By your stifling.
Up in flames
There you stand
By your stifling.
Up in flames
There you stand
With every kilometre the Greyhound chortles down the N3 bound for Durban, I leave the decay and the rot of Johannesburg. The rot of the midas touch has plagued these people. Their waste and disregard for each other is astounding to me after having spent months in the Midlands. Had I been blinded by greed all these years? Am I too plagued?
It concerns me that I felt a deep longing as the Greyhound rolled past Braamfontein, the home of my alma mater-The National School of the Arts-and Africa’s top university, WITS. I felt a pang of longing, of nostalgia, of want and of greed.
My heart steadied as the bus left the Gauteng province and entered the icy Free State. Snow started falling and as the bus rolled on, the snow became thicker and thicker. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
When I finally got off the bus at the halfway mark of my journey, mother nature put on a spectacular display of snow and snowflakes. I somehow felt cleansed. I felt transported to a different land.
My arrival in Howick sees rain nourishing my country ravaged by drought. I look up and thank the gods for this relief. ‘The Shire’ is as green as ever and I feel I’ve come home.
The sharp smell of disinfectant is overwhelming. I need to get out of here. There is a needle in my arm and pills next to me. What has this life come to? Will I ever escape this body that attacks itself?
To be sick is one thing, but to be sick in the big city of Johannesburg is a death sentence. The sheer speed of life, running at 180km/h, devours the weak. The city and its people are cruel and there is no space for the weary. I watch as people trample each other to climb to the top of the meat pile. But I know that being an alpha will only lead to a nasty demise.
This letter is to everyone and someone in-particular ; to you and not you; to me so I can better understand myself; to the parents so they don’t misunderstand their children; to the teachers, bank clerks, shop assistants, carers, doctors, nurses; to my family and yours; but most of all it’s to you if it […]
I am behind the wheel of this beast of a car. I am extremely nervous, cautious and nauseas because:
With my precision and perfectionism I follow all the rules of the road to a T, I have a few hiccups with some hard breaking, but I deliver my precious cargo in one piece. My precious cargo having complained the entire way about how slow we were going. On average I was moving at about 55km/h, little speed junkies.
I know how to drive. God knows after writing two learners tests I know the rules of the road backwards. I have been for lessons, I could drive a manual car on a field and on a track. My fear comes from a place much deeper than just being worried about my inadequacies and tentativeness as a learner driver.
This fear came from the horrific and haunting experience of being hijacked. Being forcefully removed from a vehicle at gunpoint by two gunmen. Even though my mother was the driver, the terror and rage at being so helpless consumed me. My handmade GEWA violin was all that was on my mind. My most prized possession given to me by my violin teacher as a gift was in the boot of the vehicle. I begged the gunmen for it as I placed my handbag and other valuables in the boot as instructed. The one gunman allowed me to take the violin but his partner villainously barked something at him in a strange tongue and a tug of war began between me and the gunman who only a second ago was willing to hand over my violin. I still wonder to this day what the other gunman barked at him to make him lose his humanity in an instant. I hung onto that violin like it was the only thing that could keep me breathing. My hands were ripped apart and bleeding from the tug of war. Everything morphed into slow motion when I felt cold metal at the base of my skull, heard the grinding click of the gun cock and I heard my mother screaming for me to stop. I let go of my violin, the gunman flung it in the boot like a worthless rag, slammed the boot shut and ran to the getaway car hardly twenty metres away while his accomplice sped away jerkily in our vehicle. I ran down the street after them, to what end I don’t know, but I could not catch up. That was the last time I ever saw that violin. I still mourn the loss of such a beautiful instrument.
To this day I have nightmares about that early morning, picking up a friend to make our way to rehearsals for The National School of the Arts Festival of Fame. I lost an extension of myself that day and it has taken me eight years to truly bond with my instrument again. Not only did the highjacking create a rift between me and my art but it put a fear in me of driving.
So now I was on my own in a BMW 318i. I had to get back home. I felt myself relax and blend into the car. I was going to let the car drive me. I was going to let go of the fear and immerse myself in the experience.
Then an epiphany came to me, a beaming light from the heavens. I had won back my power, I was driving. I wasn’t scared. I was fearless. I played my violin with a burning passion. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders.
I am driving. I am playing the violin again. I have conquered. I’m a Queen sitting in the drivers seat of a BMW 318i, made it through the war zone of Johannesburg’s roads but most importantly I have mastered my fear.
