Allow Me To Preach

Mental awareness continues to be a topic that needs to be explored especially with the current suicide rate that seems to increase every year. One thing I’ve discovered as a black man is that mental health is shunned upon in black communities and I honestly feel like the right education and an adequate amount of information would save our black brothers and sisters.

At first, I used to think that the lack of information was only an issue that was prevalent in townships but over the years, I’ve learnt that it affects everyone, everywhere, but the black community seems not to be realizing how dire it is for them to actually dwell on it. I was under the impression that just a little more information would create awareness within townships and act as guidance to the decisions they take regarding mental health issues, and I still stand by that. We need to start spreading awareness in areas where information seems to be limited, or completely change the way in which we spread information to fit the methods in which these communities prefer to absorb information.

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Black communities seem to have the wrong idea of what mental illness is, going as far as calling it “witchcraft” or a “spiritual warfare”. A mental illness can be defined as the inability to use your brain to its fullest capacity. It is estimated that approximately 1 in 3 South Africans suffer from some form of mental disorder and this is according to a SASH (South Africa Stress and Health) study which was conducted in 2003/4. It doesn’t matter how you choose to look at it, treatment is essential for managing mental disorders and there are a lot of facilities that offer free treatment, but information about those facilities seems to be limited. This is also coupled with the fact that treatment is frowned upon because it is expensive. How then does the government come in and actually make treatment accessible and affordable for everyone who is affected? The government cannot be held accountable if we ourselves do not speak up about the big elephant in the room. People are so afraid of being judged that they forget that their holistic health comes first, before everything else. The brain is the hardest working organ in our bodies; we are so quick to take care of minor headaches and stomach cramps, but nobody wants to be seen taking treatment for a mental disorder because it makes them appear “weak”. This notion has to change because, without treatment, we cannot reach a state where the whole nation is operating from a healthy state of mind. In the same breath, we cannot depend only on medication to bring us back to a balanced state of mind; we need to immerse ourselves in activities that fuel us with positivity.

The media, on the other hand, can be held accountable for the lack of information there is about mental illness. They’re so quick to report news on suicide deaths and depression but hardly anything is ever said about the solutions that are available to combat this epidemic. The media is very powerful because it shapes the way in which we think and it is this power that should be used to evoke emotion and inspire action. What we consume has a major impact on our daily decisions but it seems that no one is actually taking advantage of that. Yes, it’s okay to report suicide deaths and be active about bringing such concerns to light, but when do we start talking about solutions? When will the media start sharing the truth that the treatment of mental disorders does indeed work if applied correctly? These are questions that The Filling Station is looking to find answers to. There are a number of well-established organisations that place mental health at the forefront of their activities, but they don’t receive as much coverage from the media as possible, thus leading to people not even knowing that there are services such as free counselling and more than anything, that it’s okay to seek help. Mental health organisations should also be proactive in changing the dialogues around mental health. If there was ever a time that we needed such a change to be made, it is NOW. The media tends to focus on suicide deaths but nothing is being said about certain suicide prevention campaigns that actually exist. We need to consume positive news in order for us to prosper as a nation that is at a constant battle with the violent tide that is mental illness. When we can do this, the conversation can begin to change and social media platforms will also follow suit because we know how much power social media holds.

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

An active approach has to be taken in educating the individual about the skills they can acquire to better their condition and improve the quality of their lives. Sometimes you don’t have to be diagnosed to know that something is not okay, and even that is okay. It forms a foundation for the steps that you need to take in order for you to maintain your mental health, and also your overall health. Treatment is important, but treatment alone will not get you far, it requires commitment because mental disorders are chronic. Be committed to treatment and also be committed to learning more about your condition. Be committed to learning what your triggers are. Be committed to learning exactly what is going on with you so that you can avoid its adverse effects. Be committed to making the necessary changes to your lifestyle for the sake of your wellbeing. Where mental illness is involved, prevention is indeed better than cure. You do not have to wait until it’s too late to begin taking care of yourself, the sooner you start, the less you have to deal with on your own.

This also brings me to my next point, the importance of relating. We need to get comfortable with building relationships that allow us to be open about our daily struggles. It is okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay to wallow in those feelings as well. It’s important to remember who you’re trying to become because that also guides your inner dialogue. We need to be able to rely on family and friends for support but they too need to rely on information to know how to handle us. If such information is not easily accessible then it becomes a challenge for everyone affected. We need to be able to understand what our friends are going through and accept them as they are without judgment because it is that judging alone that makes the battle so lonely. People tend to isolate themselves when they feel misunderstood, so it’s the responsibility of both parties to acquire as much information about certain conditions whether it is depression and anxiety, or ADHD and schizophrenia, it’s something that must be done. We need to actively seek information so that we can also be on the lookout for any threatening symptoms. Don’t wait until it’s too late to look for symptoms.

