17: Anthony Oluoch – On One Year of Padded Cell

The host, Anthony Oluoch, talks about a year of publishing a mental health podcast, the toll it has had on him, the resilience it has taken to keep it going and what to expect going forward.

Hello everyone and welcome to Padded Cell, I am Anthony Oluoch.

One year ago, this week, I published the very first episode of Padded Cell Podcast. It was a very candid chat with Masego Seane about her life and how she has dealt with all the things that have happened to her, in the end putting her own mental health first. When I spoke to her about chatting with me on this episode, she had no idea what it was going to be. I had no idea what I was creating. But we sat in the studio, both of us nervous, both of us unsure how we were going to have the conversation. A conversation that was going to inevitably touch on some really sensitive things. And we did. We had a chat. And we talked about depression, we talked about bad breakups, we talked about loving ourselves, we talked about the fact that it is okay not to be okay.

That was a year ago. The world was so different then! At the time, we hadn’t had a threat of a war that no-one really wanted, the forests in Australia hadn’t started burning, we didn’t have a virus that caused and continues to cause so much havoc in the world, killing people, making people sick and destroying economies. But this is the world we live in now. We live in a world where, in spite of all that is happening, black folk are still getting killed by the police. We live in a world where a virus is devastating human beings but human beings are still quite divided over it.

A year ago, I felt that it would be a brilliant idea to get people talking about mental health. To let those suffering from mental health issues know that they are not alone. To let people know that it is ok not to be ok and that it is ok to seek help if you are not ok. I felt that it was important for people to get information about some of the things that they may be going through, how they can help themselves if they don’t have access to a mental health practitioner and how they can use the resources they have, friends, family, to help them feel and be better. I felt the need to start a conversation that would end the stigma that is often attached to mental health.

I still feel the same now.

Padded Cell has had 16 regular episodes with 16 different incredible humans speaking very openly about their lives, their experiences, their expertise in different fields. I have had Rev. Jide, Kevin Mwachiro, Tiffany Kagure Mugo, Rikki Kgositau, to name a few. Padded Cell also aired a 10 episode series, “Breaking the Silence” where I had guest hosts and guest speakers from around Africa talking about homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and mental health (with two of those episodes entirely in French and Arabic).

It has been a long journey.

It has not been an easy journey. Because remember, I don’t have a team working with me on this podcast. Aside from the first few episodes, I have recorded, edited, produced and published everything myself. Without support from my amazing husband and a group of amazing friends, I would not have sustained this podcast this long.

So, am I still happy with the premise of the podcast?

Absolutely. I still believe that we could talk more about our mental health. Over the last year, I have had people write to me and say that they listened to an episode of the podcast which made them reach out to someone for help. Those people and others out there are the reason I do this. The more we say what it is we are feeling, the more we break the stigma on mental health. The more we talk to someone, the less we are affected by depression. The more we acknowledge that something isn’t quite right, the easier it will be for us to take steps to address it.

How has the year been for me?

I don’t think the last year has been really good for anyone. The worst bit of it being the many months of lockdowns that happened all over the world. The isolation that that brought did increase some of the mental health issues I had been dealing with. I had moments of intense depression, I had some incredibly dark moments….some of those were so dark I didn’t think I’d ever see a light again. But then I had people in my life who were more than a lifeline and I will forever be grateful to them for the encouraging words, for the help they provided, for the care and the compassion. I have learnt that sometimes, we can feel so alone, we may even actually be alone, but there is someone, there are people out there who love you and will come to your rescue. All you need to do is reach out and say, “help me.”

What have I learnt from producing the podcast?

I have learnt that it is an incredibly arduous task to produce 10 episodes of a series from 10 different countries with 22 different individuals in 10 consecutive days, all by yourself! That was the plan for Breaking the Silence. I managed to produce 9 episodes in 9 days with 20 individuals. Not bad for someone who’d never done that kind of thing before. That made me believe that it is possible to do what your heart desires. That when you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything. I also learnt that depression can be debilitating. During my moments of extreme downs, I was unable to get my mind into recording, editing pre-recorded episodes, publishing or even talking to anyone about Padded Cell. I felt like a let-down. But I came back to it and produced another episode and then another. It was all with the help of my support system. People who I have found will listen to me without judgement and give me that little push I need to get off my ass and do something. This may not be the case for everyone and to you, I say, you are not alone.

Going forward?

There is a brand spanking new website for Padded Cell. paddedcellpodcast.life. It was designed and worked on with love and kindness by my new friend Carlos Saraiva. If any of you have any website needs, he’s the man. Drop me a line and I’ll put you in contact. There will be more topical conversations happening. We will tackle addiction, post traumatic stress, bipolar disorder, depression, suicide and generally how to be there for those you love. This will be another wonderful year full of wonderful conversations with wonderful people. I am still doing all this by myself…so do bear with me if I am not so consistent…and please reach out if you want to talk. I am always here. Be kind to others and yourself. Love yourself. Talk very soon.

Happy 1st Anniversary to Padded Cell Podcast.

Thank you so much for listening and I look forward to having you listen to more conversations breaking the stigma on mental health. If you haven’t subscribed already, please do so on your favourite podcast app. Visit PaddedCellPodcast.Life for more information about where to follow the podcast on social media, the podcast, me, some ramblings of an LGBT activist and if you want to reach out, hit the contact tab. I will soon be sharing more resources on mental health on the website so do watch out for that.

Anthony Oluoch

I am a lawyer, a brother, a son, a friend, a neighbor, a confidant, a student of life and I am Kenyan. Became a human rights activist so suddenly sometimes I ask myself if this really is something I wanted. But I have come to embrace it. I have come to realize that I like what I do. That on some level, what I do makes life easier for someone and hopefully, eventually, for myself…Probably the best way to describe me is in the words of Winston Churchill, I am a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

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