Artwork for Ulla

For those of you interested, I’ll be painting a series of paintings as a tribute to Ulla (Blahpolar). I want to sell them and all profits made will be donated to the clinics she went to in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. It will be an ongoing project. Spanglish Familia will be helping with the setup of a gofundme account.

I’ll use some of Roughghosts pictures and some she sent me. If you have anything specific in mind, let me know.

I work in oils and mainly use a palette knife. I am however flexible with my tools.

She always encouraged me to keep on painting even when I wallowed in self doubt. How stupid of me. Her mom used to paint shells btw. Anyway, I’d love to use my talents to remember her fondly.

An Invitation: JOIN ME on SEPT 10th to Honour ULLA’s Death — Our Lived Experience

I’m struggling to write this, so please bear with me.

Two days ago I found out that one of my closest friends and the co-founder of OLE took her own life. Ulla, or Blahpolar as she was known to most, was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I don’t want to write too much – but I do want to invite you to join us as we (with other bloggers) celebrate her life  on September 10th, World Suicide Prevention Day, on her blog:  (


 -Originally posted on My Spanglish Familia: Dear WordPress Community I am overcome with grief upon learning of Blahpolar’s death. I assume, many of you are too. Please join me and Yve on SEPTEMBER 10th, 2016 – World Suicide Prevention Day – on Blahpolar’s blog (link to her last post here) to honour her beautiful, brilliant,…

via An Invitation: JOIN ME on SEPT 10th to Honour ULLA’s Death — Our Lived Experience

Validating my Bipolar Disorder

Yesterday I posted, on Instagram, a photo of myself, without makeup (Thank you Alicia Keys). The picture’s caption read:

How i feel. ‪#‎downday‬‪#‎mentalhealth‬‪#‎mentalillness‬‪#‎bipolardisorder‬‪#‎manicdepression‬‪#‎stillinmypajamas‬
Being honest. Living out there in the open.


I’ve been living out there in the “open” with my diagnosis for a few years now. It hasn’t been easy. Yes I have been liberated, but I have also been judged and constantly watched. That made me so anxious. I was so afraid to make any wrong moves, to have bad days. So, yesterday was my way of freeing myself from that. Even as someone who advocates for mental health awareness and speaks openly about having a good life with Bipolar Disorder, I too will have bad days.

Just because I’m on medication, doesn’t mean this monster goes away.

Just because I go for therapy, it doesn’t mean the problems go away.

They stay there. You just learn to deal with them better.

And I for one, over the last two weeks, was not being proactive in preventing this relapse. I was not stupid. I just took on too much- something I think this illness can be blamed for. One just thinks you can do it all, save the world. It’s part of the illusion and I seem to fall for it every time.

If I look back at the past two weeks, I can say that I was way too busy for my own good. Life threw lemons at me and I tried to juggle them all.

It all started with driving to Cape Town for a radio show, (I live about two hours from Cape Town). Driving plus anxiety never mixes well with me. Constantly images of car crashes fly through my mind. Anyway, I got home safely and I think it was the next week where I had to be in Cape Town again for a TV show. More driving. More anxiety.

The next week I had a three day art workshop in Cape Town again (from Wednesday to Friday), a presentation I was asked to give about living with Bipolar Disorder on the Saturday and then a market on the Sunday (where I was to sell artworks I have been working on in my spare time).


I was so unsure of myself, so full of negative talk but I made it through the  busy days. The very next Monday it was my turn to drive for our carpool (lift club). It was all just too much. I crashed. I stayed in my pajamas, I didn’t shower (obviously), I didn’t eat (not so obviously). I was irritable. Everything was so loud, from doors opening to the kids crying to sounds outside. Everything was amplified. Everyone (and -thing) was in slow motion. My body feels heavy, like I’m walking around in ankle weights. I just wanted to give up on everything including myself. No amount of positive talk was helping. I chatted to my team members (now my friends) from Our Lived Experience and that helped. They kept me distracted from the fog. The numerous wishes on Facebook were also an eyeopener for me. People, some I haven’t even met, were clearing my cloudy day with their messages of support. Some didn’t know what I was going through, some did. But with every like and comment, it was like my experience, my down day, my crash, my illness was validated. It was real. A lot of the time I find that people do not understand this illness because they do not think it’s a real thing. How can it be real? It’s all in your head, no? No. It’s not only in my head. It affects my entire being. I was scared of posting that picture because I was afraid may label me as weak or seeking attention. Maybe I am seeking attention.

I want my illness to get some respect!

