“Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried but you’ve actually been planted.” – Christine Caine


The past two years and even recent months, may have been experienced as a roller coaster by many people and as we have now settled into the new year, we rest a bit and take stock of where we are. We may even realign our goals as we plan for the year ahead.

Many questions come up – How much did I spend? How much did I give? How many times have I been used? How many times did I offer? How many times have I lost? How much did I lose?  The list of “how many” and “how much” looks endless, albeit it also appears to be very one-sided as well.


This may be one part of the year, where stock-taking and planning ahead is not always such a pleasant event. Similarly, to last year, the impact of the pandemic has perhaps led to the amendment of many dreams, hopes and aspirations.  Some people may even have found themselves in a dark place, feeling like they were buried in a very deep and dark place.  This is also often the time when we forget that the first step to growth in life, is being planted.

Spring had sprung and the first rains fell.  The prospect of renewal had dawned upon us like so many other renewals from before.  Winter is knocking on our doors.  The expectation of growth should be a pleasant one, for being planted is the first step to growth…

Growing is often a painful process, a process where, as human beings, we sometimes try to avoid it at all cost. However, it still finds us.  Only after the process do we step back and have a look at and appreciate the magnificence that was created. So, you may ask…how do I grow?

Here are some tips to help us through the process of growth:

  • Accept that life is full of lessons, and as we learn, we grow…
  • Acknowledge that we do not know everything; that there are situations where we need to call on the help, guidance and insights of others to help us make sense of what is going on in our own lives. In this way we grow…
  • Take time to work with our own healing – on a Biological, Psychological, Social and Spiritual level. Healing takes time, but in this way, we grow…
  • Make responsible decisions – always consider all aspects of a decision and realize the impact it may have on your life. Make decisions that will serve you, for in this way, we grow…
  • Create balance in your life; be aware of overindulgence or deprivation in situations and think about moderation as a guide. Plants only grow with the right amount of sunlight, water and nutrition. In keeping the balance, we grow…
  • Practice one act of self-care every day – taking care of yourself is not selfish. For in this way, we grow…

Suddenly, the realization comes to sit warmly that growing may be a painful experience.  However, when we consider the results and magnificence thereof, we understand and appreciate, like the plants of the earth, we are actually here to grow.


By William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Today, 10th September, marks World Suicide Prevention Day.

The poet describes the soul as “unconquerable”.  Often when we live with depression or anxiety or any other mental health challenge, we do not think of our souls as unconquerable. The next level for many people becomes “how” can I rid my soul from myself? Or, “what” is stopping me from ridding my soul from myself…

Having Suicidal thoughts are a reality for many.  When life has become too much, suicide seems to be the only way out.  The WHO reports that more than 700 000 people die due to suicide every year. In an article written by Mark Heywood – “Suicide Nation: We are humans, not numbers” (The Daily Maverick, 6 April 2021), he shares the following statistics of suicide in South Africa as prepared by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG):

  • “It is estimated that there are 23 suicides per day in South Africa (still very underreported) and for every one suicide there are at least 20 attempted suicides;
  • “South African men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women;
  • “SADAG helplines now receive more than 1,400 calls per day (before lockdown we were getting 600); and
  • “The youngest suicide has been six years old (Grade 1)… and it was a little boy who did it at school.”

When we learn about the daunting face of suicide, there seems to be little hope for the unconquerable soul.  The loss to family and friends through the suicide of a loved one, has a lasting impact of devastation as so many questions remain unanswered.  The grief and sadness linger on for years to come as everyone tries to get to terms with the loss through suicide.

As the poet of Invictus creates a sense of hope, despite the valley of darkness that was once trodden, we know that suicide is many times a cry for help.  The desperate one realizes that the crisis is temporary, although things seem to be out of control.  When the hand of help is extended by family, friends, loved ones and or professionals, “the captain of the soul” takes over and creates the still which needed to go on living.

Helping someone who threatens with suicide is helpful if we know what to notice.  There are sometimes subtle or overt cues in the cry for help.  If a person has gone through a recent major life changing event, then it is important to note.  Events such as losing a loved one, losing a job or a relationship, or having a big disappointment, any traumatic experience, financial problems or mental health challenges.  These can all be described as a major life changing event which cannot be ignored.

