When the world burns

A week ago we watched as a political protest turned violent and erupted into rioting and looting. We stared in horror as images of burned out shopping centres, factories,and medical centres and mobs of angry people flashed across our screens. My kids asked if they could sleep in my room cause they were scared of the sounds of gunshots, sirens, and screaming coming from our usually quiet little suburb.

Then the fear mongering started. The endless messages and voice notes about how the violence was race related. How we would be murdered in our beds. How the government is trying to kill all of their “enemies”. And then it got worse. We started running out of food and fuel. People queued for hours only to be sent away empty handed. You could smell the fear and desperation in the air. It smelt like burning rubber.

Then out of the ashes came hope. Ordinary people banded together to protect their homes and businesses. The community came together to clean up after the devastating fires. They shared food and resources with each other.

But the feel good insta posts didn’t help my anxiety at all. I had to take a break from all social media because I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t function because I had to know if we would be safe. I had to be ready. I packed “go bags”. I don’t know why. We had no where to go. All the major roads had been closed. The fear and anxiety pushed me to a place where I no longer had feelings. I just felt numb all the time. And it didn’t scare me. I was perfectly functional but not ok.

It’s not over. Sporadic violence is still breaking out all over the place. I’m starting to feel like more like a person again, which is good. I hope I can keep it together enough to get through the next week.

Be the hero

I am an essential worker. That doesn’t mean much in this crazy pandemic cause it seems that everyone is essential, at least judging from Facebook. I am a health care worker. No, I’m not a nurse. No, I will not be treating you once you have been diagnosed with the Coronavirus. I am a radiotherapist.

I stand for the sick and the dying. The people who have no protection against Coronavirus. The ones who have fought cancer, struggled through chemotherapy, and are now pushing through radiation treatment. Treatment that is hard on the body and the mind. And they have to do it alone

They walk into the hospital by themselves. They have to sign forms that they haven’t been exposed to the virus, they have to have their temperature taken and then they have to sit in the waiting room alone. No support system. No one to hold their hand while they wait for a treatment. No hugs. No shoulder pats for being brave. Nothing.

And I can’t offer any support. They can’t see the sympathy in my smile cause my face is covered. I can’t hold them and tell them that it is going to be ok. We can’t have a chat and talk about their fears cause they have to get out of the hospital and race home. They have to minimize their possible exposure.

But you, you sit at home and complain bitterly on social media about how stupid social distancing is, how only “sheeple” wear cloth masks, how the government is actually a dictatorship trying to control our lives. You make me sick to my stomach. You go out shopping every day cause you are tired of being in the house. You complain about the economy, how many lives would be equal to your car payment? How many thousands need to die so that you can have a hair cut? Yes, I understand, we need to keep the economy ticking over. People are starving in their homes. People are going to be homeless. It sucks

But what is the cost of a human life? Where do we draw the line? If you can afford to stay home, just stay home. Help keep my patients safe. Help keep my children safe. Help keep your children safe. Help keep the people safe who take care of us during the pandemic. Help keep the people safe that will keep the country running when this is all over, the farm workers, miners, retail workers, factory workers, nurses, teachers, municipal workers, policemen, firemen, sanitation workers, electricians, plumbers, office workers, bank tellers…. they all rely on you. Be essential. Be the hero that they need you to be. Stay home, wash your hands, don’t touch your face. That is all.

A random rant

This past year has been difficult. And it’s still difficult.

I’ve been trying for a few weeks now to find the words to write this post, then I realized that I don’t need to find the words. I don’t have to explain my thought, feelings, and experiences to anyone else cause they’re my thoughts, my feelings, and my experiences. I guess that my anxiety has made me so used to justifying my very existence that I can’t even allow my innermost thoughts to be my own. I have to curate them to be “perfect”. My blog posts can’t be too honest cause then people will know how messed up I actually am. Even my journal has been pretty heavily censored. All that stress and effort, just to create this impression that I’ve got all my ducks in a row. And for who? For people I don’t know and will never meet in real life? For myself? I know how messed up and confused I am, why am I hiding it?

And now that I’ve come to that groundbreaking realization, I actually have nothing to say.

Depression for likes

Depression is tricky. It’s sneaky. And it’s all over social media.

