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African Renaissance

My best friend is my psychiatrist

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I’ll leave the pain for tomorrow. Won’t even think about it until tomorrow. That is, if tomorrow ever comes. So, I walk in the present, barefoot, sometimes struggling to survive. I’m going to make myself some cocoa. My new best friend swears by it. That, and colouring books for adults, journaling for five minutes daily. I breathe in, out. In, out. He’s gone. He’s out of my life. This powerful figure that I dreamed about loving me, sheltering me, protecting me. He’s gone and married someone else. She had the daughter I could never give him. Someone else gave him the son I never could have. He’s gone. I’m looking for something to read. But I’m not in the mood for J.D. Salinger’s war stories. I’m too old for him now. He married girls. The kind of girl who wins a scholarship to an Ivy League University, and leaves her postgraduate studies because she thinks that Jerome David is the man for her. She’s got it all made now, because Jerome David is in love with her, and wants her to have his baby. Stupid girl! Sing it Cranberries. Zombie! Zombie! My nephew is obsessed with zombies. A zombie called Benjamin Sylvester. Updike married the love of his life. All these women. Giving up their studies to follow the man of their dreams just so they could have children. Must soak in bath salts. It helps me sleep. That and my melatonin. Melatonin gives me gorgeous sleep. I don’t need sleep. I don’t need to eat. I don’t need a man. I don’t need pleasure. I just go through the motions of smiling, laughing, becoming angry, becoming Geisha. No one ever stays long enough. I didn’t tell you that before. I’m telling you that now. They don’t stay long. Perhaps my behaviour is absurd.

Once I was too young. The love of my life tells me now over lunch that I look like his daughter. He is only ten years older than me, but this is his train of thought. I must submit. Never did. Never will. I believe in family values. All this time I could have been happy, but I’m old now. I look back at all those men. Gorgeous, impossible men and I never knew that they were in love with me. I only know that I’m fragile, you see. It would have destroyed me. Love makes staggering beauties out of the other women. What did it do to me? It would have destroyed me. First things first, what is this love? My parents neglected me. Dad was a writer. Mother was a fulltime knockout beauty. That business, that kind of beauty requires maintenance, maintenance, and more maintenance. So, I learned how to read by myself at the age of four. Or three. I don’t know. I forget. A man understands this fragility in girls. I am a woman now. Surrounded by money. Money won’t make you happy. Won’t do anything for you, but make life perhaps more comfortable for you in ways you couldn’t have even imagined when you had no money.

My sister, my beautifully put together sister has left me forever. How to deal with this. I write about Jean Rhys’ sexual transaction,she had a Mr Mackenzie who didn’t love her enough to make an honest woman out of her. I had my own tragic Mr Mackenzie (how I adored him, he never adored me back). I write about all of the non-existent love affairs now in my life. Now I literally have a throne. My beloved, my beloved, my sister gave me a throne. Gave me this nouveau rich life. I don’t want any of it. I want her back. I want her here with me, beside me, but we’re not tweens anymore. She refuses to worship me. Nobody knows how to deal with me. Least of all me. I tell myself to behave. Do I behave? My mother says shut up! You!Intellectual fool, there are no more such things as nuns anymore. Maybe I’m a closet-homophobic personality. Lots of heterosexual men are. Even though I say I’m sorry, even though they pretended to forgive me for not sleeping with them, they didn’t. I know that now. Because I’m not a girl anymore, I’m a woman. I’m not beautiful. I want to die sometimes. I’m so embarrassed about the state of me.

My emotional state. I don’t eat. I hide food away in my bedroom. There were maggots in the meat. On the plate. I had to dispose of that. I had to do that. Nobody must come into my inner sanctum. All I want to be is to be loved. Jimmy never let me meet his kid. A boy. The most beautiful boy that I have ever seen. Sometimes he would tell me who he really was in love with. Just for kicks, I guess. Just to watch all the love he had with me drain out of his exquisitely handsome face. It hurt. It hurt. It hurt. He was seeing a student doctor who was doing her practical. She was like me. Of mixed-race descent. Half non-European. Half-European. She was beautiful. I could see just how much of everything she was to him. They watched television together with her younger brother who was in primary school. He had other sports in mind for me, when the two of us were together. It was attention. It was attention that I wanted. All I ever wanted. Now I’m old. The men have moved on. Except I haven’t. I’m reading my Gwyneth Paltrow newsletter.It is telling me that a mulatto is not a thing. The mulatto is not an inanimate object to wear on your arm like an accessory. She is life, she takes life, she gives life, beauty to the world around her.