The following warning signs are recognized:

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Giving away possessions
  • Losing interest in activities
  • Talking about death or suicide
  • Saying goodbye to family and friends
  • Saying that they are a burden
  • Withdrawing from friends and family

Tips to help someone who is threatening with suicide:

  • Don’t discount their feelings, speak openly about suicide
  • Be a good listener. Often people who are suicidal needs someone to speak with and more so, someone who can listen
  • Ask about their suicidal feelings without coming across as judgmental or directive over what should and what should not
  • Don’t leave them alone, get help from persons specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention
  • Do not swear yourself into secrecy – when you assist in finding help for someone who is suicidal, you may need to break this promise of not telling anyone about it
  • Encourage them to see a professional:

Vista Clinic offers specialized care for Mental Health

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) offers 24 hour-a-day Crisis Management Support in South Africa

I am reminded of the profound role we play in each other’s lives…

I then realize – It is in all of us…The Invictus of the soul…

N.B: (What is the meaning of Invictus? Invictus, meaning “unconquerable” or “undefeated” in Latin, is a poem by William Ernest Henley. This poem is about courage in the face of death, and holding on to one’s own dignity despite the indignities life places before us)


Winter time is fire-gazing time for me. As I sat by the fireplace this winter, enjoying the warmth of the fire, I gained a new appreciation for this energy. It reminded me of how as human beings we are like fire. Maybe more than we think…

The Corona pandemic is still on the first page of many news articles, it remains the winner in many points of discussion and the first consideration in many decisions that need to be made.  With all of this, there is a mixture of thoughts, feelings and an impact on behaviour as we try to navigate through the “new normal” in an attempt to survive on different levels or areas of our lives.  Mental health professionals suggest the following 8 areas of health which is impacted through the pandemic: physical, psychological, emotional, social, professional, environmental, spiritual, and financial. For many it has become so overwhelming and the questions of “how?”, “who?”, “when?” and “why?” keep on surfacing as a constant. “How will I survive in this pandemic?”, “Who will take care of me or my family if any of us should fall ill?”, “When will this pandemic end so life can return to normal?” and “Why has such a devastating event befall us as a human race?”. The ultimate question has become “WHO CARES?”.

I ponder on this as I look at the fire. The answer is deep and fundamental. If there are logs in the fire which are not burning, I can see that the other burning logs systematically spread their own little fires to set the other non-burning logs on fire too.  Soon there is this mass of fire and heat and energy that lights up and warms the entire room.  It becomes cosy and comfortable.  It becomes a place where I want to be – a place to breathe, a place where I can be part of the bigger picture, a place where I find warmth and comfort and definitely a sense of hope.

The ride on the Corona Roller Coaster seems never-ending. I realized that somewhere this machine needs to take a break to be serviced, checked, oiled, re-fuelled if necessary, so that it may continue on this journey called life.  Albeit not a pleasant journey for humanity at the moment. We also need to take a break to regain strength, courage and hope to continue on the journey of life. Somewhere we need to find this place of comfort, warmth and care.

At Vista Clinic – WE ARE HERE TO CARE!

Medical and Mental Health professionals at Vista Clinic are in the forefront of helping people to navigate through the uncertainty caused by the Corona Pandemic.  Support is always available here. As we try to make sense of what is happening in the world, there is a fire of hope, courage and strength when we welcome you here.

A message of HOPE – in the time of a storm


While we sail in the storm of the third wave of the Corona Pandemic, I can only think what it must have felt like for the passengers and staff on the Titanic on the fateful night of the 14th April 1912.  It is more than a year ago, that we all experienced this ship called Corona take sail, and as soon as we felt that one storm is weathered, another arrived, more intense and destructive than the previous one.

In a time when all seems so hopeless and when we face the devastation of the impact of yet another wave, it is so comforting to know that someone is there.  As I listened to Dr Bezuidenhout speaking in the video clip attached, it just warmed my heart to know that there is a message of hope and support in a time when all seems lost.  I realize that it is in a time like this that we should remain conscious of our health, and more so our mental health.  For many people, this time can be an extremely emotional one – dealing with the shock of testing positive for Covid and the fear of death, the trauma and grief of losing a loved one or an acquaintance, the fear of contracting the virus or spreading it unknowingly to others, the anxiety over what happens to little children and family if one should fall ill, the constant worry and stress over jobs and finances and if there will still be a job in the next few months, the guilt over surviving and overcoming the illness…the list is endless.

