“When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will adopt me.”
I was born with an inherent sense of rejection & a strong feeling that I shouldn't be here. I was raised in a Godless & emotionally neglectful home. My earliest childhood memory is hiding in the dark closet at maybe 4 years old whilst drunk parents were fighting crockery flying across the room. For years I doubted this specific memory until 3 years ago when my brother confirmed it was true. As a little child I would throw tantrums in order to get some attention from my parents, because to me being scolded was better than being ignored. I vividly remember having my head shoved under the cold water tap for crying hence I spent the rest of my life suppressing my tears. To add insult to injury, my mom once told me I wasn't planned. My brother often teases endlessly until I got a hiding for screaming in frustration.
I lost my grandparents & other relatives to migration when we immigrated to South Africa in October 1975. My parents never encouraged communication, so they became strangers we'd only see once more 4 years later. After that many more moves followed, I stopped counting at 30 by the time I was 20. This included 9 different primary schools & 3 high schools which included about 5 years of boarding school 3-4 hours away from home. All of that caused severe social anxiety & left me feeling like an outsider struggling to make & maintain friendships for the rest of my life. I stopped trying to fit & make friends because friendships wouldn't survive snail mail & regular moves.
Ouboet & I spent many days home alone with the domestic worker, Liesbet, there in the morning & back in her little house on the other end of the lifestyle block the rest of the day. Dad would hang out at the pub most days after work. Mom was a restaurant manageress & would sleep at work often. There were times we didn't see either of them for weeks. At that stage I was still scared of the dark & would switch mom & dad's bedside radio & the hall light on before going to bed. They would switch off when they got home & by the time we woke up would be gone to work already.
In 1977 mom sent us to a German boarding school about 4 hours away from home. On weekends when the other kids went home, we'd remain because it was just too far to fetch us every weekend. After a few months, my classmate started to invite us to their farm & her parents would become the first set of "parents" that would introduce us to a Godly life.
After 2 years dad's speeding fines on every trip to & from boarding school became too much for the budget so by the end of 1979 we were home alone again. Fortunately, we had gotten new neighbours across the road who would become best friends. We would spend most of our time visiting them & were treated like part of the family. For the first time in my childhood I experienced family the way God intended. I gained 2 sisters & a brother. On Sundays they would go to church & invite us to go with them, which we did for a long time.
My parents divorced when I was 10 after which mom dropped us with our neighbours/friends across the road. I would later hear it was because she didn't want us anymore. At that stage, my brother & I were severely malnourished having lived mostly on mieliepap, bread & eggs. We didn't know the difference between carrots & pumpkin or cabbage & lettuce. I remember hating the taste of the tonic the doctor prescribed so much that when Mams took the bottle out, I ran & hid outside. Mams & Paps loved us like their own, but unfortunately this joy was short lived because 3 months later mom came back to fetch us. She was moving provinces & her new boyfriend had insisted she bring her children along & I wouldn’t see them again for a few years. I often thought my dad didn’t love us because mom said he didn’t care when we asked why he never phoned. Years later I would find out that she’d told him we didn’t want to speak to him.
There were a few more boyfriends after that & when I was 12 mom remarried. We were in boarding school at the time & hardly knew him. Initially he seemed a fine guy but when we were home permanently again, we quickly learnt he too had alcohol abuse issues & would budget his monthly alcohol purchases over the grocery budget. 5 days after my 13th birthday my little sister was born & from then on. Suddenly things changed at home. He now had his own daughter and I felt no longer important. For me this meant more rejection because suddenly I could do nothing right. I related to Cinderella, being good enough only to wash the dishes, doing house chores, changing nappies, babysitting & having to take sis out to play in the local park. I loved her to bits but hated how she was everything to my parents, but my existence was barely noted & nothing I did or achieved was ever good enough.
Not long after that I was molested by my sister's godfather when he would come visit us with his wife. He was such a kind person but whenever he visited with my mom & stepdad, they would drink a lot & when he was drunk he'd touch me in places that made me cringe. At the time I had no sense of personal boundaries & didn't know about inappropriate touching. The confusion, guilt & shame that brought was immense. Is this how people showed love, but why so much guilt & shame? I couldn't talk to my mom about it because I felt she either wouldn't believe me or would blame me for it so I just shut down & buried it as deep as I could. I was glad when my step-dad was transferred & we moved to the other end of the country so I didn't have to see these people again.
