It bothered me how out of control I was when I finally decided to admit myself to a psychiatric hospital. I usually pride myself on my ability to control my mind. Self-awareness is a big part of who I am and how I lead my life. My conscious parenting journey is founded on the very basis of that awareness.
Depression took that all away from me. I was no longer in the driver’s seat of my mind, literally crippled by festering thoughts of uselessness, fear and death.
May was an excellent work month for me. I was a Guest Editor; a role I got based on the merit of my talent for writing and creating content and my passion for parenting. I was also an MC for one of the biggest parenting events in the country. I patted myself on the shoulder for how well I did at that event. That’s what exhausted me the most; the need to ignore how terrible I felt on the inside and put on a show, literally. I smiled and continued to parent and work amid a Major Depressive Episode (MDE).
A few days after the event, my husband found me in the bathtub with a razor in hand, thinking about cutting myself. He and I disagreed about something that I already felt bad about. Earlier that day, I was meant to drop off something for a mental health event hosted by Mrs Boledi, and I failed dismally at that. I felt like such a failure. However, a few hours before that, I had a smile on at my favourite hiking spot, leading our church youth group on a hike.
So, the switch from happy to suicidal was incomprehensible for my husband.
He took it upon himself to cheer me up, and we went out for some retail therapy, then went to watch a soccer match. I was amazed at the amount of social anxiety I had, considering that I am usually a social butterfly. So much of who I was and how I acted felt out of character.
I was not myself.
My contract with BabyYumYum.co.za ended on the last day of May, and the pretending had to stop. I had no reason to fake it. Ironically, my admission would be the very next day.
On 30 May, I would break down in front of my colleagues during a meeting for my contract extension. My boss asked, “how are you?” and everything inside of me broke. I could have lied and said I was okay. That would have been an injustice to myself, my family and her company.
That same day, I called Akeso, my medical aid and I got the ball rolling.
I was grateful for having medical cover at that moment because my plan offered me 21 days a year for admission into a mental health facility. I did not know whether or not I needed 21 days, but I was willing to stay there for as long as I needed.
At Akeso, I spoke to a wonderful lady, and I will never forget her name. She spoke to me with kindness and love and made me feel held and understood.
Telling my husband that I’m leaving the very next day was a trip all on its own. He definitely supported my need for assistance, but the idea of not being home for 21 days was overwhelming for him. I had spoken to Aunty Mercy to stay while I’m away, but mom would also be around to assist. The village was more than happy to pull through. I am happy I reached out to them.
What followed were 16 days of light and darkness. Days filled with self-awareness and development classes, and sessions with all kinds of doctors. I was in a hospital for my brain and was getting the treatment I needed to get better. My days were also filled with constant video calls of catching up with my geng geng.
It was my brain that needed help. That’s how I explained my need to leave to Tshimo. Doctors would be helping mommy make her brain better. I could have lied and said it is something else, but I never underestimate children’s ability to handle the truth.
Being away from my kids was so tough. But my stay was worth it.
It has been 6 months of being in the real world from 16 days of mental health lockdown and my biggest learning is that my admission was not a magic wand. It was a way to get awareness around what it is that I was facing and how to navigate it from a place of self-awareness and self-empathy. That is a constant journey.
I am not healed from my illness, but I am aware of it, which gives me the strength to face it daily and do the work required to heal it. The objective is healing, but the road towards that is complex, but so so worth it.
What changes have I implemented since my discharge?
- I intentionally sleep less.
- Joined the gym
- Make God the centre
- Leaning into my support system when I need to talk
- Never allowing myself to bottle things up
- Curate my social calendar
It is not a perfect system. On some days I fall short and do not feel like doing much, but I am doing that “one day at a time” thing. For me, the key is in living from a place of intention. Intentional living is an empowering way to live one’s life. Hope to talk more about this soon.
Thank you for reading and hope to hear your stories on navigating depression and anxiety.
*Details around my stay are limited because Akeso works on absolute confidentiality.