Chapter 2 talks about my time in High School, my first experience with depression, the trauma of living with a heroine addict and the lasting effects of sexual abuse.
My mom made sure that before I got to high school, I looked a bit prettier. By prettier I mean I got braces for two years and my Dumbo ears were pinned back to my head. Full brain surgery looking patient for a few days!! Highlights were put in my hair, my legs were waxed, and she wanted to fix my pimples by putting me on the pill. Yikes! I had lied about getting my periods that year to impress her as all the other girls had been getting theirs, and now had to come clean that I hadn’t, in fact, had my first period yet. Things improved slightly after I got to High School as the teasing from the other girls stopped. We were in a huge new school and stuck together in the beginning. Ryan also wasn’t attending Camps Bay High anymore, he had left to go to Abbotts College that year – YES!
I soon met some new friends who lived in Hout Bay, very close to my house and some even had horses! It was so amazing to find friends who had the same things in common with me, lived within walking distance, AND went to my school. There were also the cutest boys that stayed in the house on the corner of my road that went to my school and we started spending loads of time together. I was secretly quite infatuated with one of them but he started dating my friend and seemed to see me as just one of the guys.
As soon as I got my first period, I was put on the pill and my acne covered face was given a good dose of Roaccutane. With all these new friends (and boys!), visits to my father on weekends grew even less. Ossi and my mom then decided to have a child together and I prayed for a little sister. When I found out they were having a boy I had been horrified at the idea of another brother, and even more irritated that he was due on my birthday!! But when Nicholas arrived in November 1998 just before my 14th birthday, and I held him for the first time, I was smitten.
He was a difficult baby and used to cry a LOT. I adored him so much that I would end up crying sometimes when he did, I couldn’t bear the thought of him being unhappy.
For the millenium we had a dream holiday to Mauritius. Ryan and I were allowed to each bring a friend (so that we wouldn’t fight!). My grandparents came too… and it was a really fantastic holiday. The best yet!
In early 2000 I got a beautiful new Chestnut mare called Sassy but tragically had a horse riding accident on the first weekend of owning her in February. In hindsight I should have let her settle into her new home first before taking her out hacking. A friend of mine and I had decided to ride down to the beach for our first outride, and in classic cowgirl style decided to have a race (I had a new horse that was just off the race track, come on… Of COURSE we’re going to race!) We galloped off in teasing fun but after I think a couple hundred metres Sassy tripped, somersaulted, and landed on her back – with me still on it! Fortunately, Ossi had been on the beach watching us and called an ambulance while my friend Sian rode off after Sassy who had gotten up and wildly headed rider-less toward home. I was in and out of consciousness for 2 days, lost my memory, and injured my back. The accident had been on the morning of my first Valentines Ball at Camps Bay High School, my date must have been pretty pissed! My friends at school found it hilarious that I lost my memory and would come up with tons of different stories, like who my boyfriend was (I didn’t have one), who I had shagged (no one yet!) and what kind of person I was. Fortunately after I was introduced to people my memories of that person would return. It took about 6 months for it to return completely and was a very confusing time for me. I n that time I attended weekly physiotherapy, along with my horse, for our back injuries. My father and I were completely estranged by this stage and visits to him basically ceased altogether.
My memory of events around this period are actually a bit fuzzy – possibly because of the riding accident. The timeline doesn’t make sense to me… I might be confusing or combining stories of two years here in the next few paragraphs.
The world trade towers were attacked in September that year, I remember my brother shouting from his room for us to come watch what had happened. I certainly didn’t comprehend at the time what exactly this attack meant : the beginning of the war against terrorism. In South Africa the only terrorism I’d been exposed to was PAGAD bombings at a Planet Hollywood Restaurant and some fast food restaurants in Camps Bay.