The next few years of my youth are a blur of struggle for survival. My abuser reappeared on the scene again for a period of time but thankfully, in our last year of high school mom decided to send us to boarding school, again 3 hours away from home, because of the nightly turmoil over my step-dad's regular drunkenness. When I finished school, I wanted out, so I moved to Cape Town, to live with Mams & Paps. I can't remember the details how it happened, but I ended up teaching sewing lessons at Deo Gloria Christian School in Napier when I was 19. Due to me not having a car or license, Oom Leon & Tannie Jacobi took me into their home for about a year. Once again I was loved like their own daughter & during this time, I first gave my heart to God, was baptised & experienced deliverance from depression for the first time. I had such strong support that I was always singing joyfully. Even though my mom at that stage wanted nothing to do with me until I “changed back” to the way I ways before, & my brother started ignoring me because of stories my mom & step-mom told him, I was fairly content because I had my church family supporting me through that pain.
I started my working career in June 1989. Both my “sisters” got jobs at Sanlam as well & we lived in Sanlam's hostel. However, Mams & Paps decided to move away & both Antoinette & Ronel decided to leave their jobs to join them. I was settled in my job & didn’t want to uproot myself again so I decided to stay. I had found a church, attended a home cell & had found a new family where I was loved & accepted "warts & all". All was well for a few years, after all I had received a prophesy that God would turn the hearts of the fathers to their children & that He would restore my family & was hanging on to that for dear life.
After two failed engagements, I met & married my husband, Clive. I was utterly disappointed about dad & brother not attending our wedding. We were financially strained & took a transfer to Johannesburg in order to get area allowance to afford living.
Then life happened, various new jobs, increased stress & crime in surrounding areas increased. Relationships with our Cape Town friends didn't withstand the test of distance. I was back at keeping up all the contact, never hearing from people if I didn’t initiate it & I started struggling with rejection, isolation & abandonment again.
In 1996 I ended up in hospital due to an ectopic pregnancy after falling pregnant within weeks of starting a new job. This brought about some challenges because my superior was not happy that I had left the office unmanned when she attended a regional meeting together with the regional manager. She dismissed my issue as not significant because I had been barely 6 weeks pregnant. Once again depression returned & with that my first round of anti-depressants. My emotional turmoil was wreaking havoc with my ability to work well & I was constantly messing up & couldn't do anything right to the extent that she wanted to do a disciplinary. However, in November having totally mixed-up hormones I went to the gynaecologist to get help sorting those but found out that I was expecting again. Clive & I decided we weren't going to risk pregnancy with the work stress, so I resigned & started temping instead. After Jesse 3 more miscarriages followed but because of previous experiences I never told anyone that I was even pregnant. Even my pregnancy with Misha was also only revealed when I passed the 12-week mark for fear that we’d lose him before & then had to explain away the loss again.
Another huge blow to my emotions was my little sister’s court wedding on her 18th birthday. Whilst I was at work mom sent me an SMS to notify me that she had just got married. Not being invited or even informed that they were planning to do this was a major disappointment because I wanted to arrange a kitchen tea & be there with her. My mom’s absence at my son’s births has also weighed heavy on me over the years. She didn't drive 70km to be there when I gave birth but flew in from Ireland to be there for the birth both of my sister's children.
Another huge disappointment was our being church choir disbanded due to "a lack of commitment" in spite of being there every week for every practice, service & event although I had a baby & was doing Bible College at the same time.
My husband and I were cell leaders for 7 years, during which time we’d help support in many ways even financially those in our group that were struggling. Much of our financial debt was accumulated because we’d give till it hurt via our credit card. The first of few years of leadership we had a very supportive zone pastor who would visit & phone regularly as well as have regular leadership get togethers. But then he resigned & was replaced. Our new leader was in our home maybe twice in 4 years & the leadership get togethers dwindled away. Then when we needed emotional support when mother-in-law got cancer, everyone was gone & even the leadership faltered. I sent out a prayer request email, stating that if I as a Christian felt so unloved & unsupported in church, I could very well imagine how the unbelievers must look at the church. Instead of coming to our aid, our zone pastor phoned my husband telling him I’m unruly & he needed to control me better because that email was portraying him in a bad light. Once again I felt betrayed, rejected, and abandoned & stopped going to church. In 2007 we dealt with three deaths all by ourselves. Oma Else’s had the most impact & depression returned followed by suicidal thoughts. I felt so rejected & abandoned by our leadership that I turned away from Christianity & wanted nothing more to do with any of it. We resigned as home cell leaders & it took 3 weeks & an email including the senior pastor before our zone pastor even acknowledged our resignation.
