Death to diet culture (!)

Diet culture is ubiquitous and unrelenting across social media.

At this time of year, however, diet culture reeks more than ever  — flawlessly positioned models, captions spewing out tips on how to lose body fat for the beach or drop two sizes before Christmas or what(thefuck)ever. It’s a race to see who is having the most fun, who is the happiest, the healthiest, the hottest. Can we take a moment to agree that it’s absolute bullshit? Continue reading

For the love of hiking

It’s a weekend morning, probably a Sunday. I’m with my mother and my sister. I’m about seven years old, and we’re going for a walk up Lion’s Head. I complain incessantly, my exhaustion turning into grumpiness very quickly. I want my mother to carry me but I’m obviously too old for that. My sister and I whine. I plop down onto a rock, arms folded across my chest, glaring at the flora and fauna. Somehow my mother refrains from throwing us off the mountain. As I remember, we don’t make it to the top.

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We’re in Nature’s Valley, the place I love the most. It could be any year, from 2002 to 2013. We’ve camped there every December holiday since I was tiny. We leave the campsite and drive to the trail that leads to Salt River. The trail begins not far from the beach. We enter a dark forest, which quickly muffles the sound of the tourist-filled stress that we’ve left behind. The trees are gnarled; they curl and twist along the path, and the thick green leaves overhead protect us from the sun.

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[Image: sourced]

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On pills and privilege

When I came to terms with my mental illness, it was not simply through the help of family and friends. I was lucky enough to have the guidance of a psychologist.

Living with mental illness is unfair and exhausting, but there are degrees to which we, as individuals, suffer. If I didn’t have the familial and financial support to access psychotherapy and medication, I’d be in a far worse place right now. Continue reading

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

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

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.

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Strands of social awkwardness

Social awkwardness is a general experience that many students feel, whether they have actual social anxiety or not. Social awkwardness is prevalent on campus, but there is no one way in which students experience it. This is the first of a series on Anxious in which I will be speaking to students at UCKAR about how they navigate this space with their social awkwardness.

Nikita-lynn Ruiters (2nd-year, English and Psychology)

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This year has been a challenge for Nikita. Her social anxiety has heightened since last year’s student protests, as she was caught in a stun grenade attack, leading her to experience PTSD. Music and writing have helped make her world a little calmer. (Photo: Guinevere Shapiro)

“Social anxiety makes me more aware of certain things. If someone is having a panic attack, I will be able to help them through it. I see the world differently to someone who doesn’t have it. I’m weary of people, so I don’t get attached too easily. Continue reading