I am on the road to creating a better version of myself and I have my friends to thank for that, says Akash Ramdin.

For the month of February, IOL is inviting our readers to tell us who they love and why to stand a chance of winning amazing prizes in our #MyHeart competition.

Our next winner is Akash Ramdin, who submitted the following entry:

It was Herman Melville who said that “Friendship at first sight, like love at first sight, is said to be the only truth”

Rewind to May 2012 when I moved to Durban to find myself. I was battling clinical depression and on the precipice of suicide. I was struggling with inner conflict and taken hostage by my fears and anxiety.

I wished my life just had a switch off button. Through it all I strived ahead but often encountered stumbling blocks on my journey to find happiness. The key element noticeably absent was a good friend.

I had been ashamed of the wounds I carried and shut people out of my life due to past experiences and told myself I was fine being alone. Deep down I knew I was lying to myself.

Towards the end of 2018 I finally decided to start celebrating myself and going out. Even though it was alone, I felt liberated and confident enough to sit alone at a bar sipping on my cocktail or bursting into laughter at the cinema with my box of popcorn. I made sure however that while doing so, I would ensure I radiated positivity, sported a smile and always practised kindness. 

It was then that the universe sent to me some of the most beautiful souls into my life. People that I could be myself around and who were not just friends, but family I chose. I recently celebrated my birthday but there was one difference, for the first time I was not alone. I had my ‘family’ with me. Only when you are out of the darkness and into the light do you realise how painful it was and how close you often come to giving up.

Mental health is one of the most fundamental things that require nurturing and nourishment. Ensuring a balance between physical health and personal growth is key to being content. The inclusion of a holistic element through good positive friends will help you feel good. If you are alone and feel like you are trapped within a sound proof bubble, I want to tell you that things do get better. There are wonderful souls out there who will help you to remember your self-worth.

I am on the road to creating a better version of myself and I have my friends to thank for that. Those days of a streetwise 1 are finally over, it's now sharing a bucket meal haha. The unconditional love, unwavering care and sincerity we share as friends has made us a FAMILY that will forever reside in #MyHeart

How to enter our #MyHeart competition:

Tell us who you love and why. The IOL team is passionate about news for the heart of South Africa and we want to hear about who holds your heart. Whether it's the love of your life, your BFF, your cat, your mom, your boss or your second-removed cousin on your grandmother's side, we want to know why you appreciate them so much.

If you are our pick for the best story of the day, you will win one of our amazing prizes and be entered into our grand prize draw sponsored by Protea Hotels by Marriott. 

Whether it's an urban escape, going off the beaten track or a romantic seaside soiree you’re after, Protea Hotels by Marriott has just what you're looking for. Visit  protea.marriott.com/valentines-day for some unbelievable couple's experiences and imagine the possibilities this Valentine’s month.  

So send an email to [email protected] telling us your #MyHeart story.

You can also DM us on Facebook or Twitter.

Or download our app on Android or IOS and use our MOJO feature to send us your entry.

TIP: The more words the better, and if you have pics and videos, you can send that too. 

The competition runs from February 1 to 28.

Winners will be notified by March 1.

Winners will be notified by email or phone, so please send us your contact details with your entry.

Competition Rules:

Selected story entries, pictures and videos will be published on iol.co.za and our social media pages. The winners' names will be published on our website and social media pages.

Your privacy is important to us. When you enter a competition with us, we ask for your name, email address and mobile number. We use email addresses to notify winners to let them know they have won a prize. We use the mobile numbers provided in order to contact the winner and for prize delivery.

The competition is only open to people residing in South Africa.

Employees of Independent Media, the sponsors & their agents, or any company associated with the competition & their immediate families are not eligible to enter. • Prizes are not redeemable for cash. •  The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. •  Receipt of entries will not be acknowledged. • The entrant accepts that entry to the competition does not constitute a contract or any form of legal commitment between the entrant and IOL.