I WAS ONLY 16 years old when I was admitted to hospital because I was not coping with life. Two days later the doctor told me, “You have clinical depression.” I didn’t know what that meant but now, years later, I have learned a lot about my mental illness.

The diagnosis came after I lost my father, uncle and best friend within a year of each other.
I have been on prescription medication for more than a decade. I often feel like I’m losing my mind but I can’t always tell what the source of the feeling is. It’s hard to narrow it down and I never really know whether I’m just overreacting.

The thing is as a man, I have been raised and socialised to be strong and to never show emotions. For years I stopped telling people because they would either laugh at me or tell me to “stop stressing” and “just take things easy”. I would take things easy if only I knew how to. I’m getting better at asking for help and expressing my feelings. It is not always easy because sometimes I don’t know what it is that I need.

I often feel as though there are walls closing in on me from all sides. Those who know me will tell you that I laugh as if everything is fine. I engage in conversations. In other words, I seem perfectly ‘normal’. At any given time, even around people, I feel as far from company as any human being can be. It is on the shores of this lonely island of my own thoughts when I am most vulnerable, which, for me, is most of the time.

An hour before I originally wrote this piece, I was feeling great. I was in good spirits, having just gotten home from having breakfast with my partner. All of the sudden I felt wiped out. I gravitated towards my bed and began to tweet through the feelings because sometimes, that’s all I can master the energy or will to do.

Even after reading this, I know what I will hear: “May God help you”, “you are not alone” and other well-meaning words. I don’t know about God, but I know about strangers who have been kind to me. I know about my mother who prays for me. I know about my sister who would do anything for me. I know about my few friends who indulge my peculiarities. The thing is, I will still feel this way.

My studies have been my coping mechanism for the past couple of months. I also have a very beautiful dog that keeps me busy and makes me appreciate the little things in life.

We need to talk more openly, honestly, and more frequently about mental health. I know it’s not just me because whenever I write or tweet about it people share their stories and support me.

If you are going through what I am going through, seek help. We have organisations such as the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) who will walk this journey with you and help you cope. I am following my own advice as I have just made an appointment with Sadag to get counselling and, hopefully, after a decade, I will get to rely less on medication.

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Wits Vuvuzela, http://witsvuvuzela.com/2018/04/06/slice-of-life-social-media-has-taken-over-my-life/, April, 2018