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Living with misunderstood illness

What kind of mental illness do you suffer from? I suffer from borderline personality depression and anxiety.

When were you diagnosed? I was diagnosed early this year but I have been suffering for a while, just didn’t know with what.

Which symptoms were you suffering from? I was suicidal, had headaches, felt a sense of emptiness and hopelessness, had the urge to self harm and I felt lonely.

At the time, did you know anything on mental health? Yes, I did and I always knew I am depressed.

Did it cross your mind that you might be suffering from a mental illness? Yes.

Has your mental illness ever been assumed to be linked to witchcraft? Yes they did and witchcraft was the first thing on their mind.

Did your family notice that something was wrong with you? My symptoms of depression started in 2012 when I was in grade 11. My mom took me to several sangomas and churches because she thought it might be linked to witchcraft.

How did your family take the news that you were suffering from a mental illness? My mom is still confused and shocked but it is getting better. She asks questions and I try as much as I can to answer them.

How did you feel when you were diagnosed? I was confused as I had never heard of borderline personality disorder before and at same time I felt scared about the whole process.

How has the journey been so far? It’s been hard. I have had so many lows since I started the medication. I am now on my second set of anti-depressants as the first ones were not working. The side effects are the worst and I have uncontrollable mood swings.

Are there specific things/events that trigger you? Yes, being alone and feeling rejection, in fact any kind of hurt just triggers me the most.

Do you think mental illness is still stigmatised in black communities? Yes it is, it’s not understood at all, many people say that it’s white people things and I am just not strong enough.

What is your take on mental illness in black communities? Growing up in black communities we are taught that we must be strong and when there is no physical harm or the sickness is unknown then it has to be witchcraft – there is no other explanation! I think this is because there is no awareness around mental illness when it comes to black communities, people are unaware of the kind of illness that can affect us. Many die without getting help because it’s either mistaken for laziness or witchcraft.

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