By Sherri-Lee Kriedemann, Founder and Owner of Semicolon Consulting.
www.semicolonconsulting.co.za | firstname.lastname@example.org | 074 960 9906
I was 12 years old, had blonde hair, tanned skin, just started high school with complete innocence. That was the first time that I heard the voice inside my head, “Sherri-Lee, are you okay? I didn’t know where this voice came from I didn’t know who this voice was, and I didn’t know how to answer that voice.
I thought I was doing well in High School, but it was overwhelming for me, having moved from the safe space of Primary School to High School at such a young age, and here are all these beautiful girls, with their beautiful figures and I never saw myself like that. And then when I looked in the mirror, the voice came back inside my head, but this time it was saying, “You are ugly, you are fat, you are stupid, you are worthless”, and eventually I started to believe this voice.
I didn’t know who to talk to about it, so I didn’t talk to anyone about it, I just continued my day, everybody thought I was happy and I couldn’t understand why nobody around me felt the same emotions that I did.
When I was 14 turning 15, I met the first love of my love, he had that dark, mysterious look about him, the dark hair, the dark eyes, and when I realized he went to my school, it was the best thing ever, but it turned out not to be the best thing ever because that relationship was the start of a downward spiral in my life. We were together for over a year and I thought he got me. He felt like I did, he also hated himself, he also wasn’t happy, he also had self-loathing and I for once went, finally I can connect with somebody. When he turned around and said to me, you know you would be so much more beautiful if you just lost a little bit more weight, the voices in my head started screaming at me, I told you, you are ugly, I told you, you are stupid, I told you, you are fat and I immediately stopped eating. I would eat a sandwich a day, if that, my marks at school began to drop, even more, I already wasn’t doing well and I lost a drastic amount of weight. Of course, when I looked in the mirror, the voices inside my head kept on telling me, look how fat you still are, look at how fat you still are, look how fat you still are, so I never saw the unhealthy weight loss, but everyone else around me did. I became more withdrawn, I became more sullen, I started drinking and smoking, his circle of friends was goth, so I became goth. I used to wear only black, unfortunately, this is something that I still do, and it is something that I am trying to improve on. I would wear a long black dress with a slit, my doc martens, and my Kurt Cobain top that said I hate myself and I want to die.
He told me, Sherri-Lee when things in life get too hard, don’t try and sort them out on your own, rather just kill yourself, and because I believed he loved me and I loved him so much, I believed everything that he said. He eventually left our school and moved which was a very good thing but unfortunately the damage to me had already been done.
When I was 17, and this is such a cliché, I met the boy next door, he lived right next door.
Blonde hair, tanned skin, much older than me, and he just had this appeal about him and I was hooked, and that became the second love of my life and that continued to be my downward spiral. We made up, broke up more times than I can remember, in our seven and a half years together.
It was a stage where we had split up, and his sister had invited me round to her house for a braai. I had no idea that he was going to be there. I got to the house and he was there and he was angry that I was there and I told him straight that I did not know that he was going to be there. He said to me, when are you going to get it into your head that I don’t love you anymore, I don’t want you in my life anymore. It felt like someone had taken a knife and stabbed me straight into my heart. I went to the kitchen and I started pouring myself neat shots of vodka, every shot tasted like absolute poison, but the relief and numbing that I felt with every shot made it worthwhile. I remember walking into the bathroom, locking the door behind me, and looking into the mirror. This time the voice was that of my ex High School
boyfriend, telling me, remember if life gets too hard, don’t try and deal with it, just kill yourself. I opened the bathroom cabinet and took every tablet that I could find. I then walked out and sat outside and he looked at me and said what have you done, and I said, “You don’t have to worry, I won’t be in your life anymore”, and I can remember it becoming so peaceful, so quiet, there wasn’t a sound around me and I felt like I was floating on clouds, and I felt peace. I have a very vivid memory of my dad running into the emergency room with me and screaming for help.
I woke up in my bed the next morning and I felt like a failure because I didn’t even get suicide right. I became mute, I didn’t want to speak to anybody, I didn’t want to have anything to do with anybody. I should have been admitted into a clinic at that stage, I should have been put on medication for depression, unfortunately, none of those things happened, and I don’t blame anybody for that, it’s just how it was. I was put on a bus and I was sent to Port Elizabeth to my family that lived there. Port Elizabeth is where I was born, it was my happy place. I had always had so many happy childhood memories there, with my cousins, and going to Cape St Francis, was so happy, I never had a care in the world, so I went there for a week to sort myself out. None of my family spoke about what had happened, it was never addressed, nobody spoke about it and I guess I never really dealt with it because it was never spoken about, I just pushed it out of my mind.
I came back to Cape Town and I just carried on with life. My relationship with the boy next door was not ideal, we had many ups and downs, many many many ups and downs. The positive out of the relationship is that I was blessed with a beautiful beautiful son, who is now 16 years old. When my son was three weeks old, I found out that my fiancé was cheating on me, so at the age of 24, I became a single mother. I had to sell my wedding dress, I had to move back home to my parents, and my entire life as I knew it, came crashing down. Again I never spoke to anybody about it, I tried to deal with it on my own, I started drinking a lot, I didn’t know anything about being a single mother, and I then got septicemia of my caesarian cut and rushed back into the hospital. I will never forget laying in that hospital bed, with a drip in each arm and my baby in a cot next to me crying, and there was nothing that I could do, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t pick him up, I couldn’t do anything and I started crying, and then I couldn’t stop crying, and that’s when the postpartum depression hit me, it was something I knew nothing about, again it was never mentioned to me, I didn’t know what was going on with me, and the voices inside my head was going, You are a terrible mother, you are a terrible person, look you are 24 and you have been left for a younger version, you’ve been left for a younger woman and you are only 24, what does that make you?
