I used to be
The post below may come as a surprise to some. If you feel the need to judge, rather keep it to yourself. This is a safe space not only for me to express who I am, but for my readers to feel they can share their most shameful moments. No trolls will be tolerated.
I haven’t been myself lately. Well, to be more accurate, I haven’t been a self I identify with.
So much has changed: circumstances, expectations, responsibilities and of course, me. I believe that all these factors have affected who I am today. Obviously, right?
My parents, more so my dad, always pushed for my sister and I to grow up strong and independent women. More specifically not need a man. He’d often ask either one of us to help him with his handyman duties around the house. In the end, we could change plugs and have a good handle over traditional male duties. And for a while, I bought into that. I didn’t only know how to handle myself; I eventually didn’t want a man. My goals changed from wanting to be an artist to being an accountant, living alone and starting my own NGO.
But then I discovered boys. And those butterflies. And kissing.
Long story short: I dropped out of university to become a dancer. And not long after that I fell pregnant with my eldest son, Cayden.
My timing of having a kid sucked. That’s the bottom line of it all. Of course children are a blessing, but when I had Cayden, it was like I destroyed every bit of trust my parents had in me. I let them down. I let them down because they had more in store for me, you know? As all parents do, they wanted me to succeed and not have to endure hardships and challenges (unnecessarily). They wanted to protect me, but I showed them they can’t. I took away their power and showed them I have a will of my own. And in the end, they were disappointed with what I used my powers for.
The pregnancy was a major challenge. I couldn’t celebrate or drown in the joys of it because I felt like I wasn’t allowed to. I had no right. Every ache and pain and worry, I would be too scared to mention. As if to say, “Hey, if you’re feeling pain, so what. You deserve it.” I read so many magazines, hoping to find answers and comfort. It was tough. I remember my dad sitting us down in a family meeting after they found out I was pregnant, and telling me I can’t have a 21st party because of this. It was my punishment. He went on to say that I took away the opportunity for him to say something good about me or that he’s proud of me because of what I had done. Harsh perhaps, but I knew he was just saying those things because he was hurt and let down.
When Cayden came, my parents fell in love with him immediately. It surprised me. What didn’t go away though, was this bitter taste in my mouth: I was a disappointment. They said they would support me if I wanted to go study. And so I did. I went to UCT and in my first year, I stumbled a bit. But when second year came, I decided to prove that I was not a liability and that I am worthy of love and praise. Sounds stupid but it worked. I pushed myself to achieve awards and worked part-time. I think it was then that I lost the plot. Towards the end of my second year, a fellow student told me about a student organization he and two others started. I was swept away by the idea and felt that I could add value. Come third year, and I was heavily involved. Before I knew it, I was voted in as Chairperson. I was never scared. I loved the responsibility of taking this new organization to new heights. I wanted to ensure that every student is valued and that their voice was worth something. I put a lot of energy into this (besides my studies where I had 4 or 5 courses to grapple with). I also was a single parent (dating guys but got engaged at one time).
I was driven. I was in control. But I was only in control at that one point.
Thereafter, a world of a mess ensued.
The following year, I enrolled in my courses, but something else seemed to take control. I was chairperson of 2 organizations, worked full time (I know), was involved in other roles in our Student Parliament. I was ALSO managing/ a booking agent for FIVE bands. I was also a journalist for two online magazines. I also traveled to England for a conference. I didn’t even mention being a single parent (STILL dating many guys). I didn’t know I was manic. I wasn’t blessed with my diagnosis at that time.
I’m not going to go into detail where I came to understand my diagnosis and the consequences of being labeled as someone with Bipolar Disorder. Believe me, there’s quite the story.
Rather, I’m to focus on my manic spell. I did all that I mentioned above AND started an online magazine and a parenting blog (in addition to the blog I was already running). To say that I was busy, is not only an understatement, but also a lie. I was doing the impossible! And it’s at that time that I met my last boyfriend (my now husband). He was totally smitten and the fact that I was such a winner, obviously impressed him. I say obviously because DAMN I was good!
He was mesmerized by my so-called drive. The fact that I couldn’t stop turned him on? I don’t know. But who wouldn’t be swept away by my charisma, my visionary persona and my can’t-beat-me –at-this-game attitude? I was on top of my game. Hell, I made all the rules. Until. Until I crashed because I know what goes up must go DOWN.
I was SEXY (Yes, dare I say it.)
I was in control (I juggled student organizations and so much more)
I was ambitious (I knew I was going to take over the world) ßdelusional
Darryl fell hook, line and sinker.
