The Past And The Present Met
It is already two weeks into the New Year and this is my first blog post for 2018. My hope for you is that wherever you are in life today, that this is the year you will know resounding Joy and have boundless Courage.
I learnt alot about that in 2017. I realised that I found my Courage a long time ago but it has taken all of my adult life to find Joy. This holiday season has truly been Joyful which is an amazing description for me to give. Usually I dread holiday season.
As a family with an adult daughter with complex special needs; relaxation and socialising has always been labour intensive which in my opinion, defeated the purpose and left me feeling confused and cross every, single holiday.
Yup, I understood the holiday blues very well.
This holiday season I enjoyed a pleasant, beautiful start to the year on a beach in a quiet seaside town with my husband and children as well as with our extended family. My daughter Savannah still has the same struggles and some additional struggles but what she doesn’t have anymore is a mother who feels overwhelmed and frustrated with life.
I’ve written in a previous blog about how long I battled suicidal thoughts. Even long after I stopped feeling that death was an option, I still felt a deep sadness: a melancholy in my soul, a wish to slip quietly into darkness. 2017 was the year that I understood that darkness and it’s hold over me.
It was the year that I accepted that no one can save me from the sadness but myself. 2017 was the year I became my own hero. I was marked by the frailty of life and touched by the gift of each new day as our family faced a new set off challenges with Savannah.
To that end, my husband surprised us by booking this holiday so that we could make memories with our children and still keep Savannah as comfortable as she needed to be.
Ironically, I was holidaying just a stone’s throw from the home that our matric class of 1995 stayed in for our Matric farewell tour. Being there; seeing the familiar train track we walked along twenty three years ago and the sandy road that leads to the Children’s Home were we stayed brought back memories. The past and the present met each other.
Before that tour I remember how us girls worried if we would be able to fit everything that we would need: like a hairdryer and clothing for every season and occasion! We worried about where we would sleep and if we had to share the bathrooms with each other. Oh horror of horrors for teen girls. It seemed so important back then.
I vaguely remember an evening with a beach bonfire, the dinner hall which I think had pink and peach chintz curtains, an illegal alcohol related gathering and walking along the train track to the mini shopping centre during the day.
I remember how often on that tour and for the rest of the year I felt that I didn’t belong amongst those amazing people. I had nothing to offer this group of confident and friendly fellow students. I deeply admired the few I had formed close relationships with; and wished I could be more to them.
I admired the sets of friends as much as I admired the individuals who made up the sets. But when you see yourself as worthless, you can’t comprehend that you have value.
Throughout the two years that I was at the school I was battling a deep depression. I felt like an empty shell. I felt old and sad. Yet to everyone around me, I was the dependable, responsible, happy girl.
My first suicide attempt was in the November of 1995; the night before my final Afrikaans matric exam. I was found in time to be taken to a hospital; my stomach was pumped and drained and I was made to write the exam. I was dazed and tired but write it I did.
My attempt to end my life was glossed over by my family and I was left feeling guilty for putting them through that. By the next August I had become a mother and a wife, and the sadness intensified with the shame and pressure from my social circle.
Two years later I was a single parent to a child with a disability, a divorcee and working to make ends meet for my daughter and myself. I only faced each day because I was responsible for my daughter. Nothing else. I felt trapped in this world.
This week I heard of the death of a well respected professional in the disability community, and the Facebook announcement of her death had this quote “People do not die from suicide, they die from sadness.” So true.
I remember friends who have left this world by their own hands and how often I have waltzed with suicide and I angrily question that in a time when we know more than we have ever known about emotional well being, mental health and psychology and the importance of support structures…why, oh why do we not see the sadness? What are we missing that it is still so difficult for people to find help and understanding?
It seems that all that’s happening is that we are becoming a generation with intellectual prowess but devoid of genuine sensitivity and care towards each other.
It’s not enough that the British Royal Family have stepped out and spoken about mental health and their own struggles; it’s on us in our homes, in our social circles, in our offices, in our religious organisations who need to open our minds and hearts. We must find our Courage to speak so that no one in our social circles feels so alone that suicide seems to be a reasonable answer.
We must find our Courage to speak about suicide. We must learn to be honest about our own struggles. We should be living consciously that we are part of each other. People are always more important than things. Always.
As I gazed out at the dazzling aqua blue sea and listened to the pounding of the waves on the shore, I was reminded of the pounding of my own heart. I am still here. I learned to live past the sadness and I ended my waltz with Death.
If you feel that life is not worth living, please afford yourself the respect of speaking to someone who understands. You are not alone in this and help is available to you.
Contact the South Africa Suicide Crisis Line
For a suicidal Emergency contact us on 0800 567 567
24hr Helpline 0800 12 13 14