Afam Ade-Odiachi: What do you do when your shrink is also a herbalist? Go with the flow [NEW VOICES]

by Afam Ade-Odiachi

It started with a text from my mum whose feelings about me swing violently from pillar to post. She’s caught between a vague sense of pride in the man I am becoming, and an even greater sense of worry about what would happen if I do not get there. Of course, all of this is tied to the bedrock that is a mother’s love. I think this is what all Nigerian children with fairly responsible parents know: that they are loved to the point of insanity. And it’s why Nigerian children endure abuse in the name of discipline without hatred or truly psychotic levels of resentment.

“There must be something wrong with you?” The first text read. “You’re basically a hermit. When it’s the weekend and you have time, you sleep and eat and eat and sleep, and that’s when you’re not turning the house into a beer parlour for your friends.”

She doesn’t dislike my friends because that would be impossible. For some reason unknown to me they’re so charismatic that I fear taking them anywhere. We could go out to some fairly decent bar on a Friday night, and within thirty minutes of us being there they’d have charmed another group of people so thoroughly that we’ll be invited to parties in Ikoyi’s tragically impoverished cousin, Obalende, or in Ikeja’s Club Royale. The good people that asked us to Club Royale were also good enough to offer us codeine that they got from their dealer in Mushin. As a medically diagnosed over sharer, I refrain from experiences that do not make polite dining table conversation. I said a very emphatic and enthusiastic no.

Can you imagine it? I’d open my dirty mouth and say, “Ah! Dad! Last night was fantastic. I went to some gutter club in Ikeja and did… CODEINE!”

He’d hurl the tin pot belly man jug at me and scream, “Afam! Why have you sublet your mind to the devil!”

Her solution was immediate. She said, “Go see this psychologist life coach counsellor man in Ikoyi. He’ll sort you out at once.” My mum doesn’t know this but I enjoy things like this. My first therapist got me hooked. You literally sit in a room with someone that’s contract bound to listen to you for an hour or two. It saves you from spilling your brain guts to strangers on the street, or being that disaster of a person that hasn’t got anything better to do than talk about himself or herself without pausing for breath.

I appeared in his office high on coffee and Jesus and went to town on his ears. I talked about everything. I started with the day I was born, continued to the time I had malaria so bad that I swear it was cerebral, and the time that I nearly died from electrocution, and how I feel when my friends interrupt my stories, and how I feel when I get yelled at for typos at work, and how I feel about being rich in packaging but destitute in practice. I talked about everything and he took notes like every good therapist, psychiatrist, life coach, inspirational speaker, human being does.

When I was done with my two hour long monologue, I dusted my jeans, and made to leave. But that’s when the “it” happened. Usually when you pour your heart out to a therapist you leave with a prescription for a delightfully mind numbing anti-depressant or anxiety reliever, but that didn’t happen. He went to a chest that he keeps in the corner of the office, pulled out many many vials of herbal essences, and started muttering to himself.

“Willow. No not that. How about Mustard? Not that either.”

He was on a roll. Sweet Chestnut, Vervain, Walnut, Beech, Cerato, Honey Suckle, Crab Apple: all of them were considered.

I had to stop and ask if he was mad because I was under the impression that he was a head shrinker not a herbalist. He explained that he was convinced I was a suitable candidate for some Bach flower remedies, and started mixing away. At the end of it, he poured a handsome amount of brandy into a tiny bottle filled with only God knows what, and handed it to me.

“Four drops of this, four times a day; two on the tongue and two underneath it. If you’re going through a crisis then you’ll need 4 drops every five minutes. You’ll start feeling it’s life changing effects in a month.”

I walked out of his office a little stunned. The most recent addition in my life is a therapist with a knack for witch doctorism, and I don’t mind it at all.

I once believed that the life I wanted was one that held no surprises, where I was the mastermind of every variable. And for some reason beyond explanation, I do not know that I have ever been happier to be wrong.

Afam Ade-Odiachi is a writer and journalist, with a passion for story telling. In addition to working as a junior reporter for CNBC Africa, he runs a little blog called He has also served as a content co-ordinator for Mnet’s Stargist.

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