Ever since I’ve received my “official” diagnosis I’ve really noticed how many people on social media suffer from depression. “I didn’t have my usual morning coffee, omg I’m so depressed right now” insert sad crying face emoji. It’s super frustrating cause for years I thought that I couldn’t possibly be depressed, I mean look at all these people who suffer from depression, I don’t go to the gym, drink smoothies and take selfies at the beach and magically feel better. So it must be me, I’m not depressed, I’m completely broken. I don’t feel/behave like all the memes and weird pictures of people staring off into the distance with mildly motivational words superimposed over them. So I’m wrong. This all encompassing feeling of dread, the panic attacks, the social anxiety… none of that is “right” cause it’s not what social media says it should look like.

The internet is both a blessing and a curse. All this information is at our fingertips and self diagnosis is so easy. You can type in your symptoms and and answer will appear (90% of the time the answer is cancer, wtf internet people?). But is it the correct answer? I self diagnosed, and then I tried to self treat using “that one weird trick you doctor doesn’t want you to know!” Needless to say, it didn’t fucking work. In my defense, I did go to my primary care physician when I first noticed the symptoms getting out of hand. 10 years ago, after the birth of my eldest. I was told to relax, get some sleep, go out and interact with people, lose some weight and do some exercise. Well that didn’t work! What it did do is reinforce the idea that there wasn’t actually anything wrong with me, that it was all in my head, that it was just my new normal. Being told that it was just “baby blues” didn’t help at all. Instead being sad and terrified became my new normal. A few years later the numbness crept in.

My second attempt at an official diagnosis was after my miscarriages and the birth of my youngest. I got all the same useless advice and a 6 month script for sleeping tablets and a mood stabilizer. The meds made it worse. The numbness was all encompassing and I really couldn’t cope at all. In hindsight I should have marched back into the doctor’s office and demanded a change in medication. Instead I stopped cold turkey, went through withdrawal and shuffled along, feeling more depressed than ever.

I tried journaling, meditation, and exercise. It didn’t really help my depression but it made me feel like I was doing something. I wasn’t just being swept along. And I kept on asking for help. But because I had been acting the same way for so long, asking for help didn’t work. I can’t possibly be depressed now, I’ve been this way all along!

Social media has really been a double edged sword when it has come to my depression diagnosis. At first, I doubted that I was actually depressed, I didn’t share the same symptoms/feelings/behavior as the other people on my feed. And then I found my people. Other moms, men, women, parents, normal people who said that they felt the same way I did. The people on the other side of the screen described my feelings, my life. And they all spoke about “therapists”, and “medication”. Things that I didn’t have. I read about their struggles to get diagnosed and I recognized myself in their words.

It’s been a really long journey to get an official diagnosis. I have lots of regrets, I wish I had spoken up earlier, I wish that I had taken the Husbeast with me to speak when I couldn’t. I wish that I hadn’t bought into the social media version of what I should feel/experience. But I’m glad that I had the forums, pages, and subreddits when I needed to validate my own experiences and feelings, without them I wouldn’t have known where to start looking for answers.

Farewell to Facebook

I havent liked social media for a while now.  It all seems so fake and contrived, full of posts about “fun people”doing “fun things”.  And do not even get me started about all the clickbait articles being mindlessly shared. Cures for cancer, get-rich-quick-schemes, scammy weight loss products, political propaganda…the list just goes on and on.

So about a month ago I was browsing Facebook and I came across a photo of myself in a friend’s feed.  It was a horrible photo, I looked like a potato.  The friend didn’t tag me in it either, so I if I hadn’t been mindlessly scrolling I most probably wouldn’t even have seen it.  Of course, the Husbeast didn’t understand why I was upset, he looked amazing in the photo!  What upset me was that I hadn’t been asked if I wanted my picture taken, I was told to “smile”and that was it.  I don’t like being in photo’s, they make me uncomfortable.  I really dont like it when people pressure me into posing for pictures.  This was a double-whammy.

So I deactivated my account.  And I feel amazing.  I don’t have to read people’s racist, sexist, and homophobic rants.  Im no longer exposed to super negative clickbait “articles” The one downside is that I’ve lost contact with some friends.  I never noticed how much of our interaction had been over Facebook, once I pulled the plug on Facebook I killed our friendships as well.

It is super irritating to have to justify to people why I’m not on Facebook anymore.  It’s amazing how we rely on an app to connect with our loved ones.  And how much of what we know about the world we learn from our newsfeed’s.  So now I have to connect the old fashioned way, actually reach out to people and make conversation.  And that’s a good thing, I think

 

No selfies, please.