There are days where I hear things, and when I see things.

There are days where all I want to do is kill myself.

I am being blunt because that is the truth. I need treatment. I need compassion. Just as you would show compassion to people undergoing chemo or a child who just broke their leg- I too deserve it. They say the mind is a wonderful thing, but my mind can be hell. And it affects who I am to the world. My illness alters the person I am. That is scary. An illness that can take you away from your family and friends is scary, not only physically (like going to a clinic) but episodes take you to a different world and it can turn you into the worst version of yourself. All this is beyond your control. Most people don’t realize that. This illness robs you of control over your entire life. This is not just about having a bad day. Anyone can have a bad day. It’s about not being able to function. It’s about constant negative thoughts you can’t control. It’s about feeling confused by constant racing thoughts. It’s about (again) not having control. With “normal people”, you read a few positive quotes and Bob’s your uncle- you’re back on track. This ILLNESS requires other interventions (quotes can help, don’t get me wrong), but serious interventions are required for you to manage your life.

People will and agree with me and many won’t. And that’s okay too. This is my truth.

I’m busy finishing off my memoir writing course and I hope it will give me the tools to write a book that will explain exactly how I got to the space I am in today (both medically and otherwise). I want to be able to tell the story that needs to be told. I want to be able to share the story in a way that will help people who cannot go public for various reasons. Most of all I want to be able to tell my story with the compassion I deserve to give myself.

I deserve to give myself all the love I can.

I got this message in my inbox. I’ve been too overwhelmed to answer.

Your encouragement is worth more than gold. And your sincerity shines through in your Facebook posts, the few times I’ve heard you speak and definitely in our chats. I am a stranger to you, yet you offer words of encouragement and support to me and many others through your work/blogs etc. I’m sure I’m not the only one that randomly inboxes you, often bombarding you with questions and more. If what you have offered me is anything to go by, I am positive that you do the same for them. Each individual diagnosed with bi – polar has various triggers, some common where this diagnosis exists, others unique to the individual. I sense “your worth” is or has been a struggle to you. You can doubt your own words despite knowing the sincerity with which you offered them. Your actions however…This not even you can dispute. It’s clear in the work you do, albeit your talks, blogs, words of advice, your positive posts and your beautiful paintings you graciously share with us all. All these acts surpass your words, whether you think those words have worth or not. And therein lies evidence of your kind heart. I don’t know you, and I am certain you are not perfect (a common feature amoung the human population I’ll have you know! 😁), but your intentions are clear by the way you put yourself out there. Don’t you begrudge yourself the acknowledgement, respect and gratitude you deserve. After all, you should be Yvette’s biggest supporter!

Sometimes we can’t heal ourselves, but in helping others we actually do…one kind gesture at a time

Sorry for the vent/rant tone in some of the … You know what, I’m not sorry.

Stay strong,


OLE Giveaway: Janine Binneman Jewellery

This post was originally posted on the Our Lived Experience blog I help manage. The entries haven’t been rushing in and at first it didn’t seem that obvious why. It’s a damn good giveaway, but the problem is the competition itself. I’ve asked around and most blamed it on people either being lazy or not inclined to share such a personal experience for the whole world to read.

I get it. I really do.

I’ve attempted and thoughts of trying to escape this world, often plague my mind. So I’ve been there. What I’ve also experienced, is being too ashamed to talk about it. So ashamed that it made things seem bleaker, darker.

I was advised to change the competition.

But I’m reluctant to do so.

The whole point of this competition was to encourage the creation of conversations around suicide and self harm especially in South Africa. Yes, Janine Binneman had to get likes, but I think we can argue that ‘likes’ do not trump the creations of meaningful discussions and coming to grips with the importance of mental health, stigma and so forth.

Stigma is rife because we do not talk. If we do not talk, we cannot understand. If we cannot understand, we cannot help. And if we cannot help, we cannot give hope.

South Africans, here is your opportunity share raw emotion, real experience. Truth. Not for the sake of jewellery and likes on Facebook, but because your mental health is important. I hope this competition, this opportunity, provides you much healing.

There’s always help. There’s always hope.


*Competition below*


April is known to be Fools’ month but our topic today is no joke.

Suicide is a very personal topic hence we don’t like to talk about it. The idea of our loved one suffering so much that they would rather kill themselves sends a shudder down our spines. But maybe if we open the floor to conversations exploring the feelings behind this need to leave this world, we could put an end to the shame that often is a driver to pushing us further to the edge.

