can no longer take it - and even encourages other people to lash him, after he impregnates the maid.
I hope we openly talk about Lagos and the mental health issues. It's no joke. May God help us all.