How often do you find yourself stuck in a bad place our of your own personal inadequacies, demons, or external forces beyond your control?

Well. Most of us, from time to time find ourselves in these prisons, physical and psychological that we cannot extricate ourselves from. Where do you turn to when you are between a rock and a hard place; between the devil and the deep blue sea?

Fred Gori’s childhood in a polygamous family was agonizing. His teenagehood in one of Kenya’s most famous schools: Starehe Boy’s Centre was beset by a lot of self-doubts and low self-esteem alongside unrelenting demons that visited him every night. Not his devotion to God or a visit to a famous psychiatrist or a village-famous witchdoctor could rescue him. In his adulthood, the same demons have plagued him and he says, often he feels like somebody else lives in his body. 

His self-published memoir, Break the Chains, is a heart-rending story, told with the innocence and vulnerability of a child, the candor of someone who has seen it all and lived to tell. The book is actually spell-binding in its simplicity, honesty and each page sears your heart as you learn the pain that Gori has gone through despite what most people would think a splendid career trajectory.

...This meant switching jobs with a frequency of a spoilt kid of the rich, that most people thought he was hot cake always in demand everywhere. Nothing could be further from the truth. In recent years, he admits, his once magnetic CV, has not been attracting the high profile jobs.

The book takes you through his life journey, starting from a forgettable and downtrodden village in South Nyanza, beating all odds to join Starehe, before proceeding to Kenyatta University where he graduated with a degree in Environment Studies, then a poorly conceived degree offered at Kenyatta University,Gori jokes may have been established with no thought after President Moi attended a conference in America. The faculty was mostly drawn from other departments, and whereas some were qualified, most of the time, they drifted through wondering exactly where they will get a job upon graduation. 

After university, Gori, with a reliance you learn when you come from a poor family, and left on your own devices after your mother dies, quickly talked his way into an internship working for a magazine called EcoNews Africa under the tutelage of Oduor Ong’wen. From here, nothing stops Gori, who goes through the cycles every graduate goes through.

With a degree in Environmental Studies having a little prospect in a related field, his stint writing and editing a magazine awakened in him a need to work in the newsroom. This being the early 2000s, everything in Kenya was about to go into a period of tremendous growth. His instincts to go after a post-graduate diploma in journalism at the University of Nairobi proved to be fortuitous. Although earned with a lot of difficulties, financial especially (at one point he had no place to sleep, he slept in the 8-4-4 theatre, playing hide and seek with the cleaners and security guards).

With a diploma and degree, Gori’s star was about to shine bright in the Kenyan corporate sector. Or so he thought.

His first big break came when he joined the Gina Din PR company and Nation Media Group in quick succession, where he honed his skills to become one of the more visible and prominent figures in Public Relations in Kenya. At NMG, where he served as the Corporate Communications Officer, he remembers his in his department in helping position the then CEO Wilfred Kiboro as a regional and global media and business leader. Kiboro would be elected to chair the International Press Institute, which hosted a congress in Nairobi that was graced by His Highness, the Aga Khan, and President Mwai Kibaki. He also helped with the Corporate Social Responsibility of the company.

He had a brief stint with Blueprint Marketing, a division of Ogilvy East Africa before landing the job of a Corporate Affairs Manager at the Kenya Tea Development Agency, where some of us came to know him, owing to his instructive op-eds in the leading local dailies.

While he had what can be considered to be a dream jobs, Gori was plagued with depression and low self-esteem. Owing to his poor background, demons and what he calls dark forces, he was never at home in any of the organizations where he had tremendous potential for growth. This meant switching jobs with a frequency of a spoilt kid of the rich, that most people thought he was hot cake always in demand everywhere. Nothing could be further from the truth. In recent years, he admits, his once magnetic CV, has not been attracting the high profile jobs. 

His fear of going back to being broke led him to make poor investment choices that often left him broke. His low self-esteem cut him off from people. And he admits, he has led an extremely lonely adulthood.

It is an amazing read, took me 5 hours to complete and as someone who is always plagued with self-doubt and low self-esteem, a trait I have observed in others, this book will remind me that I am not alone in my misery and moments of doubt. And if that be the case, the better to seek help, the better to try harder. Imposter syndrome is a real disease, even Michele Obama has claimed to have had her moments.

But one thing that life has robbed him the most is sleep. And lack of sleep has serious ramifications on the overall mental health of any human being. Every night he battles invisible demons that can’t seem to let him free. Many are the nights that he has prayed, cried himself to sleep. Many are the days he has hated his helplessness on the situation. No conventional medicine or prayer has been able to set him free.

Sometimes, it strikes one as magical realism, only that to him it is an existential reality. He has traced his plight to generational curses. He writes about how the sins of our fathers can affect their children and their descendants. Debatable as it is, it is commonly agreed that families where the patriarchy has killed in the past, are always jinxed, and it cuts across all communities.

“I am telling my story to warn men and women that there are some evils we commit that have a reverberating effect, running across generations. They keep bouncing back. The wages of such sins do not end with the person who committed them but are passed on to children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. Sometimes it is the progeny who have no idea about what their forefathers did, that suffer the most,” he writes.

His family has been haunted and the only help so far is standing firm in a mad world. He has built a sanctuary at his home where he prays every day, and while like any human being he stumbles, falls, backslides, he has realised there is only one way to keep the devil away from his life: Completely trusting and obeying God’s word. Because God will reward your faith.

It is an amazing read, took me 5 hours to complete and as someone who is always plagued with self-doubt and low self-esteem, a trait I have observed in others, this book will remind me that I am not alone in my misery and moments of doubt. And if that be the case, the better to seek help, the better to try harder. Imposter syndrome is a real disease, even Michele Obama has claimed to have had her moments. 

And if you have demons that chase you every day, the better to try Gori’s solution.

The book goes for Sh 1,300 and can recommend it. 

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