Dear Black Parents: Mental illness Is A Thing

According to the World Health Organization, worldwide 10-20% of children and adolescents experience mental illness. The National Youth at Risk Survey conducted in South Africa, which focuses on children and adolescents between Grade 8 and Grade 11, highlighted that 24% of the youth surveyed had experienced feelings of depression, hopelessness and sadness while a further 21% had attempted suicide at least once. Mental illness is a thing.

Generally non-white races don’t take recognition of the fact that a child can be sick and the cause can be mental illness. Just because it doesn’t show physically (which it does to those who self-harm) it doesn't automatically disqualify it from being a sickness. Parents have the ideology that a sickness is only a sickness if you can see the effects physically, a misconception common in black households.

I feel strongly about this topic that I decided to do a Digital-interview with an ex-high school friend of mine - Usiphile Shasha, whom I knew was suffering from Mental illness, to give me a perspective of what it feels like to be in a black family where mental illness is not seen as an illness but witchcraft.

I asked her how she would describe her mental illness to someone who can’t comprehend what it is, she replied: “The best description for depression or any mental illness is fatigue, like when my little sisters ask me what's wrong and why I take so many meds I always tell them it's because my brain is exhausted… like it's strained and the meds help give it energy like multi-vitamins… but like for the brain, because that really is what's happening in a way. Most people (my father included) tend to think it's a spirit of some sort, they think taking you to a priest or a traditional healer will help it and that's not the case.”

Just like admission to your addiction can be as painful as rehabilitation, so is admission that you are sick and need proper care. Sometimes we ignore the signs and sometimes we can’t even see them, so I asked her How she knew that she was mentally ill, she replied: “When I sit and reflect to back then, because I was so misinformed I did not know that I was sick, I've actually been sick since childhood. I was a very depressed child, I started thinking about suicide at the age of 8 I remember I started cutting at the age of 10. But what I used to do was that I used to take my episodes out on my hair. Whenever I was having a bad episode I used to lock myself up in my room and just take a pair of scissors and cut all my hair off or do something weird with it. I only got officially diagnosed the year of my 16th birthday after my first noticed suicide attempt. After that the doctors demanded that I see a therapist at least three times a week and that's when I got diagnosed. Although I was misdiagnosed at first.”

In a situation where no-one understands what you're going through, I asked her if she feels alone, like she couldn't tell anyone out of fear that they wouldn't understand, she replied: “Yes, I do feel alone, people tend to forget that there are different strokes for different folks. Like I am generally unhappy. l am unable to be happy and they always make me feel so awful about that, they always tell me that happiness is a choice but the problem is, it's a choice I don't have. They always belittle every problem I have and they don't understand that the depression and the bipolar can take something so small, like a pin prick and make it into something as big as a rupture. Whenever I try to speak to someone they always remind me of the things I cannot have, like being happy and being mentally stable. They never know how to handle it.”

As mentioned in the beginning, A majority of black parents are misinformed or have a skewed version of mental illness and its cause and with that in mind, I asked her if she thought black parents give enough attention to Mental illness, with her experience of her parent’s reactions/ actions in mind, she replied: “No, not at all, they do not give it the correct attention. I know my dad thinks I need a ritual because he believes that I am bewitched. I used to get into trouble with my mother every time I self-harmed. I would even get grounded and all and get the hiding of my life. Also with my suicide attempts, she just said I'm going through a stage and it's a phase that will fade out. I don't know if it's my parents or what, but they never paid attention to the fact that I'm mentally ill up until I got booked into the Psychiatric Hospital. My parents were so convinced that this was just a cry for attention and I'm, in fact, just weak and not sick.

My next question was if she thought that non-black races have it easier if they are struggling with any form of Mental illness, in terms of support & Understanding from their parents/relatives, she replied: “Yes they do, because their parents tend to cater to their illnesses more often than black children. White parents are informed when it comes to mental illnesses and they understand that it's not a spirit of some sort.”