The message is clear – keeping body and mind healthy is very important. For many it will feel like the storm cannot be weathered alone.  It is great to know that there is support and comfort during this these trying times.

Therefore, we are here. When it feels like everything has become “just too much”, please know that WE ARE HERE.

…I still Love you…even if you have PTSD

A few weeks ago, I bumped into an old friend whom I have not seen for a while. We were very happy to see each other and we shared how the pandemic has impacted our lives in the contact that we kept and having to remain at home for long periods of time.  We grew up in the same neighbourhood so we enquired about each other’s parents and their well-being during this time.  She also mentioned that all three of her kids are doing online schooling, similar to my little ones, and we laughed over the fact that we have become home-schooling teachers overnight. It was only when I asked about her husband and how he is keeping, that I saw a dark shadow creep into her big eyes. She paused for a bit and then continued that they are “getting there” …

Her tone suddenly changed and I could see that she was trying really hard to be pleasantly optimistic about how it is going with them.  I allowed her to explain for a bit and then watched as she slowly turned away and looked into the far with a deep sense of longing and nostalgia. She turned back and looked me in the eyes and asked: “do you really want to know?”. I nodded and we turned towards my car where we sat and spent about an hour talking about what it is like for her living with and loving someone who suffers with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

“I still love him you know. But I cannot always handle his anger outbursts or the silent treatment I sometimes get for days. I feel so distant from him. Many days I feel like I do not know this person, it’s like he has become someone else almost overnight. I cannot just walk away…I feel like that too for many days. In my silent moments I convince myself that I deserve better, that I deserve a husband and father to our children, that the one I see and encounter every day is someone else and that I want my sweetheart back!”  She gently starts crying and wipes away the tears with the back of her hand.

“You know, those nights when he was out working his shifts as a paramedic, I always prayed for his safe return and I was always so grateful when I heard the key turn in the door in the early hours of the morning. These days, the hurt and pain of resentment is the first thing I taste when I open my eyes in the morning. He stopped working months ago because it just became too much.  At one point I supported him in any way possible when he decided to study to become a doctor. I was really hopeful that things would change, but it actually became worse.  There was a stranger in my house who pushed me away and who would not talk with me, and I did not know what to do. I constantly feel emotionally drained and exhausted because I still need to learn all the triggers for his outbursts of either anger or silence.  I find myself walking on eggshells most days, but I love him and I still hope and trust things will change for the better”.  I could see she says this to encourage herself, and in my heart, I hoped that this will become true for them.

“The one good thing is that he started seeing a therapist, someone like you, who will help him work through the issues and changes he experiences.  When he was first diagnosed with PTSD, I never for one moment thought that it would be so tough.  We had each other, we promised that we will stand by each other, we knew that our love would carry us through, it had before, so why not now. His therapist suggested that we see a marriage counsellor as well, so that we learn how to cope when there are episodes that seem out of control.  And to learn how to rekindle the intimacy in our relationship again.  I also started reading about PTSD much more and realized that I need to take better care of myself.  I also have the kids to think of and as they grow older, they are definitely more perceptive and ask all sorts of questions to try and understand what is happening with their father”.  I listened as she became more calm and almost peaceful and reassuring herself really that everything will work out.

“My aunt comes to help with the kids these days and I really appreciate her presence and guidance when she is there.  You remember her husband was in the second world war and we always laughed and said she must be so ancient.  Well, these days I gained new respect for her.  Without me having to say much, she one day said to me that she understands and that she will support me with whatever is going on.  She even suggested I join a support group on Facebook for the wives of partners who live with PTSD.  I was pleasantly surprised and thought to myself “not so ancient after all, if you know about Facebook”. So, I really enjoy having her around for that extra support”.