A boy kissed me for the first time just after my 14th birthday! But even though I was boy crazy, every time I started dating someone I would start to feel very confused. I felt sad a lot of the time in the first years of high school, there were so many beautiful girls at my new school, and my mother was often comparing me to my brother’s beautiful girlfriends. In my eyes, she made me feel that I wasn’t thin enough, my boobs weren’t big enough, I didn’t wear trendy clothes, I never wore make up, I didn’t have a boyfriend, I spent too much time on the computer chatting to strangers on MIRC when I should be tanning outside. She’d shake her head at my pale legs and say “you should go tan outside for one hour every afternoon on different sides, and then you’ll have a lovely tan all over!” I flitted from fling to fling until I fell in love for the first time – for an older guy who was sweet, funny, naughty and loads of fun, and he had a CAR!! I was absolutely hooked and we’d spend hours together in my bed kissing and touching. (To this day I have no idea how that was allowed by my Mom… A 15yr old dating a 18yr old and he can sleep over??!) After a few months though it was clear he wanted more than just touching, and started making a move on one of my friends. I was absolutely devastated and spent months crying in my room everyday listening to sad love songs. I can actually laugh at this memory now and feel a little frustrated at how much time I spent picking myself up after this dooshbag broke my heart! If only I had known then that life surprises you in the strangest of ways… how many more boys I would find and love and then grow away from in the cycle of life…
I developed severe depression. I was struggling with my back pain, it was absolute agony to stand for more than a few minutes at a time and weekly physiotherapy sessions weren’t helping. Horse riding was causing me more anxiety than therapy! Sassy used to trip quite frequently and every single time would give me a mini heart attack. It wasn’t the same at all after the accident and I felt empty, directionless and unloved, and started cutting my arms with knives to escape the heart ache I felt inside. The pain of cutting my arms distracted me from the emotional pain and felt like mini battle scars to me. The cutting got worse over time though, I was desperate to slit my wrists and end my life but just couldn’t bear the pain of cutting more than a few mm in and was so pissed off I could never hit that vein! I decided to overdose on Myprodol the day my Mom and Ossi left for a short holiday. This was the worst idea ever and the memory will always prevent me from trying to kill myself again. When I woke up the next day I felt absolutely panicked. My mind was completely groggy and I couldn’t function properly. I felt like I was almost trapped in this body that couldn’t cooperate. I thought I had brain damaged myself and in panic confessed what I had done. Before I knew what was happening, my bags were packed and I was on my way to Kenilworth Clinic to be admitted for a month. The clinic was horrible, they made me feel like I was an attention seeker and alcoholic for drinking occasionally on weekends (like ALL of my friends did – we were teenagers!). I confronted my father about things my mother had claimed and we discussed everything. Although my memory had been rectified, things were now feeling very awkward between my dad and I, and I felt more alone and depressed than ever for causing such a stir. I didn’t want this attention – I just wanted to die. I felt like I really didn’t belong there. I lived in this massive house, had my own pony, went to a ‘snobby’ school, we had two live in maids and a gardener, I got my food served to me three times a day…I had the life!!! While everyone else had these horrendous reasons of why they were in the clinic and terrific life stories, and here I was – spoilt little rich girl who gets everything she wants – depressed for no reason whatsoever. I couldn’t understand why I was sad, when I had everything I ever wanted materially and seemed to have the perfect life. I ran away from the clinic constantly in the beginning, I actually still have a good giggle sometimes at how I escaped every time, one of my more successful attempts was when I made it all the way to Hout Bay (walking barefoot) but by the time I got to Constantia Nek I couldnt walk on my feet anymore from the pain and called my mother to fetch me. She promptly took me straight back to the clinic, hated her for that! I didn’t stop trying to escape until they allowed me to be an outpatient so I could be with Sassy in the evenings. I only got home after 5 so by the time I returned from outrides it was often dark. Ossi used to drive slowly behind me on the way home every night because he was scared someone wouldn’t see me on the road verge and crash into the back of Sassy. At the time I was so embarrassed by this and angry that he did it, but looking back I can appreciate how much he must have loved me to do this every night after a long day at work. This memory now actually just makes me want to cry with regret that I did not thank him or show my appreciation for his love and how loved he did actually make me feel with this action.
