Thursday, November 17, 2011

To the inventor of waterproof mascara......

You have my sincerest thanks. I haven't cried as much as I have in the last few days since I was a baby. Waterproof mascara has come in real handy. I had no idea what a life line those Saturday meetings with my counsellor were until they were gone. I feel so lost and a protective shield that I had no idea surrounded me has just disappeared and it's left me broken and wounded in a dark wilderness. I have had to take a sick note for my last exam. Studying was just out of the question. I cried so much when I finally plucked up the courage to e-mail my counsellor to tell her I wasn't coming back, that I couldn't see the screen. I told her that I wished I had faith like she did but I didn't, I said it would take years to forgive my Dad and that I couldn't wait until I was "desperate to get rid" of my binge eating before I did something about it. She replied and said she completely understood, that her way was not my way and that we must all find our own path.

The only thing that has made things awkward now and a bit unbearable for me is my Mom's anger at this woman for not running after me and rather just accepting my decision. This was the woman who we thought would undoubtedly get me well, she was going to work miracles, it had sounded like she was my last resort. My Mom and I had an argument where I told her I was an adult with the right to make my own decisions. She literately screamed at me, "But it's the wrong decision!". I told her it's still my decision.

My Mom doesn't realise that I am so sad right now and so desperate for comfort that there are times that I just want to run to my counsellor tell her I'll believe anything she wants me to believe and do anything she wants me to do, even if it isn't right for me. But I know in my heart that I have made the right decision: I don't believe in God the way she does, I can't forgive the "unforgivable" at the snap of a finger. Therefore I had stopped making progress with her and my counselling began to resemble how I have lived most of my life: in a stalemate.

I have given myself two weeks to get over this. Two weeks to throw tantrums, feel suicidal, be angry, cry my eyes and then...start over. I am at a bit of a loss of what I am going to do. I found a clinic that will be able to help with the binge eating that is slowly killing me. But I have no money to go there. Even going to another psychologist will be a problem...again no money. I can't go to just any psychologist, I need to see one that specialises in eating disorders. My godfather cannot help me this time and the State will only help those that are starving (which is only natural since this is an African country). I will not see another church counsellor again. I have found a support group in the city for people with binge eating disorders. That is the best I can do for now.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

All good things must come to an end...

Whatever patient, perseverant soul(s) are still reading this blog I salute you! This period of my life has not been the best for blogging. I started a full time job three months ago that just happened to be in a performance orientated company that I soon found out was very “trigger” happy. I hadn’t been there long before I starting hearing tales of our “fallen comrades” i.e. employees that were fired for something as simple as not sending enough e-mails OR (and this really takes the cake) supervisors/ managers that were given the chop because “they hadn’t fired enough people themselves”. Hmmmm…did I mention that this company is American? So I had been given the subtle message that- even though I was temp covering maternity leave- if I didn’t give 110% I would be given my walking papers. What was worse, and this really scared the shit out of me, if I messed up this woman’s job…she could get fired, even though she did nothing wrong! Did I mention she has six kids? Yep there was A LOT at stake. I’m pretty sure some laws are being broken here…but who ever dares to take on a monstrous American corporation?

So this coupled with the fact that I am still studying full time and have been writing exams ( two of which I am pretty sure I failed) I have not had much time for anything except eating and sleeping…and a spot of T.V if I am lucky!!. I hate to say this…but red wine and chocolate have become my best friends. I can’t exactly say it’s been a social pleasure working for this company.

I have lost two big features in my life these past three months, the first was my relationship with my sister (or rather the final realization on my part that the only way we would not kill each other is if we lived several hundred kilometers apart and didn’t speak at all…except on Christmas and birthdays…or if someone died) and the second, has hit me hard. My church counselor finally realized that she can no longer help me.

Years ago, I was talking with my friend’s husband about getting her to see a counselor. I suggested going to see a church counselor, since it was free and the husband said something that really rang true. Church counselors can only help you if you meet a certain criteria. At the very least you should be a believer…you don’t have to be a very good one…but you must believe in God. Second you need to be able to forgive…a lot of people will struggle for years with this but a GOOD counselor like mine, will be willing to stick with you….so long as you believe. Third, you need to agree with and do pretty much everything they tell you to. As I struggled with all three of the above, I knew that my counseling was doomed with these people from the very start. But I hoped that “maybe this time” it would work. I was at the edge with a knife in my hand, planning on ending it all, so I would have taken any helping hand that had been offered to me.

During my twenty –eight years on this earth I have been to so many psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors that I can’t remember them all. The one that helped me the most was a black psychologist ( pretty amazing as apartheid was still rife in South Africa) named Mandisa who saw me from when I was eight until I was ten. I also had reasons to believe that the church counselor I had now would be different: She has known my family and I since I was seven years old. She has done that most amazing work with people from Rape Crisis and victims of child abuse. The list of lives she has changed is endless. She told me when I first started that she had been waiting for me for years and that she wanted to make me her project. When I tried to run away she would come and find me. Who wouldn’t have been given a little bit of hope?

It started out with me, her and an elderly gentleman. Every Saturday at 3pm, I would arrive on her doorstep. She would give me a big mother hen huge followed by tea and biscuits and I would sit on her couch, her cat Joey purring in my lap and recount the horrors of my life. Then they would pray for me. Sometimes they tried to do deliverance – I’m not sure this ever worked (seriously, imagine someone yelling out you: “Spirit of illness, I COMMAND you to come out!!!!. And then feeling really guilty because nothing was er, “coming out”). No matter what they did the issue was that I didn’t completely believe in God. I remember them asking me each week, “Do you still not believe in God”. They didn’t seem to realize it wasn’t like a dress that I could change, it was more like a cancer invading my system that I couldn’t rid of.

When I came in one day the elderly gentleman was not there and I was told it was just going to be me and her. So for the rest of the year I spread myself at her feet like strawberry jam, she was the first person that I fully told about my abuse and my binge eating. I told her things that I had never told anyone before and she listened and prayed. Some major hurdles where accomplished with her- she confronted my mother head on about my abuse and her part in it. Because of that my mother started to understand me in a way that she never had before.

About three month ago I began to feel guilty…I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being selfish and was wasting her time. The revelations that I had made were now sounding like nothing but repeated complaints and whining. I hate to admit it but we had stopped making progress. Here was a woman who worked 80 hours a week and had women- most of whom had suffered the mostly dreadful atrocities- lining up at her door desperate for help…and I was just sitting on her couch complaining?!. Several times I was tempted to e-mail her and just tell her it was over but didn’t because I wanted to stay with her…sometimes I felt like she was my only friend in the world and I would miss her terribly.

The deal breaker was that no matter how hard I tried, I could never believe in God the way she did and it will take years to forgive my Dad for what he did to me. Not only that, she was way over her head with my binge- eating. It’s an addiction that I have lived with for most of my life that I actually don’t know how to live without it. It seems to make up so much of who I am that I don’t even want to get rid of it.

I fessed up to all of this on her couch last Saturday. Our meetings had become almost awkward because my guilt was always hanging in the air. She didn’t agree with me at first. But upon further retrospect she finally agreed. She e-mailed me last Monday morning to say that we had reached a stalemate and we needed to take a break. For me it was so heartbreaking but I realized that I had reached the limit with her and that she could no longer help me.

The unfortunate part of this is that my mother has been so devastated that yet another helping hand is going to disappear in the Stephi- void that she reacted with anger. This sadly has made the situation very tense with my counselor and it will probably be a while before we will be able to speak again.