I don’t do selfies. In this day and age not taking selfies seems a little odd.  How will people know what I’ve done if there isn’t a photo of my duck face to validate the moment? If no selfie is taken, did it even happen?

My personality doesn’t translate well on film (screen?).  I tend to look slightly stiff and awkward.  Like I don’t want to be there at all.  It’s weird how my face seems normal until someone points a cellphone in my direction, immediately I either channel a serial killer or Mr Bean. It’s all awkwardness or resting bitch-face. No in between.  I’m not even going to comment about the weird body movements, legs and arms pointing in odd directions like a doll that has been posed by a toddler.

My aversion to being caught on film is usually manageable. Except when it comes to pole dancing.  One of the easiest ways to track your progress is to have a pole buddy snap a quick pic of you performing the move.  I can’t even participate in Pole Challenges because I can’t take the bloody pictures!  Or if I relent and have a photo taken, I will simply not post it to the official challenge group.

I’ve found that the ideal way around my little selfie issue is to take selfies with my kids.  They tend to push me out of the shot so you might only catch a glimpse of me in the background.  Now I have to find a way to get my kids into my pole progress pics and I will be 100’s!

Over sharing is not caring

I have noticed more and more on social media that people have no shame in sharing absolutely every single little detail of their lives. And I do mean every single detail. I opened my Facebook recently and was horrified to see that my newsfeed contained details about an acquaintance’s bowel movements. Great stuff. I honestly don’t know how I managed to survive for 30 years without knowing about your “struggles”. Stay strong my friend.

All sarcasm aside, there is no more privacy these days. People post absolutely everything about their personal lives online, yet complain constantly about “haters” and how other people gossip about them. It’s almost impossible to go on to a social media site without seeing some serious oversharing. I do not need to know that you are going to do some #babymaking. Adding a # in front of an annoying overshare doesn’t make it any less annoying. It actually makes me want to #slapyousilly. The severity of this situation became very apparent recently when I heard a group of friends discussing another friend. I could not understand how they knew about a particular situation and was horrified to discover that one of the woman was a mutual Facebook friend with my friend. So they had gone into my friend’s page and were merrily discussing her problems, even though only one of them actually knew my friend in “real life”. So who do I blame here? My friend for venting about her problems online? Or the women who saw no problem in Facebook stalking her and gossiping about her. I think they are both to blame. Don’t post anything on a social media platform that you are not comfortable discussing in public with every single person you meet. And don’t discuss other people’s posts and status updates. Unless it is one of those weird videos about cats that play the piano, those are fair game.

Making your mark

It has been interesting watching ordinary South African’s react to the National Elections.  Especially the #thumbselfies that popped up on Facebook and Twitter during the course of 7 May 2014.  So much excitement and hope for change.  It was awesome to see so many people celebrate being South African.

Making our mark

 

I guess this post is aimed at people who did not vote.  The next time we are at a braai and start discussing the future of this awesome, amazing and beautiful country, please keep quiet and go and play with the children.  I do not need to hear your negative opinions seeing as you could not be adult enough to do your civic duty and go and vote.  If you have something to say about the country, then you should have taken the time to go and make your mark.  We were given a whole public holiday to go and vote, you could have taken an hour out of your day and gone down to the voting station.  Instead you have lost the right to comment about the state of the country.  In fact, in my opinion you should not be allowed to support any of our sporting teams either.

I am not blind to the problems in SA, I know that there is crime, corruption and bloody rude people here.  There are just so many good, amazing people that quietly go about their daily business and make this country special.  My ancestors fled Europe many, many moons ago to make a new home here at the Southern most tip of Africa.  They suffered through unspeakable hardships and had to overcome unimaginable horrors (war, persecution, the “Great Trek”, concentration camps), but they stayed and made this their home.  I am not diminishing any of this country’s dark history, too much blood has stained the ground already.  It is time that we acknowledge the past, learn from our mistakes and vow to never repeat them. And build a country that we can all be proud of, not only when our rugby team is doing well.

It doesn’t matter who wins the election, what matters is that more and more ordinary South African’s have stood up and spoke up.  I think it means that we are finally learning that we decide who runs the country, so we get to decide how they run it.