Note: I mention this somewhere in the text, but now as I post this, I feel it pertinent to say it here too. I am currently experiencing a manic episode and my thought are scattered. I am even too scattered to go back in and edit. But I wanted to be real and let it out before it consumed me.
I spent the last week of being a 30-year-old, cooped up in a hospital bed, fearing for my life. It changed me. And I would like to tell you about it.
But first, some context.
I fell pregnant at the age of 20. Some would call it my claim to very subpar, small-scale internet fame – and they would be right. That singular event changed my life for the worst, and then for the best.
Yes, this bitch is telling this story again… Hear me out.
At the time in 2009, pregnancy was the single most awful thing that could happen to a young, single coloured girl. I’ve told this story countless times, so I will not dwell on the details, but it is important to mention that at my 21st birthday I was in shambles. I couldn’t have a lekker doppie with my peers. I couldn’t even smile, without feeling cheeky – or seeming as if I wasn’t angry enough at myself. Twas a somber affair that rang in my adulthood. I had made the promise to myself that I would have a massive party to compensate for it when I turned 25, but alas, again I was mettie gat.
25 came and went faster than I thought it would, and when I blinked again, my second child’s father was murdered, I was married to a new man… and I was pregnant again with my third baby by 29.
Fast forward to my 30th birthday.
I was just a few months postpartum, when my two slightly older kids had decided that my big day would be spent at Mc-Motherfucking-Donald’s. The baby was too tiny to be left alone yet (with a babysitter, of course), and to be honest, leaving my kids with my mom so that I could drink a dop and feel ‘free’ no longer seemed as appealing as it had at 21. Still, a longing part of me wanted to want to party. If that makes any goddamn sense at all.
Cue October 2019.
My 31st birthday not far off on the horizon, I was adamant that this new decade of my life would be rung in with the celebration I so desperately wanted at 21.
I am mostly content with my life. I have a wonderful husband, great kids and many other privileges I am far too self-aware to list in a thinly veiled, humble brag. But sometimes, (and I attribute this to not having experienced the things that come with young adulthood when I was supposed to), sometimes I smaak to do reckless, young, fun things. (I get the urge to buy R600 bottles of wine and suip it alone, or go to the jol at 11pm (knowing full well I will fall asleep during the UBER ride there).
I wanna invite my friends over to braai on a whim, and take shots and shout “WOO!!!” like I did before I fell pregnant the first time– before I had to watch the other girls shout “WOO” at their birthdays, graduations and weddings. Many times I have actually done this. I invited random people who don’t know each other over to my home and drank beer, and passed out on my bathroom floor while they party on. Then wake up in a shameful, guilty blur. )
Sometimes I am so overwhelmed with the negative emotions I previously forced myself not to feel in the thick of the worst decade of my life, that I stay in bed and cry for hours, even though I am living a life I thought wouldn’t happen to me – a life that was only supposed to be awarded to the good girls.
And I feel so ungrateful having to admit that sometimes I still desire to be a version of myself that didn’t even serve me (or even have a chance to develop, exist and leave my system). I have swallowed so many negative emotions in the last 30 years of my life that when those repressed tears start to bubble up and surface, my throat aches for almost a whole minute, as if the sadness wants to burst through my skin instead. My lymph nodes behind my jaw are so tender to the touch on the sad days, as if they have tried their best to contain everything I wasn’t feeling, but have finally been pushed, stretched to their limits.
Regardless; in October, I decided that this year, after a decade of so many things; I would have that big celebration – the tenth anniversary of my 21st. My husband gave me the go ahead, as he always does and I started planning the affair, albeit muted compared to the ABSOLUTE RAGER I would have opted for years ago.
I invited all of my friends, and budgeted generously for the affair. I even purchased some of the snacks so long to get ready. This was a calculated celebration, as well as a farewell party to my traumatising 20s.
I was gonna say goodbye to the Shana who wanted so desperately to be set free back then. The Shana who couldn’t join the trips to Town, or the days at the beach because I had a fucking new-born on my breast. The Shana who was herself a child, doing what she saw the other, older women do without any understanding of what life was really like.