I Asked her what her parents' reaction to her illness is/was when they found out she was really sick, and whether they were understanding, she replied: “I'm not sure if it's them not understanding or them being ignorant, because they're very educated. They just have that mentality of "this isn't a black person's illness" or "not my child, I can't have a weak child" or "you don't use your traditional medicine that's why the spirits got to you". My mother, for the longest time ever, did not allow me to go to therapy and my dad was convinced that I'm just wasting the medical aid funds. They were so convinced that I wasn't sick that when I got booked into the hospital they got the shock of their lives. I remember my dad texted me when he came to visit me there and told me how his heart broke seeing me so weak and fragile, he said that he didn't know I was that brittle. He thinks having a mental illness is a weakness instead of a sickness. The fact that my sister is also Bipolar took a toll on the family and then I felt like my parents couldn't handle both kids being sick, so I kept my illness from them. (However, they never cared to check up or ask, if they did have the time for me I am pretty sure I would have told them.) They always had their hands full with my sister so I took a back seat and just nursed myself. As a result, when my dad found out he had the shock of his life. He told me that he thought it was only my sister who was sick. Like they've only ever given her the platform of being sick and not the both of us, so I kept my illness to myself. My mother when she found out made everything about her, she started talking about how she feels like she's failed as a parent by having a sick child and not even knowing it and all that."

I was extremely curious as to what it’s like spending some time at a psychiatric hospital, and so I asked her this. She Replied: “I was very fortunate that the hospitals I've been admitted into were private hospitals, so they were really amazing. (They're better than my student accommodation placeπŸ˜‚) We did a lot of recreational activities like art and stuff and that made me feel pretty great because I didn't know I was creative and it's so relaxing. It was frustrating however because we had to attend group sessions and I don't like peopleπŸ™„πŸŒsometimes though you don't get so lucky. Because that hospital was a voluntary hospital, they don't force you to do much that you can't handle. The worst part was when I was on suicide watch, they put me in a high care unit and they literally used to watch me all the time, even when I go to the bathroom I wasn't allowed to lock the door, even when I just sit in the ward in my bed I was being watched. I wasn't allowed outside the ward at all, only times I could leave was to go to the bathroom. They even had the food brought to me.

I Asked her what the prevailing race was in the psychiatric hospital to get a slight view of if black parents/people in general are studying to breakdown the misconception surrounded by mental illness. Although it doesn't paint a vivid picture - due to some black people not having access to private facilities that cater to mental illness’ and other factors’ it gives somewhat of an idea and questions whether depression and mental illness is a concern within the public health system in south Africa. She Replied: “The prevailing race there was white people, but as the time went by more and more people of color were being admitted too. Something I realized whilst I was there by talking with the other patients was the fact that it takes so much for a black person to admit that they're sick and to go and get help and to not recognize that as a weakness. The women there told me how hard it was for them to come to terms with the fact that they are in fact sick and it isn't their fault. That's another reason why there aren't a lot of black people in the hospital.

I asked her if it helped being there, and what she got out from her days spent there, she replied: “The month spent there was very great, because I was in a contained environment. It was great to finally forget about everything and just be tired and depressed and bipolar and learn how to deal with it and manage it myself and all. The fact that the nurses understood that I am sick was another remarkable thing. Them, along with the therapists, were so patient with me. They understood that it isn't my fault and they taught me how to be patient with myself and how to handle myself. Like after every self-harm episode they just took me to the infirmary, cleaned up my wounds and covered them for me because they knew I didn't want anyone to see them. And after every single relapse they didn't remind me or make me feel bad about it. They really understood. The worst part was leaving because I now had to adjust to life outside the contained environment and being on my own again which was a problem since I am a hazard to myself. So yes, the hospital really did help because a lot has changed even though it isn't major changes I'm still taking it one step at a time. For example, now I've learnt to wait up until myself harm scars heal before self-harming again, I no longer double up on myself.”

It's high time that black parents acknowledge the fact that mental illness is not a white mans disease but can actually affect anyone. In a generation where more and more children are being pressured and stressed at schools its an ever increasing problem among us as the youth. Its not only black parents that need to remove the stigma around mental illness as being witchcraft rather than an actual illness, The black community as a whole that's misinformed about such need to get educated on this rising issue. if you'd like to know more check out The south African depression and anxiety group here.