In the bathroom, I look into the mirror at every conceivable angle. I don’t like what I see. He isn’t here anymore. The man is gone. Never to return. Isn’t it because of the way I look? I‘m still bone-thin. The wretched mood swings are still here. Wouldn’t it have been enough for me to beautiful, charmed the pants off, as they say, and married, but the men knew what they would be in for from the start with my funny face. The temper, the tantrums. It would have been a never-ending story. Women, some women are also attracted to me. This I do not want. Not ever. All I want is the gone man. One-night, endless nights of passion with the gone man. But lovers turn into mothers as John Mayer so eloquently put it. I could not, do not have that impulse within me. To be mother. My writer father was both dad and mum to me. He washed the dishes, was a terrible cook, terrible driver. But my father was very good at remembering when to pick me up from someplace. I’d come out, he’d be waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting for me. Everybody loves my sister more. She’s vulnerable, and open to interpretation at the same time. Now what did that remark mean, I think to myself. What did her smile mean, I think to myself? She’s off to Prague. She can’t speak a word of Czech to save her life though. She will always be a foreigner.

A stranger in a strange country.  Guess that’s what she gets. For changing her mind about loving me. Nobody loves me. I am impossible to love. If I choose someone. They walk away. Leave me on the sidewalk, jump into their getaway car to go to a girl. And I stand there, plot and plan revenge, revenge, sweet revenge. Or, I’m in a parking lot. Done with me, they race away into the waiting arms of a fiancé. Men have everything. Men have it all. J.M. Coetzee outlived his son. Yes, yes. In the end they are just as insecure as I am. In the end, they have secrets too. They don’t like growing older. But their looks increase. They are blessed manifold. They are blessed with children. And wives. Women who will adore them for the rest of their lives. I’m a natural born depressive. They want sexy and cute and vulnerable. I cannot be twenty-years-old forever, however much they want me to be. Howevermuch I want that. They just want me to sit on their lap. I would have done that in a heartbeat if anyone had asked. Nobody asked. Nobody did anything. Nobody said anything. Nobody is taking my phone calls anymore. I’m old. I’m old. I’m haggard-looking. I still want someone to love me for me. Nobody wants to love me. I’m impossible to love. I’m too hectic. I’m too intense. Sorry. Apologies that I can’t be happy all the time. I still want someone to take me in their arms and tell me that everything, everything, everything is going to be alright. It isn’t. It would be nice if there was someone just to say that once in a while. You will find me in a locked room every year. For a week. I take brand new medication. I become a novel person.

My personality gets a makeover. The pills are fresh from clinical run trials in Europe and America. Now I listen to Carly Simon. Have conversations with her inside my head. She wasn’t a happy woman either. She was the most desirable woman in the room. She wasn’t happy either. Like me. Like me. She didn’t, couldn’t have the one man she did want. He was more in love with himself at the time, than he was with her. There is always a period in an actor’s life where the man is more in love with himself, that is his whole genetic makeup, his ego is his personality, his personality is his ego. His identity is caught in the crossfire. This other man, he actively, consciously makes conversation with me, all I can think of is Mr Columbia University. All I want is the men. Not this guy who talks like a woman. A woman who is an insane gossip. To me, he is more woman, than man. The way he talks, the way he touches all of my things like he wants to inhabit me. I know what he’s thinking. I know what he says to my mother. She can’t stop smiling she thinks that she’s finally got me off her hands. She’ll finally going to marry me off. Then I will be somebody else’s problem. Not hers. Not hers. It hurts. It hurts me badly. Everything she tells her friends about me. I have so much insight into Vivien Leigh now. Marlon Brando. Laurence Olivier.

You have to first be in love with the role that you are playing. Be conscious of how you look, you must dress the part, how you walk, how you talk. Then you must be in love with yourself. Then the director’s vision, and the screenwriter’s vision. I’m an insecure personality. M. knows this. He knows I am mentally ill. Do they care how they treat me, how (in other words) they enable me, how they speak to me, they must hate me, or, or he is doing it out of love. For we have always been in love. I know that now. The thing is that the truth has come too late for both of us. This man looks at me with possession in his eyes. He wants like them all, to possess me. He wants to destroy me. Are you feeling sore, you wanted to make me whore, mistress, my love? I would have cared for you with my entire being for my lifetime. Dedicated everything to you.