I am trying to see this differently…my latest counselor is not someone who has bitten the dust but rather someone, like the rest of the people I have met on my path, has helped me and carried me closer to recovery.

At the same time I can’t get rid of the awful sense of failure…why is it that after SO many counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists that I can’t seem to get well? What is wrong with me that I can’t let my past go, forgive and live the life I was meant to live. For me failure also brings loneliness, the old enemy of rejection has reared its head again and I do feel so alone right now.

I will never be going back to her. From now on whenever we meet it will be as friends, I hope. I am thankful for everything she has given and for everything I have learnt. Writing this post has really helped. I haven’t spoken to her since she sent that e-mail but I now know what I want to say to her.

On to the next….

Friday, October 14, 2011


Of all the offices in South Africa I HAD to land up in one with a moron. Yep, if they found this post I would probably get fired because that moron my boss. This week he played the most bizarre albeit rather disturbing and tasteless prank on me and quite frankly I am still trying to figure this out.

On Monday morning he came into the office with a story that on Sunday night he had had a guy arrested for peeing on his lawn. It was then discovered by the police that this man was in living in a car....with a baby. This first bit of information immediately raised red flags for me. I was then rather horrified when my boss told me that they put this guy and this baby in the back of a police van (in South Africa, police vans are trucks with the backs converted into cages for the criminals to sit in) and took them to the police station and placed both this man and the baby INTO AN ALL MALE CELL. Nice.

I was having trouble believing that this was even possible- where were child protective services?. Boss said apparently they had decided that the best place for this child was with this man so he could take care of her. IN A MALE CELL???. He showed me a picture of a man holding a rather distressed looking baby and that just made it worse for me. It's one thing if you just hear about something happening. Actually seeing it makes it more real. He told me not to worry but for two days I could think of nothing else. What were they feeding this child? Was she being bathed? Where was she sleeping? Where were they getting diapers?. It seemed so unreal. And it didn't help that my boss seemed to find the whole thing very funny- he actually said the kid was bound to land up in jail anyway so she might as well start early. I was disgusted.

Eventually on Wednesday this week, hearing that this kid was still in jail, I couldn't take it any longer. I was ashamed that I had not done something sooner. I picked up the phone and phoned my counsellor who worked for an organisation for abused children. She had all kinds of connections and even knew a judge. She was equally horrified and we started working on a plan to get this child out. This all happened in the office. When my boss heard that I was phoning for help, he stuck his head in the door and told me (in between bloody giggles) that he had been pulling my leg for the last two days.

At first I was in shock. Then I started laughing- not because I thought it was funny more because I just didn't know what else to do. My counsellor laughed with me. But once I got off the phone with her and sat down to think it hit me: For two days I had been going out of my mind with was all I thought about, my traitorous imagination threw up all sorts of images of what could be happening to this child in a male jail cell. My anxiety disorder began living up to it's name again. I felt sick, helpless, I couldn't concentrate. At the same time I felt both disgusted and foolish because no one else seemed to care. Finding out it was a hoax was infuriating!. Once he let the cat out the bag everyone else in the office was quick to make it clear that they had no knowledge that it was a joke. Our regional manager wasn't exactly pissed off about it but didn't seem to pleased about it either and made my boss apologise to me. I can't say that made it much better...he wasn't exactly sincere.

 I don't blame you for thinking I am going overboard, you may be right. But seriously what sane, supposedly stable person can joke about something like that? Because of my past and what I have gone through with Little B and her sisters, if I ever hear that there is a child in danger or in need it hurts and I will do something about it. I feel hurt that my boss exploited such a sensitive part of me. I was considering quitting- the lady whose maternity leave I am covering seems to want to come back early to escape her house. Not to mention I have made two big mistakes this week that has cost the company money. I then realised that that was a really childish thing to do and I would be shooting myself in the foot- I need the money. At the end of my life this company and it's employees will feature very little. So I am staying and keeping my distance from this idiot. Have you ever had a horrible prank played on you that did some emotional harm. Please let me know I am not alone!!.

Monday, October 10, 2011

On the beach...

My life is like stroll on the near to the edge as I can go

- Thoreau

I dropped a tear in the ocean, and whenever they find it I'll stop loving you, only then.

- Anonymous

Monday, September 19, 2011

Life in a noodle

These days I have bee less inclined to write. Other than the fact that work is hectic and I have university assignments coming out of my ears, I still have plenty to say but I just can't put it to paper.

In the past few weeks I have been facing my past more than I ever have in my entire life. Particulary that of my abuse as a child. And it has been ugly. I have been feeling dirty and gross. I wish I could just zip down my skin and leave my soiled body behind. I also feel selfish for what I am putting the people around me through. Hearing about someone's abusive past is so truamatic, especially when it's some one you love.

A few days before my birthday last month, in a moment of extreme rage, I told my sister about the time my dad had tried to strangle me. She was trying to defend him and I just saw red. Her reaction was of pure disgust. She refused to believe me. Until my Mom told her it was true. I didn't hear from her for a week. I wrote her an e-mail pouring my heart out about my past but sparing her the gory details. I spent the entire week racked with guilt that I had put such a heavy burden onto her. I had to admit though, I was a bit perplexed- she grew up in the same house as me, was she really that blind? Maybe she just blocked it out.

She never responded to my e-mail and I didn't see her until she suddenly showed up on my birthday. She was nice to me but I knew there was more to come. She seemed to be biding her time. Eventually yesterday I sent her a message to tell her that I was considering my counsellor's suggestion that I stay in a safe house so that I can be apart from my family and have space to work on my issues. The only part of her reply that I saw before she deleted me off Blackberry messenger was "I have given you enough time to sort out your issues". I have know idea what she was going to say, but since she has now cut contact with me I am assuming she is severing ties.

I can't say it really hurts. We have never been close. I feel more disappointed that she does not believe me or at the very least, thinks I am making a big deal out of "nothing". I also feel a weird sort of pity for her: she is so despetrate to hold onto an ideal of what life should be like she not really living life and she is miserable.

Well, when you come out with something as explosive as I have you can't expect to win friends and influence people. But I have a dream that one day I will be free of this and I will be happy.

But I have such a long road ahead of me...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dear Dad,

I will not always struggle
I will not always have to fight for everthing I want
I will always land on my feet
I'm not always going to be fat
I'm going to be successful
I am not going to be alone
I will complete my degree next
I am not always going to suffer
I am going to be whatever I choose and be successful at it.

If you are in a position of authority over someone, especially a child, always be aware of the power of the tounge. No matter how good your intentions or how desperate you are ,beware that what you say can change the course of someone's life.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I'm Back! - The reason I disappeared

So I privatised my blog for two weeks. I needed to get rid of someone and basically correct a massive oversight on my part, regarding a post I wrote over a year ago. I have always believed that honesty is the best policy so I will be laying bare exactly what happened. It started with  a comment that I received on a post about the TRE exercises. Unfortunately when I deleted the post, the comment went with it otherwise I would have put it in this post. The comment was from Dr Melanie Salmon, the National TRE co-ordinator for Africa. She titled the comment with STEPHI and FELLOW BLOGGERS BEWARE! and then proceeded to write that the TRE exercises should only be considered several weeks in therapy and with the approval of a doctor. She continued to say that TRE should not be done by people with "certain conditions" (she didn't specify what). She went on to say that TRE should ONLY be practiced with a qualified TRE pactitioner and the patient should only be allowed to do the TRE exercises on their own after several sessions. The reason for this she said that TRE could produce some reactions that could alarm a person if they were not in a controlled environment. She then went on (and on...) about the TRE exercise material being under strict copyright and basically said that I was risking being sued.