She looked at me with a faint smile and asked: “Are you shocked, surprised or disgusted? I know many people judge me for tolerating the apparent mediocre to poor marriage I have.  I guess for me it was always about keeping hope alive. To persevere for the better and the worse as we promised on that happy day.  And because I love him so much. I still love him and I still love us. I know that PTSD can be devastating for most marriages. I just read about it the other day.  For many people it becomes unbearable when PTSD enters a marriage, and then the only way up seems to be the way out.”

She smiles again and squeezes my arm: “For now my friend, I am not there yet.  I am taking better care of myself so I can be stronger, for both us, and I look ahead, I slowly move forward, so both of us can move forward.”

I watch as she gets into her car and drives off. I sit there for a while and recall the story of a life lived with PTSD.  I realize how easy it is to choose to give up, but I also realize how easy it is to choose the opposite – to not just give up.  I just had a witness to that…

As we observe PTSD Awareness Day tomorrow (26 June), we are reminded of how PTSD can affect relationships on many levels. It is important to seek help from a Mental Health Professional as soon as a diagnosis has been made and to make use of support groups for marriages, families and friends, and learning how to cope in work life.

Checking In

I am just checking in…How are you doing? How are you keeping? How do you feel? Who do you speak with? Do you have what you need?

We have been speaking about so many things these past few months – depression, anxiety, guilt (survivor) and many more.  It is strange how it seems time flies. Just the other day we were learning about breathing and also about how difficult working from home has become.  During the past few weeks, we became aware of and are now facing a third wave of the Corona virus.  It feels like, just when we thought the seas are settling down, along came another underwater tornado, pulling us back down into the murky waters of the unknown ocean called the Corona Pandemic.

We have to armour ourselves with life jackets (wear masks, keep social distance, vaccinate or not), and swim to shore once again.  The uncertainty of swimming in this murky water and the challenges of wearing “life jackets”, has reinstated the spine-chilling fear which many of us experienced as little kids when someone scared us with the idea of the bogeyman.  This fear for many of us has become palpable, and it has left a bitter aftertaste which toothpaste cannot remove. It has become like a game of chess…just with chess the moves are calculated, well-played and intelligent.  As humanity we sit and watch, like a slow motioned movie, how we are moved back to square one in a matter of months. It suddenly seems like the bogeyman is the winner.  But he is not…and I will not allow him to win…because I have people around me…people who are and who will not leave me by myself…other people who will walk along this road with me…people who I know and people whom I do not know…and they will be there…no matter what happens…

There is so much information to process once again, and it can become extremely overwhelming.  Medical Health professionals have their hands full with trying to contain what humanity is going through.  This being on a physical as well as a mental/psychological level.  The following are some useful tips to deal with the new phase we are experiencing with the pandemic:

  • Only read information about the pandemic provided by reliable sources. Refrain from over-indulging on social media and the fear created and instilled by the fear and insecurities of other people;
  • Follow a healthy diet by ensuring that water is taken regularly and eating fresh fruit and vegetables often;
  • Exercise at least three times a week. Try to work in some form of physical activity in daily regimen like taking a brisk walk. Engage in breathing exercises to alleviate anxiety;
  • Practice healthy sleep hygiene and provide the body with enough rest in order to function normally e.g., try to have at least 6-8 hours of sleep per night;
  • Relax and do something fun like engaging in a hobby;
  • Falling ill or losing loved ones through death can be extremely traumatizing. Identify a support system (family and friends) in case others are needed and have their numbers readily available to contact them in the event of an emergency;
  • Create a list of Health Care Professionals that can be contacted if this need arises e.g., Psychologist, Psychiatrist, GP, Counsellor, Religious leader, Social Workers etc.

Mental health professionals caution that during this time it is important to care and nourish body and mind on a regular basis.  Too often signs and symptoms of something serious is ignored and then spirals out of control.  Even if this happens, there is always help available. Once we realize that the fear, like that of the bogeyman, can be managed, we gain courage and strength to move forward.  Remember, you are not alone!

“I HAVE Bipolar Disorder…I am NOT Bipolar!”

