Mental Health

composing, woman, fantasy

THE STRENGTH OF A WOMAN

MEETING THE MATRIARCH

This past December, my family and I took a road trip to East London in the Eastern Cape. I met my husband’s grandmother, and now my grandmother.

In the ten days I lived in her home, I saw and experienced raw strength.

She is the matriarch and a true one at that. Mama is my husband’s 81-year-old paternal grandmother. She is also as fierce and feisty as they come. For you to understand my admiration for Mama, you need to understand a bit of her life and her history.

Mama, as she is so affectionately known, lost both her husband and only daughter of five children, who was also the youngest sibling, within the space of 6 months more than 15 years ago. She ended up having to take care of her late daughter’s son, who was two years old at the time. He is now a well raised young man.

Through conversations I had with Mama during our stay at her home in Buffalo Flats, I was in awe of how she relayed stories of when her husband, Dada, died and then how she lost her daughter only six months later. When I listened to her speak, I could hear pain, sadness, loss but also acceptance. She made me realize that acceptance like that only comes from a very deep-rooted strength.

I also realized that she didn’t have a choice but to be strong. She took on the responsibility of raising her grandson like he was her own. I cannot fathom the sheer determination and willpower it had to take for her to get out of bed every morning and be there for her grandson, the rest of her children as well as other family members.

Mama, strength, children, great-grandchildren
The first day we arrived, Mama showed her new great-grandchildren some photos.

SHAPED BY EXPERIENCE

I watched her as she sat on her red lumpy but very comfortable sofa in her home, hunched over with all the experiences from her past trying to weigh her down but she gets up every day, determined to live her life and do her daily chores.

It was at one of these moments when it hit me; she wasn’t sitting on a couch but a throne.

Mama also very much reminded me of my mother who died in 2020. Both women have seen and have been through some of the worst pain you can imagine, both refusing to be dictated to by bad and negative circumstances and both set in their daily way of life.

During the time I spent with Mama, I learned that yes, we are shaped by our experiences but we can choose how to live out those experiences. We choose how to live, we choose whether we give up or go on. We choose to forgive.

Mama, strength
Mama, my husband and out two children.

ACCEPTANCE

There was a point where Mama said to me that she didn’t know if she could ever accept or get through what had happened to her but God had gotten her through it and she did manage to accept her fate.

She could have chosen to be angry and to turn away from God, which I’m sure there were many of those moments when those bad feelings overwhelmed her. She could have chosen to become a lifeless vessel of her former self but I can assure you, that woman still has a lot of life left in her.

Her relationship with God is so secure and I truly believe that that is her source of strength. Every morning she wakes up and reads devotionals and her Bible. I’ve decided to put that in practice as well.

LIVING WITH INTENTION

Every time Mama would tell a story and explain the difficult parts, she would say, “but it doesn’t really matter

For me, that didn’t mean she gave up or lost hope or didn’t accept things. For me it meant that in the bigger picture, the grand plan of God for her life, her focusing on the past was not the point. It was what she got out of all her pain and loss. The wisdom and understanding that her loss and pain was not for nothing. The way in which she imparted her wisdom and what she learned, to others around her. It was peace beyond all human understanding. It was knowing that love is sacrifice and that understanding comes from compassion.

Mama showed me that life demands of you to be intentional; intentional about your actions, your energy, your focus, your thoughts and emotions.

I learned patience and I saw accepting the things one cannot change, in action.

I loved sitting in her company, I loved watching the movie of her life play out as she told me stories and showed me old polaroid photographs.

In ten days, I lived a life of 40+ years through the eyes of a woman who lost everything, was forced down on her knees and found herself in the perfect position to pray for the strength and will to live to tell the tale.

hope, dandelion

MY HOPE FOR YOU

I hope you fall in love with yourself. I hope you know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

I hope you learn to appreciate all your flaws and find the beauty in every scar, wrinkle, and folded skin.

I hope you learn to love your voice. I hope that you use it to change your world.

I hope you learn to forgive yourself for the mistakes you made and, I hope you let go of the burden of guilt.

