The average African family believes in a higher power, and everything that happens in life is somehow connected to said higher power.
For my family, that power was God. It was also the devil, generational influences and everything else you pray against at the monthly night vigil. The ones with the ushers who go around poking and judging anyone like me who doesn’t believe in screaming my lungs out for God to hear my prayers, or stumping my feet on the floor to fight the devil.
My dad used to say I take God’s love for me for granted. He felt the fact that I don’t have to stress (for him this meant suffer for years) to get God to answer my prayers has made me lazy. But that’s a story for a different day.
Today I want to discuss growing up with ADHD in a family that is extremely spiritual and doesn’t think mental health issues are anything other than the devil’s affliction. The only way to fight it is to pray and fast it away.
I am and will always be a firm believer in the power of prayer, be it little whispers to God for courage or a heart wrenching cry for light on a dark path. But prayer solving all things doesn’t take away the need to take the medical route when it’s a certain solution. If not, what’s the point of God giving doctors the knowledge they need to heal the sick? Why are engineers given innovation for invention? And why are artists giving the inspiration to create beauty?
I remember the first time I told my dad I had ADHD, he’s response in translation was, you probably mean edidi (Yoruba translates this to having a caged destiny). I also remember him constantly advising me to pray against the spirit of “failure at the point of breakthrough”. For him, seeing me start so many things and leave them half way was a spiritual problem, not just my brain being wired differently. Now don’t get me wrong, my dad loves me and would gladly jump in front of a bullet for me. But he’s also from a generation that has set rules and are set in their ways.
It took strength for me to finally get a diagnosis and then come to terms with it. But understanding that I had a mental health issue and how it affects my brain made it easier to channel my prayers. Now when I talk to God, when I ask for help, I’m not fighting imaginary enemies from my village or generational battles from great grand parents. When I talk to God, I ask for the strength to see things through, I ask for renewed love for what I do daily, I ask for patience that overcomes frustration, and I ask for wisdom to calm my racing mind and fight my impulses.
I ask the Holy Spirit to be my constant reminder and guide, ensuring that I don’t get too wrapped up in one thing or too distracted by many things. I ask Him for the intelligence needed to manage my emotions and not get so stuck in my imagination that I see things that aren’t there.
My prayers are targeted and my actions are guided along a path that helps me successfully deal with challenging situations. Praying gives me the focus I need to know when a battle is of the mind and when it’s of the spirit. When to battle self will and when to wage a war against principalities.
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1