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Behind the Heart with Chiadi Ndu: No Matter How Deep Your Pain Is… Help is Available



I would like to start this year with sincere apologies for the abrupt end of my monthly column last year. I had very deep inspirations, beautiful themes and lay-out for articles I intended to write. My grand plans and ‘to-do’ list were impressive. But suddenly, my year ended and I was totally incapacitated. One day brought the rest of the year to an abrupt halt!

Few days before THAT day, everything had been blissful. I was surrounded by intimate family and friends, celebrating the latest Octogenarian in the family. Three days into the celebrations, my ‘big brother’ began to complain of a very severe headache. He got my attention but I didn’t think much about it since he was a Medical Doctor of over 35 years standing, with ample experience and extreme competence. I only bothered to confirm that he had taken his routine prescription drugs.

To my utter shock and dismay, less than 24 hours after that ‘splitting’ headache, he slipped away quietly and without a fuss into the great beyond.

I fought the news, I fled the pain and then, I froze in the shock. Simultaneously, I experienced the “fight, flight and freeze” response, as I felt my life literally being sucked out of me.

Because I spend most of my professional life helping people deal with their emotional turmoil, I was so sure I would be able to manage my anguish. I am usually able to provide support for those passing through debilitating fear, pain and anxiety; but that day, I searched deep within me, struggled to find help within my heart. I could not find any… not even prayer!

I unearthed every coping technique I had ever suggested to my clients, exhausted all my skills for dealing with trauma but I still felt despair, fatigue and fear. My ‘tomorrow’ seemed littered with landmines and I didn’t know where and when the next one would explode.

My anxiety level sky- rocketed and every noise caused me to jump. Gut- wrenching pain overwhelmed me; I lost copious amounts of weight with my heart starting to beat irregularly. I struggled with insomnia and I felt listless. Repeatedly, I heard the taunting voice saying: “… Physician, heal thyself.”

I practice ‘self-disclosure’ as both my professional style and my life style. I try not to cover my pain; so it was not too hard for me to express my anguish to the people closest to me. I knew I had them worried, especially because of my previous health challenges. Many times, I would catch my husband watching me with his forehead deeply furrowed as all my symptoms began to return.

I understand Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), its symptoms and implications. PTSD often develops after a direct experience in which someone is seriously injured or threatened with injury or death. It can also happen to people who witness stressful events or learn about an unexpected or violent death/injury to a family member or close friend. I know that PTSD doesn’t usually go away on its own without treatment. Symptoms can last for months or years or they may come and go in waves. I saw my resilience wearing thin and I knew PTSD was looming large. I could barely utter quiet prayers for help. But I am sure Heaven raised people to pray for me because God reached out to me in mercy and sent help from the oddest places.

One of such odd places is a group chat on WhatsApp. It was my class in Secondary School. Each time I started to feel overwhelmed, I pulled out my phone and engaged in idle banter with this group. Deep belly laughs at some of their mischief, flamboyant use of English, cartoons, pictures, ‘meat pie and coke’ stories, thoughtfulness, kindness and even abrasiveness, was the antidote I needed for the toxicity of my emotions. I just could never hold back the giggle; it transported me back to my teenage world again.

My faith , my cognition and my physiology played a huge role in my coping with this extreme stressor but this support group expedited the process. My class of 82 helped me pull through…34 years after graduation! Writing this has also been part of my process, thank you for reading through.

Welcome to this brand new year filled with grand plans, impressive ‘to-do’ lists and fresh hope; all laid down at the feet of the Most High. Please don’t forget that no matter how deep your pain may be, help is available… sometimes in the oddest places including old pals from yesteryears!

CHIADI NDU was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1987 but has since obtained a Masters Degree in Counselling Psychology. A Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, she runs BTH Integrated Wellness and Therapy. Email: [email protected] BTH provides premium professional counselling services with experts who understand how the mind works; offering a confidential and safe environment where our clients can work on any stressful, traumatic or simply uncomfortable issues they may be facing- ANXIETY, GRIEF, FEAR, TRAUMA, LOSS, FINANCES OR HEALTH  CHALLENGES. Website:


  1. mama zee

    January 12, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    im glad you are in a better place now cos only you can explain how you feel when you are hurting, And your story thought me one key lesson ”no one person is an expert in issues of life” take heart ma.

  2. Dr. N

    January 12, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    I am so sorry about your loss but thankful you are joyful today
    Keep smiling Ma’m

  3. olanna&odenigbo

    January 12, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    Ma, you so correctly described my 2016… major event nullifies everything and throws out every to-do list….Ha! Thank God we can laugh now… healing isn’t linear, some not so good days still come to mess with me around my issue but hmm….we will keep overcoming. My friend called my from a faraway country yesterday, she is dealing with hers…and somehow I got it..I got where she was, I knew I couldn’t help her…I encouraged her to keep opening up and I will assist with the praying, cos lord knows you cant do much for yourself. But we’ll survive and beyond that, we’ll thrive. Amen.

