Belinda Phofu swiftly flared into Joburg’s creative spaces as an entrepreneur designing alternative jewellery and showcasing it at various events. Her brand, SIIC (Style Is Incalculable) had gained momentum after a few years of unemployment and being unable to study due to financial challenges. An ambitious young woman, Belinda set forth with another initiative (Art is Currency) that would allow creatives a platform to exhibit their work.
There were certain realities that contributed to her sinking into a depressive state, she remembers. Belinda had been carrying the pressure to financially support her family after high school but had kept herself determined to pursue her career. She recalls a resilient spirit which insisted that although things were currently not working out, it simply meant she needed to push further. Although her brand had gained some attention, there were minimal sales and the market was not responding as well as she had expected. The ambition simmered down after SIIC experienced rejection for some opportunities, her mother fell ill and Belinda began to heavily question her life’s purpose. She grew more distant to her spirituality and felt drawn to self-harm as a coping mechanism, which resulted in cutting herself where no one would notice.
By January 2017, Belinda had sunk deeper into depression, which led to her first suicide attempt. Thereafter, she woke up the following morning feeling slightly drowsy, disappointed she was still alive but evermore determined to carry out her decision. After the second attempt had failed, Belinda rejected the symbolism of it denounced the occurrences as divine intervention. According to her, it wasn’t that her existence still had meaning but that the dosage should increase.
“I think that’s why I didn’t want to talk about it to anyone. I was like, people wouldn’t understand. They would think there’s other people going through worse and they’re not trying to kill themselves…”
It was about six months later when her third suicide attempt led to her hospitalization. Belinda remembers the neighbour making a call for emergency services and waking up in a room where she was kept under analysis.
There were certain experiences in Belinda’s childhood which had set the tone for how she coped with depression. A strained relationship with her father became one of the factors she believes built up the tension within her mental and emotional states. Her father has been battling with alcoholism for as long as she can remember. As a result, her family lost everything including a house when she was younger. Over time, Belinda grew resentful towards him, along with other challenges which materialized because of the addiction.
“He’s always just…told me how pathetic and useless I am, how I’m never going to amount to anything. And I never believed him, I’ve always just had a very positive mindset towards everything. But there came a point where I started thinking maybe he is right”
Just over a month after her last attempt, Belinda is learning to find her purpose again and have gratitude for life’s simplicity.
“I’m trying to work on forgiveness and not hold grudges. It’s difficult to forgive someone who hasn’t asked for forgiveness”
She now finds it better to be surrounded by people and is more aware of her thoughts. By sharing her story, Belinda wanted to enable people to realize that just being alive is an accomplishment. She plans on creating more initiatives in terms of SIIC and hopes to further her studies.
After our conversation, I became more aware of my own mentality. Most times we leave simple thoughts to become narratives and if left unattended, take control over our lives. I believe that through our despondencies resulting from life’s challenges, pressures and expectations (some unattainable), it’s vital to adopt an appreciation of the little triumphs. We should hold our thoughts captive and take responsibility to keep a sense of positivity in our mentalities.
Article: Sesona Mahlahla
Illustration: Mpho Mukha