You chose her to be your wife. On that particular day you couldn’t wait to get her into bed. You said your vows in front of family, and friends. A television actress. You gave her what she wanted. A child. She gave you what you wanted. Thought you were too old to have children. She gave you a daughter. The daughter we should have had together. Sometimes I pretend she’s ours. And when you sleep with your women, the girls I mean in all the ways that I did not, could not, would not, will not, or drink alone in a bar, think of me, think of me D., because my heart will be filled with despair, and all the time thinking of you. It is my turn now. It is my life that is complicated. The game is over. The love, D., I mean should be gone like you, but it isn’t. I loved you. We fight. I know you like that. But it degrades me. You want me to talk dirty. You know of course I would do it for you in a heartbeat. You don’t expect it from your wife, but your lovers. I can only be mistress and whore. You made that very clear to me.  Understand. You say stay away from me. But in reality, you are saying stay away from my family. If you go near them, I will kill you. Now we don’t talk. I remember your face in mid-orgasm. How you would hold me afterwards, how we’d talk and laugh like old friends, not boyfriend and girlfriend. Not husband and wife. We were, in Carrie Bradshaw’s own words ‘fuck-buddies’. It is lonely here in utopia. You’re not the man standing in my kitchen, even though I very badly want to. She is the hostess at all of your parties. She is the hostess with the mostest. Well, I could never even come out of the bedroom, to see you in your element like that. You’re not my mission anymore. I’ve stopped searching. Given up the ghost as it were. If it feels like I’m alone, it means I’m really alone now. Will I ever become accustomed to the loneliness?

I have nothing to offer but wine and my womanhood. What man wants an old woman with cellulite and stretch marks and surgical scars, when they can be adored by girls. You have your manhood, gone man, (if Julianne Moore can say that in a Paul Thomas Anderson film, then so can I, and I don’t need my father’s permission to do anything anymore, he wants me gone, out of the house like yesterday. I don’t need a guru, or Dr Phil, or a self-help book written by Vishen Lakhiani). You’re man but also woman half-formed by the glory of the electric poles of the sea. You want me to submit to vertigo, you innocent. You want me to submit as any hot-buttered stripper squishing your insides together down below in the hummingbird of your gut. Your tongue is a compact disc holding onto a music school. John Updike’s music school. You unearth Pompeii. Unravel the fine threads of Rilke’s letters to a young poet at the military academy he attended as a boy. Porn stars seem to have it all figured out. I sit and waitat the doctor’s empty chairs all around me and think of a time when I was free. When my bones did not hurt, when my blood was not high. I’m ghost.  Ghost with juicy memory. You’re still my Hemingway (my darkness visible). My KurtCobain. My James Dean. I listen to the holy Lana Del Rey on repeat. Madonna is a rose-eating-peach. I compound death. You shuffle when you walk now, stranger to wilderness. There is no getting around this. This death, this life, this costume drama fake, fake, fake. I think of the life of Frida Kahlo, Jenny Zhang, Dorothy Lasky, Joop Bersee. I think of Elsa Lasker-Schuler. I have this image ofyou. I was obsessed with you, you said in life. You are a geisha. You are a Lady Gaga. You area minx in leather pants and leather jacket. Red lipstick. I have nothing to offer but joint, and street gang, the poor gene pool that I come from andthe bipolar as tight as a noose around my neck. Bipolar singing carols in June. In those early daysthe bipolar was both judge and executioner. I eat the psychiatrist in flashes of flame, watching her descend as ash. It’s my job to eat her soft flesh, her thighs. Her hair tastes like snow. It melts away like a suicide. Of course, I know that it’s not good for me. Then I begin on the psychological, next the phobia, the fear, anxiety eating away at my sexy-thin heart.I am sick, sick, sick then well, well, well, then productive, productive, productive and then when I’m like that, I write, write, and write. That is my reality. That is where I live. People have even diagnosed me schizophrenic, schizoid-affective. It makes me gag. I try and do normal things around the house but only normal people can do normal things.

Now I read disability literature to pass the time. Pamphlets on mental wellness. Sane means health, vigour, vitality. Enough about boring me. Are you as boring as I am? What’s in your head? Is there a fire waiting to burn inside your head as well? Eating makes me fat. Eating anything makes me fat. Can you smell that? Mum has burnt the rosemary chicken again. That’s the smell of my childhood sea. It’s gorgeous out there. I don’t want to see gorgeous anymore. The gone man loved me once. Now he has responsibilities. I must stay out of the way. I am in the way. Now, I am in the way. I remember how he said goodbye. Take that memory away from me. Take it from me now, please. It hurt. It hurt. It hurt. It still hurts. He doesn’t care that he hurt me. He doesn’t care that we can’t be together anymore. The more I tell him I don’t care that he is old enough to be my father, the more he turns his head, and refuses to even look at me.

Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominated shortlisted and longlisted poet Abigail George is a recipient of four writing grants from the National Arts Council, the Centre for Book and ECPACC. She briefly studied film, writes for The Poet, is an editor at MMAP and Contributing Writer at African Writer. She is a blogger, essayist, writer of several short stories, novellas and has ventured out to write for film with two projects in development . She was recently interviewed for Sentinel, and the BBC.

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African Renaissance

The Cemetery Of The Mind

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This is me. The voices are inside my head. Calling me. Speaking in ancient tongues. They talk and talk and talk. The damage is done. The damage is done. I wanted a child while I was still young. They think of science in masculine terms. The humanities and creative writing in feminine terms. There’s a gap for you. There’s an excursion into the remembering mind. The shaking woman’s interesting double life. I think of the anatomy of my loneliness. How everything in life is a mystery. I am waiting for sleep to take control of my aching limbs, my physical form. I invest the past into insomnia, for no fight is worth it. What are we fighting for anyway? He’s not here, they’re not here. No one can hurt me now. Marilyn, the hunter. Diana, the hunted. I want to live before planting love. Your fingers feel like ice slipping to the bones of me. They thread my bones to my being. Give hope to my flesh. Now I just want to live, but there are days when I am tired of wanting to live. The washing flutters in the breeze, men and women have been kind to me, and I have a lust for the gulf between us, how I’ve imagined you my entire life. Country of Adam’s rib, country of blood, stone and wine. Her teeth bite into my pose. There’s my unbearable sadness. Watching you satisfies me. I go all cold sometimes. The tiredness, the energy. In a perfect world you would have been free. You would have set me free. Your womb fashioned me. So, I write for the passionate outsider. The woman was displaced. The female dispossessed who lives from one day to the next in psychological extremes. I am that woman displaced like Jean Rhys. I am the dispossessed female. And the woman that I love, whose womb fashioned me is my mother’s.

I think of all the time we have wasted sibling. All the love that is gone. My loneliness grows like plant sap. Like water in wild places. All the fight has left me as I chase the sea. I wake, I chase the sea. Rabbit is gone. Don’t tell me about your secrets. Don’t tell me about your love, sibling. Leave me like you have always left me. Leave me standing here by the bright lights of this city by the sea. I always wanted your love. You were always high on life. The extrovert with friends. You erased me from your life so effortlessly. From your kingdom. I think we have said it all. The love is gone. Gone from your world. Gone from my life. They say I have a death wish. I’m hungry for it. The ghost of my spirit is hungry for it. It is cold here. Winter is coming on strong on this radar. This illusion sticks around like the Seine. I wish I was a ghost dropping off this radar. I feel sick. You make me sick. I lost the proof. I think of all that I have sacrificed. Think of myself as a crime and a victim. Sibling, you’ve found love. We’re passed the object of forgiveness. Nothing I can do about it. You’re the daughter of the Czech Republic. Let me take you to the low of the city. I am wearing my glasses. Keeping my attitude. I think of your German boyfriend with his artistic fingers, sensitive face. How again someone else replaces me in your life. Bipolar takes all. Bipolar thinks that love is evil, that love means war. My mother never brought me sanitary napkins in the hospital. Never brought me clothing to wear. I walked around like a zombie. When she came, she spoke to the other patients there at the hospital. Looking for a friend in a stranger. She left me alone. Standing there. I was her mirror image.So bulimia and anorexia nervosa found me.

She holds all the power, all the cards. The woman who ate everything. I never had your heart. This takes some time to explain. Let me understand you. Let me understand this. Out of reach, you’re always keeping busy. I’ll always be the same. When I was in love, I was in love with my own shadow. My heart’s bruised. I think all the time of how close to death I was. The renal unit at the Livingstone Hospital. My life is the diary of a volunteer. On the imagined wings of a bird in flight, I come to you. This message comes to you. This love letter comes to you, my mother. Theories have long since disappeared. The image of the soul. The twin image of our soul has vanished. Nothing gets better here on this side of the world. I don’t see myself in the mirror anymore. It is only my pride, your ego that lends itself to a new philosophy of the advanced world. I’d like to leave the world random. But I no longer want to examine the past, aftermath, aftershock, shielding the echo of the shadow, my bruised shadow. We have nothing to say to each other anymore. Only the visions remain. The words are all gone now. You grow out of it. No, not bipolar. The vision you had of yourself in high school. Where you would be five years down the line, a decade. It is just me giving up my consciousness for another. You grow out of the authentic. It is coming back to me. The collect calls I made home from the hospital. Abandoned there. Younger, I was arrogant. Life was so easy, comfortable, and happy. Not anymore. I wish I could say I have achieved my personal goals, fulfilled all my wildest dreams. What am I holding onto? The self that is a soulless misanthrope. The universe is amplified. Birdsong in the air. The leaf falls. It is just gravity.

