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#IAmASurvivor- Mpho

#IAmASurvivor are stories from women of all walks of life, telling their stories of survival. Everybody is a survivor and all stories deserve to be told. These stories are all in their own words.

Keep Preaching Your Mantra

A Story by Mpho Rantao

I was fourteen years old when I had concrete suicidal thoughts, and I was fifteen years old when I had my first suicide attempt.

It was by ingesting toxic liquids in the hopes that I would die from poisoning myself. It was a silly attempt at ending my life, but at the time I felt to cowardice to put a razor blade to my wrist or drown in our swimming pool, so I figured drinking something toxic like cleaning fluids would do the trick. I was wrong though, because after a few hours I was woken up by my father, who asked why I slept for so long and I simply lied and said that I had a headache - I didn’t have the heart to tell him about my suicide attempt. That was my first attempt in 2011 after so many suicidal thoughts. I can’t remember much from my early teen years because I genuinely moved at a pace where I focused on making my family and friends happy by passing school and attending social events where I knew I would be uncomfortable but as long as they were happy, I felt like I was doing my job. That’s what my life felt like for ten years - a job. I cannot say that I felt proud of any achievements that I made during that time because I cannot remember them, but I could remember my failures, my moments of fear, my days of being bullied and all of the suicidal thoughts that plagued me because I felt like I was not worthy.

I’ve always struggled with what goes on in my mind, from suicidal thoughts to low self-esteem, the list goes on. I never felt like I was good enough for the people that were in my life, because I didn’t look a certain way. It was not because I saw how my friends and cousins looked, but because it was what I was told growing up - that I was too big at the young age that I was, that my nose was too flat or that I had elephant feet (even though I was a size four at the age of ten). That when I had dreadlocks, it meant that I was unhygienic, or that I would never get married because no one would want to marry a dark, fat girl (that one hurt the most when I was younger). I tried to ignore these comments but when they came from people that I cared about, people that I grew up with, I struggled to define what was the truth and what was an insult. I was only ten when I started worrying about other people thought of me. I figured that all of the bullying I received was justified by the fact that I didn’t look a certain way, especially when I went to a primary school that was attended mostly by White and Indian learners, with the small percentage of black children being light-skinned and an even smaller percentage being dark-skinned. I always had a reason for why I was being bullied, insulted or criticised no matter who was the bully, and this carried on with me all the way into high school and university.

I justified the way I looked as why I wasn’t invited to certain parties, why I couldn’t wear swimwear without a T-shirt or a pair of shorts, or why I was always rejected by the opposite sex.

There was a period where I tried convincing myself that something was definitely wrong with me, and that was I couldn’t keep certain friends or family members in my circle, and it was what I told people who asked my why at the age of twenty-one was I yet to meet someone and be in a relationship. I even accepted that because I looked the way I did, it was reason enough for men to assault me on two occasions, but all that did was push me further into the mindset that I wasn’t worthy of being loved, and that I gaining a huge fear of men who became very physical with me.

I felt myself spiraling deeper in my black hole of negativity, making sure to isolate myself so that if anything were to happen, it would only be me who were to fall not others. I wrote countless suicide notes in my room, on my cellphone, in my study note books, but I could never actually go through with another attempt until 2016. After my 21st birthday, I spiraled to the point where I didn’t care if I lost my friends or family from my acts of isolation and degradation, so long as I could escape the labyrinth of depression and anxiety that I had created.

After being admitted to a psychiatric clinic, being formally diagnosed with severe major depression and anxiety, and meeting other people who were dealing with similar mental issues, I learned that my feelings and insecurities were valid. I learned that I didn’t have to keep things to myself, and although it is still hard to express my feelings to my friends and loved ones, I pat myself on the shoulder whenever I successfully tell them how I feel.

Although it has been three years since I was admitted, and I was almost re-admitted, I kept pushing myself to say that “I could do this”, and that all it took was to get out of my bed, open the curtains and tell myself my new mantra:

“I am worthy. I am special. I am valued”.

Today, I am better than I was in 2016, but I still have my insecurities like everybody else. The difference is that I am determined to find my inner and outer happiness and find love within myself. It’s never easy, but it’s not impossible. You just need remind yourself that “I am gorgeous. I will be happy. I will love myself. I want to live”.

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