u-turn 25 birthday

*Hi, I’m Cathy. I’m a champion on the U-turn phase 3 work-readiness programme. My passion is communication and I’m part of the U-turn communication team. Every week I will be writing a blog post sharing my personal experience on this programme, to give you a window into the experience of being a champion on the U-turn programme.

Sometimes in life, from my personal experience in homelessness, there is a world of opportunities for people to throw a lifeline to those in need. But they choose not to…

As mentioned in last week’s blog, I spent my first few days in the isolation room of the psychiatric ward. I was admitted and placed in the isolation room of the psychiatric ward.The isolation room only had a bed inside it. There is a gate which gets locked to contain the “severe” psychiatric patients. I believe I was there because they did not have a bed available for me. I did not feel safe,there was no privacy. The women and men used the same bathroom and toilet..it did not close properly.

After a few days I was moved to the women’s section of the psych ward. Across from me, was the same bed my granny passed away in 3 years before (the psych ward was first the hospital’s women’s ward 3 years before, my granny). Seeing the hospital bed of my granny, the one who raised me brought me comfort, like a toddler with a teddy bear. That Sunday my mother’s sister visited me in the hospital…Coincidence? As my granny’s dying words to her in that very same ward was “Take care of Cathy”. She promised to take care of me.. and pay for my 3 months rent once I was discharged from hospital. 

Sometimes people make promises, and do not keep it.

While at the hospital I was put on psychiatric medication, Lithium. It had a horrible effect on me. Four hours after supper, on an empty stomach I had excruciating stomach pain and was vomiting green. I showed the nurse my vomit, I needed her to see, as psychiatric patients are often not believed. To my disappointment I was dismissed, treated as melodramatic and left alone while in speech with the doctor.

The vomiting and pain continued. My friend gave me anti-nausea medication and painkillers. The medication clashed with Lithium. Once again I could not sleep. This continued for days on end. Losing over 72 hours of sleep, led to hallucinations. 

When I was discharged I went to live with a friend, who opened her door, while she herself was unemployed. My aunt phoned me to tell me that she could not find any rooms to rent for me as promised. Later, I discovered the truth, that she had found a room to rent within budget, but chose not to.

The anxiety was picking up and on 23 March 2020, I started to hallucinate once again, but this time around about past traumas…

You see 23 March 1978 – 26 March 1978 was engraved in my mind… It was a Easter weekend..and as horrific as the death of Jesus Christ was on the cross, so was the repeated rape my mum experienced through the course of that weekend. Though a lived experience for my mum, it became the shadow of remembrance of my conception… I watched my mother isolate for years on a religious holiday most important on the Christian calendar. While feeling the deep sting of rejection.. It was this very rejection, trauma trigger that ringed in my ear, playing off in my subconscious like a whirlwind ‘rape’ ‘rape’ ‘rape’

As I began to hallucinate once more, I posted my past traumas on social media. Needless to say.. I was admitted to the psychiatric ward once more, this time for 23 days. 

This is where I found my creativity, in the most unlikely place, the psych ward. During my stay I had nobody to confide in, so I turned to poetry. I even began designing a mobile phone app on paper.

It was a rollercoaster. To date I am still on Lithium.. I now have short term memory loss and a slurred speech..My mind was like Google. Now “Google” has frozen. My feet, swollen from Lithium, and my mental health you may ask? Daily contending with internal battles but hopeful ..”being confident of this, that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 1:6

Thank you for walking with me during a very difficult time in life. Join me next week, when I share with you my fond memories of living at the Stellenbosch Municapility’s COVID-19 Shelter for the Homeless.