I need to take a break here. I can feel my lymph nodes aching again.
I am aware of the phase of my life that I missed out on, and that allowing that phase to overlap with my present would be nothing more than regression and possibly a midlife crisis of sorts. I am aware that it was my own doing to have had children with several men, at a very young age. Or to have not pursued the career I wanted, or even taken care of myself as I should have. But, the Shana who sabotaged me in 2009 is long gone. Sort of.
It is a funny thing, youth. I am still paying for the sins of a child I don’t know anymore. A young girl I haven’t seen in years. She only lurks somewhere in my subconscious. Although I think of her often. It’s complicated.
But, with this 31st birthday party, the child would get one more night of raucous, fall asleep on the bathroom floor, Wooooo!! Goodness. Supervised by present day, adult Shana. I would chaperone her, and treat her they way other people should have.
In the planning of this night, I made allowance to indulge my old self for one last time, as my husband rolled his sober eyes at me, and took care of the children.
Then, amidst the planning, in Mid-November I fell very, very ill.
I started vomiting. Every time I ate anything, it came back up my throat. Food really doesn’t taste as good the second time around.
I didn’t mention this online, even though it seems I tell the internet everything. I don’t enjoy sympathy, and the older I become, the more I grow, the less I enjoy certain kinds of attention.
Regardless, I have mentioned in previous blogs that I had had issues with my stomach for many years, and have written about not kakking for weeks – then escaping the bowels of GrooteSchuur hospital before any of their subpar staff euthanized me on accident.
But one Friday morning in November I woke up with a stomach so swollen, I was terrified that I was a candidate for “I didn’t know I was pregnant”. My navel was leaking a yellowy, cloudy liquid and I was really, really nauseas. Throughout the day, I would clean the liquid with surgical spirits, and then punish myself with hospital grade sanitizer. The burn makes my OCD rest assured that the germs are being dealt with. I am not always at the top of my game, or sane. At one point, the pain of sterilising my own navel was enough to make me vomit.
“You need to go to the doctor”, the voice of reason said from the back of my mind.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t so much the voice of reason, as it was my nagging husband who was standing behind me while I hovered over the toilet.
Marriage is glamorous.
He’d been watching my slow fall into constipation, and insanity for a long time, and I think he was just as figuratively gatvol by my harregat attitude.
No more puns. This is a serious story.
“No, I’m fine”. I am always telling people I am fine. But this time, I really didn’t mean it. But I didn’t have time to get the doctor that day. I had articles due by the end of the week, and the children were going to be home for the holidays very soon. The car was broken and to be honest, I didn’t have oodles of cash laying around to pay for a doctor to tell me I had gastro and needed rest. In the back of my mind, I didn’t want anything to spoil my party.
I managed to dodge my husband’s instruction for the rest of the week. But by the following Saturday, I was walking at a 90 Degree angle.
‘Jy bieter na n doctor toe”.
This traitor had now gotten my mommy and daddy involved. My father wasn’t letting up as easy as Riyaahd had. By Sunday, my mom had rounded up the kids to sleep over by her so that I could get to the doctor nice and early on Monday morning. I had no choice. And looking back now, had actually already fully recessed into 2009 Shana. I had no choice or free will, my mom had my kids and I had medical aid again.
Doctor Lagardien stared at my bloated stomach with a raised eyebrow. After an exam, and quickly ruling out that I in fact WASN’T pregnant, she sent me straight to a specialist at Gatesville, for immediate admission into a full on investigation of my digestive system. Wonderful. That meant a pipe and a camera in every hole. Again…. 2009.
I packed my bags, and the next morning I made my way to Melomed.
Now, previously, I had had to endure the smelly, piss stained halls of government hospitals. However, at the beginning of the year, I threatened Riyaahd with divorce if he didn’t add myself and the kids to his work’s hospital plan. Having Scarlett at a “kak-en-betaalie” had shocked me back into a medical aid. If Grooteschuur couldn’t take proper care of my poes, I definitely wasn’t gonna turn around and give them my anus to abolish.