I hope you find love in all the different relationships in your life. 

I hope you chase your dreams and get the chance to watch them come to life.

I hope you share your stories and adventures and inspire others to do the same.

I hope you learn to be gentle with yourself and remember that bad decisions do not define you.

I hope you find the strength to fight through the bad times and come out the other side a stronger person.

I hope you remember to pray.

I hope you remember how beautiful you are.

I hope you laugh more.

I hope you play more.

I hope you find more.

I hope you always look for stars in the darkest of nights 

and know that the sun will always rise in the morning.

I hope you start believing in love again.  

Just believe it again.

I hope you can look back on the last season in your life and find the good

And I hope that you will always be grateful that you have made it this far.

I hope you know that your story is far from over and that the next blank page is waiting for you to create the life that you want.

I hope you know that you have the power to change your life and I hope you remember to never give that power away.

I hope you know that you can push boundaries and break barriers.

I hope that you know that you are never alone.

I hope that you witness great things and climb majestic mountains.

I hope that you find the courage to reach deep within yourself and do what makes you happy.

I hope you walk away from anything that no longer serves you and, I hope you walk away with your head held high.

I hope that you smile again and laugh with all the joy in your spirit. 

I hope it’s so loud that the rest of the world can’t help but laugh with you.

.

girls, women, happy

I hope you remember that saying goodbye is not always a bad thing.
I hope you know that the pain doesn’t last.
I hope you know that love is plentiful.
I hope you dance in the rain and roll in the mud.
I hope you plant seeds instead of picking flowers.
I hope you remember that having a bit of fun is good for you.
I hope you hold warm hands and kiss soft lips.
I hope you get the chance to look into loving eyes and fall asleep in a warm embrace.
I hope you take care of yourself.

I hope you know that your story is worth telling.

Papertrailza literary journal

PAPER TRAIL LITERARY JOURNAL – REVIEW

LAUNCHED 31st OCTOBER 2021

It was fun to be a part of this project. I recall, when the Whatsapp group opened, and all the discussions started flowing, I thought what a wonderful group of people who would come together and contribute to the idea of one person. I believe that is the foundation of Paper Trail.

An amazing group of writers is brought together with a variety of thoughts and ideas and it’s all mixed together in a melting pot of creativity.

I spent some time reading through the journal and it was really hard for me to choose which pieces were my favourite. When you read through it, it really highlights the importance of young people and the pivotal role that they play in society. It gives them a voice.

Where there are challenges there is bounteous space for the cultural economy to flourish. All that is required is clarity of vision and openness”

On the Twitter page of Paper Trail, the pinned tweet reads as follows:

“Our mission is to inspire young people through modern storytelling, and our vision is to create a digital journal that includes collaborators of all age groups to share poetry, short stories, articles and write-ups on young leaders and small businesses that improve our community.”

A TRAIL OF FAVOURITES

Like I mentioned before, there are so many facets and a variety of topics in this journal, that it makes it pleasantly difficult to choose which ones were my favourite. There are however some pieces that I would like to highlight.

Back In The Day” by Shiara Sharanund. A learner at Westville Girls High school wrote a beautiful article that makes you reflect on the days past and how they made you feel. It sums up the idea of nostalgia stunningly. Below is a piece from her article.

An extract from Papertrail Literary Journal.

There is also a sweet little piece from a Grade 4 learner at R.A Engar Primary school. This piece made me feel a bit sad but also put a smile on my face. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, we have forgotten that the little ones have also gone through some major changes but they have adapted so well.

The following quote is from a piece written by Shika Budhoo from her column titled “Align and Shine”

“Be the producer / radio DJ of your own mind and make sure the thoughts you think stay focused on your blessings and goals.”

Shika’s column gives you easy and practical tips on how to change the frequency of your thoughts from negative to positive and I think we can all do with a bit more positivity.

An extract from the column, “Align and Shine”

Another important piece that I would like to highlight is “How To Take Care Of You and Your Mental Health” by Robin Cleote. This piece speaks to all of us and after everything we’ve been through, it’s definitely worth the read.

