Hello there, my name is Timi Edwin and I’m a sickler as they call it in the part of the world where I come from.
I know some of you are wondering why the announcement, but to me saying that is such a big deal, you will understand why with time.
Sickle cell, my curse as well as my Blessing.
Hi, my name is Timi Edwin and I’m a sickler. Yes!, I’m actually saying this again loudly. My pastors however will not be too happy with this declaration. It’s not like I don’t know the spiritual implications of my declaration, you are what you confess, right? But to me, I feel a little bit liberated just by saying those words, you will understand as you read on.
Hi, my name is Timi Edwin and I’m a sickler. That word “Sickler” has made me exactly who I am today, even though I hate the word sickler or Sickle cell. I feel it carries a certain stigma that makes me sometimes deny its existence in my life. I hate the reminders I get, I hate the effect, I hate that it has denied me of romantic love on several occasions. I hate that I need to find out a guy’s genotype before I decide to get to know him, I hate that if I catch myself falling for a guy, then find out we are not compatible health wise, I have to kill the feelings, I also hate the rejection from people I know would have had no problem loving me if not for my condition, I hate the pity I receive from people who find out, I have been heart broken, I have been teased. I hate that I have to work extra hard at everything to prove to myself I am normal, but yes I am in fact a normal person. People that know me will attest to that. Though I am not where I want to be in different areas of my life, I am proud of the person I have become. It has made up what is good and terrible about me, but oh! How I hate that word with a passion. How I hate what Sickle Cell does to me. Yes, I feel excruciating physical pain like every other sufferer, but that’s not what I hate about it, I hate what it has done to me psychologically. That pain is what I find unbearable and sometimes try to bury.
Hi, my name is Timi Edwin and I’m a sickler. I hope by saying those last words as many times as possible, I’m overcoming my deepest fear. Fear of people, who don’t already know, knowing my predicament. I try to mask it. I try to cover it up with my bravado n brilliance but here I am here, sharing my story, hoping that in some sort of way, you will be encouraged.
This all started when I was much younger.
Here I was in Secondary School, JSS 1 precisely. I was so tiny for a 10 yr old, I looked 6. I didn’t know that though, people were sure to point that out to me as many times as possible. But that’s not the point I digress. I was so happy to finally be in secondary school. I was a bright young girl, full of smiles and charm, I presume. My principal at that time noticed. I used to go say “Hello” to her and get to chat with her. She developed a fondness for me (just like other seniors in SS 3 at the time did). Yes I was brilliant but still a child, one prone to being naughty.
There was this particular math assignment I forgot to do. I honestly don’t know why or how I forgot to do that assignment, but the day of reckoning came when my Math teacher called out our names for punishment. I was the only female among them. Ha! I was embarrassed, I really wasn’t one not to do an assignment, so I wondered how I forgot to do this particular one. Anyway, the man decided to give us each 6 mighty painful strokes of the cane on our backs. I saw all other 5 or so students before me being beaten (it was quite funny, the sight), as the rest of the class roared with laughter. I was determined to ‘chest’ the cane and be some sort of star for my bravery. I’m a sickler, so I guess blocking out physical pain, mentally, isn’t that hard for me. By the 5th stroke of the cane I still felt nothing from the lashes. I was being hailed in class – some kind of Amazon queen. Somehow, by the 6th and last lash of the cane, I felt myself falling to the ground, fainting.
My math teacher, a huge man, panic-stricken, carried me as fast as he could to the sick bay.
Word quickly spread around and spread to my principal that I was a sickler. Everyone wondered how such a nice little girl who was always full of life and smiles could be a sickler. Some sort of unwritten rule went about from that day never to punish Timileyin. I was not to be flogged or asked to kneel. Cool right? Hell no, it wasn’t! Not in the long run. That was the beginning of bullying I experienced from my peers.
After that incident, I tried to be a good girl, to never walk into trouble and keep a clean sheet. My principal and school nurse, like hawks kept a watchful eye on me. While keeping an eye on me, my principal became extremely fond of me, I think majorly because I was her son’s namesake.
At first, not being punished with others was such a cool thing but not for long. Imagine this scenario, we are at assembly ground, the whole school is noisy or refuses to sing the National anthem the way it is meant to be sung or something of the sorts. Next thing, the principal or proprietress gets upset and asks everyone to kneel. Then right after, announces “Timileyin Edwin rise up and go to your class.” Imagine me standing up while the whole school goes on kneeling. Imagine again, my class mates being flogged for failing a test or assignment. Each member flogged except me.
That sure bred anger, jealousy and probably suspicion against me.
But there was more to come.
In JSS 2 During a CRK class, my CRK teacher was teaching about Joshua, Caleb and the other spies, Moses sent to spy out a land. As she was teaching, one of my classmates said from the back of the class, “Like Timileyin is the spy of this class”. All other classmates picked on that and labelled me a spy from that time. I was mocked and jeered at constantly. I was also called other names like ‘rat’ and made fun of because of my size and physique.
There was a time someone drew a human anatomy on the board, labelled the parts and pointing out the chest region as ‘flat chest’ and then titling it Timileyin Edwin. Oh, was I shattered and broken!
I became extremely timid and withdrawn. I used to go home crying every other day from one harassment to the other.
This continued most of my secondary school life. I wasn’t only faced with the pains I had to bear from crisis, I also bore emotional and psychological pain. I was constantly depressed, asking God why He created me with such a physique. I also looked much younger than my peers (still do) and this used to bother me a lot (still does).
One day something happened, that began the cycle to changing the way I saw myself. I went home as usual crying to my mother. By that time, she had followed me to school on countless of occasions trying to see how she could ease the bullying by talking to my school principal, counsellor and teachers. On this day, she looked at my crying face and said, “Timi, you need to learn to stand up for yourself, you need to learn how to fight your battles.”. Though, she came to my school a few times after that to help me again, something changed in me.
I had it at the back of my mind that I will have to start defending myself.
Nothing really changed for me till the end of SS2, when I was as usual reflecting on my life and feeling sorry for myself. I realised how unpopular I was and how it seemed that if things continued the way it was for me, i wont even be recognised by my own class mates after we left secondary school. I determined in my heart that I would be known even by the most popular in my class.
I became extremely outgoing and befriended all and sundry. Suddenly, all my classmates became nice and friendly towards me. I began to feel a little better about myself.
I eventually finished Secondary School and got admission immediately into a private University. I was 16 at that time, but looked 13. So I got into university with not much confidence. Before, I was finally accepted into the university, we were asked to do some medical tests. One was a chest X – ray. With it, it was discovered that I had an enlarged heart. It didn’t mean anything to me then. I was given my admission letter and a new phase in my life started.
I became passionate about the things of God. I joined the Prayer Force Service Unit, made somewonderful friends and faced my studies. In the middle of my 1st year in university, at the dead of the night, I heard my name announced to come to the front desk. When I got there, I and a few other people were taken to go see the Registrar of the university.
On getting to him, we were told to withdraw from the university. Upon asking why, I was told that we had medical conditions which the school considered a big risk. The enlarged heart that the tests showed was the reason the school wanted me to leave!
Just like that, my dream of a higher education would be truncated?
Please read the next episode :https://crimsonbowng.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/sickle-cell-the-curse-and-the-blessing-2/