When I descended into my first “official” depressive episiode, Darryl was there to make sure I took my medications and so forth. I went from being a woman who did NOT need a MAN to relying on Darryl for every dose of meds, food and taking Cayden to school. I broke into a million pieces. I crumbled right before his very eyes. I, the Yvette everyone knew, died a million deaths.
All that was left was an outer shell and bits and pieces of me that I needed to rebuild.
No one told me that this rebuilding would take years and years. Besides losing my reputation, I lost many parts of myself: good, great and the ugly parts.
I found myself with a new diagnosis, pregnant (again) and without work.
What a waste right?
The rest of the story’s details are nestled safely between the pages of my memoir. Now, I’d like to highlight that I came from being an over-achiever (as per the words of Ronelle Anthony-Jones) to being a pitiful excuse of a human being. My ambition rotted in the pit of my stomach. My will to live disappeared in the promise of tomorrow. There was no tomorrow.
Over the next few months I tried to normalize- I tried to do what normal people to: live and have some sort of goal.
Since that breakdown, I crawled my way through life. I tried to be a (good) mother. I did. I tried. Really. But I have to acknowledge that I was not the same person people knew to grow and love.
The point of this blogpost was to show that I was not the person I was way back when. I was someone new. I was a big lump of coal. Obviously, I had the potential of being something great BUT I wasn’t.
So much happened since then- I’m 31 and what a mission it has been to not only pick up where I left off BUT to find some sort of direction as to where I need to be AND believe that every bit of effort is worth it.
As I sit here, drinking the fourth glass of wine, I can’t expect myself to actually know what I am worth and know that whatever “goal” I set is worthy of pursuing.
For the past while (and I use this term loosely), I have been trying to be a mother, a wife and just, Yvette. And so I’ve sucked. I’ve wanted to do more and I’ve failed because the fact of the matter is: I cannot. Imagine your wings being clipped (assuming you can fly). Imagine, your breath being sucked away. Imagine someone destined to be a juggler with no arms.
Since the breakdown, I have nothing more to give the world. Actually nothing. I haven’t been motivated to write, to lead and sometimes (yes) to live. I have documented some of my depressive spells, but that’s not my point of the post.
I used to be driven and motivated and clear. I had goals and motivation to achieve those goals.
It’s like I was a different person.
I skimmed the bottom of the ocean: I found myself ebbing between an okay of a human to feeling like the pits.
I didn’t want to live.
I can’t romanticize that.
I drank too much; I hid bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in my cupboard. I’d pour it with ice (Duh) in a normal drinking glass. It was hidden in my cupboard, by my bra’s in addition to slabs of chocolate. Every second day I’d have a glass. It didn’t end there. I would buy two bars of TV bars (the white kind) and hide it under my pillow. The wrappers would be hidden in the side pocket of my bag.
Typing this reveals my short-comings.
It reveals my shame! Why hide the wine? Why hide the chocolate?
Because it’s wrong.
It is wrong because I am NOT taking care of myself, my mind or otherwise.
I WAS/AM PURPOSEFULLY PUTTING MYSELF IN THE POSITION TO PUT MY OWN NEEDS DOWN.
Nobody will understand. Nobody will give a damn.
There is a huge difference between WHO I am now as who I was then, manic or depressed.
And I may not be able to explain exactly, but I know there’s a huge difference to how my life has changed- my reason for living has changed. I live for my husband and kids but I struggle to live and aim for more! If I ever really put to words that I truly don’t give a damn, I don’t. Yes. I said it.
Before I had ambition pulsating through my veins!
Now, almost 5 years into marriage, I safely can say that I, Yvette Hess, do not know what I am doing. Well, not always.
I feel like, I need to get to know myself again, learn the ins and outs as to who I am.
It seems too simple looking at all of this. It’s seems simple looking at what was expected at the time. It’s seems simple looking at the “whole” picture. But it isn’t.
The truth of the matter is that often, if not always, I wanted to die.
And as much we worked through this, that feeling never really settled. On my current treatment, I admit, that the want to die has numbed a bit, but in its place I carry a cloak heavy with the feeling of not being good enough. It’s just as burdensome, just as damaging.
I often forget I still have life.
Today, you can look at me and think, “Hey, she’s got it all together.”
But I don’t.
Every single day is a constant struggle. And it starts from the morning straight through to when I go to bed.
Firstly my sleeping tablets are so strong that it is a great effort just to wake up. That and I don’t want to wake up. I want to sleep; I want to hide. Anyway, after dragging myself out of bed, I brush my teeth (sometimes I don’t), get dressed, put on my slippers and head out the front door to take Cayden to school. While sitting in the car, I need to decide if I should put my seatbelt on or not. I grapple with this for a while. It’s like there’s a tiny voice that talks me out looking after myself, or seeing myself as worth loving. I am torn. As I delve into this pool, I drive to the school experiencing more anguish. As if it couldn’t get any worse.
