Tuesday, November 28, 2017

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Elizabeth Akunyili

Elizabeth Akunyili (Liza) started out innocently until she experienced a psychological trauma as a result of being sexually harassed at the age of 14. Since then, life to her had no meaning. In an exclusive interview, Liza tells the  story of her downward spiral and  rise from the ashes of shame to a glorious height where she now mentors and guides others who may never rise without a helping hand.

My father was and still is a voracious reader. So, it's no wonder I read a lot. I was reading Time magazine at ten. I would write out the new words and find their dictionary meanings. To a large extent, you would say I had a good life. My parents were always there to trash every wrong thing out of you in the African way but they were never negligent. 

However, as a girl of fourteen, I was sexually harassed by a close friend. I was unable to confide in anyone and bore a lot of guilt and resentment. This caused me a lot of psychological trauma (pornography addiction, hatred for men and seeing myself as an object), affected my studies and also my interpersonal relationships. I tried very hard to shut out the hurt by shutting myself away from everyone else. I became very distrustful of people and preferred to always be by myself. After a while, I tried to heal by reading voraciously, particularly on how to help other sufferers. I became an adept researcher, and I started spending plenty of time trying to help people. Considering my tender age, it was relatively hard work for my small shoulders.

At age 17, you can say I found God or God found me. Either way, there was a finding. I found a place to pour my heart without fear and anxiety. I found a place where I didn't have to put up an act for anybody. The way I met God literally influenced my definition of God. When I think of God, I think of Love in all it's purity. This was a turning point for me. But unfortunately, I was at the university studying Physics, a course I didn't like. I hated physics so much in secondary school, I would look at my physics teacher at the secondary school and say to him, "Sir, your subject is boring".  This continued until 300 Level when I had found reasons to love my course, and created connections from where I was to the future I wanted. Thanks to my lecturer Mr Abel Osagie and my ever persistent parents.  

In the course of my growth, I took a special interest in the inter-connectivity between abuse, trafficking and addiction. As a result of my desire to determine causation and or interrelation, I started accessing information about abuse through researches and personal interviews with abuse victims. Since then I have realized a lot of people were abused whether verbally or physically during their formative years and this, in turn, resulted in an imbalance on their views and approach to substance abuse and physical assaults later in life.

This was what inspired my social media series 'Better me with Liza', which has now expanded into a hub for youths. I also hosted the online abuse, trafficking and addiction summit in September 2017. I'm presently a volunteer project manager with mandate health empowerment initiative (MHEI) - a mental health advocacy organization.

I want to say to you, that there's a way out of that tunnel you're in. It may take time, but if you keep trying you will get out eventually. It took me years to detoxify the negative words I have heard both from myself and outsiders. It took me a while to begin to look in the right places in my life to see the right things but eventually, I did. I'm here waxing stronger and helping others. So, if you don't like how your life is going, don't sit there awaiting sympathy, go for the life you want.

Finally, growth is a process, not an act. Don't expect your world to change overnight. It didn't become like this in one day. Have patience with yourself. Your larvae would eventually become a butterfly.


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