Conjestina Achieng’s son Charltone Otieno has opened up about his mother’s struggle with mental illness that adversely affected her wellbeing.
The legendary boxer has only one child whom she raised as a single parent. However, Charltone didn’t enjoy his mother’s love and affection for long as mental illness took a toll on her in 2009.
The boxer at one point withdrew her son from school, burnt all her boxing equipment and disposed of her gym equipment.
Conjestina was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder or paranoid schizophrenia, a chronic mental illness in which a person loses touch with reality.
Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that distorts the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, relates to others and perceives reality.
About 10% of people with schizophrenia commit suicide and are more likely to have a drug or alcohol abuse problem. Treatments such as taking medication, participating in therapy and being hospitalized can reduce symptoms.
Conjestina’s son narrated how he witnessed his mother’s health deteriorate while speaking during an interview with YouTube channel Plug TV.
“I was there when the sickness began. At one point we were with her in the gym. All of a sudden she went and sat at the corner of the gym and started thinking a lot. I asked her what was happening and she told me to relax, that day she did not train, we went to the house in the evening she took a shower and waited for supper before going to sleep,” Charltone said.
Charltone was forced to raise alarm to his relatives who took Conjestina to Mathare Mental Hospital after she started hallucinating and seeing imaginary things.
The boxer’s son speculated that his mother’s illness could have been as a result of loneliness and depression and not a concussion.
He said that X-ray tests show that she had no brain damage that could have been caused by punches she might have received while boxing.
“The cause of sickness is not guaranteed but many people say it is a result of boxing, others have their versions that I won’t mention but sickness is just like an accident. What I can assure the citizens is that Conjestina’s illness was not as a result of boxing, there are many boxers who have fought for long but they didn’t get sick like her, it is something that just came from nowhere because she used to understand herself while in the ring and would dodge the head punches,” he noted.
Charltone expressed gratitude to Mike Sonko and Kenyans in general for the support given to Conjestina over years. He said he was grateful even though his mother has not gotten better.
“The story about my mom Conjestina Achieng used to be a sad story but nowadays it is not a sad story to me. I stopped living in denial. It is a fact that she is mentally sick and there is nothing we can do about it. I am not going to blame anyone whatsoever because people have helped, and mostly I would like to thank all the Kenyans. There was a time we opened a fundraising platform for Conjestina Achieng’ to go for treatment. Kenyans came through, Sonko helped a lot, the government, so many politicians,” he said.