Drawing breath from perforated lungs.

Author:Motswatswa, Kelebogile
Position:JO'BURG DIARY - Black middle-class women in South Africa - Column

We are pleased to introduce our new column, 'Jo'burg Diary' by Kelebogile Motswatswa. In her first article, she talks about the pressures of just living day-by-day as a Black woman in modern Johannesburg.

July is Mental Health Awareness Month in South Africa, so I felt it appropriate and urgent to discuss some of the issues that affect the collective psyche of a relatively privileged group of young, Black millennials.

Too often, mental health is overlooked as a fundamental component of a functional and fruitful society, especially in African countries where needs such as food, water sanitation, quality education, and employment opportunities are scantly met.

While it is certainly important for governments and civil society to work hard towards meeting the aforementioned needs, it is equally important to discuss and address mental health issues that affect African societies because mental illness, with its concomitant suicide rates, is a reality that is robbing us of so many potential leaders who are needed at the helm of economic development, social justice and transformation.

As a young woman living with mental illness, I recognise that an ailing mind is often a symptom of something deeper; the struggles that are faced by me and my contemporaries have done much heart-wrenching damage to our mental wellbeing as individuals trying to find our purpose and as a collective trying to make sense of the structures within which we operate.

The existence of young Black middle-class South Africans entails consistently negotiating our identity in various spaces--spaces we were forced into without much of our permission and spaces we step into of our own volition.

Replete with angst

Ours is an existence replete with angst birthed by uncertainty, imposter syndrome, feelings of inadequacy, and a fear of vulnerability. Like many millennials around the world, we hide behind Facebook and Instagram posts, and share memes as a form of respite from our quotidian challenges.

We use the term 'adulting' to normalise struggling in isolation and to avoid candidly articulating the fact that we're treading the waters --afraid we're going to drown trying to draw breath from our perforated lungs--as Black women.

One of my favourite quotes is from Lauryn Hill's Forgive Them Father, off her solo debut album, the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, in which she sings, "to survive is to stay alive in the face of opposition" I --a lyric that laconically summarises my life as a...

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