Reach Out And Stop The Cycle
Aaminah Naidoo, 17, has had a difficult family life. In this story she tells us how she coped with her emotional pain in an unhealthy manner and how she learned there were better ways to live her life.
Born and raised in Bonteheuwel, Aaminah and her twin brother are the youngest of their four siblings – three sisters (8) (5) (3) and one brother (9).
“Growing up, we were raised in a very strict Muslim home. My father would not allow us to play outside, we could only have friends who were Muslim and we weren’t allowed to play with dolls because my dad said that jin (spirits) would go into the toys.
Because of this I became really good friends with my twin brother. We only had each other to play with, we would climb trees, pick guavas, played marbles and racing games.”
Even though Aaminah’s mom owned a crèche in Bonteheuwel, it would be hard financially. Parents of the children at the crèche wouldn’t pay the fees and Aaminah’s father did not have constant work.
“There were times when my dad worked and things would be better because there would be two incomes, but both my parents never matriculated so it was difficult for them to find work.”
“I remember my cousins would make fun of my siblings because their clothes were older. We didn’t have much money, sometimes there wasn’t food in the fridge, we just ate peanut butter and bread. I would hear my parents argue about the fact that there was no money for food, school fees or anything else.”
Aaminah says that she always remembers her father shouting at everybody at home and that her parents would argue constantly.
“Because he was very strict, he would always argue with my mommy. Screaming about our clothes not being Islamic and everything had to be the way he wanted it to be. I felt like nothing we did was right, I remember one day I had a dress on that I thought was long – it was over my knees – when my father saw me he started screaming at my mother about how I could dress like that.”
When Aaminah turned eight, her dad would go away for days at a time.
“I was asking my mom where my father was and why he wasn’t coming home. At first she didn’t say anything but after he was doing it for a few weeks she told us that my dad was using drugs. At primary school we were educated about what drugs were, so when my mom told me I knew what it was.”
“When my dad was home I would hear my parents argue, my mom would say that he can’t take care of his family and that what he was doing was wrong. Financially things were a lot harder because my dad was using the money he would raise on drugs.”
“I think my dad was on tik, I know it was hard drugs because of the effects it had on him. His speech would be different, he spoke faster when he was high and he lost a lot of weight, his cheeks were sunken. Other times I would know he was high because he would be very calm which was unusual for him because he was always shouting.”
“The arguments among my parents got worse because of his drug problem. My mom would throw plates at him, but he wouldn’t stop arguing or doing drugs. He never said anything about using drugs to us, but we all knew when he wanted some, because his yelling would be worse.”
Aaminah’s father continued using drugs and the situation at home deteriorated, later that year she found out that her eldest brother was using drugs as well.”
“My eldest brother (15) was acting violently which is very different to the way he normally was. He would steal anything from our house, he would even take pots and pans and my mom’s brass ornaments to sell.”
“I felt so disappointed in my brother and father. I would see my mom crying about what they were doing but they didn’t stop. I felt helpless, it was heartbreaking seeing her like that.”
Aaminah’s brother would attempt to stop using drugs for the next five years but would relapse whenever he came out of rehab.
“My brother finally stopped using drugs when he was 20. I don’t know what made him stop, but he has been clean ever since then.”
Three years later when Aaminah was in Grade 9 her father also stopped using drugs but he was unemployed which didn’t help the situation at home.
“He didn’t stay away from home anymore, he was acting normal but he was just sitting at home. He was always sitting around not trying to find work – I feel he could have tried harder. He would sometimes help around the house but then would scream at us saying that we think that his our servant.”
“This situation started affecting my school work in Grade 10. I would always be in the top five at school, but my marks started slipping. I would talk to my friends about what was happening, but they couldn’t understand.”
“People always see me as the girl who can cope with everything, because I give them that perception, but I was really feeling that I was starting to lose it. I felt very angry about what was happening in my life, because of my dad’s issues my home environment was always negative; I just wanted to have a normal family and be happy. ”
“I started to be absent from school often, I would have constant headaches, I felt very tired, and would wake up in the middle of the night. My chest was always paining, stomach twisting and I would get dizzy often. I would feel like this everyday. When I came home I would isolate myself I would also take whatever tablets I could find to make myself feel better.”
“I would cut my left arm with a blade. It wouldn’t happen every day. Only on days when my dad shouted at me about small things. I would feel so many bad emotions that I wouldn’t know how to deal with. My dad always made me feel like I couldn’t do anything right, so I felt worthless. I felt I was also losing control at school because I was struggling with my school work – this was new to me, I wasn’t able to cope with the work so my marks were bad. This just confirmed my father’s belief in me.”
“Every time I cut myself, the physical pain took away the emotional pain. I would concentrate on something else that was not in my mind and was causing me even more pain.”
Aaminah, continued feeling like this for a year until it got to a point where she couldn’t handle the way she was feeling
“I went to the doctor at the day hospital, and she told me that my symptoms sound stress related, she asked me questions about my symptoms and she diagnosed me with an anxiety disorder. I had a follow up appointment but she did not give me anything else to assist me with what I was going through.”
A few weeks later it was mentioned in a school assembly that the school had a social worker.
“I felt that I was in need of help. I found out about the social worker at my school and I spoke to him. During the process of seeing the social worker, I told him that I had slit my wrists.”
“He called my mother and told her that I had cut my wrist. He also told her that I need help urgently. My mom told the social worker that I had gone to the Day Hospital and have been seeing a doctor. My mom took me back to the Day Hospital and told the doctor what happened with the social worker. The doctor then referred me to a psychologist.”
“I had eight sessions with the phycologist, I would see her every Thursday. Both my mom and I would see her and it made my mom aware of what I was feeling and going through. I would tell her how my dad’s behaviour affected me and the toll it took when he would shout at me about everything I was doing.”
“I came to terms with what I was feeling and I learned to work through my emotions in a healthier manner. I realised that I was letting everybody’s problems affect my life.”
“After the sessions, everything at home stayed the same, but my attitude changed towards my situation. I speak about my problems now and don’t keep it bottled inside. I feel lighter and I am able to manage myself much better.”
Ameenah is working hard towards becoming an A student again.
Ameenah concludes by saying: “I learned that being afraid to speak out and not reaching for help caused more harm than good. There are professionals out there for a reason, I found that speaking to them really helped me. I know there are a lot of teenagers that can relate to me and are facing similar problems. Reach for help and end this horrible cycle of pain, always know that you are not alone.”
Ameenah is a Leaders’ Quest participant.