The Semi Colon Project is an international drive that provides hope to those who suffer from mental health issues like depression, anxiety and self harm. One is encouraged to tattoo or mark one’s body (more commonly the wrist area) with a semi colon. Our prize sponsors, Janine Binneman Fine Jewellery, have especially designed pieces of Jewellery with semi colons to coincide with the tattoos, “This is our message to all people suffering with their own personal demons and mental health issues. We salute your strength and perseverance.”

We invite you, our readers, to dig deep and share with us your most intimate story.

We want to celebrate your life by giving two lucky readers a silver semi colon ring and a necklace by Janine Binneman Fine Jewellery.

All you have to do to win is

1. Email your #SpeakUpAboutSuicide story to AND

2. Like the Janine Fine Jewellery Facebook page, (bonus entries if you like us) OR

3. Share this post on Twitter tagging @JanineJewellery and @life_ole. Hashtag #SpeakUpAboutSuicide

It’s time to #SpeakUpAboutSuicide.

Winners will be chosen and contacted on 6 May 2016. 
Winners must reside in South Africa. 
Winning stories (*Names may be omitted) will be published on Our Lived Experience on 8 May 2016. 

-OLE Team


I’m still bipolar 

Being in recovery doesn’t mean it’s always going to be rosey. Sometimes it’s going to weird and shit, just like yesterday. 

Yesterday I woke up feeling strange in an off-ish way. I hadn’t felt dreariness of that dark somber cloud in a while. I dragged myself out of bed to take the children to school. Fatigue sat in  etched in my bones. Every move I made was a chore. The want to look good wasn’t there. No lipstick. No smile. I just wanted get back to bed. I wanted to escape people and their smiles and laughter and zest for living. I wanted to escape life. Just for that day, I was done with it. 

I dropped the kids off, blew my sad kisses and drove back home- in a daze. I was in dark trance. I didn’t want to exercise. I didn’t want to eat. I heard the negative talk whispering in my ear. The bipolar’s smokey lips almost pressed against my ear. I smelt its disgusting breath. My emotions ran high. How could I let it come for me again?

I have not been taking my meds as I’m supposed to. I ran out. I failed to fetch more. Stupid. Rookie error. Or maybe I was asking for trouble? 

So many things have been happening in my world. Good things. Great things. 

Then yesterday happened to remind me that I’m not super woman. It saddened me because it reminded me of those times I wanted to give up on life completely. It reminded of those times where no matter how hard I prayed, days were a torment to live through. 

I spent the day in bed. Messages streamed in. I zoned out. My husband took some time out to call me so that we could figure out some sort of plan of action. How were we going to tackle this beast yet again? 

We decided the plan of action would be to drop all my current projects and then rest for the day. We would make sure I’m taking the right meds at the right doses. Besides those important things, I would need to rewire my way of thinking.  Around every corner, there would be a negative thought or belief. One would be borne out of the simplest of situations. I’d lift a glass to pour myself water and instantly I would see a vision of cutting myself. It’s almost natural. The negative thoughts would pile on top of one another, one sad one after the other. Yesterday, I practiced not believing the thoughts or not dwelling on them. I didn’t let them linger long enough to cause damage. Even though I couldn’t stop them, I could control the way I reacted them, the way I handled them. This is a first for me. And maybe that’s what recovery really is: being strong enough for the battles that may come your way. 

Today I’m feeling much better. My mood has lifted and I’m excited about things again. Yesterday’s torment was short lived but I know it will return. At least I know I’m ready. I’m capable. 

A string of good days

Hear ye, hear ye!

I’ve been having the best time lately. Last week I was approached to complete a standing writing project. I’ve been unemployed for the last two years so this bit of income will really help. More importantly, working again (even though this is not what I studied to do) is doing wonders for my self-esteem. It took a big knock over the years with all the bipolar disorder and the drama that ensued.

My art is also doing well.


I’ve been approached to do several other paintings- including an A1 size! Gasp! The project itself makes me nervous, but good nerves you know? Those nerves you get when you’re about to meet your baby.

I just wanted to share the good news.

Also, water was spilled on my iPhone today, so the speakers are messed up. I left it in rice so I’m hoping for the best. Notice that?

I’m hoping for the best.

Before, when the bipolar engulfed me in its flames, it burned negative thoughts into my being. I could not breath in hope; I choked on its smoke- its promise of dark days.

I’m hopeful now.

I’m smiling.

I’m free of the fire.

Recovery is good.

The business that I am, is growing.


Anxiety, jou Bliksem!

“Anxiety, you Bastard!”

Loosely translated, the Afrikaans word, “bliksem” is a bastard.

