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State of mind State of mind
by Abigail George
2010-05-14 08:06:40
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The 2010 Soccer World Cup marked the 11th year of my diagnosis of clinical depression.

I was diagnosed with it when I was 19 years old; two years out of high school in Port Elizabeth – the windy city. It was also the city where I spent most of my time dreaming, mapping out my future to be a writer.


It’s Johannesburg 2002. It is 8 years before the Soccer World Cup. I am a film student at a college in the city. In the mad afternoon lunch rush the inner city smells like tasty fried chicken, spicy rice, delicious hot sauces and meat cooking on the streets in open drums or on makeshift fires, heavenly smells that accumulate in this a loner’s haven; a paradise unseen. The pavements have an oily sheen to it. I am still a loner but now I prefer it this way. I prefer to observe people now as it lends itself more and more to my credibility as a filmmaker. I am not blind to the poor street children who sleep smothered by cardboard boxes that held damaged or rotting fruit in them.

They sleep in rows, their hands in tight fists or claw-like sleeping the sleep of the dead. They sleep like sardines in squashed in a tin. Waiting for the morning when they can resume being hawkers and selling cell phones, jewelry, porn, fruit and vegetables on the streets of Sin City, Egoli, Johannesburg; Gauteng. It was the city that slept in the dark shadows of being poverty stricken, disenfranchised, marginalised and disadvantaged. It was the city where the mad, homeless, mentally ill and the crippled went unseen and it was where vagrants and beggars made their uncomfortable home each night on the cold, petrified pavement.

Here love, death, hell and eternity and paradise exist for them in Sin City, Johannesburg, Gauteng. Their skin shows through patches on their legs, their arms. Yet they are still coming; the tourists with their thick, padded wallets. They are coming to spend moolah.

I can still feel and sense very strongly the joy, peace of mind, serenity, life, colour and life that people feel so strongly about in this country. The poor still have the same mindset now that it is the onset of the Soccer World Cup.

In Port Elizabeth the city always smells clean like wet leaves after a downpour; that feeling of raised fur at the back of my mouth washed away down drain pipes and into the sea. The air at the beach smelt like the seawater, even the air tasted like salt, the dunes that I climbed slipped between my bronzed exotic polished toes, the sand that glittered on my wet hair and smooth tanned back.

My mother nursed me back to health when I got out of the ‘mad’ hospital, that posh clinic - the hospital filled with lunatics, kleptomaniacs, obsessive compulsives, the loveless, lovesick, depressives, the lonely, sufferers of bipolar and crazies.

She became my own Florence Nightingale, inspiring me she nursed me back to recovery; a tireless crusade while I slept she watched over me – her firstborn. Daily she prayed that I would be fully restored to good physical health and well-being.

It’s the year 1997 – thirteen years before the Soccer World Cup (nobody has even heard of it yet or the idea of it hasn’t even yet been born) and I am living with my aunt, uncle and two girl cousins in Mbabane, Swaziland. I am 17. I am slowly beginning to realise that I am wired quite differently from other people. I have highs. I have lows where I get the blues. My thoughts race as if they have a mind, a psyche and an intellect all of their own. Lulu, a girlfriend of mine says I am weird. Already I know I am my sadness and state of unhappiness is different from other people. I have always been different in strange ways. The outsider. The girl who never really fell in with the other pretty, smart, preppy, popular girls.

Lulu braided my hair even though I didn’t really like the way she styled my hair I said I liked it and she was happy with my answer. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings – after that we watched the daily soap opera and after it was finished I said goodbye and years later I didn’t know how long that goodbye would last but now I do.

In 2010 I eat with a raw hunger. I eat as I have never eaten before. I am bursting at the seams with hunger. We – my dad and I eat chicken or mutton curry takeaways with roti with our hands, our fingers burning, we relish it; clean our plates like children - our eyes water because of the warm, red spices and green chillies.

There was a way my sister used to tell me things in secret, white lies, half-truths back when we were kids intensely, with her hair falling across your face. Now she’s gone and straightened it. Her hair is relaxed. On weekends when she goes out and socialises with her friends she drinks exotic cocktails.

I wouldn’t know what to do with a vuvuzela if I had one but it looks like people are always having a great time in the stands when I flip the channels and land on one where they are playing soccer. Of course I always compare myself to them and imagine that their lives are far simpler.

Although the 2010 Soccer World Cup also marks happiness, a boost in tourism and euphoria perhaps for the rich, the elite, the well-off and the middle classes. That’s what it always comes down to – money and if it’s money; the root of all evil then it also means greed. But what does it really mean to the masses? Do we ever stop to think about that?

When we normal people, normal folk bubble away, fritter away our hard-earned money do we ever stop to think how the poor survive on not even earning a decent minimum wage? Do we ever stop to think about their children’s education in the rural areas that have to walk hours; miles to school to get an education?

Did I put that dark smile on my sister’s? That's not how I remembered it at all. Sometimes she leaves her bedroom door open and I can see her brushing her hair or ironing or putting on her make-up. I make eye contact with the cord of the iron making loops on the floor. I don't remember her love at all. Given that close range you would think as sisters we would be closer but we're not. But what we are is rivals for the affection and the attention of our parents and the adoration of strangers who pick her first - above me because I am usually the silent, morose one.

I am always locked into a childhood pose of seeking attention rather than getting it. I irritate her. She cannot see me. She does not address me. I am not visible in her world of money, fast cars, expensive perfume and fat cash. She's not happy with me. She resents me.

I move my head against the glare of the sunlight in the car. "Stop shaking." she says softly, her lips pursed, her body wrapped in a red trench coat to protect her against the elements. I can't stop her from cursing me but she doesn't curse the illness I have – sadness; depression.

On the news there are syndicates buying children as young as 12 in the poverty stricken Coloured areas in Port Elizabeth where people are struggling to survive. They are buying the girls for prostitution rings for the tourists who are coming for 2010 World Cup. When I first heard about this I was shocked, horrified, terrified for the safety of children I would never see and whose lives I could never make sense of. They lived in a world completely different from mine.

Yet 2010 still reminds me of being human, gracious of everything around me now that we live in a new found democracy that is fifteen years old.

My sadness is black as night, black as trees; pain is poison. Not even the unquiet sound of a vuvuzela can make that go away. I am fragile like a satellite; as serious as the impulse of flight when I am depressed.

My recovery from my depression was slow. Yet sometimes I still feel incomplete as my head hits the pillow when I go to sleep at night. Like a hunger that lingers underneath my skin. Like rage, a mystic, I feel I am dangerous and I am cursed. I surrender and I exhale and with it goes all recriminations.

I see my childhood friend who went missing as a youngster as the phoenix who finally found the exit out. Just like water in wild places. Just like South Africa when given the World Cup.

 


     
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