I published this comment because I thought that if what she was saying was true people who had read this post needed to know. I wasted half a day at work where I did a massive google search trying find any possible dangers of TRE. I found none. The day after this message was posted I was rather alarmed when I received a call from my psychologist. I couldn't answer because I was at work. In her voice message she asked me to call her back urgently about the "TRE training". This is where I became furious because I realised that this Dr Salmon had traced my identity and was in contact with my psychologist about my blog post. I immediately deleted the post. I realised that this woman had been reading my blog extensively (judging by the amount of information she had on me) and since she was knew who I really was, I privatised this blog to rid of her and her employees. I then got HER e-mail address, copied my Dad on it (since his legal knowledge is boundless) and sent her the nice e-mail below:

Dear Dr. Salmon,

I am the person who posted the step-by-step instructions on my blog. Thank -you for the information you gave me. I want you to know that I have deleted that post and will be making my blog private. I will also do a post about the possible dangers of the TRE exercises. I do apologise for my irresponsibility but the post was written nearly a year ago during an extremely emotionally difficult and traumatizing time and I admit I was none the wiser to the copyright restrictions. I thought since stuff like yoga and relaxation exercises etc are available every where on the net.

I must tell you am very upset and disturbed not only because my privacy was violated by you tracking down my identity through my psychologist ( I would have deleted that post regardless) but also because I was not, at any time warned about the dangers of TRE when I was taught the exercises. Had I known that TRE could be harmful I would never have posted it on my blog, I would have questioned twice about doing the exercises myself and I would not have done these exercises with my six- year old cousin. My psychologist (who by the way was an excellent practitioner) has been in contact with me and says she should have been more explicit. However I don't feel that it is her fault. It is the responsibility of whoever trained her to make her aware of the dangers of doing TRE without supervision and how to inform potential clients. As you are the National TRE co- ordinator I would think that would be your responsibility. It seems that you are more worried about the copyright. Patients should be given more information and be WELL informed before they start of what they can experience with TRE and what they can and cannot do with the information. I question twice about this information being available to the mass on DVD's.


And the Dr Salmon herself sent be an equally lovely reply:

Dear Stephanie

Thank you for your email and for removing the step-by-step Trauma Release Exercise instructions from your blog.

Just to let you know that I did not track your identity through your psychologist. My Admin Manager did a Google search on 'Trauma Release Exercises' and came across your very public blog. On your web site your refer to Dr Shaw and therefore it was obvious as to whom you had done TRE with, as all our Practitioners are well known to us.

All our Trainees go through extensive training, which includes potential problems that can arise from doing TRE with or without a Practitioner. Our Practitioners are trained as to what they should do should a problem arise during a session with a client. Clients should be seen through several appointments before they are given the exercises to do on their own. The reasoning behind this is to ensure that the Client has reached a safe place with TRE and that they will be able to tremor on their own without a major problem arising. This is basic Level 1 Training, which all our Trainees receive, without fail.

Berceli TRE Booklet, which you probably received from your Psychologist in order to do the exercises at home. Secondly the reason our Admin Manager does regular searches on the world wide web is because our main concern is that TRE is practiced by Trained Practitioners in a safe and responsible manner.

With regards to the DVD - you will note that if you go to our web page that we in South Africa do not make the TRE DVD available to our Community and neither are step-by-step instructions posted there either.

Yours Sincerely

Dr. Melanie Salmon
It may be pretty clear what I think of Dr Salmon and how she handled this situation both professionally and ethically. But I will keep that to myself. But just to make things clear....I NEVER received any booklet when I started my TRE sessions. I was actually my psychologist's case study while she was training to become a TRE practitioner. I had had several sessions with her and we had gone quite far into my history and medical problems before I started the TRE training. I do believe that the TRE training is not as water tight as Dr Salmon thinks it is.

But for my was thoughtless and irresponsible of me to post the step by step instructions on this blog. I can say that I had no knowledge of TRE causing adverse reactions. I had found something really great and I wanted to share it. It is very upseting that my actions could have caused someone harm.  For that I am truly sorry. When I posted this a year ago I did have some knowledge of plagiarism and  how a copyright works, but in my rather naive mind I thought that since clear instructions of yoga, Pilate's, diets, any exercise etc. is freely available anywhere, I thought that TRE is was no different. As there is nothing on the internet or any of the TRE dvd's and books as to what dangers involve TRE I will leave it up to the reader as to whether this is a marketing ploy just to buy the material.

I have personally found the benefits to TRE HUGE!!. And yes, I still do them at myself. If you are interested in TRE then please go to Dr. Berceli's website where this is a list of TRE practitioners around the world. Do as much research as you can on TRE and consult your GP before you start.

Lastly I would like to advise Dr. Salmon to go after the several youtube users who have videos on how to do the TRE exercises.


Friday, August 5, 2011

I am privatising this blog

For two weeks. E-mail me at if you would like to read.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Joining the rat race

First day on a new job!. I really can feel that I have not worked in a while. I was so tired sitting in that office and I couldn't stop yawning. I was worried that everyone thought I was bored. I have to admit it is a rather hectic job and there is SO much to learn. The thing that is really freaking me out is that the lady whose maternity leave I am covering is in her NINTH month of pregnancy!!. She goes on leave TWO DAYS before she is due to give birth. I am starting to have vision of the office turning into a labour ward. There is so much work for us to cover that if she has her baby any sooner than she is supposed to, I'm in serious shit.

The people in the office where I work seem nice, they are really comfortable around each other. I don't think they are the type of people I would normally hang out with- they are party goers, I got out of that phase long time ago. One thing that does irk me is the amount of swearing that goes on around that office. I'm no grandma, I once had a very potty mouth that I picked up courtesy of London and I had to work hard to get rid of it. I can understand breaking your toe or seeing something that beggars believe and uttering every slang word you can think of. We all have been there. But to me someone that swears in every sentence they speak tells me that they have nothing good or intelligent to say and are just trying to full the silence. I'm not offended by it...I find it more annoying than anything.

The job itself does look like a high stress job unfortunately. Without revealing too much info, basically the company I work for is a worldwide tour group. The job I will be covering will be as a coordinator for all the tour guides in Southern Africa. It's a lot of paper work, even more data entry and I'll have to learn the NINE different computer programmes designed specially for the company ( which aren't very user friendly if you ask me).

This is going to be one of the biggest tests I will face since I've had my breakdown. I am going to be positive and believe that this will have a good effect on my mental health. The make or break it period will come in November when I will be working AND studying for five exams....with no time off. It's all about time management. If I start now it won't be the death of me. And of course I always have to keep my dreams in sight to know what I am working towards.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

BEST news everyone! (and a bit of blabbing)

I got a temporary job covering maternity leave. It is a 4- 5 month contract and I start on the first of August. I was looking for something permanent and I could do with better pay but it's better than nothing and at least I will have something better to do in the next few months. I will be able to buy my Mom a nice birthday present this year. And I can finally start paying off some of those debts that have been hanging around my neck. I am not nervous about it now but come Sunday night I will be!.