“A Patronus is a kind of positive force, and for the wizard who can conjure one, it works something like a shield, with the Dementor feeding on it, rather than him. In order for it to work, you need to think of a memory. Not just any memory, a very happy memory, a very powerful memory… Allow it to fill you up… lose yourself in it… then speak the incantation ” Expecto Patronum “
—Remus Lupin’s explanation of a Patronus
This is the description of the Patronus charm given in the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third book in the Harry Potter series written by J.K Rowling. For those familiar with the series it is this spell and this spell alone that saves both Harry’s life and that of his godfather Sirius Black.
The dementors are the perfect manifestation of depression. The way in which they affect both muggles and magical folk alike is almost as if it is taken from the DSM-5’s criterion for Clinical Depression. This is why I think they are stationed as the guards of the Azkaban Prison, because Chronic Clinical Depression is the worst punishment a human being could ever be handed. Ask me, my self-doubt and my Prozac.
The only hope and protection is a guardian conjured by the Patronus charm, which is created by the memory of happiness. Allowing that memory to engulf you. Not allowing the depression – the void, the abyss – to win. This concept and the guilt of burdening those left behind, have kept me alive.
For my birthday this year I had the words “Expecto Patronum” etched into my skin with a tattoo machine as a reminder of all I have survived and to give me the strength to continue my struggle with depression.
Expecto Patronum – my guardian, my courage, my hope and a reminder of the interjections of happiness in what still seems to be a black hole, an abyss.
Grief is the price we pay for love. Having been disappointed and left behind by love, I seem to be stuck in the tornado that is the Grief Cycle never reaching the bargaining stage.
The loss of all things that I have loved and all things that have been precious to me have pilled up in a vault in my heart. Each person lost and object astray have been locked away. The vault is too full of loss, disappointment, anger, depression that I will leave it be.
There is a void in me that cannot be filled by anything. Love only fucked me up and left me paralysed and an audience member in my own opera. Sex could never fulfil the blackhole that is me. The only time I found solace was in drugs and alcohol. To drink and drug myself away, to run from my heart’s vault.
But now, in sobriety, I sit with myself. There is no escape anymore. I am raw, exposed and incapacitated by the grief and loss.
From ancient times there has been suicide in Greenland. People threw themselves off a high mountain, a mountain called “Nakkaartaffik”, which is translated to the place you fall off. Those who chose to plummet to their deaths were mostly the elderly who felt that they had contributed all they could to society and were now a burden to their families. In those days you killed yourself out of pride.
I must say that my attempt at suicide did not come from a place of pride, but rather of shame. It came from a place of dark despair and hopelessness. It came from the desperation to escape myself and the world. I could no longer bear the noise in my head and the noise of the world.
Once you have tried to kill yourself, and failed, thoughts of making a success of your attempt haunt you forever. Now I could say that my suicide would come from a place of pride and unleashing the burden I have become on my family and would gladly throw myself from the mountain “Nakkaartaffik”.
But I have no mountain and I feel ashamed that I have so much more to give to this world, but am struggling to reach my full potential.
So I ponder my worth, plot my climb to my full potential, dream of suicide and smoke another cigarette.
My mornings start with a zombie like shuffle to the kitchen to consume my first drug of the day: caffeine. The jolt of coffee is often followed by the relief of nicotine. I then reluctantly stroll over to the pill boxes marked for each day of the week. I chug back the handful of prescription drugs with the last cold bit of coffee left in my cup. This handful contains both of 60mg Prozac and 10mg of Valium and after this I am barely functional.
By 10 o’clock I am in dire need of some Taurine. Red Bull, Monster or play: anything will do.
1 o’clock sees me restless, fidgety, uncomfortable, on edge. Mother’s little helper calls my name.
A sick and twisted little relationship I have with these drugs. Jagged little pills.
These are my last few days in Johannesburg, South Africa’s busiest and most brutal city. I can no longer survive here, the city has almost suffocated me. I am going back to my birthplace where the grass is always green and the water is plenty. I am going back to a place that knows not the cruelty and hubbub of the city. My feet will land firmly in my birthplace of KwaZulu Natal in the next 72 hours. I feel a mixture of apprehension and anxiety.
This gypsy lifestyle has slowly devoured my soul and eaten away at my morality. Having no grounding or home base as a woman with autism has been torture and frankly hell.