It is very early… Freakin’ dang early when you finished working at midnight the night before, but I had to do this before going back to sleep.
I offered, a while ago, to publish any unspoken pain you Lovelies might have carried on your shoulders, not ready or comfortable publishing on your own blog.
I got the first respond to my offer today, and I had to start sharing it right away. It is a long tale of resilience, so I’ll publish it in 3 parts….
I hope it’ll touch a few hearts, as it touched mine. This is the story of one of us Bloggers, it could be yours, it could be mine.
And just as a reminder, if you too would like to share any souvenir that weighs your soul… just send your text through my contact page. I will keep any incoming story anonymous.
I was born in England and emigrated to South Africa with my parents and sister in the late sixties, when I was three years old. My childhood was brilliant, South Africa was wonderful then and we all fell in love with it and took SA citizenship when I was ten.
I loved primary school and had lots of friends of both sexes. I was a real tomboy and fitted in well with the boys at school. We would go into the fair amount of uncleared bush area and collect snakes, some just to look at and let go and others we kept as pets. The bedroom I shared with my sister , who is four years older than me, was a virtual zoo – housing snakes and chameleons. We also had rabbits, hamsters and dogs.
Puberty was a difficult time for me and for my family (I will explain why it was difficult for them later). I left primary school, aged twelve and went to an all-girls high school and completely lost contact with the male friends I had had for the previous seven years. A lot of the girls that I was at primary school with also went to high school with me, but none of the girls that I had been close to did. Anyway I realised that I was actually quite shy and found it very difficult to make friends with the girls, many of whom were quite religious and church going, and my family never had been.
Other girls were very girly and frequented malls and parties and tried very hard to become romantically involved with boys. At 12 to 13 years of age none of those activities appealed to me. In retrospect I think that maybe I was emotionally immature.
Then at age 14, my periods started and it was as if I became another person. Maybe it was a result of loneliness and wanting to belong to a group, that changed me as well. I stopped going horse-riding, freed all my snakes and other reptiles and suddenly became the girly girl all the other girls, including my sister, seemed to be and seemed to expect me to be.
Having a boyfriend and socialising became very important to me. But I lacked the skills and the other girls at school didn’t want to include me in their groups, mainly I think because I had gained the reputation of being stand-offish and stuck up. It could also have been because I had long blonde hair and was slim and not unattractive. What I looked like had never mattered to me before but it did more and more as my teens progressed. I developed bulimia and anaemia and became skinny.
By this time my sister was at university studying to become a school teacher, had a boyfriend and a group of her own friends, and I saw very little of her. My parents were worried about my weight, or lack of it, and took me to the family doctor. He said that if I carried on not eating and/or throwing up after I had eaten, I would have to be admitted to hospital. I was sixteen then and realized that I was causing my parents a great deal of concern and that bothered me enough to try hard at eating properly and keeping my food down. I did manage to do that.
My sister and I were very close to our parents, my sister maybe closer to our father and me closer to our mom. Again, in retrospect, mom seemed to be the only one who really understood where I was coming from, and even though I know now that I caused her a great deal of stress and irritation, she never gave up on me.
I had a great photographic memory and did well at school in History, English, Afrikaans, Biology and Geography, but not so great in Math and Science, which back then I just didn’t get. That was unfortunate because I had always wanted to be a Zoologist and work in game reserves with wild animals as a scientist/researcher. Becoming a game ranger, a career that you didn’t need math or science for, was not an option for females back then, it was purely a male domain.
The only real options open to women then were nursing, teaching or working in an office as a secretary or clerk. The latter was anathema to me. I loved the outdoors and the closest of the three to any kind of outdoor job, was teaching. Also my sister was teaching by then and seemed to like it, so I followed in her footsteps.
I think I must mention here that I had always loved and admired my sister and had always been proud of her. I used to (and still do) wish that I was more like her. She was and is outgoing, easy-going, liked by virtually everyone she meets, hard-working, determined, and keeps at something even when she finds it difficult. I am her polar opposite. I have always given up too easily when I find it difficult (like math and science), not because I’m lazy so much as I seem to have low self-esteem and very little self- confidence.
Against all opposition from family and teachers, I decided that I would like to go to University in the big city of Johannesburg. No one thought I was ready for this, I lacked the social skills to live on my own at seventeen. It was a disaster! The university was situated in a rough part of town and even though I share d a flat with two other girls that I had known slightly at school, I couldn’t find my feet.
After only three months I did something very stupid and accepted an invitation from two guys I had seen and passed the time of day with in the lift of the block of flats we lived in, to go and have a beer with them to celebrate one of the guys’ girlfriends 21st birthday. Needless to say, that evening when I went to their flat on the 10th floor of the block of flats, there was no girlfriend or anyone else present, and I was raped by both guys.
Even though I went to the nearby hospital and told them what had happened, was cleaned up and the police came and investigated; no sign of the guys was ever seen again. It turns out that they had been squatting illegally in the flat and no one knew anything about them. All I could tell the cops were the guys’ appearances – ordinary looking young white guys – and their Christian names, which were undoubtedly false.
I phoned my mom and told her that I was unhappy and wanted to come home. I returned home by aeroplane the next day and to this day have never told anyone about being raped. I blamed myself for being stupid and a natural target. I was horribly ashamed of myself at eighteen years old, I’d never had a boyfriend and my first sexual experience was rape. I still feel disgusted at myself, my immaturity and ignorance.
Needless to say, when I got back home I kind of went wild. I took myself off to clubs and parties, met guys, had one night stands and started to think of myself as grown up and sophisticated. I was on the pill and considered myself untouchable in the emotional sense. I was very lucky that drugs and std’s didn’t ‘happen’ to me.
Then the following year, I was at university in my home town, and was dating a guy sixteen years older than me who I considered mature and sophisticated (my type!!!!) what a fool I was; he and I were coming back from a night out on the town – he was driving- when we were smashed into by two guys driving a stolen car at high speed through a red traffic light. It was my side of the car they hit and I was very badly injured. My injuries included a fractured skull, ruptured lungs and spleen, six broken ribs, broken collar bone and bruised kidneys. I have no memory of the crash or my stay in hospital or recuperation at home. The accident occurred in February of that year, I was still 18, and the first thing I remember afterwards was my mom telling me to get up and get ready to go out for dinner – it was her birthday, 8 August, that same year. I got up and looked at my reflection in the mirror and asked my mom what had happened to my hair which was cropped very short. It had been waist length. She told my about the car accident, my stay in hospital, the coma that I had been in and the fact that the doctor’s had only given me a 15% chance of making it. I had beaten the odds…
To be continued…