In the last few days the world has been in total chaos. How ironic that I wrote about terrorism just a few weeks ago and now Norway is dealing with such tragedy because of an individual who wanted to bring a "revolution" to his country. Then of course there is the massive train crash in China, more earthquakes in my dear Japan and the death of Amy Winehouse (Am I missing anything?). Right now I feel like I am in a fish bowl staring out at all the anarchy. Everyone here feels safe and untouchable. I feel the same to a certain degree, but I was once also in the midst of a national disaster and know that we are never completely safe. How someone could call himself a christian and then shoot dozens of children and young people is incomprehensible to me. What this man did was not from God. Of course the obvious question is why didn't God, being all- powerful that he is stop these acts that were being committed in his name. The best honest answer I can give to that is I don't know. I'm not going pipe on about "everything happens for a reason"- there was no reason for this.

So things are starting to look up on my side despite the world being a very sad place at the moment. In the last week I have been staying with a friend and have honestly had no time to either blog or read blogs. I am going back to the same friend tomorrow to start have a bit of a holiday before I join the rat race. There is no big reason for this post other than to share some good news for those who care and give my two cents on the happenings of planet earth. Hope everyone is safe and well :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Today was Nelson Mandela's 93rd birthday. A few years ago a campaign was started on Mandela's birthday that encouraged South Africans to spend part of the day helping those less fortunate. Amazingly enough it has actually taken off. Today my cousins volunteered for charity, my Mom donated clothes to a children's home and our church celebrated the opening of the a newly built dormitory for disabled school children. I was hoping to donate blood today, I was a donor before I became ill in 2009, but unfortunately I am still waiting for clearance from my doctor to start donating again.

I am careful of not turning people into gods, but like everyone else I am amazed at Mandela. I was afraid of him when I was very young- my grandmother was responsible for that. They called him a terrorist. But when I actually questioned why he was so bad and what a terrorist was, no one could ever come up with what I thought was a good enough answer...I was just told he "made trouble". The truth is I learnt was true freedom was from Mandela and I only realised the value of it once his plight became known to me.

Most of you will know his story: He spent 27 years- the length of time I have been alive in tiny space no bigger than my bathroom. What is not widely reported now, even by Mr Mandela himself is the torture that he and his fellow activists suffered all because they wanted to be treated the same as white people. He was a husband and father- he missed the growing up of all his children. He sat in prison knowing that his family were being terrorized and isolated because of him and he could do nothing to help. I can't imagine the pain and unbearable agony he must of gone through.

The most important lesson I learnt was when he was realised from prison in 1990. He forgave. How he could forgive always used to strike me dumb- those people ruined his life. As an adult I now realise one of the reasons he was able to forgive. He knew what his reason for living was. His life had a purpose and a passion- something most people spend their whole lives looking for. He had a purpose and he was willing to die for it. They may have placed him behind bars but he already had freedom in his own heart.

We may be born into a country where democracy prevails. We may grow up having everything we ever wanted. We can travel the world but if we do not have freedom with in our hearts and souls, we might as well be locked in a prison. I believe some of the greatest battles in history have not taken place between enemies, but within a heart and a mind. It's like thinking you are in darkness when the sun has already risen. It's seeing the world in grey when it is actually bursting with colour. It is love, it is happiness and it is where life starts. It is understanding that You. Are. Actually. Free and not just thinking it.

I am including a poem called "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley  being read by Morgan Freeman, who played Nelson Mandela in the movie Invictus. While in prison Mandela was inspired by this poem and kept it close to his heart. It is reported that he would recite this to the other prisoners. This poem says best what I am trying to say. It means "unconquered" or "undefeated". Thank- you Madiba for this lesson.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I am sitting here with my cup of tea waiting for the popcorn. It is one of those golden afternoons on the farm. The house is bathed in warm sunlight and it is quiet except for the sound of the fridge and the birds. Milo is sunbathing. It is at times like these where I think life is good and depression seems like a distant memory. Yet no matter what season there is always this feeling that future is racing toward me and I am in no way prepared for it.

Last week my sister finally decided (or gained enough courage) to introduce us to her new boyfriend. When a male comes into our family it is a big deal. We are a family of women with the exception of my Dad and one lone male cousin (the best guy you could know). All of our men abandoned us years ago- I tell myself it's because they can't handle us. But the introduction of a new guy in our family has always meant one of two things...heartbreak or a new baby somewhere in the future. It happens every time like clockwork. It's like we have a curse on us. I hate it.

My sister's new boyfriend is a lovely guy but already the signs of trouble are there. He is three years younger than her and has a less than perfect past. I have now decided to be positive and supportive of her, but I can't get rid of the niggling feeling of impending doom. When she told us she was bringing him home last week I immediately made plans to be elsewhere. I panicked thinking "Oh no, not again! I won't go through it again!". Childish I know. It upset and hurt my sister and after a huge fight via Blackberry messenger, I agreed to stay.

Sitting with my Mom in the aftermath, I was trying to explain to her my overwhelming desire to get as far away from the family as I could. At some point I made the most ridiculous comparison of my life so far being like window shopping in a mall- there has always been glass between me and the things I want: success, happiness, love, peace. And all I have really done is looked at it but have never had it.

The hilarity and overwhelming sadness of what I was saying engulfed me all at once. Suddenly I began to both laugh and cry at the same time as each feeling inside me battled for control. The convulsions of both laughter and tears were so strong that I could no longer sit upright and so I collapsed into a quivering lump on the couch.

My Mom's face just made me laugh and cry harder. I could literally see her brain ticking away, trying to figure out what she should do. Eventually I couldn't breathe and my stomach was in knots. She came and sat beside me and tried to hold me up. Milo was staring at me like I had gone nuts. I laughed/ cried for about 45 minutes.

I have no idea what that was or whether it was good or not. It's been a while since I was so out of control. Afterwards my face was red and puffy from crying and my asthma had been triggered from laughing. I spoke to my counsellor and she sounded it like hysteria. It might have been the fact that my doctors were meddling with my Amitriptyline Whatever it was it passed quickly and the next day it was like it never happened. I am ashamed of my attitude toward my sister having a boyfriend. You don't need to tell me that I am being unreasonable. But the past still has it's clutches deep inside us and I am still trying to figure out how to break free. I hope that by the end of my time on earth I won't be comparing my life to window shopping.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


On July 7th, 2005 I left my flat in Southfeilds, in the south of London and took the tube to my work in Kensignton. It was a typical day, with me wishing that it was weekend because as usual I had gone to bed so late the night before. I had been living in England for just over a year and was loving it. I used to work to walk quite often, mostly because I loved being out in central London so much. But it took me two hours to get to work that way and owing to the fact that I was exhausted that morning I took the train a little late.

I can't remember much about that morning but when I look back now I remember feeling rather unsettled sitting at my desk and not knowing why. It was so quite. Too quite. An hour and a half after I arrived the phone rang and it was one of the psychotherapists at the practice where I worked asking to speak to my boss. "Have you heard whats happened?" he asked. I had no idea. "There are bombs going off on the Underground" he said casually that I actually thought he was joking. He actually starting laughing and then told me to tell my boss that they were shutting down central London and he was not able to get in so he was going to start walking home. I sat at my desk shell shocked after that call not sure what to do, still not quite believing what I had heard.