KOFFEE FOR THE SOUL

I also contributed to the journal and I truly feel honoured that I could do that. I shared a space with amazing writers and if you haven’t heard of them before, you surely will now. Paper Trail brings communities together from across the world through the power of words. It reminds me of my review on Letting In The Light. Another body of work that simply reminds you about the beauty of words and shared experiences.

When I thought about the column that I wanted to contribute to Paper Trail, I wanted to write something honest and something that anyone could relate to. I didn’t want to give advice, I simply wanted to reflect and that’s the brief I proposed to the founder and editor, Ekta Somera.

The name “Koffee For The Soul” was inspired by how when we drink a warm beverage, its comforting and relaxes us and that is the experience I wanted to give the reader.

My first column in Paper Trail

There is a little bit of wisdom in every piece that has been added to this journal. I am amazed at the array of writers and their contributions.

Paper Trail brings together a range of articles for every kind of reader. From recipes, poetry, history, fashion, and makeup to anime and so much more. There is truly something for everyone.

It is not just an enjoyable read but is also a learning experience.

Well done to everyone involved and to Ekta Somera for the idea of starting this journal.

A SOCIAL MEDIA TRAIL:

Twitter: PapertrailZA

Instagram: Papertrailza

Literary Journal: PapertrailZA Journal

If you would like to get involved in future issues of the journal, please do contact the editor Ekta Somera by email on ekta.somera@gmail.com

******

psychology, mind, thoughts

ACCEPTING MY EPILEPSY DIAGNOSIS

LIVING WITH A CHRONIC CONDITION

The other day I had three consecutive seizures at my workplace. When I wrote this piece, I feel ashamed and embarrassed about having Epilepsy and slightly worried because of how I believe my colleagues might treat me after seeing me like that but you’ll be happy to know that I’m over that.

No one asks for a chronic condition. It just happens. You could be the healthiest, most active and fit individual and still somehow suffer from some chronic condition. It could be a heart condition or a neurological illness or simply a defect that you were born with.

I certainly never asked to have Epilepsy but I was officially diagnosed with it in 2019. My mother also had it. I pray that my children won’t develop it but chances are that one of them will and when they do, I do not want them to feel ashamed or embarrassed, hence I share this now. Epilepsy and seizures are weird. You have no control over your body. Sometimes when I’m in the midst of a seizure, I can make out voices, I can see people around me but I can’t speak and I can’t move. At times, I’ve found myself saying, I’m here, help me in my head but no one hears me. No one knows I’m screaming internally.

HOW IT STARTS

I get really bad headaches, then I feel the aura. An aura is a warning that you are probably going to have a seizure at any moment. When that happens, everything seems to be moving too fast and too slow all at the same time. It feels like an out of body experience, I feel a tingling sensation in my hands and then I become disorientated.

forest, trees, heaven

I only remember bits and pieces of the episode. I believe Epilepsy literally eats at your brain, little by little.

When I wake up from the seizure, and this is from what I can remember and from what people have told me, I don’t have feeling in my hands or sometimes my legs. From what the paramedic told me, this could be induced by anxiety.

I struggle to speak or articulate myself, as if my tongue is too heavy for my mouth and I don’t remember much. I was told during my epileptic episode, I asked for my mother.

My mother died in June of 2020. Grief doesn’t even take a break during seizures.

If I’m honest, I’ve been irresponsible with my health and especially with my Epilepsy diagnosis.

When I was diagnosed, I was in denial and I probably still am. I haven’t been consistent with my medication. I’ve made excuses of why I don’t want to take it; it’s too expensive, the side-effects are bad ect ect. It’s all nonsense.

The truth is, I don’t want to be the girl that has fits.

RIPPLE EFFECT

water, drop, sink

My condition doesn’t just affect me. It affects my husband when he has to get me off the floor or deal with my convulsions and sit with me until I come to. It affects my children when their mother can’t be a mother to them because she is passed out due to an epileptic episode.

Me not taking my medication is me being selfish.

I remember how it was for me when my own mother would have her episodes; I felt helpless and frustrated because I didn’t want to have to deal with it. It was as if I was my mother’s keeper and I blamed her and maybe that’s my issue, I blame myself for being ill and maybe I’m punishing myself by not taking my meds.