According to the list of Afrikanserims on Wiki:

  • bliksem – strike, hit, punch; also used as an expression of surprise/emphasis. It derives from the Dutch word for “lightning”, and often occurs in conjunction with donner. Used as a curse in Afrikaans: “Jou bliksem!” (You bastard!)

The Afrikaans language packs a real, lekker punch.

Anyway, back to this anxiety issue of mine.

I’ve always been a nervous and shy person, but with age, it seems to be getting worse.

To me, anxiety is that little niggle that sits between my shoulder blades, there at the back of my neck, where the hairs stand up to attention.  It whispers to me, constantly- it’s breath heavy, bringing with it with a deep kind of fear. Normal activities like driving down the road becomes a stressful event. At every stop street, my heart starts to race, and in my mind I see myself making an accident. (And that’s just at a stop street.) My eyes become wide and the sweat starts to gather on my forehead and on my cheeks. I need to turn the aircon up because I start to overheat.

It’s been my secret. I’ve become more home bound because of it. Even social situations where, for example, I’m meeting my husband’s colleagues, would get my glasses all steamed up. It’s embarrassing. I even overwhelm myself during art class as the anxiety to get every brush stroke perfect, eats at the joy of the process of creating the art. My art teacher often needs to step in to calm me down or take over because of it. I stand there, on the brink of tears, filled to the brim with angst.

My youngest son, Gabriel, won a role to be a model for a kiddies shoe company in South Africa. I entered his pictures on Facebook last week and they made contact on Thursday. I was excited, obviously, like any normal person would be.  The shoot was set for the following Tuesday in Cape Town and I made arrangements for myself and Gabriel to sleep over at my parent’s house in Cape Town the night before the shoot. A few hours before I had to drive, that familiar flashes of car wrecks played over and over in my mind. It became so overwhelming that my husband had to drive me to Cape Town instead. He was sick so it was a brave move on his part. But I couldn’t shake the feeling even at the shoot itself where there were a number of other small children , with their parents.

Babies were crying and laughing and playing and fighting and running everywhere.

I was on edge.

I was worried Gabriel wasn’t going to do well and that the organizers would think we’re wasting their time. (Stupid) Negative thoughts plagued my mind and I couldn’t get my heart rate slowed down. Gabriel picked up on my aura and realized my fears. He was cranky and refused to go in front of the camera. I was uncomfortable and irritable and he echoed that.

IMG_1033 rsz



Worst of it all, my other two kids were with and carried on like wild children at the shoot. Okay, I wasn’t myself, so they seemed like wild children to me.

Nothing looked right through my lenses.

The world, and all it’s occupants were skewed.

As someone spoke to me, my mind would show me images of them sneering at me. Flashes of snickering people tormented me further. But I knew it couldn’t be real. Or could it have been?

Anxiety leaves me unsure and tormented, bruised and battered.

Anxiety picks at my worst fears and makes them real. I go through all the physical symptoms of fear and sink into a dark abyss of not being able to tell what’s real and what isn’t. The confusion is debilitating.

At the end of the shoot, Cayden, my eldest helped with his baby brother and got him to smile. I was over the day anyway. We then decided to take the long drive home and I offered to drive.


It was anew road for me and I was already shaken up. The tension sat etched into my shoulder muscles. And of course I was sweating. My husband took over the driving again.

Lessons learned? Yes.

Anxiety is an asshole.

How do you overcome your experiences with anxiety?



Facing Demons

I had a meeting with a publisher for my memoir in Cape Town this past weekend. I should be glad, right? I am. I’m sure deep down inside I am. Maybe.

On the surface, fear of being judged bubbles. The thought of writing thousands of words about my manic depressive life shoots my anxiety levels way up. This is due to the fact that I did a whole lot of stuff I’m not proud of and there are days when I feel like my ability to write has gone with the wind. Okay, more like gone down the toilet. Questions about why I did certain things will come to the fore and I don’t have any answers for them. So, in short, I’m scared to write about a life that’s messy and dark and wild.

This stupid bipolar disorder giveth and taketh away at the worst of times. The bipolar gods never favour me.

I sit here, wallowing in pity, all because of worry.

I should be excited, like the rest of the people who support me.

But the disorder robs me of that too.


Looking for that something and possibly finding it

I’ve been out of hospital for a few weeks now and during this time I’ve been rattling my brain just to find myself- find the taste of life within the marrow of my bones. As mentioned in my post on my other blog OLE, I’ve been drowning in self-doubt. After an episode, I always seem to struggle to pick up the pieces sprawled across the floor. You know, pieces of myself, my soul and my sanity.