“The last time someone called me crazy, I wanted to kick them in the shin.  Then I heard that I am “suffering” from Bipolar.  Clearly, I am still here and functioning well and the last time I checked, I actually survived and I am coping very well with bipolar disorder.  So please do not say that “I am Bipolar”. I HAVE Bipolar Disorder! I remember the first time I had a manic episode.  I had all this energy to clean the house and wash its windows but at the same time, I was extremely irritable with the perception that the house was made dirty for me to clean up.  I believed that no-one else could clean the way I do and I even conjured up ideas of how I can personally renovate and reconstruct the house to appear better.  I suddenly had so many ideas and in trying to explain to my mom what we will do, I barely made any sense and even started crying at one point when she asked me to calm down and breathe.

I started spending money on trivial things which I did not need and I did not mind picking up new friends every second night or so at the hang-out places in my town.  My mood was so high, it felt like I was piloting a fighter jet.  I felt very tired but could not sleep at night and even though I took really short naps, I got up early and felt refreshed and ready for action the following day.  My parents soon realized that something was not right.  They have experienced me with low moods due to depression, but this was a completely different ball game for all of us.  I argued constantly and did not want to visit any doctor just in case I get hospitalized again like when I had depression.  I did not understand what they were on about because I was feeling great and on top of the world.

One day I got out of bed with a very bad cough.  I have been out many late nights and it was the start of winter.  I felt like I was coming down with the flu, and my mom insisted I get a prescription from the doctor to get medication for the cough.  Eventually I agreed and there I was, marching off to the doctors’ rooms in single file. My parents insisted that they wanted to join me so I relented and along they came. I started explaining about my cough and before I knew it, the topic changed into a discussion of my sudden euphoria and belief that I could conquer the world like “Wonderwoman”.  I sat there listening to my parent’s worries and confusion about my behaviour and their fear that I might get hurt or even die.  It sounded like a ride on a roller-coaster and it dawned on me that I actually felt as fast and slick like a roller coaster.  The doctor gave me my cough medication which I went there in the first place to obtain, but he also recommended that I consult with my psychiatrist as soon as possible.  In fact, he made the appointment for me for the following day.

After the assessment with the psychiatrist, I was advised that I could have bipolar disorder which is also a mood disorder.  I was hospitalized and the next few days I spent using medication and attending therapy to get my mood back to normal again.  It was about the fifth day where I felt so exhausted that I could not get out of bed.  My body felt like it was hit by a truck.  I just stayed in bed for the longest time that day.  I then knew that a new journey had started for me.  I was ready for action…of a different kind, but I was ready.

My name is Hershia and I live with bipolar disorder.  If I ever again hear that you say “I am bipolar”, I will kick you in the shin.”

Having celebrated Bipolar Awareness Day in the past week, the story of Hershia above is very touching and very telling of what it is like for someone living with bipolar disorder.  It takes a lot of courage and determination to live as normal and productive as possible each day.

Mental Health Professionals suggest the following coping strategies for bipolar disorder:

  • Building structure into your life by developing and following a daily schedule can help to stabilize mood swings associated with bipolar disorder.
  • Develop set times for waking, eating socializing, exercising, working, relaxing and sleeping.
  • Be aware that at times it may be difficult to follow a schedule but establishing a regular pattern of activities is very helpful.
  • Identify people who can support you when necessary. These may include family, friends and colleagues who understand.
  • Experts advise that a combination of medication and psychotherapy is very effective. Sometimes, and in severe episodes of mania, hospitalization becomes necessary to stabilize the individual and then other coping mechanisms are suggested.
  • Following a healthy diet and exercising regularly is important and helps to maintain focus throughout a day.

Living with a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder and as in the case of Hershia, is a task with many challenges.  The great news is that it is treatable and can be managed to allow millions of people the ability to live a good quality and productive life.  That is ultimately what we are here for…

“Remember to wash your hands class…”