This downward spiral happened rapidly, I just carried on drinking to numb the pain without realizing it. While I was having one glass of wine, I was thinking about the next glass of wine. I wasn’t a good mother to my son back then, I only started bonding with my son when he was about 2 or 3 three years old.
I worked very hard in my career, it was something that I took great pride in and one of the big corporations that I worked for, I loved my job and my character got questioned and torn apart, and my team members who I thought were part of my close circle, none of them stood up for me and I ended up resigning on the spot and walking out of that job feeling completely defeated, and the voice again said to me, You are useless, you haven’t achieved anything, look at you, you failed again. I went on another job was doing well at that job and again got a promotion which turned out not to be a promotion because things happened behind my back, and that was the final straw.
My son and I went to my best friend’s house, I had two bottles of wine with me and again while I was drinking the wine, I was thinking about the next glass of wine, I didn’t realize how bad my mental state was. I was standing again in the bathroom and I shattered into a million pieces and the voice inside my head said, You are a loser, you are worthless, you are a bad mother, you are a bad friend, you are a bad daughter, you are a bad sister, nobody needs you, everybody will be better off without you. I firmly believed that my son would have a better life without me there, I believed that everybody would have a better life without me there. I had a box of Adcodol in my handbag, I don’t know how many Adcodols I took with the wine that I had in the bathroom with me. I remember walking out of the bathroom and my best friend saying, what have you done. I am so thankful to her because, with her history and her life experiences, she knows when someone has taken an overdose. If it wasn’t for her, I would not be here today.
When I woke up, I was in High Care, I have no recollection of anything that happened. I know now what happened because I was told, but I woke up in high care, they were not sure if I was going to make it, because the Adcodol and all of the stuff within Adcodol had been absorbed into my system, and they weren’t sure if my kidneys were going to fail if my liver was going to fail. So I woke up in high care and I had no idea what had happened, but I knew why I was there, and I cried, maybe for 5 minutes, and I remember the man lying in the bed opposite me with drips and everything attached to him, and he just lay there staring at me with the saddest look on his face. I then turned and looked at the wall and I will never forget the white wall with the clock, the clock had a black frame and the numbers were black, it was 8:30 in the morning and the nurse came to me and said, how are you doing. I said I am fine, I am absolutely fine, you need to please get these heart monitors off me, I need you to please get all of these things off me, I have a hair appointment at 10:00 and I am going to be late. I was so removed from reality because I was so used to pushing everything away, and the look on this nurse’s face was Honey, you aren’t going anywhere, she was shocked. They kept me there, I was allowed out on Sunday, Sunday afternoon they discharged me. Later on Saturday afternoon I realized the impact of what I had done, and what that would have done to my child and I cried and I cried and I cried.
I was discharged from hospital on the Sunday and I got up and went to work on Monday. So to put this all into context for you, I tried to commit suicide on Friday evening, I was in High Care on Saturday and moved to a normal ward in the afternoon, I was discharged on Sunday, and I got up and got dressed on Monday morning went to work as nothing had happened. Again, I was not admitted to a clinic or put on any medication for depression.
I finally realized that I needed help, and I started seeing a Psychologist and I stopped drinking alcohol and I finally got put onto medication, which has helped me drastically.
Yes, I have had many suicidal thoughts since then, especially with covid, there were many nights I would go to bed and pray and cry, Lord please, everything has been taken away from me, I had lost my job, my car, my boyfriend, a woman who was like a mother to me, my cat who was 19 years old and has been through life with me, I’ve lost it all, please Lord just come and fetch me in my sleep so I don’t have to go through this because I don’t have the strength anymore Lord. Every morning I would wake up and I would be so angry.
I’ve had covid twice this year and covid made me realize, I want to live. When you have covid twice and you are in quarantine for that amount of time, you spend a lot of time in your head, and I have had a lot of time to think about everything that I have gone through in my life. And I thought to myself, would I change anything, and honestly, no I would not change a thing. This has been the journey that I have needed to travel, it’s been one hell of a journey and I wouldn’t change it, because I wouldn’t be the woman that I am today, I am a strong woman, I am a survivor, I may fall, but I always get back up, and through my story, I can help my teenage son and his friends and other teenagers with Mental Health Issues, along with other people that are close to me that are going through a similar
thing, I can help them, and if my story can change lives and save lives, then I would relive my story a thousand times.
There is always hope, there is always a rainbow, every storm eventually runs out of rain, and here I am putting my story out there for the world to see, and if you are reading this right now, I want you to know that you are my rainbow, you are the reason I get up every day, you are the reason I live my life every day so that I can inspire other people and say, Look at me, I was broken, those pieces that shattered on that bathroom floor eight years ago, yes I’ve put them back together again, but they haven’t been put back together like the person that I was back then, it is very different now and I am okay with that.
And the voices inside my head, when I stand and look in the mirror now and I hear that voice that says Sherri-Lee are you okay, I am very proud to say that I can honestly answer that voice now and say, yes, I am okay.
I can honestly say that I love the woman that I am today, and I love the teenager that I was when I went through that depression, because that teenager molded me into what I am today, and I love the carefree innocent child that I was before I got Mental Health Issues. I only started with mental health issues from the age of 12, I wasn’t born with them, but I was born for a purpose and I truly believe that I am living my life purpose.
I’m reaching out my hand to you and I am saying take my hand, we will do this journey together, my story is not over, and our stories are far from over.
So just like all of you reading this are my rainbow today, I hope that in return I can be your rainbow one day.