And because of the violence against me, I have zero tolerance for violence. And because of the mental cruelty against me, I have zero tolerance for mental cruelty. They have defeated me. The family, the cousins, the aunts and the uncles. I am done looking for love in a home that puts me up against the wall. I am lethargic now. Not wanting to talk. Not wanting to talk to anyone. I am on my own now. Alone. All I have is loneliness. That’s the kind I am. The voices say, Petya Dubarova, to stop talking so much and to become a good listener, an effective listener, an efficient communicator. Revealing the purpose and value of others as God sees fit, as I connect with the universe. To transcend the negative, the voice tells me Petya, I also have to transcend the pain of the universe, the loneliness of the universe. I have to remember birth, rebirth, saturation. I have to move on from one phase of personal growth to the next level. From maturity and the confidence of maturity, to death. But it is difficult and tiring to be forgiving of myself, to be grounded in self-love and the world around me dearly, or, for life. And then there’s this nourishing sense of spirituality that strengthens me daily. I am a stranger waiting for the train worshiping sharp objects eating eggs, chicken and soup. I live in a dark house born of green figs in September on a Sunday afternoon. A dark house born of a writer in a cage sheltered and protected by the light from all the activities of harm. While watching the first snow of a June winter, with the falling snow the road inside finds bipolar me again. High on life. Low on life. Numb on life. Dead to life. And then I realise I am never going to see uncle Rabbit again.

Ever. He died on a Thursday evening of a heart attack in a hospital room while I exhaled a pose. While I overcame my evolution at home typing out my third novel. I have the fear of love, of falling in love on my side, of sexual intimacy, of being made to feel vulnerable in front of another person. I am crashing. I am crashing into the waves chasing the sea of Petya Dubarova, and there will always be those who lecture me. I think the world, and my siblings have made me toxic. And I remember the day my sibling’s girlfriend showed me her tattoo. He must have a thing for a girl with tattoos. I don’t know. We aren’t close anymore. What happened in my own father’s life is happening now in my own. The estrangement from the middle earth of the inner family, of the immediate family. I make cinnamon toast or eat peanut butter straight from the jar with a butter knife, and I try not to think of writing confessional poetry, or, the fact that I’m not loved by siblings, or, cousin, or, aunt, or, uncle, or, distant relative. I show them my rewards like arrows. Only I see the columns of light in my arrows. Yes, I’m done. I’m done. I’m going nowhere. I’m going everywhere. Jagged little pill in my mouth. Rush of water down my elated throat. I really wanted to see her tattoo. Why, oh, why am I so surprised that she gladly showed it to me. Bipolar has made me frightened of everything. Of landing on the ash heap like other people’s sorrows. I think of my own sorrows. I’m left thinking of how important it is to keep correspondence, journals and copies of your work. I think of my own father and mother living out this kind of perfect life.

My mother had a spacious house, they had two cars, and she had to raise three children. Two daughters and a son. She didn’t teach me to have that. To invest my life in children. To invest my life in sons and daughters. I know my roots and they go deep like a ninja-warrior. Now I find myself living vicariously through Dorothy Parker, and Maya Angelou. I think of the mute wind. I think of the constant rain at my window. I think of what I see when I see wildflowers. Cemeteries, ghosts, the apparitions, the voices in my head, hallucinations. There are days when I am just writing to get by. I keep telling myself it is not hopeless. All is not hopeless. That this life is what I have been given. My siblings think they know it all about bipolar. Even more than me. I can’t understand a word that they possess about mental illness. They give it to me, not as a gift, but as something to control. I think of the difficulties of my father. The difficulties of a young mother having to accept a manic-depressive husband. Nobody caught me when I fell. Contradictions keep me busy for a while. I try too hard in relationships. I was a teenage runaway falling away to the waterfront of hospitalisation. The perspective was clear. The view of my life settled. I had the beauty of language. It gave me interconnectedness. The relationship I wanted. I was on a sailing boat that caught the wind. On my way. On my way. Then the mania would come, or, the clinical depression, or, the attempt to take my own life, or, the suicidal thought, and I would be derailed again from the perfect life that I had lived before. I would be abandoned and forgotten by my mother.