“Good morning class”. “Good morning Mrs Baker. How are you today?”, the choir of Grade five learners respond.  Mrs Baker looks into the eager eyes of her Grade five learners.  “I am well thank you class. Are you ready for the day?”, Mrs Baker asks. “Yes, thank you Mrs Baker”, the little eager beavers reply. Mrs Baker continues: “Today we are going to learn about hygiene.  Who knows what hygiene is?”, Mrs Baker asks the little ones. She suddenly sees a sea of hands going up, waving at her to give an answer. “Yes dear?”, she points at a little brown eyed boy. “It is when you have to wash your feet mam…everyday!”.  The entire class bursts out laughing. Mrs Baker develops an endearing smile on her face. “Do you think you only have to wash your feet every day?”, she looks at the little boy’s face. “Yes mam, my mom says so. But she also says your hands must be washed”, he answers with his chest out and a look of confidence on his tender face.  Mrs Baker continues: “And why do you think you have to wash your feet and hands every day?”. Again, she can see a sea of hands and she chooses a little lad who is almost on his feet, to answer. She nods with her head for him to answer. Ever so proudly he announces: “You have to wash your feet so that you don’t get smelly paws…my mom said so!”. The class roars with laughter and even Mrs Baker joins in the merriness of it all.  She eventually calms them all down and continues: “Yes, your moms are all correct. Hands and feet and even paws must be washed.  That is what we will learn about today class.  So, who knows, do we have to use soap when we wash our hands?” Again, she witnesses a sea of hands and smilingly wonders what she will hear this time around.

Before the Corona Pandemic, the brief conversation and introduction of hygiene to a class of Grade fives would seem quite normal.  However, if you think about it today, this conversation has been magnified and intensified to the point where we even panic if we did not wash our hands, especially if there was no soap involved.  The basic lesson to a class of Grade fives has become a gospel that we listen to every day. One that we also have to practice religiously every day.  The pandemic has increased anxiety and stress in many people.  Like a hurricane we have watched as it seemed that the world is spinning out of control.  The mental health of millions of people was impacted in alarming numbers.  All the while people are worried that something that may seem so small, like not washing one’s hands, could lead to contraction of the virus which may result in severe illness and even death. The messages of washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, wearing a mask and avoid touching one’s face, has become a global message as the world try to fight the corona pandemic.

Although the general population may experience high levels of stress and anxiety in the face of the pandemic, people suffering with a mental illness such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) may experience very high levels of anxiety and even have intensified symptoms of their own condition as they try to keep their behaviour under control in the pandemic.  The well-needed safeguards mentioned above can serve as triggers for someone living with OCD.  People fear that they have not washed their hands enough times or have been in close proximity to someone who may be carrying the virus and they have contracted the virus from this person or persons.  This could lead to worry over keeping daily routines or rituals and the possibility that the doctor may not be able to help.

Many people worry over the possibility that Covid-19 can cause OCD.  Mental health experts advise that OCD can be caused by many things such as changes in brain and or body chemistry, genetics, and habits learned over a period of time.  Experts in the field advise that the long-term pattern of OCD makes it unique and that it does not come on suddenly, even at the onset of something as daunting as Covid-19.  Although many people feel anxious about the coronavirus pandemic, the need to solve something through rituals and or compulsions (like in OCD), is absent.  People are able to focus on other things and take a break from worrying but will remember to follow the guidelines for keeping themselves and others safe in the pandemic.  For people suffering with OCD, it may not be so easy to rid themselves from the fear and anxiety coupled with compulsions.

For someone suffering with OCD, there are many ways to get relief when dealing with the requirements of the pandemic:

  • Remember, most people who get the coronavirus do not always have serious complications;
  • Follow the advice from health care professionals without over-doing certain activities like washing hands;
  • Get information from reliable sources and professionals;
  • Ensure that you remain in touch with trusted support structures and people who understand the mental health challenges that you experience.

For people not living with OCD, the following are useful tips to manage anxiety:

  • Follow the normal requirements for managing safe behaviour related to the corona pandemic – like washing hands, wearing masks and disinfecting surfaces regularly;
  • Maintain social distance but do not isolate and withdraw from other people as this may lead to depression;
  • Seek information from reliable sources and limit the time and exposure to social media and other platforms which may increase anxiety. Remain informed but work to lessen the anxiety caused by this exposure;
  • Create time for things that are enjoyable e.g., read a good book, listen to music, sing or dance, get some fresh air, watch a good movie and learn to laugh more while taking time to relax as well.

