'I thought I was at my happiest until my mental health gave me warning signs I couldn't ignore'

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Creating memories on holiday while visiting the Asara Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. (Image writer's own)
Creating memories on holiday while visiting the Asara Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. (Image writer's own)

Content Warning: Descriptions of depression, anxiety and suicide.

Memories of that trip are still fresh in my mind. The excitement was beyond me. As cliché as this may sound, I was like a kid in a candy store.

Above all, it was more pleasant because of the  bottomless champers around me and the breathtaking views I had always dreamt of waking up to seeing.

I was at Fairmont Zimbali Resort in Ballito, Durban and having the time of my life, I thought.

Rapper A-Reece had a song out at that time, it had become an anthem of some sort.

"I got you up in your feelings, and I just woke up in Zimbali." 

wellness, anxiety, depression, mind

Overlooking the Zimbali private beach while on holiday. (Image writer's own)

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A day into the four-night stay, something strange happened in the wee hours of the morning. I woke up around 3:00 and when I opened my eyes, I felt overwhelming sadness come over me. It was such heaviness that compelled me to get out of bed. I went up to the balcony, next to the pool area in the mansion. There, I could see somewhat of a cliff. A thought came into mind, 'if you jump, maybe the sadness would go away.'

The thought still scares me. What? How did I get here? I'm in Zim-ba-li, and having this sad thought. I went back to bed. 

The next day I was my bubbly, excited and 'happy' self. Life went on. I didn't know that this was an alert I needed to pay attention to. I started incubating similar thoughts from then on.

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Two or three years on, I was on vacation in Cape Town with my best friend. As per every visit (she lives there), girls just wanna have fun, right? Before flying back to Joburg, bestie and I made one last stop at Babylonstoren Wine Estate in Franschoek. 

The day before, we had lunch at the Asara Wine Estate in Stellenbosch it was a beautiful weekend for us.

anxiety, wellness, mental health

I found so much joy in this ice-lolly while basking in the sun. (Image writer's own)

So, back to what I was saying - the ambience in Babylonstoren was perfect. We had brunch and toasted to a beautiful friendship with ice lollies just before driving out.

When we got to the airport while standing in line to check-in, suddenly, I could not breathe. I snatched a stranger's bottle of water out of his hand and started drinking and pouring it on my face.

Luckily, Covid was not the monster it is in our lives. I drank a stranger's water! There was no time even to ask. In my mind, I was dying, so I did whatever I could to survive. I became a literal flight risk.

How the hell am I having a panic attack after such a pleasant trip? Why?

The check-in officers were not taking any chances and I needed to 'stabilise' my condition getting on the flight.

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I ran to the pharmacy for those anxiety drops, Rescue, while breathing into a packet. The left-over bag from the wine farm really came in handy.

Minutes on, my situation was better. I got on the flight and I followed the instruction to sit in a front seat, where the air-hostess could watch me. For close to two hours, I had to force myself to think happy thoughts because, with one glitch, I could feel that I would ask one of them to open the windows so I could breathe. When I got off the plane, I was worried and I knew that something was wrong. 

mental health, anxiety, depression, wellness

Taking a walk through the Babylonstoren Wine Estate beautiful gardens. (Image writer's own)

There have been a few other incidents, where at my happiest, living my best life, I got these mental health alerts that scared me and made me pay attention to my feelings, pretty much redefined what self-care and self-love mean to me.

I have never been the same and these moments made me grasp what mental health is. Depression and anxiety had been part of my life and I didn't even know.

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I used to walk around with past traumas, disappointment, pain, hurt, worry and all the other things that made me feel unwell.

Now, I validate my feelings and find better ways of dealing with life's inevitable pressures. There I was, the life of the party, trying to explain how I was feeling to the closest people in my life - the so-called 'strong one' who always has her house in order. In reality, I was none of that!

At this point, I had a feeling therapy would be my best bet, and I was right. That is why I will always advocate for therapy because of what it did for me.

anxiety, mental health, depression, wellness

A lunch date at Asara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch. (Image writer's own)

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Firstly, I felt validated because I was not 'crazy', and I was not alone. Secondly, I got rid of the stuff I was carrying and started the healing process. Thirdly, I allowed myself to embrace who I was.

For instance, I never understood how powerful saying no was, and I think my identity and sense of self started taking shape the more I said no and set boundaries.

I am so protective of myself because I know the battles I have had to fight to get to where  I am.

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Mental health is a personal journey that has no end. And the idea that 'happy' people are never depressed is the biggest lie.

I've found that we talk about depression or anxiety and any related mental health issue as a faraway destination that only a few travel to. We hear it all the time, 'she was happy or she would have never killed herself.'

Well, I still can't believe that I was once in Zimbali and thought of jumping off a cliff.

Check-in with yourself.

If you or someone you know needs help, SADAG has a WhatsApp counselling line that operates from 9:00 to 16:00: 076 882 2775 

To speak to a SADAG counsellor you can call 0800 567 567

Do you have a mental health story you would like to share? Let us know here.

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