Adcock Ingram Depression and Anxiety Helpline

0800 70 80 90

Destiny Helpline for Youth & Students

0800 41 42 43

Dr Reddy's Help Line

0800 21 22 23

Suicide Crisis Line

0800 567 567

SMS 31393

SADAG Mental Health Line

011 234 4837

Akeso Psychiatric Response Unit 24 Hour

0861 435 787

On Your Period MUST-HAVES & Other Advice

Let’s be honest, menstruation can suck the life out of you - no pun intended.

I, for one, have never been one of those girls who become moody or grumpy when I’m on my period. In fact, I LOVE IT. Why? Because I eat a lot and food tastes 10 times better. I also have cravings for chocolate and hot chips. So, if I’m not at all bothered by having my periods, then what’s the reason for this post? Well I’ve come to learn the trivial things in life, that can make being on your period a million times easier. So, I decided to make a list, an alphabetical one, because I’m not sure how many tips and tricks I can write out, so I didn’t want to give the heading a number, then think things out of my butt just to reach that number. Here goes.

A.   Mybuelin helps to reduce the cramps I get. You know when you can literally feel your uterus being torn apart into tiny shreds and coming out of you? This helps a lot with that. You can get it at your nearest pharmacy.

B.    Food, when I’m on my period, tastes 100 million times better and I always eat it to savor its succulent, deliciousness - like right now, I’m eating KFC chicken and I’m typing this whole post using one hand (impressive hey?) well I use my pinky to shift when I need a question mark or a bracket. But yeah. So, the whole point of me saying this is don’t deny your body of the food it craves to appreciate. Feed it! You'll work it off if you ever feel like doing so.

C.    Give in to any cravings you might have. As mentioned in the beginning, I have this insatiable craving for chocolate, and I give in, making me more happier, less cranky and more approachable.

D.   Hot water bottles are AMAZING. They also help with cramps and are great not only for cramps but to keep warm when it's winter.

E.    You don’t have to fulfill the: “Girls Are Moody’ stereotype when you’re on your periods.C-H-I-L-L, there is no society of menstrual women keeping on the lookout to see that you uphold the moody standard, so calm down. You’re still yourself. You’re just leaking blood downstairs, no big deal.

F.     Sleeping with those extra-long and thick night-time pads can make sleeping peaceful and worry free because you know you won’t wake up with a leakage freakage. Having that comfort is the best thing ever.

G.   Never be embarrassed to talk about your periods. You should checkout Libresses’ new TV advert, where instead of using actual terms related to our menstrual period/that time of the month, they use unicorn, and other absurd words to show that when you want to un-embarrass your period, you are and sound completely ridiculous. Check the video out over here, if you haven’t seen it yet. This is practically the most important must-have/advice I can give to all my female readers out there. Being on your menstrual period is absolutely, not something to be ashamed of but rather something that all women need to embrace.

H.   I know how when you’re on your period, sometimes everything that you usually do when you’re not on your periods may seem daunting but don’t let your periods stop you from doing what you do every day. If you have to vlog, vlog, if you have to blog, blog. Do you, every day.

That’s about it. If I think of anything else I’ll be sure to update the blog post, you’re also welcome to drop comments on some of your period MUST – HAVES and advice.

Happy Perioding 

Why I Love Studying A BA Multimedia In Digital Visual Arts

Whenever people ask me what I'm studying and I reply with " A BA Multimedia in digital visual arts" , They stare at me with blank faces. So what is a Ba Multimedia In digital visual arts ? Yeah even I don’t know. But what I do know is I love it for a couple of reasons. That’s why I decided to create this video in the hopes that by letting you know what I like about the degree that you can get better insight and clarity on what the hell its about.

Primi Piatti - Mac & Cheese With Extra Bacon

Waay back in the beginning of the year (from the 28th of February onward) I was in Cape Town ! For about a MONTH AND A HALF ! It was in the first week of that long, month and half, that I discovered Primi Piatti ! 