Experts in the field of Mental Health have cautioned that it may appear that the line between pathological behaviours and adaptive health and safety measures may have been blurred as the world responded to the Corona Pandemic.  Behaviours that may be symptomatic of a bigger mental health challenge such as repetitive washing and sanitising rituals, are now encouraged on a global scale by health authorities in an attempt to control the spread of the coronavirus. The stress and anxiety caused in lifestyle changes by the coronavirus is intense, and the impact thereof can not be undermined.  Mental Health experts advise that there is always help during this time and creating a support-list is a priority in coping with the demands of the corona pandemic.

Who ate my chocolates?…

Who ate my chocolates? I am sure I had half of it left…or was it four blocks? Who ate my chocolates? Or, was it I that ate my chocolates? Or, what ate my chocolates?  Have you ever had to ask all these questions?  When you can even taste the aftermath of chocolate lingering in your mouth.  You know that there were still some chocolates left.  However, you still cannot tell…who ate your chocolates? Let’s not forget to add “why” did the “who” eat my chocolates? Or was it I that ate my chocolates? Why do I feel so strange? Is it because I ate the chocolates…and I ate it all?

When I reflect on the happenings in the world in the last year, it sometimes feels like there was a shift in gear and we were all transported to another planet in no time. The Corona pandemic has changed our lives forever.  It has shaken us and we have had to look in the daunting eyes of loss so many times in the months that have passed.  As a collective, the human race has lost so much, and the notion of individuality was severely challenged. We came to the realization that we are not so individual as we might have thought.  If one just thinks of how easy the Corona virus can spread, we understand the impact on the collective and we have all witnessed the consequences.  Now unlike the sweet, lingering taste of chocolate in the aftermath, the bitter aftertaste of loss still lingers in our mouths.

We see and experience this especially when we start questioning the aftertaste of the loss:  Why did I hug someone? Why did I have to go to the shop? Who did I get the Corona virus from? Who did I give the Corona virus to? Why can I not visit my ill friend or relative? Why did our loved ones die? Why did I not die? Why am I still alive?

In this endless list of “who’s” and “why’s”, a faithful friend called SURVIVOR GUILT is born.  Faithful, because it is not so easy to let go of this friend when it is time to say goodbye.  Faithful because this friend called survivor guilt returns many times.  For some, it may be easier to work with the acceptance and move on, but for many, this seems to be a great difficulty because friends are close and remain faithful. The suffering happens in silence and complex grief sets in.  There is a constant nagging feeling that you have done something wrong for merely surviving something tragic.  At this point there is the realization that there is no sweet aftertaste like the chocolate and smiles when looking for the missing chocolates.  Mental health professionals caution that if survivor guilt is not managed effectively, it could lead to anxiety, depression and PTSD.

Experts in the field share the following useful tips on how to deal with survivor’s guilt:

  • Give yourself permission to feel and express your emotions
  • Challenge the impulse to withdraw. Access support from others – family, friends, colleagues etc.
  • Instead of asking “Why me?” try “Why not me?”
  • Explore ways to express gratitude or do something good for others
  • Practice being kind to yourself – be gentle with yourself
  • Use compassionate self-talk and prioritize self-care
  • Seek support from a mental health professional if you start to experience suicidal thoughts or feel that you need to learn more constructive coping techniques.

As we look with hopeful eyes at the horizon to introduce a new dawn and an end to the pandemic, we take comfort in knowing that although our individuality was challenged, the collective became united to fight the pandemic and reach the shores of safety after the storm.  There is still a long way to go.  Many chocolates still to be eaten…many “who’s” and “why’s” … and the ultimate knowing that I am not alone.


“Mommy…what is deplethion?” I slowly look up from the book that I am busy reading.  I look into the big and sparkly eyes of my five-year-old daughter.  She smiles and I immediately catch a glimpse of the two missing front teeth which the tooth fairy so generously rewarded. I take it I did not hear correctly. I ever so politely say “excuse me dear, what did you ask?”. “Mommy! Do you know or don’t you know! You always say mommies know everything. So what is deplethion?”

