I am very blessed to be conscious of the fact that Mental Health Matters. It saddens me to hear that someone had committed suicide due to “academic stress” as they would say. I have heard of at least two suicides by students attending the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), in a period of one semester. In a community of over 30 000 with Counselling and Careers Development (CCDU) and Office of Student Services(OSS), I find myself wondering how does that happen? Is it because we are not aware of mental health or is it one of the things taken lightly, especially by the African Society? The journey with emotional difficulties.
I grew up considering myself as shy and introverted because this was what other people were labelling me as and I grew up to understand those terms. In high school, I wasn’t that socially isolated until I got to university. I won’t even mention the experience I had adapting to the transition from high school to university. I attended Wits university in Johannesburg in 2016. In my second year, 2017, in October, I had emotional difficulties to an extent that I tortured myself. I didn’t know I was torturing a soul, so unique that I almost deprived a precious gift from the rest of the world.
The emotional difficulties I suffered, I think they might have been triggered by a guy I adored, I still do. I remember his words to me: “Andile! Find yourself a partner. A partner that will deal with your loneliness, insecurity and lack of self-worth”. I allowed those words to sink in. I wasn’t only hurting from the rejection but the reality that I was lonely, bored, insecure, lacked self-worth, self-esteem, self-motivation and so forth.
I started doubting my appearance at first. I thought the guy rejected me because I lacked the aesthetic appeal, I thought I was ugly. In addition, I thought I had no friends or even close counterparts because of the lack of my aesthetic appeal. I further thought that I couldn’t fit in because of what I was wearing, how I was wearing it and when I was wearing it. I doubted my capabilities. I thought I wasn’t worth enough to be at Wits University in the first place. I couldn’t talk to anyone. They would greet me and I would internally respond to the person but my voice never came out because I thought my voice wasn’t even worth listening to.
My voice wouldn’t come out properly as I tried projecting it. I struggled to talk, especially in all the platforms that required me to talk. The ladies at the dining hall would shout at me saying why am I not talking because I’m not mute. That further deprived me of the abilities to even talk. Sometimes, I’d feel like running away from such situations. I would get anxious in social spaces, particularly in the buses, church, school, dining hall or even just walking past a group of people. All the difficulties that I mentioned would enter my mind and would cause my heart to race. My hands would start sweating and I’d have a heavy head and get such an awful fever.
I felt uncomfortable. I lost focus in class. I lost interest in prayer and when I found myself alone I felt void of meaning. I tortured myself by not eating. I slept a lot. I lost interest in studying. I wanted to deregister from university with all my heart. I even had suicidal thoughts and one failed attempt. My mind was dark and all I could think of was death. I thought I didn’t matter at all. Nothing made sense in my head. But the thought of exiting the world through death was in the back of my mind. I would think of myself taking a lift to the last floor of a building and jumping off to be found dead on the ground in an instant. I would think of waking up somewhere being void of emotions.
I was conscious of the fact that something was wrong with me. I went for psychotherapy. Talking with someone helped so much. I had breakdowns from time to time. I was living in another planet, perhaps not even the ones recorded by astronomers. I am still struggling, but I am slowly growing through prayer, psychotherapy and even pharmacotherapy. I am not entirely okay but I am growing and it shall take time.
I still have difficulties with communication, especially with the dining hall staff, resident mates or with anyone for that matter. I still don’t believe in myself. I am still struggling emotionally. I have no friends. I have those lonely, boring days when I feel down and less worthy. But at least I managed to strive academically. I am reinforcing myself. I’m reinforcing what people think of me. I try to participate in class activities. I am trying to be confident in group works. I am even answering questions in class sometimes.
At times I walk in public spaces without any fear or worry. There isn’t much progress from the dining hall perspective but at least I do have my meals and now I attend church. I go and pray with that little comfort. I don’t worry much about what others think of me.
I am slowly becoming comfortable in my own skin. I am slowly believing that I am worth living the Godly given life. I believe I matter. I believe I am blessed. I believe I am loved. I believe I am destined for greatness. I believe I will have friends when the right time comes. I believe I will get this BPharm Degree. I believe in goodness. This is where I stop.
Tell us: Do you think it’s important to seek help when you are struggling emotionally? What can you do to help someone who might be struggling emotionally?