I went to the one that's at the V & A Waterfront, so besides the delicious meal and excellent service I received there, I also got a complimentary view of the amazing scenery that is V & Waterfront.

I had gone with a friend and , naturally, as always I felt a bit nervous because I didn't really know what to expect from the place and I hadn't seen my friend for a while , about five years, so obviously she'd have changed a bit. It's aesthetically pleasing , yes but the prices ? Well I guess they're okay because the meal sizes aren't bad.
I ordered a Mac and cheese and added extra bacon. The meal itself cost close to 100 bucks so its definitely not student-budget friendly but more of a place to take your girlfriend or boyfriend on date nights 

What I ordered was really good, I LOVED IT. It was a bit on the oily side but I guess you can't have some bacon without a little `fat. Our waiter was really nice and some random foreign couple took a picture of my friend and I , they were intrigued by my hairstyle which was slightly thick braids, put into two ponytails. I guess I was overly cute.

The bill came to R224 if I remember correctly , which isn't a hefty total actually.

I don't mind going back again and trying something else on their menu! 
Who knows ? Maybe you'll see a second post about the place in a couple of weeks.

Essential Travel Kit For A Creative

So I'm in Cape Town and I decided it would be really cool if I could write a blog post about an essential travel kit, dedicated to all those creatives who get the opportunity to travel once in a while, whether on business or for vacation purposes. 🌴🌼🌻🌱

My BackPack-handbag πŸ‘œπŸ‘œ
My Backpack, which is also basically my handbag is essential as when I'm roaming the city and exploring the vibe, it's where I put everything else that’s going to appear on this list.

My Notebook πŸ“˜πŸ“™
It's where I write down everything. From ideas about my next blog post to the layout of my next vlogs. It's basically an inanimate object of who I am. I plan my month in that book, write down important things to remember and so forth. So, it's essential because it basically tells me how my day is going to go. It's also an organize-able depiction of what goes on in my head because I literally have a million things going on in there. I'm writing this blog post and yet i'm already thinking of new blog post ideas. It’s the very definition of multi-Tasking.

My ink pen. πŸ“šπŸ“š
This is also important because, when I forget this, my notebook becomes completely useless. So this is basically what makes my notebook. When i'm without my pen I'm hopeless. And any creative thoughts I have that day are basically a waste because they'd have diminished by the end of the day.

My Phone and Tripod stand. πŸ“±πŸ“±
My phone is also an important part of me and my life. It's basically the digital version of me. I keep tabs on any emails, notifications from my blog, new email subscriptions, new page likes, new followers on twitter and Instagram and whatsapp messages from people that matter to me in my life. Everyone can relate to this one on the list because we all regard our phones as being the most important digital object in our life.

My Lenovo - Non - Apple Laptop πŸ’»πŸ’»
To be clear, my laptop is a Lenovo. I don’t want any messages asking me how my Macbook is red. That’s just a sticker I got from my iPhone SE box. Every apple device (cellular from what I know) includes a rectangle consisting of two apple stickers. Where you stick em - that’s your business.

My laptop is very important because as you’ve realized, I can still blog while i'm on vacation. While I still have the words to describe the things I want to say, and the memory from any happenings on my vacation in full,  HD, detail. I'm only mentioning the reason to follow because it (my Laptop) can basically do what my phone does, except I find that I'm more comfortable blogging on the traditional style, keypad (Laptop) than a smartphone - Call me "Old School". It just has that vibe to it, really.

My Canon sx420 Powershot camera πŸ“·πŸ“·
I recently copped this camera to aid me in getting started on my vlog episodes as well as for school purposes ( this mid semester - it’s a year module - we get to create a music video. How creatively awesome is that ?? EXACTLY - just one of the reasons why I love what I'm studying. I now use it instead of my smartphone. Its great for looking artys and professional actually )

This is basically it . its just a fraction of the equipment i put in my handbag-backpack but they're the most essential items.