I can clearly hear a note of irritation coming through as the little person in front of me challenges me with my own waft of wisdom I get to use daily and just because I am a mother. I actually did hear correctly.  The little angel in front of me asked me to explain to her what depression is.  My heart starts racing, I feel my head swinging and a warmth flushes over my entire body. “Where did you hear that word sweetheart?” I curiously asked. “Bombo on the TV said that Tombo was lazy, because he just sits there, does not want to eat, does not want to smile and sleeps all day long. So Tombo said he thinks he has deplethion because he is not a lazy person.” I listened attentively to some of the symptoms of depression being relayed by a five-year-old.  I stand there and think to myself that there is no way of stopping this train.  It started rolling and I have to jump on it. I gently take the hand of the little angel and started a story…

“One day, there was a little birdie called Mimmie.  She had a little house shop in the forest. All the animals always came to buy her lovely crispy cakes.  One day, the King of the forest, Leo the lion, announced that many animals were not feeling well and everyone must stay in their nests, coves, caves and holes so no-one else can fall ill. Mimmie was very upset because she had to bake every day. “Who will buy my lovely cakes” she wondered.  Everyone went into their houses and no-one saw each other anymore.  Sometimes they would meet at the waterhole, but could not talk because they were not allowed to stand close to each other.  Life for Mimmie and the other animals changed so much.  Mimmie did not want to eat anymore.  She had no appetite.  She did not feel like baking anymore. She did not know who will buy her cakes.  She did not sleep so well anymore. Every night when the stars shone bright, she was so worried and would think so much over what is going to happen. In the morning she was so tired and could not get out of bed.  She spent most of her days indoors and did not want to speak with anyone, even if she got the chance to.  Mimmie was just feeling so sad and down over everything. This went on for a long time.  Finally, the king announced that everyone may come out again as all the animals started getting better.  Everyone was so happy, but Mimmie could not come out.  She still felt so sad every day and although the animals begged her to bake again, she just could not do so.  Then they decided to make a new bakery for her, right in the middle of the forest and close to the waterhole where she could see everyone every day.  They wanted her to see that she is not alone and that they miss her too, especially her delicious, crispy cakes. One morning all the animals came together at the waterhole. Suddenly they saw Mimmie coming along to collect her morning water.  She still looked so sad and even thin.  They were determined to have their old friend back.  As she came close to the waterhole, everyone jumped forward and shouted “SURPRISE!! We love you Mimmie!” Mimmie was startled and could not believe her eyes.  Her friends had made a new bakery for her – close to the waterhole where everyone could see her and she could see them.  Her heart leaped and she was overwhelmed with joy.  Everyone came to hug her and welcome her back.  She did feel better to see them all and thanked everyone one by one.  “I missed you all, and it feels good to be back”, she smilingly said.

I looked at the smiling face of my little one as she listened to the ending of my story. “Ladybug…do you think that Mimmie was lazy when she did not feel like baking anymore? Or when she was feeling all alone and sad? Or even when she did not want to eat or could not sleep. Do you think that she was lazy?” I watched as her head was slowly rocking from side to side and she said “No mommy, I don’t think she was lazy.  Maybe she was like Tombo.  He was also like that.”  Then suddenly I saw her eyes lit up and she excitedly asked: “Mommy, do you think that is deplethion? Tombo and Mimmie had deplethion? They are not lazy!”.  I smiled and was amazed at how quick the connection came. I answered “Yes baby, those are some of the things people with depression may go through”.  “MXM! Silly Bombo!”, the little miss clicked her tongue and walked out the door to find her puppy friend.

At the onset of international lockdowns all over the world in 2020, many people struggled with coping with the demands of the lockdowns in order to curb the spread of the Corona virus.  Many people could successfully move through these massive changes, but for many people the change in reality was just too strange and impactful.  Mental Health Professionals suggest a few coping strategies for individuals struggling with depression:

  • Medication and or Psychotherapy (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – CBT and others)
  • Following a healthy diet and exercise routine daily (even for short periods of time)
  • Setting structure to the day by following a guided time-table
  • Set realistic and small goals for each day, then week, then month etc.
  • Attend a community support group or online support group (SADAG)
  • Adopt a hobby – like painting/doodling/scrapbooking/riding a bicycle (the possibilities are endless…)
  • Allow family and friends to provide support, love and care during these trying times
  • Take care of and be gentle with yourself

While we all try to settle in with our new reality caused by the Corona virus, it has become so important to be mindful of what people around us go through. Before we judge and think it is mere laziness, we may want to stop and take a look and listen to the possible outcry for help…