I laid the edge of a razor blade on my wrist and took a deep breath.

I closed my eyes and imagined it slicing through my veins like a whistle through air. My blood spraying out like champagne as I got weaker, and weaker, and weaker, until I was finally at peace. I smiled, opened my eyes, put the razor blade on top of the dressing table and sat back on the chair, looking at my skeletons’ face in the mirror.

I did that a lot. I did it to remind myself that I didn’t have to tolerate my life, that any day I could free myself from it.

I was fifteen years old and looked like I had fifteen hours left before I died from AIDs. I wasn’t sick, not physically, but God had cursed me with a body that looked so. And no, stuffing myself with food never helped.

Oversized dark clothes and being dead-man quiet was my survival technique. Less attention, less questions about my health and pity from adults or laughter from kids.

For a black South African boy living in a forgotten township, depression is not a thing, the word you get is “weak” or “soft.” So I couldn’t let any emotion out, all I could do was “be a man,” all I could do was take the pain and wait for death.

They say time heals, but it’s equally true that time kills, because no one can tolerate pain for too long. The clock was ticking me closer to my end, my blood painting the floor red as I laid there in peace had grown to become a fantasy, I was almost there.

One evening my grandmother, sad that she couldn’t get through to me, seeing that I was crumbling and she couldn’t save me, looked at me as if she could see the traffic in my mind and said “Write it down, all of it, just write it down and you’ll feel better.”

Without giving it any thought, that night I took an old exercise book, flipped to a blank page and wrote “I’m cursed.” The page just sat there, quiet, like it knew I had more to say, like it knew that I didn’t talk because no one would listen to me. Everyone would rush to correct my statements, judge, give advice, pity me or laugh at me. But the page just sat there, listening.

“I’m the ugliest person on earth,” I wrote. “Nobody loves me, I’m useless, I’m weak, I’m alone, I’m a waste of life….”

With tears pouring down my eyes, I kept writing until I had nothing else to cry about.

I slept and woke up feeling better. Then the following nights I wrote again, becoming less dramatic and more honest with myself. I wasn’t the ugliest person on earth. There were people who loved me, like my grandmother and the rest of my family. And all fifteen year olds around me were useless, they didn’t pay bills or invent stuff or do anything special.

Ten years later I’m alive, happy, handsome, got muscles for days and I’m a great writer. How I got here is a long story, but what got me here is blank pages.