It makes no sense, I know.

A part of me resented my mother for her condition and the position it put me in but now I see, I’m doing the exact same thing to my own family.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that when you are sick or you suffer from some chronic condition, it is your responsibility to make sure you take care of yourself, if you are able to do so.

The cost of ill-health is too high and too much to bare.

teamwork, cooperation, brainstorming

HUMAN CAPITAL IS THE ULTIMATE CAPITAL

LEADING THE WAY

You don’t manage a team as if you’re the only person on the team. Whether you manage a huge corporation, church band or if you’re the captain of a sports team, or even the head waitress at a restaurant, all the same rules and principles apply.

You cannot run a business or a company without human capital. If you have a team of five, everyone on that team should be valued.

Communication is key in any management situation.

You cannot exclude the “little guys” from big decisions. Truth be told, there are no ‘little guys’. You don’t have meetings and make decisions and apply changes with only those who hold fancy titles or with the people in your close circle when those same decisions affect so many other people.

When you start excluding people and start isolating them, you cut off the valuable insight that could grow your business or change your perspective.

That is the thing about being a good manager and a good leader; you need to be able to listen and you also need to be able to admit when you’re wrong.

Just because you are in a leadership position, does not mean you are always right.

Not providing a communicative platform for those who work for you, will be detrimental not only for your business and your team but also for your reputation.

women, chatting, business

I’ve seen many real-life examples of people who are meant to lead, take the people that they are leading, for granted.

In fact, I’ve been in that situation and it troubles me that it happens so often.

If you are not going to take care of the people who work for you, they will either leave the business, betray you (in extreme cases) or just refuse to deliver excellent work.

But can you imagine what the world would be like if we all pulled our resources and talents together and worked in an environment that was conducive to the ultimate productivity all of us possess?

Can you imagine what we could create?

HUMAN CAPITAL

If you are a leader, CEO, or supervisor of any team or business in any sort of context, even the head of your family, you need to realise that your ultimate capital are the people who work for you, the people you lead, the family you are taking care off and the people who surround you and look up to you.

Do not ignore the people who do not have fancy, high-level titles. Nurture them, speak to them, get to know them, and find out where their strength lie and how you can work together (keyword being “together) in order to use those strengths and talents to the advantage of everyone involved and to the success of your business.

Not everyone has the same personality; you have people who are more outspoken than others, and then you have people who are more sensitive than others or people who do not speak as much, which can make them more susceptible to hurt feelings when being criticised. As a leader, it is your responsibility to nurture and understand how the minds and personalities of those who work for you, work. Meaning, you need to get to know those who work for you.

LISTEN AND LEARN

People become more open to share and discuss ideas when they feel they are being listened to. Don’t immediately shut down ideas when they are being presented. It might not be exactly what you want or what you are looking for but simply dismissing someone’s idea or thoughts, is a recipe for disaster and in simple terms, it’s just rude.

Find creative ways to implement ideas from various people but try and make everyone feel involved. Find ways to help people open up more in a comfortable and safe environment.

Once you’ve established that environment, you’ll find that so many people start enjoying their work and confidence starts building within those very people and when someone has confidence, they become more eager to produce. Give people the space and freedom to believe in themselves.

Bitterness causes friction and favoritism amongst the team members which is a breeding ground for tension and eventual failure.

People want to feel valued. We want to feel and know that we matter and that we are contributing. If we don’t have that, we somehow end up doubting ourselves and question our purpose on this earth.

startup, meeting, brainstorming

As a leader, you have the power to make that feeling a reality for so many people. Once you impact one person, it spreads. Before you know it, your legacy has grown and touched people you have never even met.

Use your power wisely and grow more responsible leaders.

Be firm but polite.

Do not enforce, instead encourage.

