By Thembeka Mtolo and Sanele Ndlovu (7 mins read)
Thandiswa Ntsimbi, 21, has been suffering from depression for over 6 years now and she has tried to kill herself five times.
“I tried to commit suicide 5 times, at first I was scared but after trying to do it so many times [I ended up not fearing anymore]. I figured I can’t argue with God and it wasn’t my time,” she says.
She found out about the depression while a teenager after losing her grandfather. “He was like my dad. When he died, my world began crushing down. People thought that I was seeking attention.
“I tried to be normal, but I couldn’t control my emotions,” she says. Having depression changed her life for the worst.
It messed up most of her relationships: “I don’t like being around people; I get nervous around people,” she explains. “I hate people . . . The smallest thing can trigger my depression.”
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When she discovered the depression, she tried to get professional help but could not go through with it. She did not have the strength to deal with the emotions and the timeframe of the process.
Ntsimbi says she did not tell her family because they would not understand. She says only her friend knows and has been supportive.
According to the 21-year-old, isolating herself from people has become a coping mechanism. Furthermore, she has resolved to prayer, which she says has helped her to cope as she finds it difficult to talk to people about it.
As a student, depression affects your personal life and academic performance.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: What Students Should Know About Mental Health And Awareness
In 2012, Mathabo Tlali experienced a terrible decline in her academic life while trying to finish her degree at the institution currently know as Rhodes University.
She was diagnosed with depression and declared unfit to continue with her studies. She was forced to quit, but now she is back.
Here, she tells her story.
I was diagnosed with depression and unfit to continue with my studies. “Depression” sounded like an excuse and an elaborate sick note which would pardon me from not handing my Drama 3 final research paper on time. I was unfit to go back to school but I tried again and stayed in 2013 still thriving with my imposter syndrome.
I managed to fool myself with my extroverted personality that everything was okay meanwhile I could not stand being alone because I would be confronted by the feeling of failure even after putting in effort in all that I did. I was so scared of being alone.
No one knew that I would get panic attacks during exams or when I had to write anything deemed “academic”. No one knew that I would sleep for crazy hours in a dark room and wake and dress up and face the world with the upbeat energy the world knows me to have.
I was “lazy” and “not serious” and truly I was convinced that I was not smart but lucky enough to be around smart people. I gave up quietly on myself with a smile and my armour called humour and entertained myself with things and circles which bought into the mask and performance I put up as self-defense.
My mom called me late 2013 saying that she feels that my energy is not the same and I’m not the same Mathabo, period: “Andinamntwana ozokufela eRhodes mna” (I’m not having a child who’s going to die at Rhodes).
Not understanding what the heck she was talking about she hitch-hiked from KWT to fetch me the next day – dragged me by hand with tears in her eyes. We went back to Grahamstown the following week to pack my stuff from the accommodation I was staying at.
She would look at me, crushed and would hold back her tears – I truly thought she was super dramatic. This was November and I was wearing a coat in 29 plus degrees and no this was not an “Iconic Mathabo Fashion Moment” – I was not okay shem.
She said she could not recognise me – I was “okay” mna and only had trouble sleeping for weeks on end qha. December 2013, got that final transcript at the end of the year telling me that I have not only failed but I am academically excluded from the university. I was awake for the first time in a long time and broke down.
I was acutely depressed and did not understand what this meant at the time. Everything fell apart. The passed 6 years I have been able to confront the shame I have been carrying.
Hardest 6 years because in me shown a light and talent which had to be affirmed by an academic institution – unlike at Rhodes, in the “real world” my suffering was visible and placed me in undesirable positions as I tried to survive with faux-confidence and baseless optimism.
I am back at Rhodes University. I appealed against the academic exclusion and got accepted but now all of the financial avenues which were promising shut before me. The last door shut this afternoon and this only fueled my convictions to stay here and finish the work!
My mom once said about this turbulent academic journey: “Welcome to real life. This is real life. As an adult, each person has that one thing they will forever fight to overcome; we all have personal wars in life and this (academia) is yours . . .”
I need to finish my second major (Sociology) and 3.5 minors to get my degree. Only one year and I’m done!
Please let me know of any financial channels available that you know of – I know that superficially investing in a grown – ass woman majoring in Drama and Sociology may not seem vibey and profitable BUT YA’LL, I’M AN INVESTMENT FA’REAL – I’M GOING PLACES FOR REAL, TRUST!
Keen for this testimony, qha we need mad prayers and dollars.
I’m strong. TOJ
Follow this link for contact details of all the psychological services provided by South African institutions.
Suicide Crisis Line 0800 567 567
Or visit: www.sadag.org
Reporting by Thembeka Mtolo and Sanele Ndlovu; Edited by Magnificent Mndebele and Gaby Ndongo.
Feature image: Depression illustration.
Image courtesy to Gaby Ndongo.