Mental Health Awareness Month: A Love Story of Pain, Purpose and Faith by Babalwa Nkente
When I sit and think about the mental health landscape in South Africa, I am somewhat impressed with where we are as a country in becoming more aware of this growing predicament. This makes me excited about the future and the change yet still to take place in disseminating the stigma that surrounds mental illness. More safe spaces are being created that allow us to have open, raw dialogues about mental health issues and more people are coming out to share their journeys and it is beautiful to see how we are all connected through our stories.
My story, what I now call my purpose, was born out of a deep pit of personal suffering. I was deep in my depression and my only answer to aid my hurting was death by suicide – at the time, it was my only option. I remember being at war with God and with myself, asking ‘why’s’ to my suffering. My depression was caused by an accumulation of events which stem from my childhood. Unresolved childhood trauma that created unhealthy and toxic traits and behavior for me.
But it was the passing and death of my father that really broke me and revealed my depression. That was the closest, personal death I had come to experience, and it changed me. Anyone else who has lost a parent will tell you the same. I remember that I never really allowed myself to grieve and mourn my father. I was tending to my mother – to me she was the one who had lost the most compared to me. Postponing my mourning left me as a ticking time bomb. I was in a dark space mentally.
I was thinking about dying all the time until one day, I attempted death by suicide. Scared and ashamed to admit and confront my family with what I had done, I had myself committed into the psychiatric hospital because I didn’t trust myself with my life. I needed help – and so I reached out to a friend who was a University psychology major to help me. Funds were tight, I couldn’t afford to see a therapist and it made sense to me to speak to someone I trusted – an added bonus was that he was a subject matter expert.
Throughout my healing journey I was bothered by the fact that living with a mental illness was like a big white elephant in the room. No-one wanted to talk about it: at home, church, and even at work. My frustration was growing stronger by the day and my resistance to fight my suicidal urges was growing weak. I used to think, “I’m the strangest person in the world”. But then I thought, there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do.
I remember scrolling through my Instagram and not seeing anyone who looked like me – and I’m not talking about the physical makeup and all of that. I was not seeing anyone who mirrored vulnerability as a normal human experience. All I was seeing were people who were happy all the time: someone who’d just bought a car or house; or friends posting on a holiday trip.
“Pain deserves the same intensity that happiness occupies.” – Babalwa Nkente
That was exhausting to watch, because I knew not everyone has it together all the time. Thank God we don’t look like what we have been through, so why are we not posting and Instagramming that. Pain deserves the same intensity that happiness occupies. When we are happy, we want to be on top of the mountain. But when trauma hits, we want to shrink the feeling, shun it and be embarrassed to experience it. Why is that?
So when I decided to start my NPO, I didn’t even think of it as that. I had my healing in focus. I wanted to live, and I wanted to choose that every day. I understood that I needed to change my life and to have that for any other woman who might have been suffering silently. A safe space for black women who want to journey into healing and wanted a safe space to have real, raw conversations and to generally make not being okay fashionably okay. I now look at the body of work that is my movement as both an honor and a privilege – A Purpose born out of Pain. A beautiful love story of pain, purpose and faith.
Trusting God with my mental health has been my saving grace: I know and believe He wants me to live. He has seen me through ALL my dark days and continues to do so, and I use that love as an anchor and aid when I need saving.
What a time to be intentionally alive. CAMAGU!
“Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up. You will increase my honour and comfort me once more.” – Psalms 71:20-21 (NIV)
If you are looking for a safe space to vent, feel, deal and heal you can connect with #MentalTalk101 through our social media platforms below:
Facebook : Mbokodo Mantras
Instagram : @mentaltalk101
I’m a mental health activist , Founder and SheO at #MentalTalk101 . My interests include using words to make people feel less alone. I’m heavily passionate about social activism and women empowerment.
Babalwa, thank you for opening up and encouraging us during this Mental Health Awareness month. Thank you for being fearless in your pursuit to speak about and give attention to pain as much as we do to happiness. Thank you for taking your calling from God so seriously and impacting lives for the better.
Sis, we sincerely hope this blessed your soul <3 If you live in South Africa and are feeling low and desperately need to speak to someone now, please get in touch with the following people who are ready and waiting to listen to you:
To contact a counsellor between 8am-8pm Monday to Sunday,
Call: 011 234 4837 / Fax number: 011 234 8182
For a suicidal Emergency contact them on 0800 567 567
24hr Helpline 0800 456 789
We’d like to leave you with a meditational song that we believe will allow the Holy Spirit to minister to the wounded parts of your soul:
Thank you for reading sis. If this message blessed you, we know it will bless another soul. Please go ahead and share it.
We’re praying for you.