Abuse- it stays with you

Trigger warning: sexual content

In my previous blog post I mentioned that I was a speaker at one of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group’s talks about Bipolar Awareness. I also mentioned that I was molested at a young age.  I didn’t want to labour on the point, but I do believe it deserved a separate blogpost to highlight the important conversations around sexual abuse that need to happen. 

My abuser was a family friend. Someone I trusted. Someone my parents trusted. He was supposed to look after myself and my sister for the day while my parents were at work. I can’t remember where the maid was. 

I wrote about the actual scene in my memoir  and at first I was reluctant to share it but I believe it’s a worthy share. 
See excerpt below:

“The air was bitter cold and provided the setting for his warm, fat fingers to find their way to mine. With my fingers entwined in his, he straddled himself slowly while I watched. He towered over ,e in the purple and black one seater couch my parents had just bought for our home. I sat there, on the floor while my sister and innocently watched cartoons. He had my hand in his, pleasuring himself. I looked back to see a bulged shine through his sweat dark blue pants. His after shave smelt familiar and trusting, so I didn’t fear him when he placed his sausage-like index finger on his darkened smoker’s lips. “Shh,” he motioned me to keep this quiet, keep it sacred. He always smelt of smoke masked by cheap aftershave or aftershave masked by cheap cigarettes. By the age of 7, I couldn’t tell the difference.
I caught the white of his eyes wink at mine. I turned away his face, shy, not knowing what to do next. I was pleasuring him. I made him happy, I thought to myself. My eyes darted from my younger sister sitting barely a meter away. She watched the Teletubbies intently as I pleased him.
I sat there clouded by guilt and drowning in confusion. This didn’t feel right. Maybe it was in the way he shushed me, or maybe it was in the way his leather like skin felt against mine.
He paused and whispered,” Is it nice?” Did I lie? “Yes”, I answered softly. I didn’t want my innocence to hear me. And with that, he called my sister. My instinct jumped in and when she looked at me to see what the fuss was about, I sweetly told her it’s fine, she can watch TV. With no hesitation she turned her face, blind to the activities before her. She continued to watch her show. I looked up at his ugly brown eyes and shook my head to gesture for him to leave her out of it. He got the picture and continued. We sat there quietly while he pleasured his manhood and me proud that I saved her life.
He was a close family friend who used to tag along when his sister-in-law travelled around the country. The two of them would stay over at our home in the Free State, where we were isolated from family, friends and help. I remember praying with his sister-in-law, exploring the Islam religion with her, the warmth and inviting nature of the prayers still lingered with me while he caressed my cheek as he reached his climax.
Later that same day he created some games the three of us could play. These games were to be played under the covers, unfortunately. And I was scared as hell. After a five minute tickle session, he breathed heavily and asked, “Do you want more?” My heart raced a little faster. “Maybe your sister also wants to play.”
“No!” my innocence grew dim. Did I know what he meant? No, but I knew what he asked me left me feeling dirty, guilty and uneasy.
Milliseconds passed as the front door opened and his sister-in-law entered with a happy hello totally oblivious to the filthy games being played. My sister jumped up with excitement and rushed to greet her. He whispered his final goodbyes in my ear and I lay there, a frozen seven year scarred but saved from further sin. His words were heavy on my heart and haunted me from that day forward. He told me the usual lies that my family would break all ties with him if I had to tell them- and it would be my fault. He cornered me with guilt.
In my mind I scrambled for ways and reasons to tell my parents about this monster but I was left empty, and empty inside.
He took my innocence with him and left me with fear by my side.
That night, I lay in my bed, facing an open door; I waited for him to come back for more of me. While my eyes were adjusted to the darkness, I watched his room door across mine. I waited and waited, not giving in to sleep. My eyes burned from fear and insomnia. I lay there, not moving a muscle, waiting, not being able to process what had happened earlier that day. In the dark, confusion and guilt ate me alive. How could I sleep? Every one of his whispers, sat etched in my mind. I was overwhelmed by nausea at the sight of darkened lips and the smell of his smoky breath.
As I cried myself to sleep, images of a translucent Casper the friendly ghost appeared from my open door. He and his trio of ugly uncle ghosts chased one another around my room. They frolicked around the ceiling and sang songs from the movie.
 How lucky was I to have them around when Sin was so close to being inside me.
Were they there to protect me? In my isolated mind, yes they were. They took me away from that swollen face and his half shaven beard, a roughness I hated from all the inappropriate greeting kisses. They flew across the room, round and round and entertained me for hours on end. Every so often, I’d glance back at his room door to check if he was sneaking towards me. Casper would make his way towards me and make me laugh just to settle my nerves. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t need sleep. I could be detached from the real world for protection. The real world became a dangerous place and isolating myself became the only option.
 If I detached myself, nobody could hurt me, no one could penetrate my new world.
Unfortunately bed wetting and me nagging for a light to be left on became a frequent occurrence in my house, but nobody could understand my cries for help. ”

Copyright Yvette Hess 2016

Now I you’re thinking, “oh wow, did she have to share that?” 

