We cannot continue to suffer in silence

Sometimes I wonder whether other people ever feel so heavy that it seems almost impossible to wake up and face the day.

Thoughts of suicide linger in my head like an alarm clock that I can’t turn off. I question whether all the efforts I make to look at life in a more positive way are even worth it.

My therapist tells me that some of the good moments I experience are symptoms of being bipolar, all part of the ups and downs of my condition.

Do happiness and functionality even belong to me?

My friends tell me that it’s going to be okay. My grandmother tells me that I should pray. But do they understand our experiences — that I’m still that gender-nonconforming kid whose world was shaken by watching my mother’s condition deteriorate because of HIV.

She might have also struggled with mental illness but didn’t have the language to articulate what was happening inside her. She was too busy trying to survive poverty.

How do you get professional help when you’re still a disenfranchised black person in South Africa? Getting access to the public healthcare system is such a tedious process. We’re already trying to survive so much. Medication is expensive.

There’s always that one person ekasi that they refer to as “ihlanya” — a derogatory term used to dismiss that person’s experience. We laughed at them and looked at them as though they were some sort of clown.

When we grow up, we realise that that person may have been living with schizophrenia. Who knew that I might share a similar condition with the person I was taught to shame?

So many of us question whether anyone will love us once they find out we’re “crazy”.

Besides being fortunate enough to have found professional help, I have also found power in seeing myself as a spiritual being who possesses infinite powers.

I hope we can continue having conversations about mental illness, because so many people suffer in silence, and it’s not okay.

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