After that followed 3 major operations, twice in ICU for three days within 14 months starting in 2009 with absolutely no support, not even my family came to visit me in hospital & only received 1 visit afterwards whilst I spent 6 weeks recovering. We started reducing our visits to the family & unless we initiated it, we hardly heard from anyone. Of course, crime in our area was increasing steadily & with that came the constant concern about our family’s safety. I wouldn’t dare to drive at night & stuck to a strict 30km radius from home. I stopped watching the news & TV because I just couldn’t handle the trauma around what was happening around us anymore.
We had considered moving to Germany, but because we had taken up home-schooling our boys due to Misha’s learning struggles at school, that was no longer an option since home-schooling in Germany is illegal. Clive started looking at alternatives when our friends immigrated to New Zealand in 2012. Initially I didn’t want to move but over the next 2 years I became convinced there was nothing left for me in SA. Whether I’m all alone there or in NZ would make no difference, or so I told myself. I guess in a sense removed some of the guilt for not wanting to visit people who made me feel so inherently lonely & unloved. In March 2014 we made our final decision, told the family & by end of July we bid them all farewell. Effectively nothing has changed. I still don’t hear from my sister unless I initiate. My dad has started phoning occasionally & my mom sends the odd WhattsApp.
When we "adopted" a friend’s 22-year-old as a son into our home in September 2014 because he’d run out of money to pay rent whilst studying. Unfortunately, we didn't foresee the influence he would have on our on sons then 17 & 13. My eldest's 18th birthday & subsequent exposure to alcohol & desire for freedom pulling him away from the family would be the first of many to trigger my childhood experiences with drunkards & fears for his safety. The boys would go out at night & often not come home without telling me they were sleeping out. This would send me off in a tangent because I’d stress about how they could be lying somewhere in a ditch having had an accident or something & I wouldn’t know where to even start looking for them. My inability to communicate my experiences & fears effectively, caused me to lash out in anger & frustration, sending the kids running away. I started to feel my family crumble & all my hopes & dreams for my boys & our future were slowly fading away.
In February 2016 I joined Auckland Chorus to sing again & also to find something to do other than being home alone all day. It took me 6 tries at passing the audition because every time I had to audition anxiety would freak me out & set me up for failure. A massive inner conflict of needing to achieve & want to run away ensued. The 3 hours singing on Tuesdays would carry me through the week despite the social anxiety that I had to fight to get there. Many a day Clive literally booted me out the door to go. Singing enabled me for those 3 hours to switch off the thoughts that so constantly bombarded me. It got me through another week.
Then in October 2016 we took in our eldest's 18-year-old girlfriend & her 4-month-old son into our home straight from hospital because she was in so much pain & incapable of taking care of herself or her son. I loved them without boundaries like my own but was ill-equipped for the emotional rollercoaster & personal trigger moments that would follow. I was constantly worrying about the children’s safety.
Over the following years, the kids' shenanigans, which I experienced as total disrespect & lack of consideration & appreciation for us would trigger many of my buried emotions & set me off on an emotional rollercoaster of note. The biggest one came when baby Sean's biological dad came on the scene 2 years after abandoning her for not aborting the baby & she insisted he should be involved. I cannot explain the anger that welled up inside me. This started causing issues for my son & subsequently total turmoil for the whole family. It seemed my family was falling apart & that would spiral me into the deepest, darkest pit of depression, anxiety & suicidal thoughts to the extent that I hit an absolute "rock bottom" & had a complete breakdown in July 2017.
I was fortunate to find a very compassionate doctor who focuses on the wholistic approach to recovery & spent the next year on anti a very mild depressant just to take the edge of the extreme highs & lows I was experiencing. I also started with weekly, then bi-weekly & then monthly visits to the doctor for check-ups & to talk me through the emotions.