Grace and compassion – the cornerstones in my mental health journeyWritten , Mental Health , Motherhood
“It could happen to anyone.” That’s the voice of grace, my internal voice of grace that visits me as I lay on the grass under a balmy warm Joburg sky, watching my amazing and gorgeous 20 month old play across from me. He starts whining, uttering the words: “Kushushu! Kushushu!” Mildly complaining about the heat. I look up to him and pay attention to ascertain what he needs. Chuckling a little at the cuteness in all of his discomfort. I tell him to come to mommy and he heads over, drops down to my shoulder and presses himself on me for comfort. Bliss. To be gifted with the precious opportunity of calming his storms. Big and small.
I believe that life is always working for us. That even challenges have purpose as they move us into the path of healing by awakening us to our wounds. Before this truth landed on me, I operated a lot like everyone else, pursuing what I believed were the right steps for creating the life I’d always wanted. I’ve always dabbled in self-healing, as well as introspection, to navigate my life experiences: disappointments, grief, relationships, unemployment and financial struggles. However, I was about to be offered the grace of becoming aware of how much I was just applying band-aids to wounds that needed to be opened and cleaned out.
Shortly after I was retrenched in 2019, I discovered I was pregnant. I had an existing diagnosis of fibroids, so this meant I had won the lottery for a difficult and precarious pregnancy. My pregnancy was a perpetual cycle of physical pain, followed by emotional turmoil. While I was trying to navigate my pregnancy I realised I had ineffective tools to cope with the challenges and relied on the support of my friends, and to an extent, my family as well as the father of my child.
Thirty-four weeks into my pregnancy I was held at gunpoint by criminals in an attempted hijacking. Once again it was grace that saved my life and the life of my baby.
After carrying to almost full term, I had to undergo a traumatic cesarean operation and my child spent several weeks in ICU, yet another event that I had to sweep under the carpet and move on from.
Facing my trauma
The challenges I faced in early motherhood made me put my survival cap on. I was intent on being okay and moving through things. However, the repressed traumas started to surface, exacerbated by the strain of mothering during lockdown and an unknown pandemic, and feeling frustrated that I was not creating the life that I wanted for my child. The effects of my retrenchment were also starting to be felt as I relied heavily on my baby’s father for material needs.
As an assertive, independent woman, this experience made me feel disempowered and I moved to the Eastern Cape, back in the cocoon of my parental home.
The move to the Eastern Cape was a welcome break. I experienced less noise, away from busy Johannesburg. The quiet allowed me to begin to listen to myself. This is where I also started exploring how our nervous systems govern our emotions and inform our ways of being. I was beginning to manage my psychological challenges and regain my confidence. But life would deliver another opportunity to grow.
In 2021 I had a psychotic episode. It began as a spiritual awakening. This experience shook me to the core and I did not navigate it with the reverence and care that it needed. Fortunately for me, my family was immensely supportive. One of their recommendations was that I seek therapy, which led to me admitting myself into a mental health clinic. This became another step in obtaining the tools to manage my mental health and my life in general.
Help, healing and hope
Feeling equipped with the tools I needed to navigate life after my clinic stay, I moved back to Johannesburg a month after I was discharged. I was inspired to launch my body care business, Off the Earth. I developed a greater sense of self-awareness and learnt to be kind and compassionate towards myself.
I am finding that the more I soften my internal defenses, the more authentic and open I can be with the people around me. The more solid and grounded my boundaries become as well. The greatest reward is seeing my son thrive. It has been magnificent watching him bloom while I make space for my healing. Achieving self-growth has empowered me in motherhood and in business. I am grateful to be surrounded by family and friends who make my passage to self-awareness, self-acceptance and discovering my identity, a safe one. I also have the support of a healer and a therapist.
In my healing I am also developing the ability to support others. I have discovered the challenges I went through in motherhood, life and in my mental health are not monsters that I should hide away from but have rather been a doorway to finding grace, compassion, love, gentleness and truth.
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