Throughout the WHOLE 25 minute journey, I constantly picture myself getting into an accident. I imagine head on collisions and other fender benders. It’s a stream of violent images rushing in. I have no defenses. With every kilometer I drive, I sit fighting the fear, fighting the anxiety. When I finally stop at the school, I take about 30 minutes to recoup and try to prepare for the way back.
On my way, I stop in at Pick ‘n Pay (yes with my slippers). I don’t give a damn, remember. I buy two chocolates and can feel how the cashier is judging me. I know she’s also staring at my flaking scalp psoriasis. I can feel her eyes. In my mind I know she’s so disgusted. I am too. I get into the car and immediately unwrap one of the chocolates. Into the mouth it goes and I can feel immediate calm. The mouthful swirls around my mouth and it is an absolute joy, it’s like magic. And then the guilt sets in. Quick, another bite. Bliss. More guilt. I finish both chocolates before I get home.
Gah! What can I say?
My behaviour is inexcusable, right?
Things got so bad that I started drinking more than one bottle of wine and got drunk twice in the week (the first time I was dealing very badly with the death of my uncle). I’m not going to say tipsy because I was way beyond that. I was not myself at all. Darryl was obviously very concerned and asked for my therapist and psychiatrist’s number. I felt so bad. I felt embarrassed. In fact, I was drowning in shame. What the hell was I doing to myself?
I decided not to give him the numbers (I was scared he was going to just embarrass me more) and called both of them. I got the appointments the very next week.
First appointment was with my therapist. I decided I was not going to lie and told her everything: from the wine to the chocolates and everything in between. My biggest fear was that she was going to tell me I have a problem with alcohol… But she took me totally by surprise. She said that I’m buying the sweets and the chocolates and the wine because I was bored out of my mind. Apparently, the constant need for the sugar is an indicator that I need to be stimulated and stimulated in a specific way. She explained that I am a social person and the fact that I was not interacting with people on a daily basis (like going to work and having colleagues) was having a negative effect on me. This, despite the fact that I am a stay-at-home mom. In fact, this is actually worsening the problem. I am not a stay-at-home type of mom. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the kids, it was more that I wasn’t getting fulfillment and I was craving engaging with adults.
Second appointment with the psychiatrist went well too. She confirmed what the therapist had said. I was displaying heavy self-destructive behaviour. She prescribed something for my anxiety (Stressam) and advised that we should look into a weight loss strategy, because I need to feel good about myself again. I know it seems like body-shaming, but truth be told, I am not happy being this size. And at the moment I have little self discipline to start anything new, even if it’s a terrific meal plan. She also said we need to seriously address the severe scalp psoriasis I am dealing with. It can bring about bouts of depression and she believes that this is big concern. This especially because I was so sensitive at the time.
That evening I told Darryl what they both had said. He was happy that I wasn’t an alcoholic but he was concerned that I was not motivated to do anything (including running my business to make money) all because I was not interacting with people. He asked me why couldn’t I be motivated by our children, our family. I think the fact that he asked that really hurt me. And it was because of those questions and almost accusations (that I didn’t value being a mother and the importance of my role) that I wanted to write this post. I wanted to look back at my life and my behaviour over the last while. I wanted to see where I went wrong. I wanted to find out where my priorities were and how I see myself has changed.
Not only do I feel lost, but the fact of the matter is that I am lost!
I’m 31 and I am nowhere near I thought I’d be.
And even if I don’t think of it in that way, that I’m not a failure, I still feel like I’m coming up short. I have so much stuff in my head. Noise. Cloudiness. And sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe. I feel overwhelmed like I’m gasping for air surrounded by murky waters.
It’s strange because a lot of the time I am motivated. I have so many ideas for business, collaborations. But. It’s like I short-circuit and everything crumbles. One day I’m writing my business plan, the next I sleep all day, don’t shower (not to save water) and can’t reply to messages. The latter is something very little people understand. It’s difficult for me to read messages, let alone reply to them. I see the unread message in my inbox or whatsapp and I start to freak out and wonder what the message is about and I am scared I don’t know HOW to answer. Sometimes I freak out because I’m scared the person may ask me to do something. It freaks me out because I am worried that I can’t do it OR that the person won’t be happy with my attempt. So, I don’t read the message or I read it and it stresses me out so much (or it just makes me experience a gush of emotions I can’t process) that I don’t reply. So rude. But I can’t help it. I truly can’t. I’m physically unable to make a move. I am frozen.
I think this post is a bit all over the place, but maybe it’ll people a glimpse into what goes on in my head.
Are you going through a difficult time and how do you cope?
Let me know if the comments below.