The family congregates in the living room. Curiosity is in their eyes; they want to hear what Lungile has to say. She hesitates for a moment.

Her father, Sibiya, clears his throat. “Speak, Lungile. We don’t have all day.”

“I know what I’m about to tell you will scare you but I don’t have another option. I’m at my wit’s end,” she says softly. She tries to go on but the words don’t come out.

“Stop beating around the bush, Lungile. Just say what you want to say,” says MaKhumalo.

“I’m suffering from … depression,” says Lungile.

“Huh? What is that, Lungile?” MaKhumalo squints and folds her arms.

Lungile has Googled her symptoms. She’s got some insight into what is going on with herself.

“Depression is a mental health disorder that causes me to always feel sad. It makes me lose interest in everything. It affects my feelings, my thoughts and behaviour. I feel lonely all the time. I’m always tired; I don’t feel like getting up on most days. I feel like I … I just want to die,” says Lungile, tears now raining down her cheeks.

“That’s just laziness,” says MaKhumalo.

“No, Mama, it’s a disease. It’s not laziness.”

“In all my years on earth I have never heard of such a disease. Who else has this disease in all of our area? Don’t play with us, Lungile. You are just trying to cover up your laziness,” says MaKhumalo.

“Hold on, MaKhumalo,” says Sibiya. His looks at Lungile with confusion in his eyes. “Lungile, when did you start having this … ‘disease’?”

“It’s been six months, Baba.”

“Why am I not suffering from this disease, Lungile?” says Lihle.

Lungile is stunned and confused. She doesn’t have an answer to Lihle’s question. Her sister continues, “I’ll tell you why. It’s because I pray. The only disease you are suffering from is laziness. Or you have demons inside you.”

“That’s true, my dear daughter. Lungile sleeps while we go to church. I need to invite the women in our church group to pray for you, Lungile. Prayer will drive out this demon,” says MaKhumalo.

“No, no, no,” Sibiya interjects. “This one is bewitched. She needs the help of a traditional healer. She needs to see a sangoma who will take this bad spirit out of her body.”

“I just need to see a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is the only type of doctor who can deal with my condition,” says Lungile.

“A psychiatrist! You are not mad now, are you Lungile? Are you losing your mind?” Sibiya shakes his head and wipes sweat from his forehead.

“No, Baba. I just need a doctor who specializes in what I am suffering from.”

“Over my dead body! No child of mine will go to a doctor who treats the insane. Plus no child of mine will be treated by white doctors. I will deal with your illness in a way I see fit. Are we clear?” Sibiya’s rage rings out in the lounge.

Lungile just shuts down. She feels hollower now than ever.

“Are we clear, Lungile?”

“Yes, Baba,” Lungile says softly.

“She also needs prayer, Baba. These demons are having their way with her,” MaKhumalo states as she rises from the couch and heads to the kitchen.


Tell us what you think: What is Lungile’s father most concerned about?