I was put on anti-depressants (Aropax) and life went back to normal in many ways. My mom decided the two of us would embark on a fitness mission together. She was always very concerned with her looks and had lipsuction on almost every part of her body after Nick was born. I remember thinking she was utterly crazy to go through that much pain and used to watch her trying to squeeze into these black body shaper things. We each got personal trainers at the nearby gym, and my mood was finally picking up! Gym sessions were loads of fun. I absolutely hated the exercising part of it, but our trainers kept us laughing for an hour straight! I was spending lots of time with my best friend Claudia and she was so confident and had such a love of life and being a nerd along with me that she soon got my timidness out. I will never forget her sister calling me feeble once because I was timid and never stood my ground and I vowed to change. My anti-depressants really seemed to be boosting my mood and I found myself being more spontaneous and adventurous than ever before. I was daring and bold and remember this short period being among the funnest in my life, mainly because I truly didn’t care about what anyone thought of me or what I did, mostly thanks to time spent with my friends Claudia and Justine, and Claudia’s older sister, Theresa, who I thought was the most fabulous person ever. I used to enjoy getting a thrill out of shocking people and making them laugh which just made me more audacious. But after a while this died down to a more acceptable level 🙂 Or perhaps life just quietened me back down. With my new mood, confidence, and attention from boys, it seemed my mother was actually jealous of me? I started constantly getting the feeling like she actually didn’t like me anymore because of the attention I got from Ossi, my friends and boys. It was weird because she would bring it up as if she was proud of me and say how she never had as many friends when she was young, yet somehow she would end up making me feel like she was subtly punishing me for it. Its something that has bothered me for years but I haven’t been able to connect this in my head until I read an article titled Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers. I literally could not believe what I was reading – they were describing my mother to perfection.
I started spending some time with the personal trainers outside of our gym sessions, even kissing my trainer one weekend as he happened to be friends with Claudia’s sister and moved into their house so I saw him every weekend!
In June 2000 I embarked on a holiday to Bali, Indonesia, with three friends; Claudia, Justine, and Becci. En route we stopped at Singapore for a night and went out to explore. I had never seen such a clean country!
For our first week in Indonesia we stayed at the Century Saphire Hotel on Kuta beach, and before long became locals at our new favourite restaurant – Gland. Our first visit to Kuta beach was an interesting experience – being absolutely bombarded by street sellers! Walking the streets and sight seeing was wonderful and I loved all the Hindu traditions. It was a mad party beach holiday, with us shopping or beaching it during the days, and dancing it up at Sari Club in Kuta til the morning! Everyone was hooking up but I found it quite uncomfortable as I was only ever prepared to kiss boys and they definitely wanted and expected more. Some were really cross with me for wasting their time. The best beach we visited by far was Uluwato, and we were treated to massages while overlooking one of the most beautiful views in the world! The massage was wonderful but I was literally torn apart by mosquitoes there! Our next destination was Sol Lavina to swim with dolphins! It was the most magical holiday and I will always treasure this opportunity.
My mom had been struggling with post natal depression and finding it hard to cope with Nick, who was still quite a difficult baby, and she brought in a lovely au pair called Heidi to help. With some free time, her and I were spending quite a bit of time together during this period, she called me from the beach a few times while I was at school to ask if I wanted to bunk and go join her. Are you kidding? Of course I did! My friends were so jealous! I had the coolest mom. She was also known as the MILF by the boys I knew. But inside I always thought that I actually just wanted a mom…. not another friend. She seemed to be competing with me on things such as weight, length of hair or other silly things and often made me feel like I was the adult in our relationship. One weekend we decided to drive up to Gouritz River for bridge swinging and stay overnight in Groot Brak Rivier. My gym trainer joined us, and I must have been such a fool at the time for not seeing this, but my mother and my trainer MUST have slept together that night. When I woke up the next morning and went to her room, she was in her dressing gown and he was in her bed. He was a big flirt so at the time I thought nothing of it. Now looking back it makes me sick to my stomach knowing that my mom was with someone I had also been with.
Diary Insert – 27 Feb 2001
“Went to our Valentines dance with Blaise and afterwards went to the Clifton Lifesaving Club with Hails and Gabs. Joe and my Mom rocked up a bit later. It is so awkward being at a party with her. I wish she would act her age.
Claudie has just moved schools to Abbots in Rondebosch, shes unhappy & hating it. I wish she would just come and live with me.
