After a teenage pregnancy left her a single mother at 15 and a failed marriage to an abusive man left her a divorced woman at 23, Lumka Stuurman stood on the brink of suicide.
Here she shares her story on her life-changing mistakes, consequential decisions and the day she decided to turn her life around.
"I had had enough. I was tired of the abuse and my parents had tried to talk me out of the marriage but I was too stubborn to listen, choosing instead to please other people.
I was too ashamed to tell them what I was going through and convinced myself that there was no other way out – suicide was the only answer.
Immediately I thought of my son. I knew I had to live for him; he did not deserve this.
But how was I supposed to press on when my will to live had died out?
I was born on 11 October 1985 in a small town in KwaZulu-Natal called Matatiele. My parents were great and established the importance of respect. They provided for us and we didn’t lack for anything.
I was what you’d call a ‘good girl’ – I stayed at home and never went partying.
When I was in grade 4, I went to boarding school. The children there started teasing me about my weight – I’ve always been fat – and that made me find it immensely difficult to fit in at school. I also struggled to cope with the academic side of things because of the bullying.
At the tender age of 15, I met a cute boy who showed interest in me. It was foreign to me because it was the first time someone, besides my family, liked me. I was ecstatic!
He’d visit me on weekends and call me on the school’s public phone.
One day, he invited me to watch a movie at his friend’s house and I agreed. Little did I know his intention was to snatch my virginity.
I refused but he begged me till I eventually agreed. I feared he would dump me if I didn’t.
I know I had no business having a boyfriend at that age but I had deep-rooted insecurities and he was giving me attention in a way I had never experienced before.
I believed I wasn’t good enough for him and thought if I slept with him and did what he wanted, I’d keep him.
I fell pregnant with his baby and, as such stories go, was forced to raise our son as a single mother.
I turned 17 and went to study at a FET College.
One of the popular guys at campus started pursuing me and because I was still battling self-esteem issues, I revelled in the attention – never mind that this guy wasn’t my type!
He loved to party and drank a lot. He was also a smoker.
I always told myself I was never going to marry a man who drank or smoked because I never did any of those things.
But when he made pursuit to date me, I agreed, thinking this would only be temporal.
He was 23 years of age and his grandmother – who raised him because his parents weren’t around – believed he was ready to get married. And she wanted him to marry me.
But he never proposed. Instead, one day, completely out of the blue, I got a call from my mother saying there were people at our house who were asking for my hand in marriage.
Imagine my shock!
I breathed deeply and said I’d call her back. I had to speak to my boyfriend first.
He said he knew about the arranged marriage and had plans to tell me later. He begged me to marry him but I knew in my heart this wasn’t the man for me.
After a lot of begging and pleading from him, I eventually gave in. I’ll now admit that back then, I had no backbone and was a people-pleaser.
I went to his house for the first time since we started dating and they welcomed me as their bride. Everything was just so crazy and I knew for certain that I was unhappy but I agreed nonetheless.
I pledged the rest of my life to this man that I didn’t love.
This was my husband I was his wife – but every part of me felt uneasy about the marriage.
I spent the next five years with a man who never stopped partying and drinking. He’d disappear for days and when he’d return, become physically and verbally abusive.
The feeling of depression intensified to the point where I seriously contemplated suicide.
But when I looked into the eyes of my little boy I realised, he, alone, is reason enough to not follow through with taking my life.
I sat on the couch one day, thinking about my life and how I got here. I wasn’t just broke – I was broken. Physically, mentally but especially emotionally.
I had hit rock bottom and was praying to God to show me the way.
I knew that if I wanted things to change, I had to do something I had never done before. Not just for me but for my son.
I left my husband and decided to do something with my life. I began sharing my story on social media and people started reaching out to me. I was invited to speak at events to help others get through their issues.
I made a business of this and with Epic Biz & Lifestyle, started training companies on how to leverage social media.
My business was doing well.
I then decided to write a book. From Broke & Broken to Living a Life on Fire was my way of reaching out anyone who needs support because they find themselves in similar situations. I wanted them to know they are not alone.
My message to women who find themselves in that dark corner I once was?
No matter what you going through, know that this too will pass. Your past does not determine your future. When you are at rock bottom the only way is up. Make your story for fortress and not your stop sign."