He couldn’t have been more than four when it happened.
On a bright summer’s day he was making mud pies under a running tap, when an angry voice called out… “Why are you making such a mess in the garden!”
He hated and feared the caretaker, she loved spying on him.
Things didn’t get better. He was sent to a school for boys.
The headmaster, a war veteran, ruled with a cane. The sports master took pleasure in forcing him to attempt impossible feats on the apparatus.
He hated and feared these men.
Things didn’t get better even though he was sent to another school. A co-educational school far from home.
He liked the girls. However, he was selected for “special treatment” by his class teacher because he battled with arithmetic.
He hated and feared this woman who delighted in belittling him in front of others.
Things improved considerably after the headmaster moved him to another class. He settled down and got on very well with his new class teacher.
Of course, some pupils didn’t like this and started to pick on him whenever they could. He was an only child. Perhaps that was his crime?
Things continued to improve after he arrived at high school. Until his second year, when he was once again chosen for special attention, this time by two classmates.
They pestered the life out of him. Teasing, threatening, laughing at his mannerisms and pushing him around as soon as lesson time was over. He hated and despised them.
He was afraid to go to school. He was anxious all the time. He was different, maybe that was his problem?
Fortunately, this time the “tide turned” for good. The headmaster and class teacher “had a word” with the perpetrators and the bullying stopped.
The boy didn’t realise what a negative effect these acts of bullying were having on his development. During therapy, many years later, he discovered that these events had aggravated his natural anxiety.
He had become a person who overreacted to any hint of opposition, coercion or domination.
His favourite colour is blue. Sometimes he only sees the world in hues of dark blue and grey.
He got on with his life, of course, but he is still over-cautious, too precise, unnecessarily sceptical, jumpy and pessimistic. High reactive, if you like.
This is the story of one individual. Recent statistics indicate that over 30% of South Africans live with a mental challenge.
Hospital posters used to inform people about the danger signs of cancer. We need similar information about the danger signs of mental illness.
The bottom line is, if you notice any change in the mood or behaviour of yourself or your significant others, reach out for help sooner rather than later.
Depression and anxiety are real, and they can be life threatening.
Contact your GP, your local hospital or a mental health professional. You can also contact SADAG on 011 234 4837 (office) or 0800 121314 (helpline) or access their Facebook page or contact their local Support Group on 082 806 4341.