The phone rang about three minutes later, just has I had noticed I had 6 text messages on my cellphone. It was my grandmother's cousin who lived in Wimbledon, frantic wanting to know if I was alright. She told me that three bombs had exploded on three different Underground trains, one of them was on the train line where I worked. Knowing my Mom would freak out as soon as she heard the news I asked her to phone my parents in South Africa and let them know I was alright. The rest of day was spent frantically trying to contact friends around the city, which was difficult as they had shut down the cellular network in central London. All public transport was suspended and later that day there was a sight most likely never to be seen again. Millions of people walking the streets to get home. By the time my boss let me go home the streets were empty and deathly silent- there were no cars or people. I knew the way home from walking to and fro to work but was I terrified walking that night. I eventually got home at 10pm to three relieved housemates.

Terrorism to me was something that seemed to only be exclusively on T.V. It never seemed to be real, something that always happened in a country worlds away. I had watched as an 18- year old in numb disbelief as those planes had hit the Twin Towers could not comprehend how a person could actually do that.  For the first time that day, the monster that had been trapped in a television set touched my life and became very, very real. The real weapon that terrorism uses is fear, panic and confusion that normally hits in it's aftermath making the world angrier and more dangerous.

Today is the 7th anniversary of the London bombings. Seven years ago today four very misguided young men stepped onto London's public transport, which services over a million people a day, and took their lives and those of 52 other people when they detonated explosives strapped to their bodies. 700 hundred more people were injured. In the days that followed a shadow was cast over the country. It was almost like a sort of universal trust had been broken. In time everyone recovered from their shock and anger. But things were never the same again.

I have often found it odd, especially since deciding to follow God again, how people can commit the most horrible atrocities against mankind all in the name of something that in my opinion that is all about love. I personally feel that God is all about life. He speaks life onto us. His command is love. Yet somehow people use God to kill and control other people. They project their own selfish desires onto God and make it all about Him when it's actually all about them.

From what I know about Islam it has to be one of the most peaceful and honorable religions out there. Some of the greatest people I have ever known have been Muslim. We once had a Islamic landlord who let my family stay rent- free in our house for months after my Dad had his heart attack and my mother became unemployed because his way of honoring his God was to shelter us. Because of a handful of extremists shame has been cast onto millions of other peaceful Muslims.

Like I said before, terrorism's greatest weapon is fear. Fear does terrible things to people and is even more dangerous when it affects people on a mass scale. One of the characters in Starwars said that fear eventually leads to hatred. An emotional cancer. This is so true, I think most of you will agree with me that 9/11 changed the world and we are now more afraid and more angry. It has taken away a piece of our freedom. Some of us will never be able to fly without the niggling feeling of, "Will I make it?". Some of us now insist upon living behind ridiculously high wall for protection. People are afraid to go outside because of "What if?. I know plenty of people that will not completely trust someone because they are

What can we do to change this? I have no idea except for the way that I reacted after the London bombings. The day after, I got back on the tube and went to work. I was one just six people in that carriage. Normally it's packed. We had to stop in the middle of a tunnel for five minutes which got me a little unnerved and I asked a guy sitting further away if I could sit with him, eventually all six of us were sitting together. I can't exactly say it was the most pleasant journey of my life. But I made it to work that morning, one of the very few people in London that did. The second time I got on the train it was easier and the third time...

So my answer would be learn from the experience, never forget but to move on. Yes those people have got us afraid but don't give in to it or you will be doing exactly want they want you to do. Don't be prejudiced and distrustful toward someone because they are part of a religion that happens to have a few extremists. Don't listen to the "What ifs". Don't hide behind walls. You don't have to change the world but you can make a difference to your small corner. That is the only way to win this war. That way your children will not inherit a world of hatred .

RIP 07/07/2005


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The copper theif!The copper theif!

For the third time in THREE MONTHS the telephone cables in our area have been stolen. No cables means no phone. No phone for us means no internet. This has become such a huge problem in South Africa. People steal the copper cables right off the damn poles and then sell it to God knows who. It takes the phone company weeks to repair it and has put such a financial strain on them that they have started laying people off.

I have been using my Blackberry as a computer. This has come at the worst time because I am job- hunting. I am able to approve comments on my blog but for some reason I can't comment myself. I have downloaded 0pera mini onto my phone so hopefully that will make using the internet on my phone a bit simpiliar.

So job interview!. I don't think I have ever gone to so much effort for an interview. But when I got there on Friday I could have cut the tension in that office with a knife. At one point I could hear some girl talking loudly on the phone and to me it sounded as if she was crying. Really awkward.

What had happened is that the magazine was due to print on Monday and they had just gotten a new story. I guess if you have worked for a magazine you know this is a BIG deal. In the end the person that was meant to interview me couldn't and the lady that did interview me was extremely stressed and rushed through the interview. Not only that pissed me off big time when told me that they had already found two people but "didn't want to cancel all the interviews". I had driven 40 minutes and spent my sister's money on clothes just so they could interview me for fun?. I nearly blew up right there but managed to hold it together.

So I guess that was a bit of dud. They have still haven't said no and I gave them samples of my writing but realistically I know my writing is average. It sucks because I really wanted that job and I think I would have been good at it. Oh well, on to the next.

I do have some good news though. I got my exam results back...I passed all of them and they were all just a few marks short of distinction. It's not going to make me any money right now, but at least I am edging closer to finishing my degree.For the third time in THREE MONTHS the telephone cables in our area have been stolen. No cables means no phone. No phone for us means no internet. This has become such a huge problem in South Africa. People steal the copper cables right off the damn poles and then sell it to God knows who. It takes the phone company weeks to repair it and has put such a financial strain on them that they have started laying people off.

I have been using my Blackberry as a computer. This has come at the worst time because I am job- hunting. I am able to approve comments on my blog but for some reason I can't comment myself. I have downloaded 0pera mini onto my phone so hopefully that will make using the internet on my phone a bit simpiliar.

So job interview!. I don't think I have ever gone to so much effort for an interview. But when I got there on Friday I could have cut the tension in that office with a knife. At one point I could hear some girl talking loudly on the phone and to me it sounded as if she was crying. Really awkward.

What had happened is that the magazine was due to print on Monday and they had just gotten a new story. I guess if you have worked for a magazine you know this is a BIG deal. In the end the person that was meant to interview me couldn't and the lady that did interview me was extremely stressed and rushed through the interview. Not only that pissed me off big time when told me that they had already found two people but "didn't want to cancel all the interviews". I had driven 40 minutes and spent my sister's money on clothes just so they could interview me for fun?. I nearly blew up right there but managed to hold it together.

So I guess that was a bit of dud. They have still haven't said no and I gave them samples of my writing but realistically I know my writing is average. It sucks because I really wanted that job and I think I would have been good at it. Oh well, on to the next.

I do have some good news though. I got my exam results back...I passed all of them and they were all just a few marks short of distinction. It's not going to make me any money right now, but at least I am edging closer to finishing my degree.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Good news, everyone!

Borrowing the catch- phrase of Professor Farnsworth from Futurama, I have some good news. I went to hospital to have a check up for my BIH at the neurology department. They looked at history of intercranial pressure taken at each lumbar puncture/ spinal tap I have had and saw that it has slowly been decreasing over the last 2 and a half years. I also have not been getting many headaches lately and they say the headaches I have been getting are tension headaches. Based on my history and how I have been doing the last six months, they believe the BIH has resolved itself and that I am well enough to go off my medication. This is VERY good news because the medication I was on for BIH had some horrible side effects and I was pretty sure it was interacting with my antidepressants. The only way to see if the BIH is gone is to take me off the meds. SO no more painful pins and needles in my hands and feet, no more fatigue, no more nausea and no more having to  pee 75 times a day!. Yipeee!!! Let's just hold thumbs and hope that it is gone.