I am so unhappy. I have now been depressed for almost a year and I feel like I can’t take it anymore. I try so hard to be perfect; be more beautiful, have more friends, get better marks. But nothing seems good enough for my mom. She will always love Ryan more. I tried to cut my wrists on Sunday night. It was stupid but the pain of cutting myself makes me feel better somehow. “
It must have been shortly after that weekend that we decided to swop trainers. I loved my new trainer and we’d spend lots of time exercising on the beach or taking kayaks out for a paddle at Clifton. My mother seemed to be incredibly jealous of my emerging friendship with her previous trainer and I clearly remember some incredibly awkward moments; being at Clifton lifesaving parties and my mother would arrive to join the party. SO EMBARRASSING. I was watching movies with my trainer one evening, when my mother arrived to join us, and promptly made herself comfortable on the couch in between us. She claimed she fell in love with him and things were really awkward in the months after that.
I was about 15 when I lost my virginity. I had been seeing this boy for a while and even though I knew I didn’t love him, he loved me. I had been wanting to do it with someone who I thought really loved me. It was absolute agony and took a few times, but eventually got there. And it was amaaazing. I remember thinking at the time I can’t believe people wait 16 years to try this hahaha.
My brother went to our mother for help some months later. He had allegedly used heroine for the first time on the day I was admitted to Kenilworth Clinic, and was now battling an addiction. We naively believed in the beginning that one dose of rehab would sort that out and our lives would continue on as normal. We were so wrong!!! In the months and years that followed the home atmosphere was one of shouting, violence, and increasing aggression. Our lives seemed consumed with overdoses, hospitals, detoxes, rehabs, lies, confusion, and severe mood swings with every relapse. The detoxes were awful, I still find it hard to comprehend how badly your body gets dependent on these drugs. I have clear memories of him lying in bed, moaning or crying, sometimes shouting at us and desperate to get more of what he was using. Many times vomit or shit would be all over the room. I tried my best to give my brother support, writing him letters of encouragement and often visiting him in rehabs, even spending Christmas lunch with him one year at Stepping Stones in Noordhoek. We still fought like mad, but it was more like general sibling rivalry and I was used to his manic mood swings by now. I also tried to support my mom who was very stressed out over Ryan’s addiction; we’d attend Nar anon meetings together, and I’d help investigate and organise things for rehabs. At one point my mother received a call from him in Jail. He had been arrested for credit card fraud and we visited him, fortunately they were just holding him at Wynberg Magistrates Court until his hearing. As a first offender he was released but there was a detective who was adamant to catch him again. I hated him at first but he ended up becoming a huge source of support and help in the fight to keep my brother clean.
For my 16th birthday, Mom and Ossi treated me to a weekend away at Lakeview Chalets in Hermanus with my three best friends Claudia, Justine and Hayley. A few weeks later, I was sent to Mauritius with Heidi (our aupair) and Nicholas. I can’t remember why but it probably had something to do with Ryan. Ossi was always determined to try and handle things on his own and wanted our mother and I to be happy. He was such a truly wonderful man.
Then the stock market crashed (think it was called Nasdaq or something) and Ossi lost all his investments. He had previously sold his company for a tidy sum and had invested everything in one company. I am convinced this was one of the first signs of a brain tumour as he was really smart! To invest everything in one company didn’t seem likely. Our lives seemed to crumble a bit around us as we down-scaled our home and I needed to give Sassy away. Things seemed to be going from bad to worse and my mother became convinced that there was a curse on our family. Our new home was lovely! No house could compare to Longleat but this was a really great second option:) Beautiful house in Park Avenue, Hout Bay, and had one three bedroom house, and a two bedroom flatlet, so Ryan and I lived in the flat while my mom, Ossi and Nick stayed in the main house.
One morning before one of my final matric exams, I found a sight that I truly wish I could forget. My brother lying on his bed with a light blue plastic bag tied tight over his head. I ripped off the bag and I hysterically called my mom. The minutes before the ambulance arrived felt like hours as we desperately tried to wake him up and/or resuscitate him. In the panic I don’t even think we could tell if he was alive or already dead. The paramedics seemed to walk in slow motion as I met them in the driveway and showed them where to go, and I vividly remember them jabbing him with an injection like in Pulp Fiction (but not in the heart!) and then taking him to hospital. I had to still go to school for my exam so I only heard later how he was doing.
