In the Spotlight: Mercy E
Seated on the bed with my back to the wall, staring blankly at the night with warm tears cascading my cheeks as I wallowed in my guilt with lips traumatized from incessant bites in an attempt not to wake him up as he slept peacefully beside me. Time check was four in the morning hence I had been crying for about six long hours. It has been four years already but the guilt would not leave me as the rather romantic events of the evening played over and over in my head and the river never stopped flowing from my eyes.
Ever heard of the phrase ‘purity is next to godliness?’ well, it isn’t as common as your usual adage however, as an African Christian girl growing up, these words were drummed in my ears at home and in church before I even hit puberty. Girls like me were admonished and threatened with hell, fire and brimstone the moment we let the devil into our garden of purity. The opposite sex was the greatest threat to our purity hence we learned not to fraternize with them, I never even had my first kiss until I was 21 years but ever since I ate the forbidden fruit, my life took a turn for the worst.
The first time it happened I was 22 years, it was a day to our one year anniversary, and we were both freshmen in medical school and had met at his room to study for our anatomy test. It felt wonderful while I was in his arms; this new experience had both pleasure and pain as I forgot all I had learned all my life at Sunday school but the moment I went back to my hostel, my world came crashing down. I thought death was calling as I had broken the promise made to my unknown future partner to remain sexually pure until marriage. I wailed, prayed to God for forgiveness and denied myself sleep for fear of dying in my sleep. I even wrote a note tucked under my pillow for whomever found my body if God decided to strike me. Thankfully I woke up but still very much paranoid.
Walking the corridors on campus, it felt all eyes were on me; when people laughed, it was as though they were mocking my nonvirginity status. My boyfriend sought the help of a psychiatrist which I declined out of embarrassment of anyone finding out.
Four years later, I still felt the same but this time, the stress of dental school made it worse. I was neither failing at school nor was I at my best; barely even made it to the next class. Worst of all was a test I took in my fifth year of dental school which did not go so well, went to a particular lecturer for clarifications and she shot me down calling me a failure. This further reiterated my view of worthlessness. I got lost in volunteering, community service, freelancing and school politics by taking up leadership roles as student union president and the likes, all to keep my mind occupied. I was admired by young female students but I felt far less than what they made me out to be.
My morbid low self-esteem and paranoia was managed by listening to a particular radio program, reading books on mindfulness and listening to podcasts. I stopped attending social and religious functions, reading the bible and I never dared confided in my mother even though I really wanted to tell her how messed up her favorite daughter was.
The last straw was when I failed my final exams and would not be graduating with my peers, locked myself indoors for days without food, weeping and torturing myself and voices in my head telling me that God was punishing me for breaking my promise of sexual purity six years ago. The voice kept telling me to put myself out of this misery by fast-forwarding my trip to hell. I fought it but it kept ringing in my head and one day, I picked up my kitchen knife, drenched in my own tears with a head-splitting migraine. I knew just where to slash and I’d be dead in seconds but I could not dare as the voice said I deserved a slower death in order to lessen the agony of the whole process. I guess I also held on to a glimmer of hope that God might rescue me from myself if the process wasn’t rushed. I had already made two cuts each on both arms as I braced myself for the final one on the wrist when I heard a bang on the door and my boyfriend calling my name loudly. I quickly slashed my left wrist and felt too weak to do the same to the right so I lay there listening to him beg me to open the door. Next thing, I woke up on the hospital bed.
I finally sought medical help and this I have done for almost a year now, I realized religion did great damage to my mental health. It was engraved in my subconscious that being a virgin made me special and more of a woman so when I lost it, I felt worthless. I once called myself “a worthless being who had lost her pride as a woman”, I felt I never deserved anything good in life. I learned to live my life devoid of any religious believes. I pray to God but belong to no religion. Wrote my exams and I am now a certified dentist ready to take on the world.