Note: I went back and forth about publishing this post. I have chosen to go ahead with it because this is my platform and my story. What’s the point if I am only going to share the good and funny times? That’s only 50% of me, but what about the other half? It will come as no surprise that I am going to offend one or two people and probably push them further but I have made peace with that. In fact, this post was my own form of therapy and a way for me to let go of everything that’s been bringing me down lately. I am sorry that it’s lengthy, there’s a bright ending, if that counts for anything.
I really started this year with such high hopes, maybe that was my mistake. I ended the year with a sigh of relief and despite the many challenges that 2015 packed, we managed to pay our rent each month, put food on the table and kept up with our accounts. Darren lost his medical aid, his job and pretty soon we might even lose the car too, but that didn’t deter our spirits. Instead, we chose to see the silver lining.
We were especially grateful that even though we have so much to say about our government, the public clinic still offered his psych medication (which costs about R3K/month) used to manage his bipolar and that after running tests, we were informed that Darren’s medication mix was wrong for him, which is what caused his weight gain and a series of other health issues. We stopped going out and wasting money at the mall but instead would spend our time visiting family or would stay at home and binge watch series, play games together as a family and work as many freelance jobs as we both could manage. When things got tough, we tried to make light of the situation and found comfort that even if we lost everything, we still had one another, right?
It seemed like I was holding it all together pretty well, but then slowly the tiny threads started coming loose and now I am just a bundle of knots and I am just trying to find the energy to pull myself together, because if I don’t do it, who will.
These last 3 weeks have been the toughest. My anxiety has me panting as I gasp and choke for air, my depression has crawled in and made a nest at the back of my head, urging me to think darker thoughts than I’d like to admit and despite my best efforts, I have lost all control of the overwhelming fear of what’s happening next.
When I was a little girl, I carried a lot of the worry and stress whenever my parents would go through financial struggles. My step-dad is in the construction business and for those who don’t already know, work can come in drips and drabs. When I was 15, my mom and step-dad had already split up and I chose to live with my step-dad, who owned his own business. Again, work became infrequent and before long, he was drowning. One day, he fetched me from school and had to try to explain that we’d be going home to nothing, as all the contents of our rented home had been repossessed. It is a bitter-sweet memory, as all the furniture was the same furniture that my mom and he spent so many hours picking, it was the last symbol of what it meant to be a unit. At the same time, being stripped of everything that I once knew, gave my step-dad and I the opportunity to build the relationship that we never dared to have and in a way, I feel guilty for not giving it a chance earlier because now that time is lost.
I guess that although I see the good from the experience, it has also given me a sort of anxiety over accounts and finances, especially now, when Darren’s freelancing and my own campaigns have been so irregular. It’s a tough place to be in and tossing and turning while I add the numbers over and over in my head has become common practice.
And then, there’s family. I grew up in a very big family. On my mom’s side, I have 3 aunts and 9 cousins, from my step-dad, I have 2 aunts and 6 cousins, and then from my bio-dad, I have an aunt, uncle, and 6 cousins. I also have 3 half-sisters (2 in England and 1 being Gabi, who you all know) and a step-sister.
When my mom and step-dad first started dating, it was a challenge to blend our families. I was always considered Lee’s child and never really part of the family. The exclusion became very evident at Christmases and family events, but that’s not to say that I didn’t love every bit of a big Portuguese Christmas, spent cooking, laughing, feasting, but there was always a somewhat underlying issue. When my parents split, despite me choosing to stay with my step-dad, I was exiled from the family. I was even removed on Facebook and when the family visited my step-dad and sister in PE, I would go stay at my gran (mom’s side) because I didn’t like the atmosphere. Although there was always that feeling of not belonging, the family gatherings are sorely missed.
By now, you probably know that my bio-dad and I have a history and in the last year, I have come to accept that it can be blamed on both parts; mine and his. I carry a lot of guilt for not trying harder to make a relationship happen, but have also realized that despite my best efforts, there will always be too many phone poles between him and I. My nan and grandad, on his side, are my motivation to eventually get my butt to England – I really want them to meet Axl, more than anything. Although I don’t have much of a relationship with my aunt and uncle (who I miss dearly) there’s always a special place in my heart for all my cousins and sisters. Thanks to social media, I manage to keep up with their lives, their many successes, relationships, celebrations and more. It saddens me when I see how closely they all live together, that they have traditions and a bond that will always run further than me still carrying their last name. I guess that in the last 2 months when things get really lonely, I crave that family time that seems to come so naturally0 to them.