Nurture your team, grow your capital.

conversation, restaurant, pair

MY FEAR OF CONFRONTATION

FEAR AND BEING A CHRONIC OVER-APOLOGISER

I’ve always had this fear of confrontation. Speaking to people or addressing issues with people that bother me or put me in an uncomfortable position. I get nervous when I simply think about speaking my mind about certain things of which I have an opinion. I’m that person at the restaurant that will eat the wrong order that the waiter or waitress brings me. I am also a chronic over-apologiser or if you will, a knee-jerk apologist ; I constantly say sorry for things that certainly do not need an apology. Instead of saying ‘Excuse me, if I need to pass by someone, I would say, “I’m sorry”. I would rather write a long letter or text message, than confront you face-to-face.

At times I find myself apologizing for apologizing in the first place.

In an article by Psychology Today, it speaks about the different types of people who apologise. It also referred to a 2010 study that indicated women tend to apologise more than men.

“A 2010 study found that women apologize more than men. Women also self-report committing more offenses, or engaging in behavior that warranted apologies, than men. Do women simply misbehave more than men? Not exactly. The study found that men and women have markedly different thresholds of what constitutes an offense deserving an apology. Women have a lower threshold; men have a much higher one. In other words, women see more acts for which we must apologize than men do; we see more of the things we do as wrong, out of line, inappropriate, or hurtful. A man and woman may do exactly the same thing but regard it differently; she will see it as an offense that requires an apology and he may not.”

sorry, excuse me, i beg your pardon

I get this uncomfortable feeling in my gut, like a knot when I think about confrontation. Even after I’ve said something or on the rare occasion that I do address an issue, it would sit with me for hours afterward and I would replay conversations or try and think what I could have said or done differently or maybe what I should not have said. I would have second-hand embarrassment for even doing it. Sometimes I find myself simply typing something on a Whatsapp group and instantly regretting it once I hit send.

Some of us are so over-apologetic, that we don’t just apologize to inanimate objects we may have accidentally bumped into, but also feel the need to apologize for the actions of others that are beyond our control.”

I prefer to be invisible but at the same time, I want my voice to be heard.

As I sit here and write this, I have this fear that I will be judged or criticized for this post.

ROOT CAUSE

I can’t tell you where this fear emanated from; there wasn’t a specific day or event when I decided that I will fear confrontation and I won’t tell you either that I am working on it. I guess I simply get used to certain settings even though I still get nervous or anxious, even when I know I’m not doing or saying anything wrong.

There have been situations where I have accepted an outcome when I knew it was wrong. In that situation, I did not retaliate or address the issue, even though it sat heavily on my heart.

I need to specify that the confrontation I am speaking about is not the aggressive / physically violent confrontation. Kathy Caprino in an article for Forbes writes the following:

“I’m defining confrontation here not as aggressive or angry conflict, but as the act of facing something or someone that needs to be addressed head on – directly and proactively. I’ve found that many of us (particularly women) dread confrontation, or certainly go to extreme lengths to avoid it.”

I know it takes bravery to speak your mind and say what you think or feel. There have been times when I’ve been told that I let people walk all over me and maybe I can be labelled as a ‘people pleaser’ or even weak but I don’t see myself that way. I just want to save my fight for when it matters.

Sometimes people tend to get into verbal confrontations which end up going nowhere; you interact with people who love the sound of their own voice more than the actual topic at hand and more than they try to reach a reasonable conclusion based on facts. There are some people that you simply cannot win an argument with and at times, it’s not worth the breath that you waste on that confrontation or argument.

argue, angry, husband and wife

TIPS TO DEAL WITH CONFRONTATION

I’ve found some amazing references on positive or healthy confrontation. Here are some tips to get over the fear of confrontation in no particular order:

  • Start the conversation with a positive statement.
  • Be flexible – allow for the possibility that you might not have it right. 
  • Acknowledge your part in the problem
  • Try to be as specific as possible.
  • Engage productively
  • List what you might gain by speaking up

There are many other ways in which we can work through our fear of confrontation, but always try and determine if the situation calls for a confrontation or simply for a nod and a smile. It might save you a lot of unnecessary long-term conflict.

There is a saying I love that goes;

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt”

Sometimes it is better to be silent and other times it’s best to speak up; we just need to know when is the right time for which action.

flower, blue, rose

WHY I CRY.

