My stomach felt like it was tied up in a knot. I tried to sleep but I just couldn’t; it was hard to sleep with all the excitement in me. Yes, I, Ofentse Madiba was getting traditionally married. I couldn’t help but smile to myself when I thought of the envy in my cousin’s eyes. I was getting married to a very handsome, intelligent, and successful man. What made it even more exciting was the fact that we never went to bed together; he insisted on waiting until the right time.
I always asked myself why he wasn’t like other men. A year in a relationship and never had he suggested I sleep over his place or even have sex with him. Pitso was the best thing that could ever happen to woman. I was luckier because he chose me amongst us. It started clearing outside, my sister Nakedi was snoring loudly besides me.
I wished she could just wake up and let me share this excitement I felt with her. She was five years older than me but we were like best friends. I was just about to doze off besides her when I heard the window being tapped.
I smiled to myself and rushed to the window, knowing it was Pitso. I slowly opened the window with giggles, and there he was, handsome as ever; my Pitso.
“What are you doing here? You know our culture doesn’t allow this; you can’t see me before our big day.” I scolded him secretly, happy that he was there. He touched my hand and kissed it.
“I just couldn’t stay away. I needed to see these big, beautiful eyes and your enchanting smile. Surely tradition wouldn’t mind that, would it? I also came here to remind you that I love you, no matter what shall happen.”
I was a bit worried when he said that and before I could ask him what he meant by it, I heard footsteps approaching our bedroom. It was obviously mama, and she would kill the both of us if she found us standing there together before the big moment.
“Okay my love, you need to go, I love you too, okay? Go…”
When mama opened the door I pretended to be standing by the window, watching the sunset. I was secretly laughing to myself about Pitso’s reaction when I told him to go. Mama placed her hand on my shoulder, looking at me with such pride that made me want to cry tears of joy. She took my hand and led me to our bed, and she sat right next to me.
“My child, you have no idea how happy your father is, not to mention proud. He can’t stop talking about how much of a blessing this marriage is. Go out there and be the most respective, loyal, and obedient wife to your husband. And nothing could ever go wrong my child, okay?”
I nodded with tears in my eyes and then we shared a warm hug. Nakedi wrapped her arms around us too,
and we all giggled and cried tears of joy. This was a beautiful ceremony that was about to take place.
My big day was the best.
I felt and looked so beautiful, and most importantly, I felt so important watching all those faces who were there to celebrate with us. My husband kept on whispering sweet nothings in my ears as we shared the traditional dance. I couldn’t help but giggle and kiss him even with all those people surrounding us. I was no longer the shy, girl anymore. I was a woman. I was traditionally accepted by the ancestors as Mrs Tselapedi and everything was wonderful.
Things started to take a scary turn one night after we made love. Pitso woke up from bed as if he was not aware of what he was doing. His eyes were very scary, disturbing, like he was not aware of his surroundings.
“Babe? Are you okay?” I asked absent minded. He turned to look at me.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?” I could have laughed at his remark but the scary part was that he looked serious. I sat up straight, my heart in my throat. I couldn’t understand what was happening.
“Papa? Stop playing and come back to bed. It’s late, you need to get to work tomorrow.”
He jumped at me as if catching a prey and started chocking me.
“Who are you? Where is my wife? What are you doing in our bed? I will kill you! I will destroy you!” he was shouting as he squeezed my throat.
I was just about to lose my breath when he decided to leave me. He then left the room with me utterly confused and frightened. I quickly followed him, not sure if it was the best thing to do. He went to the sitting room and started smashing everything, cursing and pointing at some things only visible to him. I knew there was no way I could stay with him when he was like that.
I quickly dressed up and got ready to run for help. Just as I was about to open the kitchen door he called out.
“Fentse, babe, what’s wrong?” He got up and looked at himself. “What am I doing in here naked? What happened to all our things, were we robbed?”
He was back to his old self. I quickly ran in his arms with tears in my eyes. I was scared of the monster he had turned into. But I needed the comfort of my loving husband’s strong arms.
I could see he was embarrassed to talk about last night’s events the following morning, so I left it as it was, praying that it never happened again, hoping it was just a silly nightmare that I would keep to myself. Unfortunately it didn’t stop there. It didn’t happen every night but when it did happen, he got so aggressive, smashing everything he came across including my face.
It got to a point where I started locking myself up in the next room when he started having his nightmares or whatever it is he was having. I was afraid to tell my family about it because they would want me to leave him. The sad part was that when he was himself he was a sweet, caring, and loving husband. I knew that he was never doing it on purpose.
I sat on the corner of the bed in the spare room, listening to all those dishes getting broken, crying my eyes out. I then remembered his word: “I love you no matter what shall happen.”
How come he knew this was going to happen but still married me? And when Nakedi came to visit one afternoon she didn’t look pleased at all.
“Ofentse, you have lost weight, is that a bruise on your face? Oh my God does he hit you? That bastard…”
“Sshhh,” I tried to silence her. “Please, I’m fine I just hit…”
“No, you are not giving me that ‘I hit the wall line’. I’m calling Mama and Tata and we are taking you back home. Look at you looking like a skeleton in that dress.”
I begged her, got down on my knees.
“Please sisi, please you know how Tata will react, please don’t make me leave my husband. I know that he is not doing it on his own, please you need to understand,”
I was then forced to explain everything to her, but still she wasn’t moved.
“I don’t care if he has been bewitched or not, what if he ends up killing you?”
“I love him, Nakedi. I can’t leave him. He needs me; he is my husband. Mama said to be obedient and loyal no matter what and that is what I’m doing.”
“If he kills you, what will happen? Will you be obedient in heaven?” she asked with tears in her eyes.
“I know that God can never bring me in a situation He knows I cannot get through. Let’s give it to God.”
She stood up and picked her purse.
“Fine, give it to God, but you tell him for me, that if he ever lays another hand on you, I will kill him with my own hands.
That night I found a letter in our bedroom.
I love you my wife, but I can see I am not doing right by you. Your sister is right, what if I end up killing you? I have been in denial for years, ever since I was a boy, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I stopped treating it when my friends started teasing me at school telling me that I was treating a mental illness. It made me so angry that I entirely stopped drinking my medication even when my mother forced me. I have been a fool for allowing things to get this far.
I realised that if I don’t treat this disease it will really turn into madness. I also realised that there are still people in this world who will still love you even when you have such a disease, that person is you, my wife. I have left to get as much help as I could get. In the meantime you can go home and be with your family, while you are there please apologise on my behalf. I’m so sorry.
I spent nights crying myself to sleep. Nakedi was always there to comfort me but that wasn’t enough for me. I terribly missed my husband. One morning I woke up to the sound of someone tapping the window. I quickly rushed to it not believing my ears. Pitso was standing there, with all sorts of mixed emotions written on his face. He had a bag of medication with him.
“I have come to take you home, and I just thought I should remind you: I will always love you for sticking with me even when it was impossible to.”
“You should thank my mother, she was the one who taught me obedience and loyalty,” I said wiping away his tears with a kiss.
Tell us what you think: Do you know someone who suffers from bipolar? How do they behave when they haven’t taken their meds?