Kabelo Chabalala
Johannesburg - The book title that best describes what I am going through in my life is Chinua Achebe’s best seller Things Fall Apart.

As you read this piece, I am in a quiet and secluded place that does not allow one to have access to the internet and the outside world as I would on a normal day at my cubicle in the Pretoria CBD.

I was diagnosed with a severe depressive episode, without psychotic symptoms, caused by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

After an accident I was involved in a few weeks ago, I decided to book an appointment with a psychologist.

I was very hesitant to go in the beginning. I jumped back into the driving seat three days after the accident. I wasn’t comfortable. I had a lot of flashbacks. I have road rage, but post that accident, it has gone a bit higher.

You can’t blame me for that.

Generally, South African roads are full of irresponsible motorists, and that didn’t make it any easier for me. I realised that perhaps I needed help.

After contemplating this for some time, I eventually thought to make an appointment with a psychologist to ease all those who were concerned in my life. The truth is, I thought it was going to play out like the many movies and TV dramas I have seen.

I imagined a set-up where I get to meet someone, tell them about my troubles without fear of being judged or crucified, have a few sessions and then go back to living my life as I know it.

But it wasn’t to be.

Stress is real. Depression is real and fatal. I also knew that life is tough, and that at times, things would be bad. But, never, in a million years did I imagine myself going through counselling and seeking psychological help at the age of 27. I thought life begins at 40.

Honestly, at times, when it rains, it pours everything does seem to be falling apart.

Childhood bad experiences, failures of teenhood, the university experiences and the early career-building years can be a roller-coaster ride, lonely, frustrating and very rough. They are taxing, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically, financially and they can induce high stress levels. At times one is consumed by feelings of broken relationships and friendships.

As a young black man, I was always taught to toughen up. I mean, we all know that life isn’t going to be easy. There are heartbreaks to mend, and at times one feels as though there is no reason to continue living. But we bottle things up. We fake the smile and act normally. Because life has to goes on.

The truth is, I honestly didn’t think there was anything wrong with me.

I really don’t know what you are personally going through, but do not let whatever is eating you up inside make those who depend on you, those who love you dearly, lose you because you ignored the signs and chose to take your own life.

Your sanity, and your well-being could only be a number away; so pick up your phone and dial this number 0800121314 - it is the helpline for the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG).

If I could have all my T-shirts and shirts to bear the helpline, I would emulate the famous actress Nomzamo Mbatha, who wore a gown that did not only make a fashion statement, but a social and emotional statement. Her dress featured pictures of the people near and dear to her who she had lost. Most notably, her dress had the SADAG helpline number boldly printed on it.

These three words were also printed; #RESILIENCE #COURAGE and #OVERCOME. That is the most powerful outfit I have seen at a graduation ceremony.

Nomzamo Mbatha used her graduation to raise awareness about depression, anxiety and mental illness, wearing a dress bearing the toll-free number of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group.

Read more: 'Help is at hand, don't despair'

The truth is, university and college students suffer from a lot of anxiety-inducing experiences. In my late 20s, I have also realised that one’s socialisation as a black person doesn’t necessarily encourage a person to seek professional help when they are heavily burdened.

The truth is: if you were to bump into me, have a telephonic conversation with me, or even follow what I post on social media, you wouldn’t tell that I have PTSD or that I had a severe depressive episode without psychotic symptoms. The truth is, such dysfunctions are not written on our faces or foreheads. They are a result of the intangible parts of our bodies.

Even though at this point a lot of things are falling apart in my life, I do know that sometimes things have to go very wrong, be borderline hopeless, before they get better. If you, your loved ones or friends have any signs that could be related to anxiety or depression, I beg you: don’t wait until you are suicidal.

Depression is real, depression is a silent killer than cannot be noticed, especially if you keep silent.

The emotional and psychological reset button is necessary at some point in life to help make things fall together.

* Kabelo Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement (YMM). E-mail [email protected]; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.