And my second bit of good news is that I have a job interview on Friday for a PA/ Junior Journalist position at a Christian magazine. I didn't deliberately apply for a job at a Christian magazine, it just came up. I had to send in samples of my writing. One of the samples was "10 Unusual degrees" from this blog. Obviously I changed it and spruced it up a little.I had to do the Myers- Briggs Personality test and answer all these questions about my commitment to Christianity etc before even getting invited to the interview. I have studied the Myer- Briggs closely during the course of my degree so I know how it works and could easily have cheated on it. But since I want to work for a company that I actually fit into, I didn't. I was a surprised and a little offended with the questions about Christianity since I see that as very personal but answered them as honestly as I could ( I didn't go as far as to tell them I was an atheist for several years). Because of the answers I gave, I really didn't expect a call back.

As I haven't gotten the job yet and I will have to answer some tough questions in the interview (I don't have a SA drivers license/ what exactly have I being doing the last four years) I not exactly celebrating. But I got an interview so at least that is some achievement for now. I will be nervous on Friday, it's the first job interview I have had since living in America and I am facing a lot of competition. I need to convince them that I can both study and work full time. I am also dreading any personal questions they may ask. I have had to borrow money from my sister to buy clothes as I just don't have anything that is suitable. I feel a lot of pressure to succeed for my family.

Please pray for me if that is your inclination, otherwise you can just wish me luck!!.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Remember Me

My grandmother, aged 21
Do not discuss me if I'm not present
My mind is foggy but my heart is clear
Do not criticize my imperfections
If only i could choose to remember even the simiplest of tasks
Do not resent my frequent funny questions
I'm scared and confused
Your ansers slips from my desperate grasp
Do not stop loving me because my actions are inappropriate
Do not resent frequent pacing or attempt to "go home"
This is not my home. Nothing here is familiar or reassuring
If only I can go home. I would surely find my memory there
Do not remind me of my recent hurts
I do not recall that my mate has passed away
Do not speak to me as a child
I have a lifetime of experiences despite my childlike ways
Remind me of your name and the place you hold in my life
I would love to recall, for  I feel your love and kindness
Show me the Word, nature, music, art
For I have forgotten the amazing joys it holds
Allow me to use the tools that remain to hammer out my mark
and wrench my heart
Forgive me my imperfect past
If I only remembered, I would surely apologize
You need not fill our time with many words
Your presence helps fill my void
The blame does not live with you or me
Love me for who I am and the person I used to be.

Written by an Alzheimer's sufferer

Sunday, June 19, 2011

From the dark side: The end...a stir fry

Today is Father's day, I always struggle with Father's day mostly because of the past I have with my Dad. I thought maybe I would just sleep through the whole day until I was literally guilted out of my bed, forced to come downstairs and put on a smile. Since about 14:30 this afternoon my sister's voice, blaring as she bosses us around has had the same effect on me as nails on a chalkboard.

The reason I have been writing this all this about my grandmother is because this week we finally put her in a home. Granted she really should already been in a home years ago but my Mom just couldn't let go. Up until just recently my Mom was the centre of my grandmother's universe and she couldn't stand to be away from her. My mother believed that once my grandmother stopped responding to her love that then it would be time to let go. I think that my Mom carries a lot of guilt because it was that idea that led to disaster with my grandmother breaking her hip and her final decline into complete insanity. This led to a year of hell for our family that caused a breakdown of our relationships, isolation, depression and a whole lot of anger for all of us. If my grandmother was herself she would be horrified at all that happened.

Now for what I see as a true tragedy: My grandmother was raised to believe that her most important place was within the family. She may never have had a career, but she worked twice as hard for her family. She came from a wealthy farming family but received nothing except a small settlement in her parents will...all because she was a girl and her husband was meant to take care of her.

My grandfather died penniless in a home (which was paid for by his brother) when I was 19. Standing over him in the final hours of his life, I felt nothing more than pity for him. I was more heartbroken by my Mom begging him to stay so she could spend more time with him. That was so awful. My beloved great- uncle died two months before I left for England. He had suffered a massive stroke the year before his death that left him a total invalid, unable to speak. Our family had raced across the country when that happened. I sat with him in the hospital throughout the night squeezing his hand and stroking his face trying to get my brain accept that my uncle, with his twinkling eyes, larger than life personality and booming voice was the same frail man that lay expressionless in that bed. It was a great day for him when he died. He loved God more than anything else on this earth and longed for the day when he could finally meet his maker.

My great- uncle had made a great success of the farm he inherited and it has now been passed onto his sons, one of which is my godfather. My grandmother's younger brother drank his farm and his money away. He died of cancer when I was 8. So my grandmother is the last one left. The last one from the glory days.

So in other words my poor grandmother is broke and even though she worked so hard. We could not afford to put her in a nice home or one that was even close buy. The home she is in now is very basic but comfortable for the price. But it is two hours away and my mother will only be able to see her once a month. My Mom has lived with my grandmother for most of her life except for her university years and the first 3 years she was married to my Dad.

It has been a mad dash to get my Grandmother ready. You will not believe how much stuff you need to buy to get someone ready for going into an old- age home. The night before she left I was in the kitchen chopping vegetables for a stir fry and I was listening to my Mother talk to my Grandmother about the home, how many friends she would make, how the nurses were going to spoil her and how good the food was. My Mom washed her hair, cut her nails and was rubbing cream on her hands. My grandmother kept thanking her. The stir fry was not quiet working out the way I wanted ( I added to many damn noodles!) and then it hit me. My grandmother has been alive the whole time I have been alive, she was there for everything and I mean everything. Years and years of everything was going to end with a stir fry?. This mostly likely was going to be her last meal with us. This was probably the last supper I would make for her.

We are took my Grandmother to that home for her die. Her road on this earth will end there. And while she may change homes or come for visits, you know what I mean. A page has been turned and we are now facing the final chapter. The landscape of our family will never be the same. And with the stir fry thought came the cold realisation. I will never hear my Grandmother call my name again, she will never make me another cup of tea, her stories have now gone.

I'm still angry as hell but I don't hate her anymore and I don't want to be angry either. But I guess the reason why I am afraid to let go of that anger is because behind all that rage there is a heart wrenching sadness and a tunnel of endless regret. I have racked my brain trying identify those times when we may have had a second chance for a good relationship. Maybe everyday was a second chance, maybe we were never meant to be. The irony is that if my grandmother had not had Alzheimer's we might have been very good friends.

On that last night, after everyone had gone to bed I went into her room to fetch Milo, who for some reason had taken to curling on my Grandmother's bed after she went to sleep. And there she lay tiny and fragile, a ghost of her former self. For some reason I thought about one Christmas when my Mom, sister and I were struggling to drag our potted Christmas tree into the house on a mat. My grandmother pushed us aside, took hold of the mat and dragged the whole thing in by herself quickly and with such apparent ease that all three of us were embarrassed by being shown up by a seventy- something woman. There are a lot of things I want to change about the past but none of that matters now. Saying "I love you" just felt to weird but I whispered to her how sorry I was. She didn't hear me of course. They say that the bitterest tears shed over a grave are for words left unsaid. I took Milo and left.

The next day she was gone, I stood in her room. Her bed was stripped and all her belongings were gone. Photographs of her now seem ancient, moments frozen in time. I am now part of her legacy. I hope and pray that I will learn from her mistakes and live my life well.