I would be abandoned and forgotten by my siblings, by relatives who told me that they wished they could be of more assistance, but they had their own problems, or, uncles and aunts would just ignore me. With the onset of mental illness in adolescence, my life became more complicated over the years. I became a hunting and gathering woman of current trends forecasting for a blog that I wrote, ephemera from my paternal grandfather’s life, and phenomenology. I became this rather complex vessel (never studied further, never had the sunny road of the marrying life, or, those sons and daughters, and strange, I had always been madly in love with children my entire life), and in the end it was language that accepted me, not family, not siblings that had looked up to me once when I had the normal life, the kind of life accepted by family. There would be all this ignorance and sham surrounding my mental illness. I became known as the storyteller, I would make up stories, and this would do the rounds. So, I am threatened and cajoled, told in no uncertain terms by my sister that I am not living. She never phones home to speak to our father, elderly and infirm now. Weak and limiting and limited, and I tell myself that what matters most is recovery. Coming out of that despair and hardship and release of relapse. Now I think back to the early days of the initial treatment of my bipolar, the hospitalisation of my bipolar when I became something of a pill popping zombie, then an insomniac, and then there was this return to normality, to home-life, but also terrifying ignorance in the family, also terrifying ignorance around the sufferer, and stigma.

The discrimination of living with the bloom and smoke of mental illness. I keep telling myself pain births creativity. That it is the motivation for pursuing God. Must be more Eckhart Tolle, or Gary Zukav than me I suppose. In the hospital people may want to be your friend. But outside, you become like strangers again. You return to a kind of semblance of your previous life. You find people don’t want to know you anymore. Release from hospital always brings me back to writing, to my childhood. To the swimming pool in Gelvandale where I was baptised, to a picnic in Port Alfred. Yes, I found baptism and God. And sometimes, just sometimes, the writing annoys me, or, I get annoyed with myself, and sad, as if my work is almost incomplete. Almost as if I am not living up to my own expectations. And every time upon my release from the hospital after my meds have been adjusted, I have to open a new door, learn to live a new life again. It’s difficult, but I have endured this. I have survived. I remember that I have strategies, goals and actions. As my father did before me. I hate it that I blame him. I hate it when I say something that hurts him, and I see him wince as if I have slapped him very hard across the face. I mean, I am used to embarrassment, and humiliation, and people unfriending me with a kind of energetic efficiency. I have to work on self-love daily. I pray daily. I try to be kind but it is like making an anonymous donation. And every year I promise myself more self-love, more personal growth, more prayer and meditation, more reading, and I make an action plan out of it for the next six months. To the lighthouse.

To the lighthouse I go. There are days when I talk and talk and talk. There are also days when I cannot meet your gaze. When people’s faces look different to me in the morning light. When I’m afraid of Virginia Woolf. Society allows many things to happen to you when you are mentally ill. I’m always putting my trust in people, and being let down badly. Balance is everything. All I can think of is that I am a novelist now studying the craft of writing with every narrative that I write. That I am a poet. And a bipolar life can be as healing as rain with a savage kind of violence. At least that’s the way that I see it. Bipolar itself, there’s still so much that we don’t know. What I hear most often from other people who live with bipolar, is this. That I wasn’t always bipolar. I wasn’t always like this. I didn’t need to take a sleeping pill to sleep. Maybe there was a traumatic incident in your childhood, or, long term abuse, or, you were never loved by a parental figure, or, there was a kind of stress or burnout that you couldn’t deal with. I’ve been there. Uncle Rabbit is gone. I’m still here. I still get to live life with purpose and meaning and truth on my own terms, and there are days when I feel like a tragic figure caught in a storm. There are days when I want the world to see me. There are days when I don’t want the world to see me, because I don’t think that they’d understand me, but there are also days when life is infinitely more beautiful. There is an image that I manufacture every so often in my mind whenever I feel like it. I see the picture of a little girl, and she is loved. Bipolar is not on the scene yet. Her life is not derailed yet. She is eating watermelon on the beach. The sun is going down. She is laughing with her boy cousins. Smiling for the camera. Smiling for all the world to see.

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African Renaissance

The YCCC and How It Changed the Future of South Africa

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This was the pre-apartheid education that we received when we were still at school. I was 13, 14 years of age at the time of the promulgation of the Group Areas Act in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, which then led to the forced removals and people literally being ‘dumped’ in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth. Dr Neville Alexander came to Port Elizabeth on two occasions. The YCCC-organisation (Yu Chi Chan Club) was primarily based on guerrilla warfare as is expounded by the leader of the Chinese Communist Party Mao Se Tung. It elucidates in his long walk to freedom, as well as his account in the new democracy as is expounded by his books and writings. These ideologies played a key role in formulating policy in the fight of guerrilla warfare against the Nationalist Party government. It is imperative to mention that the textbook for the organisation was Guerrilla Warfare by Che Guevara which was slavishly followed by discussions in the organisation. Other books included Partisan Warfare by Lenin, as well as Das Kapital by Karl Marx.

