How the anxiety-inducing city became the healing balm I needed

Balpolam Idi
7 min readDec 12, 2023


Ballie out and about with Rabi

Disclaimer: I have about 10 drafts that do not feel ready to go out just yet. Even as I write this, about seven other matters are swirling in my head, demanding a spot on the screen. But I want to pour my heart out about some of the things I’ve been through recently. The urge to share is pressing and I won’t delay.

I always try to lead with honesty and if you know me, you know I do not believe in the well-curated, filter-ridden lenses we view each other’s lives. Life is messy and we must be candid about it. I try to share mine with as much honesty and rawness as I can afford. So here goes. It’s uncomfortable, and yes, sometimes I fear you’ll judge me secretly (lol if you do, I will judge you back) but hey, I must do what is right.

After the beginning.

Last year, I turned down a job I really liked for a plethora of reasons. You can ask in private and I’ll share my pro-cons list with you as well as give you the backdrop of emotional and mental trauma I was dealing with during this season. Only three people in my life agreed with this decision and even among the three, I doubt any one of them understood it. They were just loving and supporting me. I’ve always been an optimist but this time, the prognosis of taking the job in Lagos was depression and possibly suicide. Yeah, I say it loosely and a lot of people have assumed it was banter but I truly would have been fighting very hard not to end my life. No, this is not supposed to be that kind of story, I promise. It has a happy ending.

Since the global lockdown, I noticed that I, who loves to travel and get lost, started developing anxiety about going out. This anxiety worsened when I had to venture into big cities but I was chesting it. I moved to Abuja, I chested it. Moved to Accra, chested it. Then it now became like even Johnny Bravo’s chest could not take Lagos oh.

When I left Lagos on the 11th of December last year, I was wound up tighter than my grandmother’s parcel of daddawa being sent off to my cousin in Abuja. I was not myself. I was full of angst, fear and anxiety, but what made it unbearable was that I could barely communicate these boulder emotions with my loved ones. Some thought I was in a phase that would pass or being bratty and picky, others thought it was ‘normal’ sadness, and others didn’t just know what to do with me. My bad really, because I have a terrible habit of minimising what I’m going through. Anyway, I highlighted some things in Dear September, you should read it for context.

The ending — kinda

Ballie at LEAP Africa's LAP Bootcamp

When I decided to go to Lagos, I mean willingly go, I summoned the last dregs of courage in my entire being. The one thing my mom is always telling me to have — “Have courage Ballie” she’ll say to me fervently. It was what carried me because my soul was as dry as maize stalks in December ready to be set ablaze. I didn’t have any idea what this would be like but for the first time in a while, I had that pressing feeling of knowing. — Knowing that this is exactly where I should be. I embraced that feeling with everything in me and took a step. Now I feel like I need to mention that, I didn’t even want to apply for the LEAP Africa’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator program in the first place😂 but because I missed a deadline for another internship I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did. I was selected with 29 other ladies from across Africa to participate in this premiere experience. It was the step one to healing. I met women like me, bonded, cried, laughed and shared food and stories.

In the university, I took a course called Mental and Emotional health, among many other health edu courses. So I am quite familiar with the clinical symptoms of depression. My dear reader, before I took this trip, I battled with apathy and darkness like never before. I lost interest in work and rarely applied for anything work-related because I just didn’t see the point. It was in this autopilot mode I arrived this bootcamp that started the transformation and restoration.

Ballie at Oba Reengy's Restore Concert

When my friend told me about his concert at the start of the year and I was screaming in delight, I told him I’d be there. Lol. I had no clue how, but I just knew I wanted to be there. Duh, after following Superstar all these years, I wasn’t about to miss his debut but see, even me ehn, I didn’t know the feasibility of that promise. I made plans but they all failed. I’m glad I did because all three plans to be in Lagos before October were foiled.

The Interlude

Ballie eating cake icing because she can

While I feel this is getting lengthy and I have not even scratched the surface of my gushing, I would like to thank Lagos 2023 for healing me. For making me come to terms with my weaknesses, limitations, rational and irrational fears, my handicaps, my idols (lol, this one pained me ngl) and everything in between. I was swinging from a pendulum of uncertainty to surety every two market days, crying impromptu and feeling overwhelmed at intervals. But Lagos gave me peace and quiet. I was hidden and reborn and it felt bloody and brand new. I heard my lover again. I fell in love with Him again. I was finally feeling like I was breathing again.

I see the providential orchestration in hindsight. Every step, every activity, every cancelled meetup, until I was ready, was my divine curation to experience full healing. I am so thankful for the Ecclesia Hills’ Word Conference. The Restore concert was like the final satisfying splash of hot water during the first bath after a long trip, the refreshing and healing properties were celestial. It was the seal. I had a swell time at BOW too. I felt like me again. — A more cautious and wounded version, but still me nonetheless. I attended the Ake festival for the first time in my life and it was fully funded and came with a 20k book grant. I’ll take time to break down each point one day. There is no space wide enough to take my appreciation for the only sister I have in the whole wide world aka my sponsor and rehab centre🤍✨😩

My SISTER ladies and gentlemen 😌🤍✨

Some key lessons I learnt:

To be confident in my new complexities. I am not an easy-to-read/know person and I am tired of trying to fit into that mould. I am multi-layered and I complicate simple things and simplify complex things.

To be unapologetic about my passion. I’m a sucker for art and I am tired of hiding it.

To communicate, as painful as it may be and as slowly as possible, but keep at it. It doesn’t mean I’ll be understood immediately, but it lessens the chances of being misunderstood.

To let go of my fear of failing and fail some more. For God’s sake, no one is timing or chasing me.

To let go of unrealistic expectations, especially the ones I have placed on myself.

To forgive me for loving people, even those who didn’t love me back (at least not with that ferocity and honesty)

To do boring things unrepentantly because honestly, I love my boring life where the most comical and insane things happen.

To trust my One True Love to ALWAYS have my best interest at heart and to protect me from all harm including my stupidity.

I am going to stop here so I can hit publish and not worm my way out of sharing this because I want to add 70 new points. I hope this encourages someone to push through the darkness and bleak days. There is light somewhere and it is running towards you at full speed. You just need to look in that direction.

I wish I could simply do a gallery slideshow at the end of this but I am nursing a headache and trying not to be an overachiever.

I hope that reading this inspired or encouraged you. Thank you for reading and I will be back soon. Have you had a transformational experience like this before? Please may I hear about it? It could be an event, a place or a person even. Eyes wide open for your responses and comments.

Love, Ballie💖



Balpolam Idi

Live, Love, Give. But most importantly, Dream. Learner. Teacher. Wanderer.