I find myself being terribly emotional lately, I’m always choking on tears and having to look away when I’m in a public space.
I’m both sad and happy.
Both grieving and celebrating.
Both fearful and brave.

Everything that has happened over the last year and 8 months is indescribable
I’m still sad that we lost our mom and I relive that sadness every time I hear or read about someone else dying or someone else losing a loved one.

I cry for everyone who is hurting and I cry for everyone who has survived. I cry for everyone who don’t know which direction to turn and who feel as if the world is just dark.

It’s as if the sadness has latched on to me but then I experience joy and peace and happiness, I feel hope and I feel as if I can conquer anything.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, he rescues those whose spirits are crushed’ – Psalm 34 vs 18

There is something greater at work in the world. We may not understand it and maybe it’s best if we don’t. It’s already enough that we experience these things, can you imagine being able to dissect the intricacies of God’s plan. Our minds would probably literally be blown.

I’ve also been experiencing a great sense of gratitude. I realise how blessed I am and how full my life is. I do not take it for granted.
I love my family so much, seeing my kids happy and seeing my husband happy brings me so much joy. Sometimes it feels as if I can’t handle it and that too, makes me cry.

Maybe this is just a season of feeling. Understanding that we are all vulnerable and that we are all afraid sometimes and that we all have something or someone to lose.
It’s a season of cleansing, cleaning out the cobwebs of our life. Taking stock of what’s important.

Yes, it hurts. Its painful to carry on when you’ve born the brunt of so much loss. Sometimes, it can make you feel guilty. I’ve experienced that. Feeling guilty for being happy when so many others are suffering. Your happiness shouldn’t be a source of personal guilt. It should be a light in the dark to those who can’t see the way.

beyond, death, faith

Letting in the light, mental wellness anthology

LETTING IN THE LIGHT – REVIEW

I have to admit, it took me a while to really sit down and read this book. I think mostly because of the subject of the book; mental wellness or if you like mental health. It shouldn’t be surprising that so many of us suffer with some form of mental terror; depression, anxiety and sometimes we deal with feelings, thoughts and situations that can’t be described. When I started reading Letting In The Light; I felt a sense of coming home, a feeling of being welcomed into someone’s heart with open arms.

The foreword by Pick Me Up Poetry founder, Webster Chagonda encompasses this feeling so well;

“Remember, darkness will always make way for the day, and wherever
your mind may lead you, I hope these poems become your place of
refuge.”

It’s difficult for me to tell which one of the poems are my favourite; there are pieces of each poem that speak directly to me.

They are all relatable and also somewhat confrontational but quite necessary,

“A fleeting moment of peace

as you cease to wonder when the next red drought will dry out this puddle

And if you won’t have drowned in the depth of your head until then”

girl, sitting, jetty

When I read through the poems, I realised that so many people understand the feelings and circumstances around one topic. I felt safe reading it and saying to myself, “It’s okay to feel this way”

It truly is a stunning body of work with a beautiful use of words, descriptive methods and metaphors. It is almost as if what you’re reading is being carved on your skin. That is how deep the words go.

“Everywhere you walk, you will be a constellation of footsteps”

The anthology sheds light on all the parts of your life that is affected by depression; your mind, body, soul, family, friends and your career an daily life.

“I am ready to recite myself into existence. I am ready to tell anxiety a prophecy even though I sometimes don’t believe”

I want to encourage you to get this book. The words will speak to us all differently and once you get into it, you’ll realise its not just a book you can read once off. You can always go back and remind yourself that you are not alone in your darkness when you feel overwhelmed.

I was bound by the plight of life and could not get away. I was blinded by the pain of this fight and could not see my way but I heard Hope’s gentle whistle and Joy’s hearty squeal, gently fanning the embers of my heart”

tree, nature, wood

Well done to all the poets who contributed their words, feelings and experiences to this book. Thank you for being brave and baring it all on the pages.

Congratulations to the publishers, Chasing Dreams Publishing and everyone who worked to put this amazing body of work together.

I give this book a 10/10!