Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen…
I don’t know how much of who I am and who I could have been has been eaten away by this dark acid cloud that engulfs me. I wake up shaking like an addict asking myself ‘what if I can never write again?’
My therapist says it will come. Honestly, I don’t believe her but I allow myself to hope. I do. Hope. Sometimes I cry for who I was once, and other times I cry out for just a sign that I will, one day, write again and write well. Who am I if I can’t call myself a writer with the hope that one day I’ll be called an author? If I can’t teach, give hope, nurture through my words, then who am I? What is the point of everything that makes me me if I can’t put it into words and share it with the world?
I spent the better part of 2017 struggling to write and struggling alone but faking like I was a born conwoman. It was hard, it was lonely, it made me question everything about myself. In 2018 it was write or die, almost literally. I sat up late every night and forced myself, I can’t tell you how difficult that was, but I forced myself to write my book. The truth is I haven’t been able to face it. I wrote what I wrote and never looked at it again. I couldn’t because I knew it was far from my best work but I also knew it would have to do. I lied to myself because actually I cannot live with ‘good enough’ writing. I, the writer, must believe that I have given my best, and I didn’t really believe that. Each day it became harder and harder to access that place from which my words flowed forth. Each day my words were less me and more ‘just do’. And then came the day when I couldn’t break through to that place at all. When I found blank greyness, impenetrable, inaccessible, my creative mind locked away from me. Not a a single line flowed, even my terrible rhyming that everybody laughs at (politely) but that gives me peace in myself because of its unique terribleness- it was my very own thing and here I was, unable to do even that. It feels like I died and I should be mourning myself. My SELF.
I don’t know if it’s coherent, the book with no ending. Not a single person I’ve asked to read it has given me feedback. Not one. I asked three. Including my supervisor. So I guess that’s an indicator of how terrible it is. Which doesn’t surprise me because I’m no Mark Twain and it’s ridiculous to think I can write a book in six weeks, which is essentially what I did (shh), but begs the question – what good am I if the one thing I had, my identity as a writer, is no longer available to me?
While my mind was breaking over my identity my heart was breaking over the thousands of our people who are still, somehow, misinformed about the basics of sexual and reproductive health. I’ve been working in this field in one capacity or another for the past five years, and I like to think I do my part to give accurate, up-to-date information where I can. But our people are still dying at alarming rates. Infection rates are still unacceptably high. Young people, 19, 23, starting on ART before they even finish school. Yeah ART saves lives, but do you know what would save even more lives? If we told the truth about who we really are and dealt with the root of this issue. Toxic masculinity (I’m too lazy not to use that much-bandied-about phrase) and powerless femininity.
When young women talk about having raw sex because they need these men for financial support and because they can’t be manless. Life is hard when you’re manless. Don’t ask me how I know. It’s getting them to understand what a man is and isn’t that’s difficult.
When young men talk about raw sex because ‘kuyafana ama condom vele ane AIDS’.
When women of all ages speak about rape, date rape, incestuous rape at the hands of men who should have been their protectors who turned out to be sources of never-ending unimaginable trauma.
Who thinks about all the women, the walking wounded, who need psychiatric care and will never get it but who must nevertheless raise children and somehow function, their brokenness both a shield against further trauma (you can only hurt so much before you become numb) and the source of yet more as they live what they know? They say hurt people hurt people. They did not lie. Generational trauma so heartbreaking that it broke me again and again until I could not stand under the onslaught, until I wanted to run from the blows that rained down on me like I was caught in a hailstorm with no hope of shelter and no hope that the storm would cease.