“Hi, I am Palesa.

I’m a 26 year old female who has been a Mental Health Care User for 5 years. It started officially when my neurosurgeon referred me to a psychiatrist upon observing that my poor response to the opioid injections for my chronic pain, could have been due to a more complex situation than chronic physical pain. But in retrospect, I now realise that my neurologist and my gastroenterologist before that included psychiatric intervention in my treatment but may have not been effective because of a lack of directness and a diagnosis.

My first stay at a psychiatric hospital was very scary. I may have agreed to go but once I was there I could not handle it. It felt extreme, it felt dysfunctional, it looked like a freak show and so I asked my then boyfriend to hide me in his boot so I could escape. I then told my mom that there was no need for me to be there because I would change. What exactly I was planning to change I have no idea, because all I really needed was help and an understanding of what was going on with me. The first time my mom visited me there was a nightmare, probably because I was ashamed that she was ashamed. Getting help is hard, no matter what the help is for because in that moment you are vulnerable and have to face the things you have bottled up and created coping mechanisms for. Whatever you tried to pass as strength is no more and your ‘organised’ chaos, it is suddenly just chaos.

Although my diagnosis is Bipolar Mood Disorder I can put myself in the shoes of most people facing mental illness because I don’t just swing between mania and depression. I have PTSD from when I was about 6 years old and was told that my mom’s cancer left her with only a few months to live. She lived longer than expected and is still alive today, but the anxiety that began then has only grown over the years and feels embedded in me. And the desire to make the most of the little time we had meant I started overcompensating at a tender age and resulted in obsessive-compulsive behaviour which feels dysfunctional now that I’m an adult. My attachment to my mom is basically debilitating. Watching her fight to live because she was all I have has been miraculous yet deeply damaging to my heart.

However, it makes me realise how damaging to her heart it must be to watch me suffer both physically and mentally. Although I eat well, keep active, keep in touch with my psychologist and make my own efforts to cope better; I still want to do more to become as efficient and productive as possible to unfold in the best version of myself. I hope to encourage others in similar situations to become as functional as possible despite living with disease and disorder. It is often more comforting to hear advice from a peer than a doctor because experience has more impact than fact. So it is for this reason that I choose to work with the SAFMH, especially at home in the North West.

I am currently pregnant, and as I approach my due date I have high hopes about being the kind of mom I’ve always wanted to be. I will not be a mentally ill mom, I just want to be a mom. To remember that although I live with mental illness, my mind as a child and what I remember from my childhood is very special. It will afford me an appreciation and understanding for my daughter that is unique even before she begins to speak. The mind is beautiful, learn to understand yours so you can embrace it.”


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