A great leader once said sport has the power to change the world. It’s has the power to inspire and it’s has the power to unite it’s people and in a way that little else does. That leader was my president, the late great Nelson Mandela. In 1995 when our country won the World Cup for the first time I was a primary school child. I never understood the power of unity back then, but I felt the elation of our nation. People celebrated together and took to the street of our country. In unison they honked their horns and sang together waving South African flags. I was in primary school then, but the power of unity spread across racial boundaries.
Fast forward to 2007 and again we became rugby world champions and again our country stood united as one. We are as Nelson Mandela once said stronger together. By this point I was in love with a Scotsman an fetching the match from Edinburgh . I wasn’t home, but I could feel the atmosphere electrifying our. Once again this sport has left a feeling inspired, lifted high and once again we had hope for our future.
Eleven years since our second World Cup victory I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Articles of violent and horrific crimes against women and children in my home country dominated headlines across the world. I was silently suffering. Fearing for my mother, cousins and their children’s safety. Then five consecutive times I learnt of the tragic deaths of family members, two of which were my God parents. When you’re so used to hearing about the violent and brutal crimes in your home country the first thought that pops in your mind is oh my God they were raped and killed. The relief to hear it was not the cause is indescribable. Yes, the news of their passing is still hard to deal with, but the relief to know they weren’t raped and murdered brings a sense of relief which words cannot describe.
When I was in high school a cousin of mine whom I was very, very close to was murdered and his death hit me like a ton of bricks, but I was in school and it was just before exam time so the show had to go on. I never had the time to mourn his death. His memory and the memory of our last few minutes before he passed will stay imprinted in my mind forever. Last year, exactly a year ago since I started my anti depression medication, I struggled to with my motivation. Getting out of bed was a mountain to climb. A daily struggle. Flashbacks of my life in the townships, those I have loved and lost, and the mere thought of a dark future plagued my mind. I was lost in the deep dark abyss that is my own messed up kind. I struggled to admit my mental illness and to this day, a year later not many knows about it!
The past few weeks I found myself back in that dark abyss I fought so hard to escape over the last few months. I have found myself close to tears and breaking down for no apparent reason, but some how I have managed to push through it all. Then this past weekend my national team won the rugby wild cup and I read stories and I’ve seen video clips of how this event has unified my country. Racial boundaries, religious stereotypes did not exist, even for a brief moment. During an interview with the first black captian, he candidly and honestly spoke about his struggles as a child. When asked if he ever dreamt about winning a rugby World Cup, he said he dream about where his next meal would come from. He walked to school with no shoes on his feet. He persevered and lead a team to rugby World Cup glory. His name is Siyamtanda Kolisi.
Siya’s story got me thinking about my own story. Many days I had to walk to school with holes in my shoes. My dad had to put fresh cardboard cuttings into my shoes everyday because they would get so wet, but still I consider myself privileged. We had to move my bed every time it rained and put buckets on the floor to catch the raindrops through the leaky roof each time it rained. Unlike Siya I never had to worry about where my next meal came from. I had shoes with holes, but I had a full tummy everyday. I grew up in a township too and it is the desire to have a easier life that pushed me along, and I’m sure that’s what inspired this great captain. Our first black captain.
My parents never had shoes and just like our captain they worried about where their next meal came from and the fact I never had too is what makes me priveleged. I may not have had riches, but I had hundred times more than what my parents ever had as kids. Siya’s story got me thinking of my childhood and it made me once again remember where I come from, but most importantly it made me realise how far I have come. Today my children live in a lovely house with ample space and they have no worries about holes in their shoes or leaky roofs. As I sit here writing this post I am listening to the echos of their laughter and I am again reminded of how much I have achieved and how far I have come in my life. The springboks wining the rugby World Cup has given me new hope, for my country and for myself, hope that things will change in South Africa, but also hope that soon I will break the barriers of my own mental health struggles.
Today I am working towards a second degree, but the little township girl within me will always serve as a reminder of where I come from. Life in the township wasn’t easy, but it has equipped me with the fighting spirit I need to to beat my mental health battle. Siyamanda Kolisi and the springboks team has given me hope, hope for my one future and hope for my fellow countrymen. I may not be living there now, but my heart will always belong to Africa, South Africa. My struggles with my mental health continues, but without knowing they have given me a renewed sense of determination to defeat my demons. To cover my dark abyss forever with a never ending supply for hope and determination. I can only hope my countrymen seases this opportunity, this motivation to change our country for the better. We are stronger together.
If you find yourself battling mental health please contact me via WordPress/ Instagram/ Facebook or Twitter even just to remind yourself you’re not alone. I am here to help wherever I can!