MaKhumalo and Sibiya are with Lungile in the reception area of the psychiatrist’s office.
“Lungile Sibiya,” the receptionist calls out.
The psychiatrist opens the door. Lungile hesitates. She turns to look back at her parents, then at the psychiatrist. “Can my parents come in with me?”
“Yes, of course.”
They all sit across the table from the psychiatrist. “What seems to be the problem, Miss Lungile Sibiya?”
“I just feel sad all the time for no particular reason. I cry all the time. My heart literally aches most of the time. I feel hollow, like I have lost in life. I have suicidal thoughts,” says Lungile.
“Have you actually attempted suicide, and if so, how many times?”
“What did you use in these attempts?”
“First I tried pills. The next time I tried to cut my wrists.”
The psychiatrist keeps writing in her notebook.
“These are all signs of depression. I’ll prescribe anti-depressants and we’ll see how you react to them. If your depression persists, you’ll have to go for therapy sessions too.”
Lungile nods. Both her parents are listening intently.
“Doctor, I have a question,” says MaKhumalo.
“Of course, Mrs Sibiya. Fire away.”
“What causes depression?”
“It can be caused by a traumatic incident. It can also be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. In that instance it is because of a shortage of chemicals that bring joy.”
The doctor explains everything about depression to MaKhumalo and Sibiya.
“We are sorry, Lungile,” says Sibiya before he starts the car. “We didn’t know you were in such pain. We failed you as–”
“Don’t worry about it, Baba. You didn’t know. It also took me a long time to understand what I was suffering from,” says Lungile.
The following day Lungile meets up with Menzi. They take a drive by the beach. She explains everything to him about her depression.
“I’m sorry Lungile. I didn’t know you were going through such a hard time in your life,” says Menzi. He rolls down the car window to let in the sea breeze.
“It’s not your fault, Menzi,” says Lungile.
“I should have been by your side, but I deserted you.”
“You didn’t know, Menzi. I forgive you. Can we please look to the future now, not the past?”
“Now I know the part I need to play in your journey of recovery. I will love you when you find it hard to love yourself. I’ll fight for our love. And one day we will get married and have babies as beautiful as you,” Menzi says tenderly, and smiles.
“So you’ll never leave me again?” Lungile’s voice is laden with mischief.
“Never again, my love.”
They dream about their future together while listening to a Celine Dion album.
As the psychiatrist had explained, the anti-depressants begin to work on Lungile’s body after two weeks. She has energy in the morning. Joy floods back into her face and life. She is almost back to her old self. She no longer cries all the time.
Hope is back in Lungile’s life. Hope that she will be healed completely one day and be the Lungile of her younger days.
She has even gone public with her illness and started a support group, The Silence Killers, for people with from depression. The group is doing great work spreading the word about depression in Lungile’s community, bringing hope to sufferers.
Tell us: Has this story given you insight into the invisible illness: depression? In what way?