Gatesville was delightful. After I was admitted they offered me Tea while I waited to be escorted to my room; they even sms’d me a free WiFi password that was valid for seven days. I am tempted to go into a rant about how government hospitals are run by egotistical greedy naaiers who don’t care about the poor, but that isn’t what this particular blog is about.
I am trying to get to my point. Please bear with me. I am in the throes of hyper mania and am keeping as much focus as I can muster. As much as my mania gives me energy to work, it doesn’t help with my focus.
For the last few months I had been feeling antsy. Having children isn’t always fun. I know that I look content in my Instagram photos of my kids destroying my home with holiday activities, and to be fair, for the most part I enjoy it. I love my children. But, I mentioned earlier that I get pangs to be free, and sometimes being a mother and wife and adult can be very overwhelming. Sometimes, the burden of having to care for four other people before having time to yourself can be devastating. Especially when the guilt of wanting to be alone sometimes isn’t soothed by a society that makes women believe they need to be superheroes to be respected. Regardless, I had gone to bed many nights frustrated by the weight that rests on my shoulders.I have had so many nights where I want to just run away for a little while. Get in my car and drive, and call my husband from a pay phone somewhere upcountry. But these fantasies, no matter how rooted in real feelings of entrapment – are merely just that; fantasies.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted over the last few months to sit down and write deeply personal blogs about the dark side of being happily married. Or the burden of the beauty of motherhood. Or the horrors that play in your mind when you have sex with a loving husband, after a lifetime of sexual assault.
And then I sit down, stare at the page and write nothing. Because I physically can’t.
There are many thoughts, not even as intricate as those, that make me short of breath, and get my heart racing. I realise that a part of me is constantly torturing myself. And it may well be the ingrained fear that I regress into the pathetic bitch I used to be.
It is hard to fully articulate.
I think things like:
Look good for your husband (and yourself, of course). You used to be so thin and beautiful. Why didn’t you love yourself when you were hot? If you had seen your worth, then maybe you wouldn’t have fallen pregnant twice. Sies.
Remember your daddy’s face when he realised you a whore?
Remember that time when Lyle hit you in front of your dad and your dad couldn’t do anything because he had just had a kidney transplant? That day Lyle laughed at you all.
Hey, Shana… you awake? The men you slept with could have hurt Sidney back then. How could you have left him alone with Lyle when you went to go buy beer? Do you remember that day? Stupid bitch.
Wow, how were you not more embarrassed when you fell pregnant?
Can you imagine how much you shamed your parents?
Your sister is so perfect. You’re annoying.
You talk too much. People don’t care what you have to say about your life.
Stop telling the same stories.
Pack everyone’s lunch.
Clothe them. Finish your work. Clean the house, your mom is visiting.
Your car is broken, you need one or you can’t get the kids to school?
Your hair isn’t growing.
Stop being self-deprecating; your daughters are watching.
My mind is my worst critic. It is in a constant battle with my ego, my logic and the other, contradicting consciousness’s that occupy my head. Regardless, I haven’t been living my bliss in a marriage-tight bubble. Factoring out my Bipolar disorder and OCD (which both flare up when I am stressed) I am anxious a lot of the time, for very little to no reason. But the last few months were something else. There is something significant about having survived a decade since that moment in 2009 when I think that I was going to die. I was wholly convinced that my shame was magnificent enough to actually kill me.
I keep going off on a tangent.
Let me try and finish.
I was admitted to hospital. I was so disappointed. I messaged everyone, and cancelled my birthday party with a nasty taste in my mouth that wasn’t only bile.
I walked up to my room, got naked and into my gown, and plugged in my laptop. I finished my work, and laid back into the bed. I was angry at the universe for always finding a way to sabotage me. I laid there ungrateful, and pissed the fuck off. And entitled.
And that’s when the reality of the situation hit me.
It’s like the ghost of Birthdays Past came to whisper in my ear.
*You aren’t at home. You are in hospital*.
It seems insignificant. Thousands of people go to hospital every day. I adjusted my bed, telling myself to again suppress the nagging inner-voice that was making my head ache. My stomach was knotting, even though on the outside I was merely adjusting the angle of my back rest.