Friday, June 17, 2011

From the dark side: The damage that haterd can do...Part 7


In September last year, just a few days after my birthday, my Grandmother took a tumble down a step (that was only about 2 inches high) and broke her hip. We had been forced to moved to a new house as the farm my parents had lived on for the past seven years was sold. The move sent my grandmother in a continuous downward spiral and we thought things couldn't get any worse...until that fall. After that life became unbearable for all of us.

She had to have surgery and was in hospital for a month. Our entire family and extended family took turns in sitting with her in hospital to comfort her and remind her every few minutes where she was, what had happened and prevent her from trying to get up or pulling her catheter out. I sat staring at her not being
able to offer any words of support other than the stereotypical cheesy stuff when it was absolutely necessary. My Mom was unhappy with the care she was receiving at the hospital and brought her home early. That day was one of the worst days of my life. It was just me and Georgina and the amount of care my grandmother needed was overwhelming.

That fall shot any sanity my grandmother had left. When she came home from the hospital we had to put her in nappies/ diapers because she was incontinent. Her vocabulary were severely compromised but that didn't stop her talking in a continuous monotonous voice from the moment she woke up until she went to bed. The only talking she ever did was in the form of some very weird prayers or calling my mother. That was on a good day on a bad day she would shout and scream continuously. The talking alone drove us up the wall. Even though her leg healed very well, Alzheimer's had started to claim her motor skills and she was confined to a wheelchair, only being able to walk very short distances with a walker. She screamed every time we moved the wheelchair and taking her in the car was impossible because it was "To fast" and she was afraid we were going to crash.

My Grandmother never slept. She had no concept of time or of night or day. My Mom had to eventually start sleeping with her because she was so terrified of being alone and would try to get out of bed. She had several panic attacks a day but my Mom was hesitant about putting her on medication because she didn't want her to get addicted. Though, I understand where my poor Mom was coming from the whole thing was absolutely ridiculous. Eventually one night after I found her in bed choking and hyperventilating which resulted in us having to call an ambulance, my Mom relented and my Grandmother was put on a sleeping pill and sedatives, providing a little relief (and some more sleep) for all of us.

Whether it was because of the drugs or the disease she began having hallucinations. She had entered her own world never to return to the real one. If you told her something that she was seeing wasn't there it was like she either wouldn't hear you or comprehend you and just went on talking about the strange imaginary place she was in. The doctor put her on medicine they use treat people with schizophrenia, which I found odd but it didn't make any difference any way.

She hasn't been as aggressive as most Alzheimer's patients but she has tried to take a few socks and slaps at my Mom. The worst was when I found her trying to strangle Milo- he and jumped in her lap and frightened her, when I walked in I was so horrified I grabbed him away from her and slapped her hand hard. She then told my Dad I had tried to kill her.

Her final obsession was with my Dad. His name was always in her mind and in the last few months she has called for him continuously throughout the day. At first she was convinced he was her husband (something my Dad did not take very kindly). Then to her, everyone she saw was "my Dad" whether or not they were even male or female. The saddest part was when she finally forgot who my Mom was and stopped calling her by her name. I think because she always heard me call my Mother, "Mom", she started to do that too. My Mom would not accept this until the day when my Grandmother was crying and saying over and over again, "Where is my mother?, I want my mother!", my Mom gave in, knelt down next to her and said, "I am your Mother". My Grandmother then cried over and over again, "Oh thank you!, thank you!".

They say that with Alzheimer's patients, the happiest memories go last and this was true for my Grandmother. Her very last memories to go were those of her childhood and when she was at boarding school. My Mom tried to talk to her as much as she could about those days, hoping she would be spared a while long with those happy treasures in her hands. But ultimately, my Grandmother would wake up every morning having lost more of what little memory she had left. And so we watched as every last thread of her life slipped away and she became a stranger to us and us to her.

It is very difficult to convey in words how horrendous the last year has been. Our family, my parents in particular, have faced many trails in their lives but very few of them can compare to this. What we have watched happen is truly frightening. Torture is the best way to describe the emotional impact it has had on us and the toil it has taken on our lives.  Our entire lives revolved around my Grandmother and her care. We had very little freedom. We could never go out as a family and if one of us was out it could only be for a few hours because someone was on duty at home and needed to be relieved. It was worse for my mother- for the past year she has been house bound.

It has had a different impact on me. Of course I was to busy with my damn revenge to notice that someone who loved me my whole life and nurtured me (in her tedious, bossy way), was slipping away. But there were moments when the pain of what was happening would lash at me. Watching Little B running to her Great- Grandmother arms wide open only to get pushed away because she thought Little B was attacking her. And then seeing my Mom cry because she missed her mother so much- she was there but she wasn't at the same time. My Dad used to say that the person we had in our house was no longer my Grandmother and that she had left us some time ago. As harsh as that sounds he was right.

And where did all my hatred get me?. Well it got me nowhere. It was useless. It just made me more miserable and more of a liability to my Mom instead of an asset when she desperately needed help. I felt bitter because I had gotten nowhere. I'm still angry at my Grandmother but how is that benefiting me?. It's funny how human beings see holding on to anger as doing them some sort of justice when they have been scorned. In the end no one cares and it's like going around in a circle.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

From the dark side: The damage that hatred can do....Part 6

I'm not sure when my Grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Honestly it feels to me like she has always had it. And living with someone who is afflicted with this condition is heartbreaking as well as being pure hell.

Because of the recession in 2009 I could no longer afford to live and study on my own. I moved out of Cape Town and back in with my parents....and my grandmother. My Mom still had her own business then and would work long hours. My Dad would work from home in an outside office. The care of my grandmother was left up to a lady that my Mom originally hired to do cleaning. She was very good with my grandmother and would cook for her and take care of her during the day while taking care of the house. Soon though my grandmother started to become more and more of a full time job.

We had a cat back then who my grandmother became obsessed with ( a commonality in Alzheimer's patients). If the cat wasn't within her line of vision she would panic, she tried to follow this cat wherever she went (and if you own a cat you know that this is impossible). If the cat did anything like "meow" or role around or ANYTHING she took as a sign that the cat had to be hungry and would get furious at all of us, accusing us of starving the cat. At least once an hour there was a blow up with her about the cat. The worst was when the cat went off somewhere as cats do, my grandmother would leave the house and go and try to find her. My parents lived on an apple farm and this happened several times a day and either Georgina, myself or my Dad would have to go out and frantically look for her. Then she would start accusing any stranger she came across of stealing the cat. And then came the day when she claimed that our cat....was not our cat.

At night her obsession switched to the locking of doors. After she went to bed she never slept as she was up and down all night checking that all the doors were locked. Of course she would always forget that she had already checked and keep on checking all night. Soon she started waking us up at night "Wondering where everybody was". She needed help with dressing, bathing and eventually going to the toilet. She was terrified of being alone and always afraid of some impending doom. She would work herself up into into a crazy state that would always end in her crying hysterically. Her balance was effected and we constantly had to watch her to make sure she didn't harm herself.

And then of course, there was her mental state. It probably sounds petty when I say that her repeating the same thing over and over again or the 50 million questions she would breakfast, was irritating. But just imagine having to hear the same line over and over and over again knowing that telling them to shut the hell up would have no effect what so ever AND you actually couldn't even get angry because it would agitate their mental state even more?. Well... I'm sure that's how my Mom must have felt. I didn't let it stop me from screaming my lungs out besides, it me feel better. Even if she would be beside herself once I had calmed down.