Yes. Yes, I did. 

My reason is two fold. The first reason being simply that it is in my nature to share. 

Two: abuse is one of those taboo subjects that are not spoken about enough. Those who know me are well aware that I speak up for those who cannot or who are afraid to share. This doesn’t make me weak. The fact that I was abused does not make me weak either, no does it make me “damaged goods”. 

I remember being asked if I wanted to lay a charge against this man who violated me. All that was going through my mind was “I’m going to embarrass my family”; “it was probably my fault to begin with” and “I’ve let down my family”. I was seven years old and too afraid to be bold, to be strong, to put this man away so that he couldn’t hurt any more girls. Apparently, I wasn’t the first. That saddens me even more to this day. I hate that I couldn’t speak out. I hate that I wasn’t strong enough to fight him. 

But not anymore. I’m speaking up about the scars he left me with. 

Ps I’ve decided to continue writing my memoir. What do you think? 

Keep flying. Keeping soaring. 


D-day has arrived: Operation Hernia, here I come

When I was at the clinic for depression, we discovered a few other things that were wrong with me. You know, the usual, hernias and lesions on my brain. Gah! It was scary trying to deal with all the emotional stuff and these new physical things but I think I managed to keep myself sane. A few people helped along the way. I could never have done it alone. (Thanks Blahpolar and fam). I was diagnosed having an umbilical hernia observed while doing a sit up in the gym. It put me off exercising- that’s how embarrassing and awfully uncomfortable it was.

Source: An umbilical hernia in adults usually occurs when too much pressure is put on a weak section of the stomach muscles, due to factors including:

  • being overweight
  • frequent pregnancies
  • multiple gestation pregnancies (having twins, triplets, etc.)
  • fluid in the abdominal cavity
  • stomach surgery
  • having a persistent, heavy cough

I tick a few of those boxes, lol, especially the frequent pregnancies bit.

Anyway, I’m off to surgery to have it fixed. I’ll have more on the brain lesions when I get a chance.

Life is a precious thing.


Short story: The Poor White

So,  today I felt a little rejected because I didn’t win the competition I entered.  I had great plans for the prize money… and also just now that I’ve done therapy… I know I’m just seeking some approval from certain people. (Different topic). Anyway,  here’s the story.

Input welcome.

The Poor White by Yvette Hess

That thud of school shoes kicking a soccer ball was so familiar to her now. With her head resting on her elbow, she peered through the car window, watching the boys play soccer. Their shouting and laughter upset her father every morning. “There are so many of them here in this school. These blacks, they just ruin everything. As ek my net…” He used the k-word again. But she tried to block it out. Their family was forced to move down to the Western Cape a few years ago. The Free State and its culture was all she knew, and it was that culture that her father so badly longed for.

She shut her eyes, tight. In her mind, all she could see was him. She opened her eyes and she saw the very same boy staring at her through the wired fence close to the entrance of the school. He smiled one of those ‘I love you’ smiles. Her father had barely stopped the car when Delia jumped out of the bakkie. So typical was her life and her family; Afrikaans, barefoot and bitter.

“Bye dad.”

She heard him blabber on about the new South Africa being a waste of time, but it didn’t matter.  She was at school, away from home, she was free.

She walked through the school gate towards her class. Bradley waited for the boer to drive off to make his way towards Delia. He ran up against her; he held her tight, kissed her cheeks and whispered, “Happy Anniversary, my love.”

She felt butterflies everywhere and it felt as if all the little hairs on the back of her neck set alight.  “Happy anniversary, my pumpkin!”