This took a lot of preparation and in-depth discussion groups took place based on these classic writers. It was imperative that these books were simplified and applied to the unique situation in South Africa. Dr Alexander and Ali Fataar, the then banned member of the executive of the NUM (New Unity Movement) came to Port Elizabeth to do exploratory work in creating fertile political groundwork for establishing the NEUM (Non-European Unity Movement) groupings. They visited areas like Korsten, Schauderville at night where they held underground discussion groups on the non-collaboration and the ‘Ten-Point Programme’ which at that early stage were very important and relevant documents. These were lengthy discussion groups which took place throughout the night. However, it crystallised into a solid branch of the NEUM (Non-European Unity Movement), Korsten branch. Further exploratory work was conducted in the area before these two stalwarts could return to Cape Town.

As a young student (16 years of age) we had the opportunity of meeting with people of the calibre of Dr Alexander at a very early stage in our political careers. This took place while we attended the CPSU (Cape Peninsula Students Union) group at our residence in Lloyd Street, Cape Town. This group grew rapidly as more and more progressive students became interested in the finer progressive political ideologies of the CPSU. We met regularly every fortnight and the discussions took place until the early hours of the morning. The topics included Bantu Education, Coloured Education, Bush University, Students Representative Council issues and the like. We also organised regular meetings on camping trips on Table Mountain where extensive politicisation took place on advanced political ideologies such as capitalism, imperialism and world ideologies of the day. We became acutely aware that our home got the attention of the security police. However, this did not deter us from becoming acutely aware of the intrusion of capitalism and imperialism and the like. It was at a very young age that I became involved in student politics which has its origin in political activity.

The forced removals, the Group Areas Act, the political upheaval caused havoc amongst particularly the young who were influenced by teachers who belonged to the Anti-CAD (Anti-Coloured Affairs Department) and the TLSA (Teachers League of South Africa). The city was ablaze with political activity which in a short space of time demonstrated deep into the youth. This needless to say was influenced by political youth in the Western Cape. What was affecting the students in the Western Cape was, alas, also affecting the students in the Cape, particularly Gqeberha. At times, the situation became extremely volatile and out of control. Organisations like the NUM (National Unity Movement), Anti-CAD (Anti-Coloured Affairs Department), TLSA (Teachers League of South Africa) reigned supreme. It was also apparent that the ratepayer’s organisations which were formed to fight against the rapid erosion of management committees.

Many public meetings were held with F.A. Landman and Dennis Brutus (vice-chairman), who were at pains to point out the disadvantages of the Group Areas Act. Many groups were formed which included the ANC, the PAC, the Unity Movement and allied groups were mobilised. It became apparent that the Group Areas Act was not going to go through a very easy passage. The organisations were not unified in their actions and this gave the opposition deep inroads into progressive thinkers. As a student group at the University College of the Western Cape we were invited to SOYA (Society of Young Africa) meetings in the Mowbray Minor Hall on a Sunday afternoon. For the first time we witnessed serious altercations among the members of the NEUM (Non-European Unity Movement), and this included Dr Neville Alexander and Dr Kenny Abrahams.

The topic of discussion was on Angola and the chairlady of the meeting Miss Wilcox clearly did not understand her mandate. Dr Neville Alexander and Dr Kenny Abrahams tackled her on the political aspects of FRELIMO Liberation Front of Mozambique). It appeared that two factions had now developed in the meeting. It was really a fisticuffs kind of thing. It appeared as if Dr Alexander and Dr Abrahams were at loggerheads with the present discussion leaders of the main group. The matter came to a head when the chairperson asked Dr Alexander and Dr Abrahams to leave the meeting. However, before that could take place Dr Abrahams announced to the meeting that all those who believed in democracy would leave the meeting. I was one of the Western Cape students who felt urged to leave the meeting with Alexander and Abrahams, which we did and met again at No. 2 Swiss Road in Lansdowne for a follow-up meeting. Officially, at this meeting there was information about the YCCC (Yu Chi Chan Club). Dr Alexander and Dr Abrahams felt no animosity which the meeting gave them as they left.