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On Wednesday, the 24th of October 2018, South Africa poured out their tributes to Hip-Hop Icon, HHP who had spoken about failed suicide attempts in his interviews. These are the kinds of things we should be looking out for. When HHP opened up, chances are people thought he was looking for attention or an easy way out, because when you are depressed and suicidal, sometimes you’re called “lazy”. What most people do not realise is that him opening up was on its own a cry for help. Here’s another issue that seriously needs to be touched on: Men suffering from mental illness. HHP had shown symptoms of depression and for a long time was open about them, but the societal pressures that are exerted on a man seem to be multiplying. In most suicide cases, it is the men who are casualties and it is believed that it’s because they’re more brutal in how they go on about taking their lives, with some resorting to shooting themselves or jumping off a high building as compared to women who are most likely to overdose on deadly pills. This, however, shouldn’t take away from the fact that the individual found themselves in a position where they felt that suicide was the only option they had remaining.

Suicidal thoughts are key symptoms of depression. Suicide is terminal but the thoughts should be treated like the terminal disease they are. I took some time to listen to and read some of HHP’s interviews and I picked up a theme. A lot of men, like HHP, commit suicide because of their temporary inability to meet the expectations that are set by those around them. A lot of pressure is applied to men as they are the providers and are not supposed to show emotion but rather just “get over it” and work towards providing for their families. Men are not allowed to be vulnerable because “a man doesn’t cry”. Men are conditioned to suffer in silence because the communities we’ve been raised in sham them for being weak or sometimes “pathetic”. People are so quick to say “sort yourself out” or “pull yourself together” when in actual fact, they should be finding out exactly what the problem is. When someone is down on themselves, it’s vital to be careful with the words we use because they can have one of two effects: make them feel better, or worse, it’s never in between.

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Jabulani “HHP” Tsambo

Because men are not allowed to talk about their feelings, even to their friends in most cases, this leaves them without a support system where their mental health is regarded. This is why they revert to self-harm which is another symptom of depression. They start abusing substances like drugs and alcohol just to escape whatever it is that they’re feeling at that current moment because it is taboo to express it. We need to redefine what a man is because up until we do that, we will continue to deal with the robots we create as a society, that destroy themselves simply because they aren’t allowed to be human. As parents, wives, sons and daughters, we need to go easy on the men in our lives; they’re already dealing with a lot. They deal with feelings of disappointment, failure, incapability, and we cannot keep rubbing that in. We cannot continue to dwell on their shortcomings instead we need to be creative about how we instil a sense of positivity in the men that matter to us. We need to educate ourselves about the symptoms that we should be looking out for so that we can be able to spot them. We need to support our fellow brothers and create a space that makes it comfortable for them to say “actually, I am not okay” and with that still be able to remind them that you recognize them and will play your role as a pillar until they can find their feet. Let us work together in redefining what a man is, rather than what society says a man should be.

November is the month of the man and we have some great content coming up, we start off next week with the theme Redefining The Man. Please make sure that you get all the men in your life to participate, you’ll never know how many lives you can save.

Have yourselves an amazing weekend, let’s have a discussion or a debate about this topic in the comment section below. 

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What Comes After Acceptance?

Reading Time: 10 Minutes

I love cliches, I feel like they’re used so often that they tend to lose meaning when they, in actual fact, carry so much truth if you take a deeper look. They say the first step to recovery is acceptance. As a person who has frequented rehabilitation centres, I really had no idea what acceptance really meant. I was under the impression that all I had to accept was that I was an addict when in actual fact there were a lot of other things to take into consideration. Acceptance is encompassing of all the aspects that make up the person that I am today, and until I began to accept myself for who I was and what I was actually going through, I continued to relapse and then regret it afterwards. It was a vicious cycle.

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, addiction can be defined as ‘persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful’. ‘Addicts’ know that whatever they’re doing is not good for them and that’s because they get to face the repercussions of their substance abuse but they continue using anyway. It’s so easy for an addict to fall back into the trap of addiction even after suffering severe consequences which almost proved fatal and this is because addiction is also a dependency. We find it hard to cope without a dose of our preferred substance and when we do get a dose, even though sometimes it can be a mild overdose, we start to feel helpless because that’s where we begin to experience uncomfortable sensations in our bodies which are caused by the abuse of a particular substance, these can be a hangover, insomnia, stomach cramps, loss of appetite, etc.