Their love was also typical but rather silly, real and innocent. Delia loved everything about him. Most of all she loved his cinnamon tan. It reminded her of the milk tart her mother used to bake on Sundays. She always put too much cinnamon on, but she figured it was to hide the burnt bits. Bradley was an 18 year old musician stuck in school. His voice melted even the coldest of hearts. He loved Delia’s long ash blond hair. He would sit for hours combing his fingers through it, mesmerised by the golden strands between the darker ones and those little curly ones that sat in her fringe. He thought them odd, but never questioned their roots. They would sit and stare at one another, admiring one another for hours after school. Often they would be quiet, just bewildered. They didn’t need words anyway.

The couple made their way to class. It was History for the first period with Mr Abrahams. They walked hand-in-hand until they reached the classroom entrance, where Bradley let go of her hand. They took their places at opposite ends of the class. It was in this class that Delia first noticed Bradley. He was always first to answer questions and enjoyed stirring up debates around the politics of the country. He was a free spirit with brains. Delia liked that too.

Kyle, the only other white person in class, had always thought it fitting that he should be with Delia. She wasn’t the prettiest in the class, but they were of the same kind, it just made sense. Kyle’s pimply pale skin made her nauseous. She hated that he was placed next to her. Being white made them easy targets: for torture and for praise. In South Africa and in this school in particular, everyone hated ‘the White Man’, but they were still better than everyone else. Blue eyes were always favoured over dark eyes. Dark was associated with dirty poverty. They were better than dirty poverty.

Since being beat up for two years in a row, Kyle decided that the saying “If you can’t beat them, join them,” would have to work for him. So he became coloured. To a foreigner, one would think he was just a light-skinned local coloured boy. He joined an amateur gang and was renowned for being one of the most ruthless boys in the school. His nickname “Witblits” did not only refer to his pale complexion, but warned against his punches and his charms. They were both fast as lightning. The girls did not just love him; they worshipped him. He felt he ought to give every admirer a chance and the girls didn’t seem to mind.

“Come now, sweet lips, I know you want a piece of dis.” Kyle rhymed in Delia’s ear. You would have thought he grew up in the Cape flats with his animated gestures and accent.

“I can also sing like that idiot you call lover.”

She slid her hand up his thigh. Kyle flashed red. She pinched him hard and whispered, “Call me that again and I’ll aim for your Little-blits!”

Bradley giggled at the far end of the class. She had spunk today, despite her soft eyes. She prised Noordhoek-blue eyes, exclusive like the beach and in the same breath, absolutely beautiful.

Mr Abrahams addressed the class, “Good morning class. Do you all know what today is?” He knew there wouldn’t be a response and so proceeded.

“Today we as South Africans celebrate 20 years of democracy.”

He often wondered why he even bothered trying to inspire the group of ‘born-frees’ with their own national history. They all looked uninterested, except for one person of course, Bradley. Mr Abrahams wasn’t fond of the boy, and he didn’t like being challenged; especially in front of a class which was already a problem.

“I want input from every single one of you today.” The class giggled.

“Sir, but it’s also Delia and Bradley’s anniversary today.” Kyle said out loud.

He was ready to challenge Bradley. With his actions, he tainted the sanctity of their special day in an instant. The class roared with laughter. Delia sank into her seat, she was embarrassed and shocked. Over and over again she wondered how Kyle could have known. Bradley growled at Kyle, he had gone too far this time. Delia fiddled with her faded blue skirt, a donation from the school. She wore her second-hand clothes with pride, often to the amusement of the other school children. This was her final year of school, so it didn’t bother her anyway. She had other worries.
“Alright, settle down people.” Mr Abrahams said sternly.

Although he was a renowned believer in democracy and equality, he did not approve of their so-called union. To him, Delia deserved better, not even his son would be at her level. How could a school boy from “Ruyterwacht” be her equal?

“I just hope Bradley isn’t only in love with the tone of your skin and the texture of your hair, Miss Cronje. If he was, he’d be chasing something he never, ever would attain.”

His words pierced the both their hearts. Delia felt so ashamed of her freckled skin. Bradley felt her shame. To the world, she realised, he would never be good enough for her. She sat there plagued but perplexed by his remark. She never considered herself unattainable.

“Let’s continue.” Mr Abrahams went on with his class.

The rest of the day dragged on; the magic had left the air and only gloomy sadness lingered. Delia was in no mood to celebrate.

“I’m going home. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

The sadness carried through in her soft voice. Bradley tried to take her hand but she brushed him off.

“I know you’re upset, but I’ll still love you tomorrow,” he said.