And now for my mom’s side. I grew up very closely with my cousins, we were inseparable and despite any drama that came between my aunts, we would always find each other – until we didn’t. Now in our adulthood, we all live different lives, each facing our own challenges and trying to make the best of the situations we find ourselves in. I had a very close relationship with my gran, we would go for coffee dates and she’d tell me stories of her youth, we’d eat too much cake that she was never allowed and I’d run away from the many kisses which I secretly loved. But in December of 2014, that was all lost and just over a year later, it feels like family and what I always knew has become a distant memory. Yes, I cannot change what has lead to the current circumstances. Would I change it? Probably not.
My grandparents are missionaries, they have traveled South Africa, Brazil, England, Egypt and Israel to preach the word of God. I grew up with very strong morals but when I became a teenager, as most do, I started questioning a lot of what was going on around me. My mom always supported my curiosity and whenever she couldn’t answer my millionth question, she would point me in the right direction of books and hours and hours of research. By the time I was an adult, I had come to my own conclusions. I don’t believe in forcing my belief upon anyone else or having to justify and prove my beliefs to anyone, because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you or anyone else thinks of me, it is my personal relationship with God that matters. My beliefs differ from that of my husband and we’re okay with that. How will we raise our kid, you ask? Axl will decide for himself and we will strongly support any path that he chooses.
I don’t know all that there is to know about religion, but like I said, it’s given me a high regard for morals, it’s taught me to find the hope in a better day and it gives me strength when I am at my weakest. That December, my morals and everything that I knew were put into question when I was faced with having to do something about my sister (and other children aged 9-13) being given alcohol on a regular basis. I chose to act and the chaos that has followed is beyond me.
In the last few months, I have started questioning everything that I was taught as a child. And no matter how many nights that I lie awake, wondering whether I did the right thing or not, I know that protecting children will always be more important than being buddies. If it were my child, I would have raised hell on earth, finding out that he was being given alcohol while in the care of another family member. I know the effects of alcohol, I have seen the worst of the worst and enabling that in children, who you were given to nurture, protect, love and care for, well… let me censor my thoughts.
So I am going to hell for standing up for children who do not know any better, and choosing to go against the family. I didn’t stick to suit and sweep it under the carpets like hundreds of other little secrets. That’s not what I want for my child and I certainly don’t want him thinking that by him standing up for the right thing, he may lose his only support system because I have. But he will always have his dad and me – always!
So I am left with my mom, step-dad, and Gabi. Who happen to be in Jo’burg and Cape Town. And it sucks because it can be so lonely, especially when you truly need the support of family. I miss them so freaking much and get misty-eyed just typing this. When does it become any easier, growing up with divorced parents?
Enough of that…
On a brighter note, I am so exceptionally proud of my mom who recently reached her 50th day of sobriety. I phone her every morning and beam with pride when I hear how aware she’s become of the dangers of drinking and the polluted environment she was surrounded by. My mom’s sobriety has been one of those lessons that you kind of realize that you can want something for someone for the longest time, but until they’re ready – it won’t happen. This time, she’s ready and I couldn’t be happier. Despite the distance, my sister, step-dad, hubby and I, tick off each day as it passes, celebrating every single day as the milestone that it is. Well done mom, you just keep going, take one day at a time and keep making us proud – we love you!
Tomorrow, we celebrate my baby boy’s second birthday. My family won’t be visiting until the end of March, so we’re holding out on a party until then, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be celebrations. We will be going to Kiddie Lovers for the morning, before heading to granny where we will have lunch, cake, swim and open presents. Axl brings so much joy to everyone’s day and I cannot wait to spend the day celebrating him and the personality that he has grown into.
I know that this post was very gloomy – the last few weeks have been tough. I have fought for so long, not allowing myself to become this mess. I was in two worlds about posting because last time I mentioned family it resulted in losing them but I want you to know that if you’re going through a struggle, you’re not alone! That, not everything fits into a perfect Instagram snap, with marbled backgrounds and the softening hues of natural lighting. Outside of Instagram and blogging, there are real people facing real struggles, too.
If you ever need someone to just be there – tweet, message or mail me and I will be there. I know the effects of feeling lonely and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, let alone you. You are wonderful, you are worth it and you never chose the circumstances you find yourself in, but your strength will get you through it, even when you don’t think you have it in you.
The last few weeks have been heavy, but I am about to roll our of bed, clean up the tissues, have a shower and be grateful. I have so much to be grateful for, I have a life to celebrate so I am going to be better, stronger and braver.