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It’s easy for others to point fingers at addicts but one thing we need to understand is that addiction is always accompanied by a mental illness. Addiction can result from depression and the need to not feel whatever it is that gets you down, and it can also result from anxiety and the dire need to remain calm amidst all the chaos. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves and put our health first but we get so caught up in pleasing others, so much that it becomes a difficult duty to maintain. Our addiction may be a result of peer pressure, but it is not peer pressure that keeps us hooked, it is us chasing the temporal amount of joy that comes with every “session” that does. It’s extremely easy to get lost in chasing the feeling that you forget the repercussions that come with it. When the substance starts to wear off, we find ourselves tapping back into our initial depressive state harder than before. We end up being disinterested in everything. We lose sight of our passions, our responsibilities start to seem pointless, we miss school, we miss work and life just starts to get unnecessarily hectic.

I remember how easy it was for me to keep using even when I knew that I would struggle to sleep at night because I’d be sitting there thinking I’d die in my sleep and that there was a chance that I would get emotional and start crying for or about things that happened way back in my young years. I also remember sitting there watching my friends sleep and wished that I could also sleep as easily as they did, even just for an hour. It is at this point that I realised that as much as substances masked whatever I was feeling, those things became more exposed when the drug had served its purpose and spit me out of my hiding place. You get into a very dark place, a place you thought you had conquered because the drugs had you feeling victorious. Even though I knew I had an issue, I’d still go back and take the very same substance that almost put me in a hospital because I felt like I was strong enough to handle whatever consequences may arise. I guess that was the case until I actually ended up on a hospital bed. That, however, is a story for another post.

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We test and break rules and although our bodies are able to handle a lot of stress, we will not always be lucky. At times we can feel our bodies deteriorating but we will still do the same thing that got them there in the first place, which is rather questionable. It made me wonder, “Where exactly am I placing my value?” I clearly wasn’t placing value in myself because if I was, I would have known that it was “time-out” for me and I had to concentrate on bettering myself. I remember, after the ‘ordeal’, I would continue to hate myself for putting my body through the torture that comes with withdrawals and because I kept on wallowing over what I had done, I’d just keep getting worse. All I had to do was forgive myself, repeatedly.

Forgiveness comes after acceptance. Until I accepted who I was at the time, there was no way I could access the person that I wanted to become and in order for me to no longer identify with that person, I had to forgive myself and start again. I had to forgive myself for letting my conditioning take centre stage. I had to forgive myself for not putting my health first. I had to forgive myself for all the friendships and relationships I destroyed because of my addiction. I had to forgive myself for all the jobs I walked out on simply because I had woken up feeling like a failure. I had to learn how to forgive myself for every time that I relapsed even when I had told myself I stopped. I had to forgive my past experiences for having so much control over me. I had lost myself, I didn’t even know whether I was coming or going. One time, I thought I had it all figured out and the next thing I knew, a curveball was thrown my way and I just spiralled downwards. I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and take responsibility for what life had given me. The worst was over, it was time for me to turn my life around.

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Getting through it wasn’t easy because I wanted to do everything myself. I’ve always been the kind of person that wanted to be in charge of things but I realised that I needed support and people to understand me. I couldn’t surround myself with people who judged me because that would only take me backwards. I had to teach myself about what I was going through and I’ll tell you this, learning is the easy part, it’s the application of what you learn that requires you to remember why you started. I also had to find a power that was higher than myself, I had to come to terms with and meet the God of my understanding and that brought about a lot of structure in my life. Without that, I could have been worse, or even dead, but I thank God and the knowledge that I sought for the person that I am today. I had to find other avenues to seek joy and that came with reading up on foreign concepts, journaling and lately, writing posts for The Filling Station and serving my purpose. I believe I went through everything that I went through so that I could be well equipped to fulfil my current purpose and that is to educate people about mental health and remind them “In everything you go through, you are never alone. Reach out.” It does get too much at times, but I guess that’s why we need to support each other, however, I will forever depend on my passion to inspire change, because after all, love conquers all.

Throughout the week we’ll be exploring the theme of acceptance and I’ll share my story in detail with regards to addiction.

If you or your loved ones are battling with addiction, help is available for you. SADAG is Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy group. Contact them on 0800 21 22 23


The Beauty of Relating

Reading Time: 7 Minutes 

Friendships, relationships, work teams, family and plenty other unions depend on relating in order for them to survive. Relating can simply be defined as making a connection or understanding someone else’s story as if it were your own. A lot of successful marriages and friendships have been built simply through that and they remain intact to date because of that. Relating is a powerful tool and people seem not to be taking advantage of it. Sometimes we are afraid to share our stories because we feel that we will be judged, but the truth of the matter is that we can only be judged by people who do not understand us or what we’re going through, people who haven’t been in our shoes. For this reason alone, The Filling Station prides itself in grouping posts according to the people that may find them useful and also encourages conversations between those who feel that they can relate on a certain subject. It’s always refreshing to meet someone that you can identify with because that on its own is an opportunity for you to source solutions to a problem that you may have been dealing with on your own all along.