With that, she walked off, carrying his words in her heart. He wanted to fix things- she deserved to be in a relationship where she didn’t need to feel shame, nor be ridiculed. He watched her walk off. In her troubled mind she thought of the many times she’d stood in line with him at the SASSA offices to get his grandmother’s government grant. There was poverty all around her, queues of tired, broken people waiting for money. But she was never embarrassed to be with him. Even in those times, surrounded by poverty and desperation- she never thought herself better than them. She loved laughing with his grandmother, “You bring sunshine to our family,” his grandmother would muse. Bradley walked off in the opposite direction, she not knowing he was determined to fix this mess.

“Delia! Delia!” The shouting woke her suddenly. “Delia!”

She jumped out of bed, still in her school clothes. She was too depressed to change earlier that day. She scrambled for her slippers.

“Ja Pa, ek kom!”

She switched on her bedside light to have a look under the bed. She grabbed them and put them on mid-flight. She hopped as she struggled to get them on. They were 3 sizes too small already. She ran to see what the fuss was all about.

Delia stood rooted to the floor. There, before her, towered her father, furious as hell. He wore his blue work overall, dirty from the day’s work. She could see he was shaking. He had reached boiling point. Bradley dangled by the collar of his shirt from Delia’s father’s right fist. His school shirt stretched and scrunched in the vice grip of Mr Cronje’s hand. He was scared, but mostly embarrassed, “Hy se, hy het jou lief.” Mr Cronje managed to utter through his clenched teeth.

“English, Pa.” Delia said softly.

Mr Cronje threw Bradley to the floor. She ran to his aid and kissed his cheek.

“I asked for his blessing. I didn’t want you to feel shame. It would kill you.”

She looked up at her father, ready to conquer him and the world.  “You!” she shouted at her father.

“I hate the blonde, straight hair. I hate this skin.” She pulled the skin from her arms. “I hate that I have to defend what I love because I hate who I am.” She paused.

She looked at him and sternly said, ”Ek haat my taal!”

Astounded he was. He never knew that she could be so fierce. His eyes grew wider.

“I hate you because you hate them!”

Bradley jumped in, “That’s enough Delia.”

Gently she lifted him up and they made their way to the front door. With her back towards him she said,

“Dad, look at your nails, they’re black. Your dirty overall, your job: Black. Dad we’re poor. Look at where we live.” She paused, “Our pride: we’re Black.”

She took Bradley’s hand and led him out, leaving her father frozen and broken. Pausing one last time, “Isn’t this why my mother left? You drink and you hate.”

They stepped into the night. Mr Cronje stood defeated, left to cry for his beloved daughter.

He sobbed on the couch until midnight. Suddenly, he felt the warmth of his daughter’s embrace. She tenderly brushed her fingers through his short, thinning hair. He was still sweating from his violent spell of crying. “I have to tell you the truth,” he uttered between sobs. She sang an Old Afrikaans lullaby sweetly to him. She could not deal with anymore hurtful truths. “Tomorrow is another day” she sang to him. She continued to hum one of her favourite tunes. She stroked his fine, thinning hair, staring blankly, not hearing him say, “Jy is nie myne nie.”

She devised a plan to find out more about her mother. She wanted to chase the scent of milk tarts and sweet floral scent of perfume. She needed her mother: a sober, sweet taste of home.  It was a new day and as she said a silent prayer, she realised it was a new anniversary: one of new struggles, but one that harboured no shame.

[New Post]: Weathering the storm: All I see is rain

You know, since my last post I’ve been through quite a lot, including having that baby I mentioned in my previous post.

I’m in the post partum phase right now- and with so much going through my mind, I don’t know which parts to write in which blog (I run 2 blogs). Baby was born at 32 weeks and he’s still in the Neonatal ICU.

Life is hard right now.

I told a close friend of mine that I feel incomplete and confused and broken and longing all at ot once. Is this normal?

I sat crying in a coffee shop yesterday. That brought the total teary episodes to 3 for the day. Yet the evening I felt amazing. I’m sad and happy and a zillion other emotions all at once. Aren’t these fucking pills supposed to work? I’m on 750mg Lithium and still on Seroquel. Lord knows I can’t sleep without them. Aren’t they supposed to keep me afloat or something? I feel like I’m drowning, lungs filling with water the one minute, and relaxing on a floatee smiling at the sun, the next minute.

I feel like my arms are going to break if I try to ‘hold it together’.

And yet, I have to. I have 2 sons and a husband at who need me to be ‘together’, to have my wits about me, to be strong.

Besides, it would be dangerous if i had to fall apart. Bipolars like me, shouldn’t fall apart.

I’d lose myself between the pieces.