How I got here (extended life story)

BORN IN ’86 IN A SMALL TOWN IN SOUTH AFRICA (AT THE BOTTOM OF THE MAP OF AFRICA, HENCE THE NAME), I WAS APPARENTLY A VERY CUTE BABY WHO BECAME A VERY WITTY LITTLE GIRL.  I GREW UP IN THE CHURCH, MY DAD WAS THE PASTOR OF A SMALL CHURCH IN A LITTLE TOWN CALLED TZANEEN. AT AROUND 4, I REMEMBER LOOKING AROUND THE PLAYGROUND AND REALIZING I’M NOT LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. THIS NEW DISCOVERY STARTED TO BECOME OBVIOUS WHEN I COULDN’T KEEP FRIENDS BECAUSE “I TALKED ABOUT WEIRD THINGS” AND “ASKED GROWN-UP QUESTIONS” SO LIFE WAS REALLY UNPLEASANT FOR ME. AT AGE 9, I COMPLETELY REJECTED MYSELF AND SWORE I WOULD CHANGE AND BECOME SOMEONE ELSE.

I STARTED GETTING DEPRESSIVE SPELLS SOMEWHERE IN PRIMARY SCHOOL, IN HIGH SCHOOL I STARTED CUTTING AND SINKING SO DEEP INTO THE ABYSS THAT I REJECTED GOD ALTHOUGH I KNEW (DUE TO THE CHARACTER OF MY PARENTS) THAT HE WAS REAL,  LOVING AND GOOD. A FEW MONTHS BEFORE MY 17TH BIRTHDAY I WENT ON A TEEN CHURCH CAMP, THE YOUTH PASTOR TOLD ME “YOU’RE STANDING AT THE EDGE OF A CLIFF, YOU’RE GONNA FALL, GOD WANTS TO CATCH YOU, WILL YOU LET HIM?” I GAVE MY LIFE TO GOD THAT NIGHT AND THE DEPRESSION LEFT FOR 2 YEARS.

I WENT TO UNIVERSITY ON A SCHOLARSHIP AND GOT MY DEGREE IN CHEMICAL ENGINEERING. IT WAS IN MY FIRST YEAR THAT THE DEPRESSIVE SPELLS STARTED AGAIN BUT IN MY THIRD YEAR I HAD MY FIRST HYPOMANIC EPISODE. IT WAS THE WEEK BEFORE SEMESTER TESTS AND I COULDN’T SLEEP AND I WAS SO ANXIOUS I WANTED TO CRAWL OUT OF MY SKIN AND JUST RUN AROUND WITH MY HEART IN MY HAND AND MY BRAINS SOMEWHERE SPREAD OUT ON THE LAWN. I WOULD PRAY FOR AN HOUR OR SO AND THEN I’D FEEL BETTER FOR 15 MINUTES AND THIS CYCLE CONTINUED TILL MY GP PRESCRIBED SLEEPING TABLETS AND ANTI-DEPRESSANTS. I CAME RIGHT AND PASSED THE TEST WEEK WITH A GOOD AVERAGE. BUT THE EPISODE HAD UNLOCKED PANDORA’S BOX. I KNEW I WASN’T OKAY, I KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN AGAIN…

SO I GOT MY DEGREE, AN AMAZING BOYFRIEND AND A JOB AT A PETROLEUM GIANT IN SOUTH AFRICA. I GOT SEVERELY DEPRESSED IN MY FIRST YEAR ON THE JOB, ENDED UP BEING DIAGNOSED BIPOLAR TYPE II, BUT THEN MY PSYCHOLOGIST AT THE TIME FELT IT WAS AN INCORRECT DIAGNOSIS AND SENT ME FOR A SECOND OPINION, THIS NEW FELLOW TOLD ME I HAD ATYPICAL DEPRESSION AND TOOK ME OFF MY MOOD STABILIZERS. AROUND THAT TIME I GOT ENGAGED AND STARTED WORKING IN THE DESIGN DEPARTMENT OF THE COMPANY (UP UNTIL THAT TIME I WAS WORKING AS A PLANT ENGINEER DEALING WITH DAY TO DAY ISSUES AND SMALL PROJECTS). THINKING BACK, THOSE 9 MONTHS WAS MY SECOND MAJOR HYPOMANIC EPISODE. I PLANNED MY WEDDING TO THE VERY FINEST DETAIL AS WELL AS WORKED OVERTIME, I WAS SO HAPPY BECAUSE I LOVED MY JOB AND I WAS GETTING MARRIED AND AND AND.

21 AUGUST 2010 (YEAR WE HOSTED THE SOCCER WORLD CUP) I GOT MARRIED AND THE MOMENT I LEFT THE CHURCH I STARTED FEELING WEIRD… STOPPED SLEEPING, RACING THOUGHTS, COULDN’T SIT STILL, IRRITATED BEYOND REASON AND MOST OF ALL NEVER HUNGRY. 4 WEEKS LATER I HAD A COMPLETE COLLAPSE, I WAS ADMITTED TO A PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL AND GIVEN SLEEP THERAPY. MY PSYCHIATRIST SAW HIS PATIENTS AT 5 AM AND ON THE FOURTH DAY I DECIDED TO BE FUNNY AND PAINT MY FACE LIKE A CAT, YOU KNOW FOR LAUGHS… THE DIAGNOSIS WAS APPARENTLY MADE EASY BY MY PRANK; BIPOLAR AGAIN.