“You aren’t sleeping next to your husband tonight’.
“Stop it”, I told my mind. I had been through worse. Years of hell on earth. I wasn’t going to crack now because of some routine tests. I watched a few movies on Netflix. Looked around at the people making up scenarios in my mind about where they are from, what is wrong with them… I do that a lot.
The children aren’t in the other room.
This thought was the most alarming, but not for the reason you may think. The thought was alarming because for the last few months, all I have wanted was a break from the children.
At this point, I went to the bathroom and cried silently into my hands.
I have perfected the art of silent crying over many years. When I was done (or at least when I had reached a level of containment) I wiped my face and made my way back to my bed.
You have nothing to do but lay here, and wait for your tests. You could be told you are dying. You could spend the rest of your life here. Everything about your life that didn’t seem good enough, or annoyed you, or that you wanted to take a break from is now no longer a given*.
I laid, looking at the ceiling, screaming in my mind.
I was booked for several procedures and tests over the next few days. I was nil per mond, too. It all felt cathartic. I was so angry that my birthday was the Saturday, and my party that was booked for the Friday night would now have to be cancelled.
And so, I struck up a conversation with the lady in the bed next to mine. We spoke of our lives, and she told me what she was being treated for etc… and at the very end of that night, I showed her a picture of my children and she told me she knew Lyle – because she recognised Rose from her picture.
I went to bed with the thought that this was a bad omen, and that the next day, the doctor would tell me that I too was going to die.
I’m a goddamn nut-job.
At 12ish, they wheeled me into theatre. To make a long story less fucking long, the gastroscopy found some swelling, but nothing alarming. Again, I was nil per mond till the next day.
Day 3 in hospital, I had a colonoscopy. I was hoping to not have to be awake for the ordeal, but I have also learned to not hope for anything, as life would always deliver the opposite.
I watched the doctor probe my anus, and thought I may as well enjoy the LIVE video of my colon. We seemed to be in the clear while in the stink. And just as he was about to exit my exit… he paused. (Funnily enough, that is exactly what my poop does)
Embedded in my large intestine, he spotted a small, flat, white growth.
The week after the polypectomy, I waited for the results. I was discharged in time for my birthday; a birthday I spent in bed (for the most part). My parents came over, and my kids kept close to me; hugging me periodically and singing Happy Birthday off key. I had no alcohol. I had no personal space. We couldn’t even play lekker numbers, because Scarlett only allowed different variations of CocoMelon’s “The Wheels on the Bus” to be on repeat.
The reality in my mind, though was that I was awaiting my results, to hear if the polyp was cancerous. I was nervous. I was terrified, but looking around me at where my life was, ten years later in 2019; I was content.
Dare I say I was…. I AM very, very happy.
The doctor called a week or so later to say that it wasn’t cancerous, and we are managing my condition together. I am feeling okay, and I am healthy. This is what matters. I got back into the swing of things fairly quickly, and last weekend, my mom took the kids for a few days. I took the time to do some Christmas shopping and have some time with my husband. And in the busyness, we took a walk to the bar to have a dop.
Walking to Premiums, I saw a young girl sitting outside on the pavement of a house shop while a crew of teenage boys stood and smoked cigarettes around her, chatting and laughing. It seemed innocent and cordial – until I saw the baby on her lap. The child was maybe 6 months old, sitting in the smoke and festivity. I made eye contact with her, contemplating whether or not I wanted to tell her that the baby shouldn’t be outside. But she knew. She knew that she shouldn’t be sitting in the wind and smoke and atmosphere of the season. I opened my mouth, and before we made eye contact – I saw it. I saw me. I saw the longing and regret and sadness on her face. I felt it again, and my stomach clenched – I remembered that phase, that forced maternal love that a teenager is now forced to feel for a baby who is essentially a barrier between her and the life she didn’t know was waiting for her. I looked at her, knowing full well I had no authority to say anything – except that I had all of the authority and experience. But when she saw my look, she stared for a few seconds longer than most would have. I shook my head, before she looked away from me deliberately. And I looked away, and kept walking.