Dr Alexander was described as a dark horse by my father. As with all leaders, the maverick visionaries and profound thinkers, brilliant intellectuals, and having the primitive wonders of both wisdom and intelligence, for these men ahead of their time their faith was shared only by their comrades in the struggle. These stalwarts have taught me that it is the tendency of every man, woman and child of every race, of every faith to embrace every other man, woman and child of every race, and of every other faith. Indeed, it is rare. Indeed, it is exceptional when it happens. Language is a bridge. The language is not of love, but of respect. It is the flesh and blood of mother tongue language that divides us. It is respect that conquers self-pity, arrogance and narcissism. There is no one identity. Yet there is one moral code. Multiculturalism has changed the order of history, moral ambiguity, cast a spell on the doctrines and phenomena of religion. In humanity, in this human world, these leaders have taught us purpose on earth, the awareness of self, lack of ego and the finding of our identity in existential relativism, pedagogical and counterfeit phenomenology. Multiply achievement and you get the candy shop of the poetic horrors of over-abundance, the romantic weariness of decay and the complex strength of popularity.

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African Renaissance

Truth and the third wave of the pandemic: To be vaccinated or not to be vaccinated

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Photo: Atharva Tulsi/Unsplash

I have endured the worst possible case scenario. Being locked up in a mental institution for six months while in my late teens, early twenties. Even though I was of sound body, mind and soul. I am 42 years old now and I haven’t come all the way back from that experience. Everyone wrote me off when I returned home to Port Elizabeth as Gqeberha was known in those days but worse was to follow. Inhumane treatment from those closest to me, rejection from society. I was taught that I had a mental disability and would never be able to work again, hold down a steady job or earn a monthly income. I was told in no uncertain terms that I had to now live on the fringes of society since I would be unable to make a positive contribution to society. For twenty years this continued. I had to all intents and purposes not only given up on myself, my personal success, development of my potential and fulfillment and engagement in a relationship that would lead ultimately to my future happiness. The goal of marriage and having a child, bringing children into the world and raising a family was not only put into the distant past, I thought that it would always be non-existent for me.

I would spend my time listening to sad music, love songs on the radio and wonder why it was not me caught up in the scenario of having a relationship with the opposite sex. I sank even further into the pit of the hell in f despair and hardship. I virtually had lost control over my life, received a disability grant which I did not spend on anything which I personally needed. Family considered me to be the proverbial black sheep of the family. When I got angry at the way I was treated I was certified. My rights were taken away from me. I was verbally, mentally and emotionally abused. I did everything in my power to be loved and accepted by both my maternal and paternal family which is why I believe so strongly today in dismantling the stigma that surrounds issues concerning mental illness and depression mania, euphoria and elation (however mild or all-consuming it might be). At this late stage of my life I have become an advocate for mental wellness. To stop the fight and curb the alienation and isolation of sufferers of mental illness. I want people from all walks of life to realise that people with mental illnesses can enrich our lives and can make a positive contribution to society.

I myself have always sought solace in writing. I have found it to be an instrument for change and therapeutic as well.

I have firsthand knowledge and experience of being called anything from schizophrenic to being diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder and because of the heavy psychotropic medication I have taken over the years I have had a host of illnesses presenting themselves. Chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, an underactive thyroid, chronic kidney disease, gout and heart disease. These diseases manifested themselves early on in my life before the onset of middle age when they would be more prevalent in someone who would be prone to these sorts of illnesses because of not living a healthy lifestyle.

I take each day as it comes now and live in the moment. I have my good days. I have my bad days. I have a mean temper and constantly have to watch what I eat, watch what I say and how I react to people who treat me as him I am a second class citizen because of everything I have been through in my life. Truth be told I always knew I was different. The depression started in childhood for me. I was always an overachiever. I would come home in the afternoons after school but no one ever helped me with my homework, told me either that they were proud of me or believed in me or loved me for that matter.

Everyday I am a work in progress. It is tough dealing with moodswing but that is the currency I deal in and the territory that borders my sense of self-control.

I have been called many names. None of them pretty or lovely. I have had zero support from my immediate family and my estranged family has complete written me off and washed their hands off of me thinking there is nothing they can do for me. This has been very hurtful and even has made made me feel quite suicidal over the years and in my hour if need, my hours of silence, pain and collective trauma I turned to God, prayer and meditation in my hour of need. At the time of the outbreak of the pandemic I got corona and was admitted to the psych ward at Provincial Hospital here in Gqeberha. I had no medical aid and was once again at the mercy of the system but I survived hell and that harrowing experience again to live to tell the tale of how to overcome the impossible, to live and to learn, to remain humble and kind even in the face of adversity and cruelty.

Loneliness, abject poverty, homelessness can either kill you or make you realise that you are powerful beyond measure and I have realised that I am powerful beyond measure.

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