In this past episode, although I did not go full manic, I suffered an intense internal pain. My world had been turned upside down and I felt like I had been turned inside out-bearing my raw flesh in all my naked glory (and shame) for the world to see. I felt vulnerable. I still do. Here I am, mother to three boys, who cannot seem to “get it together”. Where was the glamorous, confident Yvette their father fell in love with? Where did that man-eater, vivacious woman where the attention of men sat like a string of pearls around her neck? Okay, maybe it’s good she left. But where was that girl who was so sure of her worth?

She slipped into the depths of depression- and died. That’s at least what I feel has happened. I feel like she dies a painful death with every episode. And after every death comes the (mostly) painful rebirth of a soul that needs to not only learn about the world again, but about herself. Learning and redefining likes, dislikes, passions, boundaries, limitations, expectations. All of this, while trying to manage (balance) rearing children with their own needs and loving a supportive husband.

My therapist suggested I attend local art classes to address several issues. One of them being learning to take make time to nurture my needs- for now my creative needs. Career needs come at a later stage. I’ve always known that I am a creative person, but I never felt safe and sure of myself to explore those needs. My father asked me once what I wanted to be when I grow up. Young little Yvette enthusiastically answered that said she wanted to be an artist. He quickly pooped on my parade and said that artists are poor people and I wouldn’t want to struggle, would I? I decided then and there to find something else that would make me rich and I ended up studying Accounting (hahaha). Although I ended up changing a few directions at university, I stayed in Commerce and never gave myself a chance to explore any other gifts I had. I gave up on those gifts and what I didn’t realize is that I gave up on part of who I was, who I AM!

I am a creative, artsy fartsy type. There, I said it. I love colour and I feel what I write. And now that I’m painting, I feel what I paint. I can feel! Oh, to be alive! It’s scary to start a new blank canvas, but now I know that my ability to create has been rekindled, I’m embarking on a journey of self-discovery. This time, with vigor. I brave the anxiety and paint through the uncertainty that may arise in the pit of my stomach. The feelings of nauseating numbness are slowly being replaced with excitement- butterflies flutter from the sheer joy of filling my cup of self-love. Oh yes, because I am learning to and embracing the idea of loving myself first! I have somewhat complicated triggers and because I have put myself last for so many years- I never developed the skills to be able to identify what makes me ill. So, it’s an exhilarating feeling owning my own wellness. I’m at a loss for words, but every time I think about losing who I am and this bringing me back to life, I get so emotional. I sit in tears as I type this. I stand on the brink of a reawakening.

What has even more amazing is the amount of support I’ve been getting. People in my art class, my art teacher, my friends and of course my family all believe that I have something. And for the first time, I’m beginning to believe they may be onto something. There must be something to it, if every time I paint my soul is set alight and it’s fueled by this passion. Oh yes I say again, I am alive!

This is what I’ve been up to:


Painting from week 3 Final oil painting


Week 3 subject matter (I was heavily pregnant)


Week two subject matter

Week two subject matter

final oil painting (painting from week 2)

final oil painting (painting from week 2). Done with a palette knife

Final painting in oil (painting from week 1)

Final painting in oil (painting from week 1)

Subject matter from my garden

Subject matter from my garden

Look, I’m not saying I’m great at this. I’m saying I’m having the time of my life. And I do get nervous about what people are going to say, of course. And I stress about how will I pay for the next class, I worry about if I’ll make a mistake, I worry about what to wear etc. I’m a naturally anxious person.

But when I’m in it, I feel like I belong. I have a space in this world and I’m worthy of it. So yes, I have my episodes, Bipolar Disorder does that, but I’ve discovered more to than just the ups and downs- I’ve learnt to find myself beyond the illness.

This is freedom!

Let me know what you think.

P.S My father and mother are now my biggest supporters 🙂 My mom even a sponsors a class once a month.

P.P.S Sponsoring me is easy to do. You can buy vouchers at Mica Vredenburg to pay for equipment or to pay for my classes. I’ll call it late/early birthday presents.

Live loud,


Week 1 Day 5: lessons learnt

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt this week is that we all need to take responsibility for caring for ourselves.

Of course there could be reasons why this could be challenging, but that’s the bottom line.

Things like getting to know your triggers, understanding how you view the world (and your place in it). Even simple things like getting more involved in your treatment plan- engage with your doctors and familiarize yourself with the medication.

Ask questions.
Work through answers.

Nurture yourself,