Shattering Stigmas – Navigating Mental Illness and Culture

Happy Tuesday, friends!  Another day, here and back again for a new blog post in the Shattering Stigmas Event!  In case you missed it, Shattering Stigmas is an event that will take place from October 6th to October 20th here on Drizzle & Hurricane Books.

Three years ago, Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight launched the first Shattering Stigmas, a blogging event dedicated to posts about mental illness to address and challenge the stigmas against it. Through book reviews, discussion posts and lists, Shattering Stigmas has continued conversations around mental illness for the past three years.

This year, for the Shattering Stigmas 4.0, you will be able to find incredible guest posts on blogs from all four hosts of the event: Taylor, Ben, Madalyn, Kitty and Marie.

You can also enter our INTERNATIONAL (Book Depository) giveaway! TWO winners will be able to win the Mental Health book of their choice at the end of this event. Don’t forget to ENTER HERE!

Today, I am welcoming the lovely Sahkile sharing her thoughts and journey with mental illness and most especially shining a light on the stigmas surrounding mental illness in the African community. Please give her a warm welcome and feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

Trigger warnings: this post deals with anxiety and mood disregulations.

stig·ma \’stig-mə\
noun: a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something

Mental illness, unfortunately, doesn’t come with terms and conditions. If it did it would be much easier to manage. A lot of people are under the misconception that you can’t be African and have a mental illness. You’re either bewitched or possessed. I’m neither of those things. I’ve had prayers said over me and crossed a river with my father to see inyanga (a traditional healer).

There’s a lot of spirituality intertwined with mental illness from an African perspective. Scientifically, it’s a chemical imbalance and I do believe that but it’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s much more than that and there aren’t enough anti-psychotics or prayers to fix it.

Growing up in with a mental illness while African is difficult. Sometimes I still cringe when I remember being in that prayer circle. I made the decision to start taking medication four years ago and I did not tell my parents because I anticipated their reaction. It was a mixture of fearing that I would become a drug addict and the usual “what will people say.”

Another common misconception is that we’re easily influenced by the Western TV shows we consume. As if suffering every day of your life is a trend you decided to pick up because it’s cute. This probably stems from the belief that mental illnesses are Western culture and not human culture.

My decision to take medication was not received well by my family and combined with the horrible public mental healthcare system I decided to stop in 2017. That’s the year I decided to start my blog as a form of therapy.

Blogging was supposed to be fun but lately my mental illness has sucked all the fun out of it. When I first started blogging I had so many ideas about what I wanted to write about but the anxiety creeps in and suddenly everything that I create doesn’t look write or sound write. There are so many posts that I’ve written sitting in my drafts because of this voice that whispers ‘it’s not good enough, you’ll never be good enough.”

Trying to write something for an audience when you’re in a mental health slump is so difficult. I can write out my thoughts and frustrations in a journal but writing a book review or a book discussion post is very difficult.

There’s this pressure (mostly from myself) to constantly create but no motivation to accompany it. Having mood disregulation means that sometimes I can’t focus on one thing. I have multiple documents and tabs open, get overwhelmed, close everything, go to sleep and repeat.

Lately the conversation around mental illness has shifted in my community, more people are coming forward, there is less shame and condemnation. We still have a long way to go but at least we’re going.


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Book blogger, travel blogger, writer. 📚 |🌍 | 💞 Writing & Communications Graduate. French. Living on love, wanderlust and ya books.

8 thoughts on “Shattering Stigmas – Navigating Mental Illness and Culture

  1. Beautifully written, Sahkile 🙂 I never realised that mental illness and African culture connection is so… weird? I mean why people even think that? People need to understand that mental illness is not based on culture or religion. it is not western. It is just an illness which needs to be treated. I am really sorry that you had to go through all of this.

    I am sorry that you are feeling that way about your blog. But just so you know, I am sure your readers appreciate what you write. Even if you write only a few lines, there are people who will always encourage you and will love your writing. I really hope you feel better soon 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The relationship between mental health is still very new but it’s becoming more and mainstream everyday. Hopefully one day, weird stigmas about mental illness will be a thing of the past. Thank you!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I loved reading this post, Sakhile. 💛 Thank you so much for sharing your story and how culture affects mental illness too. It’s something I’m not as aware of as I should be. It’s always absolutely awful how people can heap so much shame and stigma on mental health and stop us from getting help.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. this is so so important! Thank you so much for sharing your story and giving us a little insight to how mental illness is perceived by your culture. It’s so sad to see people associating mental illness with shame and weakness while in fact its such a hard struggle you have to face personally on a daily basis.

    But I’m so glad blogging is helping you in whatever capacity. The blogging community is so welcoming and sweet and I just really love the atmosphere here.

    Lots of love ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  4. That is such an interesting perspective that mental illness is treated worse when you’re African. I’m so glad that they are taking the steps it needs but it was definitely every eye opening to hear your experience and that it happens everywhere not just America. America doesn’t monopolize on mental illness. It’s human. I have the same feeling of not feeling good enough and it’s one of the reasons why I’m scared to make a book blog. I hope you find the therapy in writing your posts and maybe look for other ways when it gets too much. Thanks for sharing your experience.


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