I ACCEPTED THE DIAGNOSIS AND WENT ON ALL THE HORRIBLE MEDS, GAINED 40 KG (88 LBS.) AND FELL INTO THE DEEPEST DEPRESSION. SO MUCH THAT MY POOR OLD HUSBAND HAD TO BATHE ME AND DRESS ME, I JUST CRIED ALL THE TIME, AND SLEPT MY DAYS AWAY AT THE OFFICE (I WAS BACK ON THE PLANT). THE COMPANY AND I STARTED GETTING IRRITATED WITH EACH OTHER TO PUT IT VERY SIMPLY, SO WHEN THEY OFFERED ME A SEPARATION PACKAGE AFTER TWO YEARS OF TRYING TO MAKE IT WORK I TOOK IT. THAT WAS MAY 2013. THIS HAD FAR REACHING PERCUSSIONS, I LOST MY BIG SALARY AND WITH IT MY HOUSE, SPORTSCAR AND TWO GREAT DANES. WE MOVED INTO A SMALL FLAT IN PRETORIA AND IN 2014 I USED THE MONEY TO PAY TO GO BACK TO UNIVERSITY.

I DID MY HONOURS IN CHEMICAL ENGINEERING. I STRUGGLED TO CONCENTRATE AND WE HAD TO MOVE TO CAPE TOWN FOR 5 MONTHS. MIDDLE 2014 I WAS SO ALONE, DEPRESSED AND SUPER RESTLESS. (MIXED STATE, LOOKING BACK) I HAD FAILED A SUBJECT (WHICH WAS VERY HARD FOR ME TO TAKE SINCE I HAD BEEN AN EXCELLENT STUDENT AT SCHOOL AND UNIVERSITY) AND I HAD WANDERED OFF, FAR AWAY FROM GOD. I WAS ON VENLAFAXINE AT THE TIME AND WHEN I GOT SUICIDAL I WENT TO A LOCAL PSYCHIATRIST WHO TOLD ME TO STOP TAKING THE VENLAFAXINE AND THAT THE NEXT MONDAY HE WILL ADMIT ME TO HOSPITAL AND START ME ON NEW MEDS. 8 HOURS AFTER STOPPING MY VENLAFAXINE, I TRIED TO COMMIT SUICIDE. MY HUSBAND FOUND ME PASSED OUT WITH PILLS ALL AROUND ME. AFTER THAT DAY, I SEARCHED GOD OUT AND ASKED HIM TO GIVE ME A REASON TO LIVE, AND HE DID, I NOW LIVE FOR HIS GLORY AND HIS PLAN FOR MY LIFE (THE JOURNEY TO THIS DISCOVERY IS CAPTURED IN THE BLOG POST “PHOENIX ON A MISSION”)

IN 2015 I DECIDED TO STUDY FURTHER AND ENROLLED FOR MY MASTER’S DEGREE. IN MARCH, AFTER A MEAN MESSAGE FROM MY SUPERVISOR AND A FIGHT WITH MY HUSBAND, I CUT MYSELF QUITE BADLY AND ENDED UP IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM. THE DOCTOR WOULDN’T LET ME LEAVE WITHOUT SPEAKING TO THE PSYCHIATRIST AND HE HAD HOPE IN HIS EYES, HE CONVINCED ME TO ADMIT MYSELF TO THE LOCAL PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL AND SAID HE WILL HELP ME, FIRST WITH GETTING MY MEDS RIGHT AND SECONDLY BY INTRODUCING ME TO A PSYCHOLOGIST THAT CAN HELP (I HAD TOLD HIM I HAD GIVEN UP ON THAT BREED OF PEOPLE, SINCE I HAVEN’T SEEN ONE THAT I COULDN’T MANIPULATE). HE KEPT TO BOTH HIS PROMISES, I AM NOW ON A RECIPE THAT WORKS FOR ME AND I’M MAKING GREAT STRIDES WITH MY NEW PSYCHOLOGIST. ANOTHER THING THAT CAME OUT DURING THAT HOSPITAL STAY IS THAT I’M ALSO ADHD AND MORE RECENTLY WE’VE DETERMINED THAT I’M OCD. DURING MY TIME IN HOSPITAL I FELT GOD WITH ME EVERY DAY. I READ A LOT OF BIBLE AND PRAYED EXTENSIVELY. FOR THE FIRST TIME I HAD HOPE THAT I MIGHT GET BETTER AND THAT THIS ILLNESS WOULDN’T BE THE END OF ME. I FOUND A MENTOR SOON AFTERWARDS AND STARTED SEEING THE PSYCHOLOGIST EVERY WEEK. I ALSO DISCOVERED MEDITATION (NOT IN THE TRADITIONAL SENSE, WHEN I MEDITATE, GOD SITS WITH ME, SEE BLOG POST “MEDITATION MY WAY”) AND INVESTED A LOT OF TIME IN PRAYER AND READING SCRIPTURE AS WELL AS BOOKS, BLOGS AND SCHOLARLY ARTICLES. I HAVE BEEN TRANSFORMED, I NOW HAVE A DEEP RIVER OF JOY INSIDE OF ME AND EVEN WHEN I’M SUICIDAL (YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR BRAIN CHEMISTRY TAKES YOU OUT FOR A SPIN) I AM STILL ABLE TO SEE THE LIGHT. (DURING THIS PERIOD I WROTE “THE BLESSING OF THE UNANSWERED PRAYER”, PLEASE PERUSE IT.)  THIS BRINGS US TO THE PRESENT MOMENT. I’M CONTINUING WITH MY MASTERS THIS YEAR.WHEN I REMINISCED OVER 2015, I GOT THE DISTINCT FEELING THAT IT HAD BEEN THE YEAR OF HOPE AND THAT 2016 WOULD BE THE YEAR OF LOVE…

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