OPINION: We must learn to value ourselves

Phiri Cawe

What is it that you have changed your mind about and why? The question has always been on my mind, every time the talk of mental health hits us.

The stories we hear every Mental Health Awareness Month are always bad – these stories ranging from death to depression and stress are never good to hear.

Society wants us to portray a perfect life while we live in an imperfect world. What kept me strong in times of despair and desperation is simple – affirmation.

There’s truth in affirmations, to tell myself that irrespective of failure, ugly things said about me, I will be something in life.

I am me not the next person, I am amazing, attractive and special. This is how I take charge of myself in hard times. Another thing is accepting that I will never be everybody’s cup of tea. Day in day out I work on my attitude regarding a lot of things in life.

When I worked in the mines in Rustenburg just after I graduated, I had to be strong. It was not easy to work from midnight until the early hours of the morning. But I learnt a lot, I learnt to know another side of life. The fact that I was brought up in a poor environment also contributed. I remember then, I was rejected in many workplaces.

Those who grew up in the rural areas would know how education was hated then. The talks after graduating and having no job were just stifling.

I used to read a Bible script that I will never forget that goes like this: “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see”.

That kept me in the driving seat of my life. In fact it still does. I always wanted to be that stone. This is life, rejection will always happen. Your service at your workplace might not mean much.

Must I then kill myself or reject myself for people who think I am nothing, or I am stupid? That would be foolish. The truth is workplaces can be toxic but that should not lead us to lose who we are.

It would be good if we embrace that sometimes we will be wrong, that we can fail, we cannot know everything, that no matter how hard you work, some would not see that.

Do away with entitlement. We should stop shutting down and start opening up. Imagine if we can teach our young people not to become too attached to the idea that they cannot fail. We might not have the problem of suicides after matric results. This country might have less stress and depression.

Let us share our stories with young people. We own our stories. Drinking to death will take us nowhere. Trying to numb our pain is not a solution and will only last for so much. We need to work through our pain. Pain is but temporary.

Never say I am not strong enough to cope. The long and short of it is to value ourselves. Let us help health practitioners to know our troubles. Right now there is not enough help and the system is chasing symptoms not the real causes.

Let us address mental health issues together.