By Pieter Steyn
I want to ask you, how are you? What heaviness are you carrying? What tears are you holding back? What pain and what fears are you keeping inside?
People often ask you how you are and you reply “fine”, but you are not fine. They will never know that. You start believing the lies around you, saying that you are not good enough, that no one is going to want you, and that you will never do anything good in your life. The fear that we have is that we are going to be alone in this world. Because if “they” don’t like you, who will? If “they” don’t accept you, who will?
I started believing that I was a failure when I was a child. That I would never be somebody who people would like or accept. That voice inside said, “You’re not good enough.” However, you only need to take one more step. You have a choice . . . which step you are going to take today?
There are some things in life that are out of your control but that you have to live with. This is a fact of living on planet earth. The choice that we have is to either give up or keep on going.
I want to ask you, what are you going to believe? Are you going to believe in yourself? Are you going to believe everyone else’s judgement of you? Are you going to believe people when they say that you are a failure or that nobody really likes or cares about you?
You don’t have to hold onto those fears. Look, I’m not saying that magically one day these fears will completely disappear out of your life. You just need to take one step at a time.
You can start by forgiving those that hurt you; they don’t know better. This is where the healing starts.
Next, start doing some good in this world of ours, because we rise up by lifting others. Every time someone puts you down, will you make the decision to bring somebody else up?
A third exercise that I have found helpful is visualization. The following exercise references God, but you can substitute God with whichever term for a higher power resonates with you. Picture yourself in an open area; there is nothing, no buildings or shelter. A storm is brewing above you. Imagine for a moment that this storm represents the current situation in your life, and you don’t tell anybody what you are going through. We often like to think that “they would not understand” or “they cannot help me anyway” but God sends people into the storm. You’re in the storm and you’re down on your knees and you’re cold and weak. It might feel like this is the end. But, ask yourself for just this moment, “Am I still here?” You are still here! You don’t have to do this alone. Imagine a person you think might help you and now hear them say that they cannot stop the storm but that they will hold you and keep you warm until the storm passes. God is always at work and he holds us in times of trouble and sends others into the storm to hold your hand while it passes.
Lastly, you can educate yourself and others. Clinical depression and bipolar disorder are serious medical conditions that affect not only an individual’s mood and thoughts, but also the body.
Suicide stats in South Africa in 2014:
- 10% of all non-natural deaths in adults and 9.5% in youth are due to suicide.
- There are +/- 23 suicides a day, virtually 1 every hour.
- Nearly two-thirds of all suicide victims were aged between 20 and 39 years.
- Nearly 1 third of recorded suicides in SA are in Gauteng and a 1.5x increase in suicidal deaths in the Transkei over the past five years.
- There were 4.6 male suicides for every 1 female suicide.
- 1 in 4 SA teens have attempted suicide.
- 1 in 3 hospital admissions for suicide involve youth.
- Less than 1% of mental hospital beds are for children and adolescents.
- 70% of South Africans who attempted suicide had a mental health disorder.
- 75% of people will not get the mental health treatment they need.
I must admit that until recently I have not had the courage to speak up and help others by talking about depression. We do not talk about depression enough because we are the generation of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and our lives must all look perfect and like we do not need help.
I realized that life is just okay and beautiful. I am taking the first steps, how about you?
For information on finding a therapist, check out our article here.
If you are in South Africa and needing a referral to a psychologist, psychiatrist or support group, please call The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) on 011 234 4837 or 0800 20 50 26 and speak to a trained counselor who can assist you further.
Pieter Steyn is a mental health blogger and advocate living in South Africa.