Dashiki | When your mind tries to kill you

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
When you suffer from severe bouts of depression, medication certainly helps, but you can rarely shut your mind off entirely. When it gets especially bad, your brain tries to convince you that you should kill or hurt yourself. Photo: Getty Images/LaylaBird
When you suffer from severe bouts of depression, medication certainly helps, but you can rarely shut your mind off entirely. When it gets especially bad, your brain tries to convince you that you should kill or hurt yourself. Photo: Getty Images/LaylaBird

VOICES


There is still so much stigma surrounding mental health that few people talk openly about it. We feel embarrassed, ashamed, weak and undeserving of love and care.

When you suffer from severe bouts of depression, medication certainly helps, but you can rarely shut your mind off entirely. When it gets especially bad, your brain tries to convince you that you should kill or hurt yourself – you are useless, you are unlovable, you are a fraud, you are a drain on your family, friends and colleagues.

Every day, you wake up and wish you hadn’t. Sometimes you manage to force yourself to get up, get dressed and go and do the things that need to be done. Sometimes you just can’t.


If your leg is broken, people around you can see that you are in or have been in some kind of pain. But you cannot see inside someone’s mind to understand the agony of depression, the debilitating effects of anxiety, the constant fight to ignore the voices telling you to jump.

One way many people cope with these overwhelming feelings is to self-harm. This is often not about suicide, but rather an attempt – at least in my case – to transfer the pain inside my mind to an external, physical place that can be treated with stitches and time.

READ: Beware: Your mental health's effect on how you deal with money

Those external wounds will indeed heal, but self-harm does not quiet the mind for long. Precipitated in large part by my parents’ acrimonious divorce, I recently cut myself badly during what we can euphemistically call “an episode”. I am privileged to have a support system in my therapist, psychiatrist and those close to me, but so many people don’t. Sometimes they need time off work but can’t get it; sometimes they need to speak to a professional but have no access to one.

Without psychological help and prescription medication, scores of people give in to those persistent voices that keep screaming at them that they are worth less than nothing.

We are told that life is a gift, but a mentally ill person often can’t see that through the heavy veil of darkness that tries to suffocate us every day.


With me, I never really know when that thin thread keeping me connected and functioning in this upside-down world will snap and a sort of tunnel vision will lead me to cut myself with any sharp object that I can find nearby – a pocket knife, a sharp stone, a piece of wire. Afterwards, I feel foolish, lost, deflated and more worthless than before. There’s that voice again, because – and this is so nonsensical – I certainly don’t feel any better when I bleed.

READ: Neglected mental illness can lead to disability

So, I’ll try to quiet my mind again. I’ll get out of bed tomorrow, get dressed and do the things that need to be done. Unlike when that cast comes off a broken leg – healed and useful again – you’ll still not see the pain I feel inside.


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Latest issue
Latest issue
All the news from City Press in PDF form.
Read now
Voting Booth
On Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver the state of the nation address. What do you think his focus should be?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Load shedding
0% - 0 votes
Unemployment
0% - 0 votes
Corruption
0% - 0 votes
Vote