  4. Waje

    January 12, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Death really comes like a thief in the night. I can’t imagine how deeply it must have hurt to lose someone so dear but I’m glad you’re stronger and God has been able to help you wade through this waters. The point about your whatsapp group really gave me insight on an issue I’ve been thinking about for a while now. A dear friend lost someone close and I was not sure if I should remain solemn all the time around her as a form of empathy or if I should be my normal cheerful self around her to help her return to normalcy slowly. Reading this has inspired me to be my normal self around her so I can hopefully do for her, what your group did for you. I pray you continue to find the strength to overcome these times.

  5. Tunde

    January 12, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    This is a beautiful piece sis Chi…the Lord continue to heal you.

  6. Yinka Olotu

    January 12, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    My sister! Odinkwama. God is still in every situation. God is able to do all things. Isnt that what you say to me a lot of the times. This would not be different.
    Very sorry about your loss. Just read about it. God will by himself comfort you. I lost my Dad also, l was out of tune for a while but grateful that l pulled through.l was connected to that man through his heart.
    Biko we shouldnt keep this long again. I have repented. I think yours should be double.
    Here is to a great 2017. Loves! !

  7. Nkoli

    January 13, 2017 at 5:27 am

    Chiadi, even this is coming to pass. The Egyptians you see now, you shall see NO MORE.
    Thank God you gave yourself permission to wallow in fear, self pity and despair. That I believe allows the succeeding steps of grief to take place.
    You & you brother will be in my prayers.

  8. KJ Munachimdi

    January 13, 2017 at 6:37 am

    You are an inspiration and an incredibly strong woman. I am deeply sorry for your loss. But overjoyed for your recovery. Optimism and love will guide you through all tribulations. All your worries shall pass. And all your dreams shall come to pass. Keep doing what makes you happy and surround yourself with people that make you even happier. You are not alone! Stay blessed. YMK.

  9. Akanna Okeke

    January 13, 2017 at 7:08 am

    Big sis! You know we all stand together. God is on the throne and is our great help! Love you much! xx

  10. Ijeoma Obineche

    January 13, 2017 at 10:16 am

    Chiadi, I thank God for the strength He gives at such times. May you continue to be strengthened by God. I have always wondered if I can ever be the same person again after such loss and pain, but your topic says, “No matter how deep your pain is…………. Help is available.” So I have hope. I wish you a fruitful and divinely-guided year 2017.

  11. Chimdalu

    January 13, 2017 at 10:57 am

    Aunty, it’s well. Our good Lord is always on the throne,looking out for us.

  12. Ifeyinwa Atuanya

    January 13, 2017 at 11:46 am

    will anybody patronise aunty?

    she already knows that 2017 will be a good year for her

  13. Ata ikiddeh

    January 13, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    Goodness Chiadi ! On behalf of the 82 group welcome back. Humbled to know my meatpie and coke escapades – with my black teenage butterfly helped in your recovery. The 82 whatsApp group is really amazing, you really should recommend it. Each time we get in there we become teenagers again. It’s why I am not surprised at all the stuff that go on in there – just a group of teenagers playing in the hay , I say to myself. Groups like that would be interesting tools for research because it clearly shows at each stage of our development our experiences are locked away somewhere in our minds and our happiest moments are stacked in vaults waiting to be accessed.
    By the way I hope you post this article in the group. Welcome back!

  14. uche okeke

    January 13, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    Aunty am grateful to God for giving us strength and courage…..this is a wonderful piece….eddy cool lives on☺

    • Akanna Okeke

      January 14, 2017 at 5:36 am

      Yes he does, Uche! 🙂

  15. Femi

    January 14, 2017 at 1:41 am

    Wow! what I needed to start the year. I have always enjoyed Chiadi’s articles and I wondered why it stopped suddenly now it all makes sense. I am very sorry about your loss and I am glad you’ve found the strength within to keep on going. It’s never easy when someone so dear to us passes, living with the memories of them can make us both happy and sad. I pray that the memory of your brother brings you happiness.

    Welcome back and I look forward to more of your articles this year and beyond.

  16. Omodayo

    January 17, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    So sorry…. I lost my Dad in October 2016 so I understand how you feel. The pain is deep. it hurts so much. But through it all, God remained faithful and merciful. He blessed us with loving family and friends who supported my Mum, Sister and I throughout the very traumatic period.. We remain eternally grateful to our Almighty Father. He wiped away our tears and gave us reasons to smile again. The same God will do the same for you and your entire family. His healing will be complete and will remain permanent in the mighty name of Jesus.. It is well with you.

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