Today’s Tips for Female Journalists covering conflicts in Nigeria (now that Valentine is over, let’s talk 😂)
• T•H•E•R•A•P•Y: this is crucial. Always seek professional help( most times they are quite expensive but helpful)
A short story- from 2020 December to through 2021 I was actively reporting conflicts from Kankara(Katsina state), Kagara (Niger State), Afaka (Kaduna State), Jangebe (Zamfara), Sokoto, Askira, Chibok (Maiduguri), Tegina (Niger State) and Birnin Yauri in Kebbi State, among others.
In all of these, I witnessed how a seeming peaceful gathering descends to complete chaos and scare or trapped in a mob attack, or people being shot dead right before me or close to where I am, or seeing the anguish and really agonizing sight of parents and families waiting for their abducted family members to return home or having to speak to a parent whose child has been killed or listening to a mother in Chibok still waiting for her daughter seven years after and the torture of that seeming unending wait, or listening in to a traumatized victim of abduction tell their tales of horror, or having a mother call me up at 2am to ask me “journalist, have the bandit killed my child, will they release them? And being totally helpless and lacking even the wisdom to reply but listen and cry ugly when the caller drops or seeing emaciated underage children who have just being released by bandits, or escaping being raped in a separate incidence or many more- so on and so forth.
I was carrying on like this until one day I had a nervous breakdown. What happened? All I recalled was I got a call from the office asking me to do what- I can’t remember. But it is something simple I should be able to do. But I snapped, started crying, and in one breath yelling “I can’t, I can’t, I am overwhelmed, my head is going to blow up” and many emotions running through what would have been a simple clear conversation.
My boss in his wisdom knew I wasn’t in a good place. All he said was “okay Amaka, breathe, take your time, I will let the office know you need a time off”. That was good. But that isn’t enough.
I had to seek help. I had to go for THERAPY. Prayer is NOT enough (in this case).
I had to speak to someone- a professional, a clinical psychologist. A therapist. I had to talk through my experiences. I had to cry. I had to journal. I had to breathe. I also got a counselor. I had therapy days. None of it came CHEAP! Be warned!
(*I advocate that as a matter of high importance, every media organization’s leadership/management in Nigeria with conflict correspondents must invest in making therapy available for their conflict correspondents*)
I spent so much( per session of an hour or an hour 30 minutes was upwards of 20,000 Naira. You can do the math😊) doing that for myself- not the ideal thing. But I realized that I can’t compromise my sanity and mental space. And the lesson I learnt is moving forward, I make it clear from the beginning of any employment, if I must cover conflicts ( which I weirdly love to do), there has to be a provision for therapy. It is not luxury. It is a necessity.
This is the longest tip I have written for this series but that is how crucial it is.
Take care of yourself, get a spa treatment, meditate or do yoga if you are like me, or exercise, go to nature, breathe and come back fierce and better. There is no James Bond behavior or tough guy or tough girl. You will break down if you don’t get help.
Again, I say T•H•E•R•A•P•Y
Cc uncle Lekan Otufodunrin do I see you giving us a workshop on this? Particularly those in leadership and management position to make it an organization’s standard to make provision for therapy