“Relating can simply be defined as making a connection or understanding someone else’s story as if it were your own”

It’s not very easy to open up and trust someone else with your story and there are many reasons behind that. At The Filling Station, we believe in the concept of opening up to a “Mirror a stranger” mentality – this basically means using the information shared by people who have conquered their demons or in the process of doing so, as an aid to your advancement. It is an opportunity for you to learn a thing or two and come up with creative ways to sort out your own “mess”. We encourage positive conversations amongst our readers and that is why all comments go through moderation before they are posted so you can be rest assured that this is a safe environment. We understand how sensitive the issue of mental health can become and realise that we have to tread carefully in everything that we do. Through comments, people are able to see parts of themselves that they’d like to connect with and from there beautiful, transforming conversations can begin to take place.

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Relating not only gives you an opportunity to talk about how you feel but sometimes you actually get to hear yourself. It’s so easy to get lost in what we are complaining about so much that we fail to realise that we may have already sped through the solution without even noticing. We are social animals and we thrive on social connections to move forward in our careers, to make friends or to source the validation we feel we cannot give to ourselves, but that’s a topic for another post. The joys of relating to someone is that advice feels more actionable than it does when it comes from a practitioner because then it tends to sound more instructional. We believe that relating will help everyone build positive long lasting relationships with different kinds of people from different corners of the world. For us at The Filling Station, relating is the main ingredient in every life-changing story.

We are certain that this is a theory that will always work because for once, you can just stop everything that you’re doing and possibly bump into a shareable post about something that you identify with. If you can’t explain what you’re going through, maybe someone else can. Sometimes, all we need is someone that will say “I get it”, without any judgment.  Throughout the month, we’ll be posting stories that will guide the conversation and in the comment section, you’ll get to meet people who are like you. One of our goals is to help build positive relationships between our readers because sometimes that is all you need to advance to the next level of your life.

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We live by the motto that one person’s story is another person’s breakthrough and when everything is said and done the right way, we are all able to reach a conclusion that will prepare us for the life that we’ve been dreaming about.


Introducing The Filling Station

Introducing The Filling Station

We live in a world where it has become normal to dwell on the negative and let life be as it is. We allow ourselves to be consumed by the simple things that arise in our lives, thus turning them into mountains that we cannot even begin to move past. We tend to work our way into a state of depression and anxiety all because we seem to not have been equipped with enough skills to move past certain challenges. There are a wide range of websites and other publications that look at tackling these issues head-on, but have they went about it the right way?

More and more people are starting to become aware of their own mental health, and one can say that it’s been a long time coming. It’s only now that we are being exposed to the dangers of a compromised state of mind and it is on us to take an active approach to change that and not add to its casualties. There are a range of mental disorders that have been making headlines, but depression and anxiety seem to be the ones mostly affecting the youth. The youth of today has somewhat become negative, and sharing experiences or simply asking for help turns them into victims of bullying and scrutiny. This not only applies to the youth but children and mature adults too, and this continues to exacerbate the bad state that mental health as a topic currently stands because there seems to be no hope moving forward. Suicide deaths are on the rise, but why should we let these be the only indicators that something needs to be done?

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The Filling Station is a non-profit organisation/website that looks at spreading positivity amongst individuals who fall under different groups such as women, LGBTI, men (especially), youth, etc. In order for us to do this successfully, we will rely on the beauty of relating. Most information that there is about depression and anxiety or mental disorders as a whole, feels rather instructional because it comes from a professional, which makes it somewhat difficult for the reader to relate or even identify with the content that has been put forth. At The Filling Station, we believe that someone else’s story is another person’s breakthrough. We may all be dealing with a problem that someone has overcome and who better to guide you than someone who has been in your shoes and walked the same path as you?

We believe in building relationships that grow you as individuals and that is why we stress the importance of relating. The art of relating allows two complete strangers to connect on a more intimate level for the sake of each other’s advancement. Depression has managed to claim a lot of lives, and there are a number of reasons attached to that, but the availability of platforms where people can express themselves and connect with people that cannot only help them but understand them, seems not to be a common trend, especially in South Africa. Our goal is to connect people from different parts of the world and get them to support each other whilst posting content that guides the conversation.

