A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week
The subject of today’s “A Week In The Life” is a physiotherapist and Bitcoin trader. He talks to us about struggling with mental health as a trader, his dreams to become a renowned poet, and how trading changed his life for good.
At 12 a.m., I’m mostly awake trading BTC. I look for people who want to sell BTC as I simultaneously text people who want to buy BTC. While talking to clients, I also place adverts on social media to attract both buyers and sellers.
As the hours move, I religiously monitor something called pips and candles — graphical movements that indicate market gains and losses — and I buy BTC to hold when the price dips. I do this in hopes that I can resell at a higher price when the market goes up. The funny thing is that the market might keep dipping as the day continues so I end up losing a lot of money. Alternatively, the market might also go up and I make a little profit. Because of this volatility, I barely sleep. Someone is either calling me for a transaction or I’m having nightmares that BTC crashed when I was asleep. Either way, I stay up as long as I can to monitor the charts.
My midnight to early morning is the same cycle of buying, selling, placing advert and texting. However, my day takes a different turn because I have a 9-5.
In addition to trading BTC, I’m a licensed physiotherapist who manages private patients. I like to say that crypto is my side hustle while physiotherapy is the main work, but that’s not true — crypto trading is what makes me comfortable.
It’s 5 a.m. when I finally close my laptop for the day and stop trading. I stop because I have a long day ahead. I’ve been booked for private physiotherapy sessions and my patients live in vastly different parts of Lagos. My current dilemma is how to avoid Lagos traffic without splitting myself into two.
My more important dilemma is that I need to sleep before I can do any form of thinking. When I wake up, I’ll figure out the next step.
Trading crypto can change your life for both good and bad. You can get comfortable from this business, but your relationship with people will also suffer.
I don’t sleep because I’m always on my phone or laptop trading. I don’t reply to messages because I can’t carry on a conversation for long. I remember this one time I was on a date with someone who promised to never see me again.
Why? I was looking at my phone all through the date. I couldn’t explain to her that I was losing huge amounts of money. Sometimes when I’m spiralling, I turn off my phone and take a break away from everybody. I encourage crypto traders to take breaks because no amount of money can make you happy as a full-time trader. You’re always thinking of how to double or triple the money. You’re always reading charts. And you’re also too familiar with watching all the profit you made at 7 a.m. go down the drain at night.
Today is a bad mental health day for me. Just for existing alone, I’ve lost almost ₦500,000 in a trade. Even though I know it’ll keep getting worse, I can’t stop staring at the screen.
When I can’t take it anymore, I pick up my car keys, turn off my phone and decide to go lodge in a hotel where I can be alone.
Trading crypto has changed my life. I’ve lost money today and I’m probably in debt, but I have friends who can loan me money until I bounce back. I’ve lost money today, and I’m crying in my car, but soon, I’ll cry in a well-furnished hotel room.
Nothing seems to be working for the foul mood I’m in today.
I went somewhere to take tequila shots, it didn’t work.
I went to dye my hair, it didn’t work.
I went to binge eat, it also didn’t work.
In the evening, I’ll go to a bar to try to lift myself out of this deep sadness that I feel.
When I turn on my phone, I’m sure I’ll see that my friends have been looking for me. It’s ironic how someone will see a photo of me in the hotel and automatically assume I’m happy and balling.
The constant up and downs in this business are really affecting my mental health. As a medic, I understand a bit about mental health, and this helps me fight thoughts like, “Why am I failing?” “Why am I losing money?” “Who did I offend?”
I’m not leaving here without a fight. Life is so useless that it’s not worth dying for. I’d rather life kills me itself before I kill myself.
I feel better today, so I spend some time thinking about how social media can be misleading. When I’m making profit, I don’t party or club or even go out. I’m just indoors.
But the minute I start to experience back to back losses, I booze-up. If not, I’ll get frustrated. My friends and I have a tendency to make ourselves happy by partying, going clubbing and sometimes taking breaks. Because our approach to bad days looks like enjoyment, it’s easy to look like we don’t have bad days. It’s easy for people to say we’re always balling, always chopping life when the reality is that we’re “chopping life” because we just made a major loss.
What a big irony.
I’ve decided to leave the hotel today and to connect back with the world. The first message I see when I turn on my phone is someone asking me to open a BTC wallet for her and help her trade.
I’m not the most honest person in the world, but I tell her never to ask anyone to open a wallet on her behalf because anyone in possession of your username and password can swindle you.
I tell her that BTC wallets are quite easy to open. I also tell her that BTC trading isn’t some magic trick where you put in $50 and get $600 after two days. If the money will increase, it’ll do so by maybe $10.
After my speech, I pack my things and leave the hotel.
I’m barely halfway from my house before I’m stopped by the Nigerian police. They’re shouting at me to park, and I know it’s because of my dyed hair that I’m being stopped. I greet the officers and quickly show them my physiotherapist ID card. The conversation takes a quick turn, and the officer who was shouting softens his voice. The next question he asks is, “Which medicine I fit use if I get Covid?”
I tell him to go to the hospital if he thinks he has any symptoms. I can’t help but shake my head and sigh as I drive away from their checkpoint. Everyone in this country has a problem that’s doing them.
I wake up today feeling grateful for my 9-5. My physio job allows me to interact with patients which then forces me to read my books a bit. I love books and I love to read. If I didn’t have to earn a living, I’d probably be a poet or something. Writing poetry has been one of the ways I’ve expressed the intense wave of melancholy I experience. I’m hopeful that someone can relate to how I feel and that helps them feel less alone.
Sadly, poetry can’t be a full-time job. That’s why I show up, regardless of how I feel, to trade.
If you ask me where I see myself in future, I’ll tell you that I just want two things: to release my second and third anthology of poems, and to finally be free from a screen.
I need to sleep with urgency and without worry about whatever the trading charts are saying.
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