Throughout all of this I was horrible to her. I hated her. I kept thinking, "After being a constant intrusion in our lives you had to go ahead and become a burden too". I didn't care that she was afraid and confused and suffering. I just cared about venting all the anger I had held inside of me for years.If I wasn't ignoring her, I was yelling at her. I called her a "A demented old cow" and " A senile old woman". I resented her always having to tag along when my Mom and I were out together. My Mom may have been able to control how I spoke to her when I was little but not now. This lead to many fights between my mother and I which of course made me even more angry.

But even through her dementia my Grandmother still managed to retain her good qualities. After any attack I had made on her the disease would have her promptly forget that anything had happened. But the unhappiness remained. She was unhappy and she didn't know why. Knowing my Grandmother she probably thought it was because of something she had done. She would seek me out and want to hug me and love me. This made me feel like the worst person ever born on God's green earth and I would try to get away. My grandmother may not have been able to rescue me from my abuse but she was always there to comfort me. When it was my turn to do the same I failed her I did nothing but make her suffering worse. The full implications of that haven't hit me yet but they will eventually. I will have to deal with what I did for the rest of my life.

STILL more to come....

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

From the dark side: My confession of being a pure bitch...Part 5

The changes were so small at first that probably she even didn't notice it. Trying to recall a name, a date, what she had done the previous day. Then she would forget where she put something, leave the bath water on until it was overflowing. Burn food on the stove or in the oven because she forgot it was there.

Then these changes became slowly visible to those closest to her. My grandmother did a lot of the house work. When she put dishes away no one could ever find them because they were not in their usual place. She would clean up and put stuff away and we wouldn't see them for months. Then she couldn't remember which month we were in and then which year.

Right after the fire it was decided that my disabled aunt should go to a home. My grandmother had looked after her for over 40 years. Since my grandmother had reached her 70's she started to have difficulty managing. Once my aunt was in the home my grandmother visited almost every afternoon. Soon she deteriorated to the point where she was actually forgetting to go and see my aunt. And when she got to the home, she was never able to find my aunt's room and would get lost. Despite this she still continued to go whenever she could.

My grandmother had a weird habit of always falling asleep during movies or during the sermon in church. But soon all she had to do is sit down for five minutes and she would fall asleep right then. One time she was holding a cup of hot tea, fell asleep and let go of the mug, pouring the scalding liquid into her lap. A fracture to her arm and a bout of hepatitis only seemed to worsen her memory.

We all just thought that it was all part of age. But then she was forgetting people's names and eventually couldn't remember the names of those living with her without some prompting. She couldn't find her clothes or her medication. She would make us multiple cups of tea forgetting that she had already made the tea. Then she forgot how to tell the time.There were huge fights because my Mom did not want my grandmother to do housework anymore but my grandmother refused to give up anything that she saw as her duties. Having to constantly look for things made us all angry.

When I moved to England at the age of 20 my parents had moved to a house on an apple farm. Although my grandmother's memory was pretty shot she was still able to do basic things for herself and it was fine to leave her alone in the house for a few hours. The Christmas before I left I realised that something serious was wrong with my grandmother and that it was not simple forgetfulness. I had taken my grandmother shopping for presents for my Mom and Dad. That was the Christmas it snowed on the mountains (despite it being SUMMER in South Africa) so I settled her next to the heater in her room with a cup tea and went to my room to wrap presents. It must have been 5 or 6 times in the space of 30 minutes that she burst into my room panicking that she had not bought a present for my Mom. Not only did this mean that she had forgotten the entire day's events but she was forgetting what I was telling her 3 minutes after I had spoken to her.

When I said goodbye to my grandmother at the airport, she held me tight crying almost silently pleading me not to go. When I returned 3 and a half years later, she greeted me as though I was a stranger. She had been told over and over again who I was and she was very kind and polite. But her association of me, her memories of me, her love for a grand daughter had disappeared. While I was overseas I had gotten updates here and there of her slow decline. I spoke to her quite a few times, normally my Mom would be prompting her the background. But I missed most of it and I came home to find her drastically changed.

So, you would think that in these circumstances I would have nothing but compassion for her. Well you are wrong...this is where the pure evil of me came out. I returned to South Africa in 2007 a completely different person. A terrifying, horrific mental breakdown 6 months before and ripped everything that I was and everything that I had known and believed in to shreds. The past which I had worked so long to suppress was now demanding to be acknowledged and dealt with. My grandmother had now conveniently forgotten everything but I still remembered it all with a sharp sting as though it had happened yesterday. Now because she was so weak and had forgotten everything that happened, she was an innocent little lamb. I couldn't confront her, I wasn't allowed. Those fights that we had had in the past were no longer acceptable (not that they were acceptable in the first place) and were actually dangerous for her mental state. So I just had to button it and...forgive.

I'm sure some people can relate when I say it is impossible to forgive someone when you are fulled with such black rage that you could be motivated to kill a person if it came down to it. I had no way to express this rage, no chance for an absolution. I just had to "hold it" and as my mother LOVES to say,  "Forget about the past". I couldn't hold it... someone had to pay for what was done to me and because my grandmother had no way of fighting back now didn't mean I couldn't get some revenge.

Monday, June 13, 2011

From the dark side: My confession of hatred...Part 4

My grandmother had an older brother- my great uncle, whom I loved and adored. This is what is so ironic to me. Those personality traits I hated in my grandmother- her vanity, racism, sexism, prejudice and controlling personality were even worse in my great Uncle. Except for the vanity. I can't understand it or explain it but he should have been even more of a irritant, but I was able to look past all of his flaws and saw him as a surrogate grandfather. He was a hugely charismatic man with a larger than life personality and loud booming voice. He would sweep my sister and I up into tight hugs and kiss the tops of our heads over and over. He listened to us intently, prayed over us and told us long stories. The best way I can describe him is that he knew what all your bad traits were but he focused only on what was good. He was one of the first people (along with my Mom) who looked past my cold steel exterior and saw a treasure.

My great uncle was unbelievably strong while my grandmother was weak and I think it was because of how they were raised. He was raised to be a man and lead a legacy. She was raised to serve and produce children without asking any questions. If she had been given half the chance I think my grandmother had the potential to do great things. But she was a woman.

In 1996 one single event set off a chain reaction of which the tragic consequences we are dealing with today. My Mom had taken my sister and I to school, my Dad was away and my grandmother was alone in our house fixing breakfast for herself and my disabled aunt. Smoke suddenly began billowing from down the passage, she ran to the room she shared with my aunt to find that a heater had short-circuited and caught alight. The surrounding area and the edge of my aunt's bed had begun to burn. Despite being someone that was prone to severe panicking what she did was truly remarkable.

She lifted my Aunt off the bed, put her in her wheelchair and raced her out into the lounge. Then she went back into the room threw several blankets over the burning heater picked the whole blazing mess up and dumped it outside. She again ran back into the room and threw her bedding over everything else that was burning. My Mom came home to find my grandmother with black hair, hands burnt raw and sobbing uncontrollably because the house had almost burnt down and it was her "fault".

We were truly blessed that day, what could have been a horrible accident was saved because of God's mercy and my grandmother's bravery and quick thinking. We went on with our lives much more thankful but what we didn't know was that a silent switch and been flipped by an invisible hand. Over the next ten years we witnessed a transformation that would shock us all to the core.