It was decided that as a last resort, he would be sent to Nourpoort Rehab Centre. This was a few months after the terrible story was featured on Carte Blanche about how addicts were treated there, but nothing had helped my brother thus far and our mother considered this tough love approach as her last resort (I cant even begin to explain how bad things were for my mother to send her beloved son to Noupoort!!). Every time the phone rang there was more bad news. Something else had happened. I think four scenes stand out the most for me through this period. Once was when he was taken to Groote Schuur for an overdose and while things were touch and go – the gentleman in the bed next to his died. The wails of the family next to us were unbearable for us to witness as we waited for my brothers fate. I remember seeing him with charcoal all over his mouth that night. The second; when he tried to kill himself with a plastic bag, third; I woke up and as I walked to the kitchen I noticed blood leading from the entrance to his room, and saw he had cuts all over his face. He looked really bad but was alive (sleeping) so I went to tell our mother. Turns out he had tried to kill himself by driving his car into a massive boulder. Fourth; when he had been locked in his room by our mother as she waited for guards to collect him for Noupoort. I was told to guard his window so he didn’t jump through the glass. I hadn’t liked the idea of Noupoort and he would alternate between speaking softly and earnestly, looking at me pleadingly while tears streamed down his face, begging me to let him escape so he didn’t have to go there. While I struggled with my inner voices he would jump back into addict mode, aggressively threatening me and practically spitting with hatred ; hardening my resolve to keep guard.
My best friend Claudia left South Africa on the 29th January 2002… I used to spend almost every weekend at her house in earlier high school years. But her mom got very sick with cancer and passed away. Our group of friends would often end up at Claudia’s house after parties, and her mom’s passing was a loss felt by all of us. She moved to Scotland to live with her dad and I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. How was I going to survive without her? She was everything to me and has always and still feels like the only person in the world who understands me and really loves me as I am. I still vividly remember the day she left and I was saying goodbye to her at the airport. It was the longest teary goodbye, and she left…. only to be stopped by security because she had a math compass on her. She ran back to give it to me and we had one final hug before she walked off again, I leant right to hug the person standing closest to me but in the midst of my tears and grief I hadn’t realised I was actually hugging a vending machine 😉 hahaha!
Quite a lot of my friends left in the beginning of 2003. We had just matriculated and everyone was going off to different international destinations on their gap years. I was still filling in the paperwork for a UK visa. I had been wanting to either go live and work on a ranch in the States, or work on a horse farm in the England countryside. I opted for England as that’s where more of my friends were going. My mother and Ossi had started fighting a lot and Ossi had become stricter and more stressed, often embarassing me in front of my friends by shouting at me to do something. It wasn’t like him at all but I thought he was just stressed about finances.
He left for a business trip to UK in March 2003. We got a call from Maurice the next day who said something had happened with Ossi. When he got off the plane he couldn’t talk properly and wasn’t making sense. We were so confused and anxiously waited to hear more. I don’t remember much about this time, only that there was a lot of confusion and Ossi was going to fly back immediately for in depth tests.
Diary Insert 10 April 2003 – 18 years old
Today is the worst day of my life. I was so nervous this morning for my drivers license test, but I passed! The feeling of absolutele happiness abrubtly ended when I got home. Ossi’s test results came back and he has a huge brain tumour. Apparently the most aggressive one you can get and it is inoperable. The doctors have given him 6 months to live.
I was absolutely devastated and spent time talking to my mom as well as having a long conversation with Ossi outside next to the pool, we decided that I wouldn’t be going to London anymore. I will stay at home and spend time with Ossi, and study or get a job here.
LASTING EFFECTS OF SEXUAL ABUSE
I had started to see a pattern forming with my first serious boyfriends. After the relationship got to the comfort zone, I became very anxious at the thought of sex. I would start worrying in the morning about how I was going to avoid getting intimate. Sometimes when boyfriends touched me my brother’s face would appear in my mind. I was so disturbed and confused as to why this was suddenly happening to me, as well as shocked that I had forgotten all this. I would get waves of memories at a time of my childhood. I confronted my mother one day about it, telling her about my sexual abuse at the hands of my brother and she told me I was being silly and that all kids “fiddle”. I tried to accept that and move past it.