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Mental health has always been a topic of discussion, but without the education, there can be no advancement. It is our goal as The Filling Station to not only share the stories of those who have somehow conquered but to also educate others about the benefits of a positive mental state. When this is achieved, we are able to:

  • Make informed decisions about where our future is headed.
  • Gain fresh perspectives on an old recurring problem.
  • Boost self-esteem and improve self-development.
  • Reduce anxiety and depression among individuals.

As much as this is a South African-based initiative, we are looking to expand our reach to all corners of the globe because we believe that we can change the world, one mind at a time. The world is in need of platforms like these.

Change the world, one mind at a time.

Our goal is to further expand and get into organising workshops and seminars where mental health will take centre stage. As mentioned above, we want to educate individuals about the benefits of a sound mental state of mind. One thing we have promised ourselves is that we will not dwell on the negative aspects, but rather focus on solutions and spreading positive energy through our content and activities. Everything that we get involved in will be based on fuelling positivity and acting as positive-agents to shed light on those who find themselves in the dark rut that is a compromised state of mind.

Our end goal is to create charged up individuals, springing out of their self-limiting beliefs and stopping at nothing to achieve the goals that they’ve set for themselves.


15 October 2018 – SAVE THE DATE!

Starting from 9am on the 15th of October 2018, the world will never be the same again. Why? Well, The Filling Station is finally going live!

After a year and a half of contemplation, a lot of doubt, sacrificed nights-out and a lot of sleepless nights which were mostly caused by the anxiety of not knowing whether this would work or not, we have decided that this is the right time to launch this website. During this “struggle”, a beautiful team was built and you’ll get to know them more during the course of next week – we call them The Tank. They are the people that come up with most of the content that will be posted here.

Some of you might still not know what the hype is all about, but that’s why I decided to post this article and just enlighten you pre-launch day. The Filling Station is a website/non-profit organisation created to fight the stigma surrounding mental health and promote wellness among individuals.

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The Filling Station is basically for everyone. The world is malnourished, people are running on reserve without even realising it. Some are on the verge of throwing in the towel whilst others just survive because they have no other choice. I could literally go on forever, but I guess the point is that we all need to get to a point where we begin to take care of ourselves. It’s time we all connected and took care of the deepest self who is easily swallowed by worldly pressure.

The Filling Station promises to rejuvenate your soul and connect you to people like yourself that are going through the same challenges as you. People are giving up on their dreams, walking out on their goals and simply tapping out because no matter how hard they try, things seem not to work out. I’m talking to the millennial that feels like giving up because his business seems not to be getting anywhere, the single mother who has gone on countless dates and yet still fails to find a soulmate leading to her feeling less…beautiful. I’m talking to the man that cannot express how he feels because society condemns him for doing so. I’m talking to the teenager that finds it hard to fit in because they suffer from undiagnosed social anxiety and the young man who dreads holiday season because he has to go back to his “straight” life. I’m here to say, you are not alone and together we will walk this road until we are charged up and live the lives that we’ve been called to live. The Filling Station prides itself in connecting people who share a lot in common because sometimes one person’s story, is another person’s breakthrough. I could learn a lot from your experience only, and vice versa.

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No matter where you are, you can always find us right here, changing the world – one mind at a time. Our introductory theme for next week is New Beginnings. It’s not too late to start afresh and we have some nice articles to just fill you with positivity and prepare you for the next level of your life. Let us all strive for personal excellence.

We look forward to bumping into you, don’t forget to stop at The Filling Station. 15 October 2018. Do not forget! Since you’re here, feel free to browse around and just get a feel of where we’re going with this. 🙂


Posts

Where All The Magic Happens

Here’s where all the filling up happens. This part of the website is where you can expect to find posts that are cut into different categories just to fit your personal preference. We all go through different things at different times, and The Filling Station groups those accordingly so that they are more suiting to your situation.

We encourage comments on our posts so as to push conversations among people who relate to each other because we believe one person’s story is another person’s breakthrough. Our posts are based mostly on boosting positivity and inspiring people to better their lives.

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Categories

We have a range of topics to choose from to feed your soul and just get into the right frequency. Currently, our categories are:

  • Friendships
    • Because we know those can also get out of control, with most people ending up asking the dreadful question: Do I really need friends?
  • Relationships
    • These make up a large part of our depression and anxiety, and we will delve deeper into this topic.
  • Men
    • The soldiers who aren’t meant to even comment about how they feel. So much pressure is put on a man and that leads to depression.
  • LGBTI
    • Probably the most judged group in the world, but we are here to keep them going.
  • Women
    • Because women love to relate.

We will make daily posts, grouped into different categories and eventually collecting to give you the pleasure of reading.