Keeping count: secret complexities of a monolingual

On my relationship with English, my mother tongue, in South Africa.

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I have always loved to count. When I was little, I counted my steps. At age ten, I counted the lamp posts on the drive to school, or cars that sped past. Around age twelve, I began counting letters and syllables in groups of seven. I loved the rhythm of a count of seven; it sounded self-assured, complete. Simultaneously, my eyes spied out seven-letter words, which I’d then tap out onto my lap as if typing on a keyboard.

In retrospect, this behaviour was compulsive, and it certainly slackened the pace of my reading. Often, I was so engrossed in counting and listening to the words in my head that I missed what they were trying to tell me, but I learnt to appreciate words in a new way. I valued the sounds – the taps and hums and ticks – of the English language. I still search for seven-letter words in books, sprayed onto walls, carved into desks. There is solace in these sevens; my mind tenses and then relaxes with each search and discovery. It is a comfort, just as it is a comfort to speak in the language that one knows and loves the most. Continue reading

Five blogs (and vlogs) that I love

This post had to include blogs and vlogs – they’re equally relevant platforms, prone to both wonderful and horrendous content. Here are some of my personal faves:

  1. Depression Darling

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A few months ago, while researching the side-effects of antidepressants, I came across this gem. I was hooked. Sina invites you into her mind through her candour, her hilarious comics, and her unique way of sharing the ups and downs of mental illness. Her writing holds a charming balance between personal suffering and self-deprecation. She seems to be on hiatus at the moment, and I anxiously await more posts in the future from her (hope you’re okay and please come back one day if you can, Sina).

2. Bodyposipanda

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There’s an endless amount of “fitspo” accounts aross social media, but alongside them, there are now people sharing something far more relevant to our times: body positivity. Through her powerful voice, Megan Jayne Crabbe shares her thoughts on the diet industry, self-confidence, intuitive eating, and intersectional feminism, to name a few. Continue reading

Does being depressed give you a free pass to be an arsehole?

The short answer: no.

The long answer:

Heading into my third month of taking meds, my mood has been wonderfully stable of late. My most recent holiday was the best I’ve had since I started varsity, and I didn’t even do much. Note the word, “stable”: I am not dancing in the rain or running through meadows pretending to fly. I just feel “normal”. And normal has never felt sweeter.

What constitutes being an arsehole? Maybe you were already one before you were depressed, or maybe your idea of rudeness involves dirty looks or forgetting to say, “thank you”. Whatever the case, your mood drops (and fluctuates) when you are depressed, so you’re bound to act differently – whether you’re aware of it or not. Continue reading

The tiny dots of the universe

It is comforting to know how small we are.

Over the winter holiday, we took a trip to the town of Sutherland, in the Northern Cape. Sutherland is the coldest town in South Africa, with a tiny population* and a single main road. It’s the home of the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), which pretty much controls the population and economy of the dorpie. The restaurants and B&B’s keep their lights dim to avoid light pollution during night-time, and by the time the sun has set, the town is still.

Those are Sutherland’s main attractions: snow and stargazing. We missed out on the snow, but my disappointment faded the moment we arrived and I emerged from the car only to be hit by a ferociously cold wind. A maximum of five degrees Celsius was cold enough – the snow could stay away. The stargazing, however, could not be missed. Continue reading

The anxiety of truth-telling

There is an unwanted guest inside my head. He used to hide in corners, but now he’s become more comfortable, he’s stepped out into the light, made a home for himself in there. One moment I’m seated at my desk, chin propped on one knee, preparing to write. The next, I dare not place my hands on the keyboard lest they begin tapping anxiously, the dark sludge making its way from my thoughts to my fingers, leaving a mess on the screen.

When I try to think of a way to describe depression, the first word that comes to mind is gravity. Gravity becomes stronger; it moves beyond the point of keeping me grounded. Now it’s trying to push me into the ground, a great big hand reaching down from the sky and forcing me down. Suddenly, I am lying down, an unresponsive lump on the bed, a few dribbled sentences sitting before me, waiting in vain to be refurbished.

We’ve all heard the line about people creating art through their pain. We absorb anecdotes about painters, actors, musicians, writers, who take hold of the bad stuff, that murky, tangible, irrepressible mass, and mould it into something astonishing. We make it out to seem as if that bad stuff is worthwhile, almost precious. Why let our hurt sit and age alongside us when instead we can grab hold of it with both hands and transform it into something prettier, packaged and presentable?

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Out of order

This morning, the washing machine overflowed.

Since moving out of campus residence and into a flat with my friend, I’ve encountered most of what I’d heard about from other students. I’ve dealt with raucous neighbours, wobbly internet connection, lousy half-arsed meals, water shortage, and units on the electricity metre fading so fast you’d think we owned a jumping castle. On the bright side, I told myself, we’ve never had a problem with the washing machine.

By the end of this week, our flat was a disaster. My roommate and I had pushed through a pile of deadlines, and our poor living quarters had suffered the consequences of this. When under pressure, we do not clean*. The monsters loved the mess; they gained courage, climbing in through the window, smashing a wine glass, stealing our food and spilling crumbs all over the floor.  Continue reading

An honest update.

Today marks the one-month anniversary of me failing to maintain a blog.

I’ve been beating myself up about this, and I figured an honest update is the only way to about it. I wish I could to attribute my absence to sheer laziness. If that were the case, maybe I’d snap out of it and dish out some decent posts.

I am not okay. In fact, I am very un-okay. That’s the premise of this blog: to discuss experiences with mental illness and show others that these experiences are normal, and shitty, and manageable.

I anticipated this blog to be cathartic, a way of sharing insight with others and in turn, viewing my troubles in a new light and tackling them. But in terms of mental health, 2017 has, as it were, shown me flames. It’s affected my academics, my physical health, and my social life. It has also affected my ability to work consistently on this blog on mental health (let us bask for a moment in the sweet, sweet irony of this).

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Booze and boundaries

I picture it: the sting of the liquid, clear as water, as it fills my glass. I top it with something sweet and fizzy, spinning my straw around to stifle its unforgiving burn. The crowd rumbles on, a slurry of mismatched.conversations, gestures, and hot air. My chest feels tight and I lean in closer towards my friends, clutching my drink, fingers icy. Within minutes my glass is empty and I sit back, awaiting the calm that follows the burn. It feels like nothing is happening; then suddenly the words are streaming from my mouth like glitter, and my smile becomes laughter. I shrug my anxiety off and turn my back as it slinks off to a corner.

I have used alcohol to rid myself of a prominent aspect of my identity. Be it one drink or three, I’d usually feel lousy in the morning after having returned to myself. Continue reading

Enlightening reads

Get to know me a little better by exploring the list below:

It’s All Absolutely Fine: Life is Complicated, So I’ve Drawn it Instead by Ruby Elliot. Orion Publishing Group, London, 2016.

From It’s All Absolutely Fine, pg. 72

Ruby Elliot shares her experience with anxiety, depression, eating disorders and bipolar through raw, brutally funny cartoons. This is more of a comic book than anything else, but it features short yet poignant snippets of writing in each chapter as Ruby shares the trials and small triumphs of mental health problems. There is a likeness between her written anecdotes and her drawings: they don’t have happy endings, and that makes them all the more relevant. Continue reading