Why I Had A Myomectomy

The trickle of blood turned into a river that soaked
through the thickest of tampons. It left a blotchy stain that even bleach
couldn’t wash clean. Every month, in the blood’s wake, I’d gather all that it had
stained into a large plastic bag and throw it away. When the blood came again,
catching me often times unaware, I would try and drown the splicing pain with
the strongest doses of ibuprofen. Sometimes it worked, but most times it left
me dry heaving and shaking on the bathroom floor amongst tilting buckets of
vomit and crumpled toilet paper. I’d almost always wind up in the emergency
room with my head hanging and my knees buckling under me all while the blood
poured out; leaving me empty. I knew something was wrong.


A Diagnosis

By the time I was lying down on my gynecologist’s
stretcher, a cold blob of ultrasound gel on my abdomen, I had been getting my
period for over fourteen years. I’d learned to plan my life around the blood;
cancelling important meetings at the sight of it, leaving restaurants in a
hurry at the mere suggestion of its arrival, I’d even missed exams. So, when my
doctor turned the ultrasound screen towards me and said, “You have fibroids,” I
wish I could say I was surprised. I’d grown three orbs; two the size of
misshapen tennis balls and one the size of a large marble. The doctor called
them symptomatic myomas. They were the ones causing all the excessive
bleeding and unbearable pain whenever the blood came. They had to be
surgically removed.


I was terrified.


The weeks leading up to my myomectomy were plagued
with nightmares. I dreamt of endless strings of wire being pulled out of me; I
dreamt of suddenly waking up in the middle of my surgery only to find the
bottom half of me sawn off; my intestines tumbling off the operation table and onto
the floor. Late at night, shaken awake by another nightmare, I’d scroll through
chatrooms and forums created by people who’d been though myomectomies. I wanted
to be as prepared as I possibly could. The morning of my surgery however, I had
the strong urge to run. After being wheeled into the theatre I was tied down to
the operating table, needles were poked into my veins and a heart monitor
attached to my chest. A slow yet hot panic (despite all the online preparation
I had done) began to build up in my throat but before I could say or do anything,
everything faded to black.


Waking Up and Healing Post Op

I saw white lights and blurry figures moving around
me before I felt the pain. A strong wave of nausea washed over me and each time
I gagged; I felt a fresh gashing pain in my abdomen, like I was being torn in
half over and over again. Between shots of Morphine and the remnants of the
anesthesia, I was in and out of consciousness for the rest of the night. This
is the part where I warn you about the pain. Compared to the core jarring, skin
splitting throbs that come with healing from a myomectomy, period cramps are
just butterflies in your tummy. I couldn’t move my lower half my first two
nights in hospital; it was as though every part of me below the point of incision
belonged to someone else even though I could feel every last ache.


I was in hospital for four days.


The day I was discharged, the doctor told me that the
healing process would take about six weeks but in all honestly it took me about
six months to get to a point where I was comfortable enough to walk upright
without the flesh around the incision hurting. My first period after the
operation was hell. I bled profusely and found myself in the hospital again
but the doctors reassured me it would get better. I felt disappointed though, I
had just undergone major surgery only to come out on the other end still
plagued by unbearable period pain.


It’s been a little over a year since my myomectomy
and while I can say that my period has definitely improved, there are months
where I have to be rushed to the hospital because of the pain. I’ve also had to
make a few lifestyle choices for instance, I can’t wear pants or trousers that
are too tight because they irritate the smile shaped keloid scar that now sits
a few centimetres under my belly button. The flesh around the scar is still
tender and sometimes the scar tends to itch. My body hasn’t quite been the same
since.


My Words of Advice

According to The Office on Women’s Health*, about 20 - 80
percent of women develop fibroids by the time they reach age 50. Fibroids are
most common in women in their 40s and early 50s and not all women with fibroids
have symptoms. Women who do have symptoms (heavy bleeding, pain during sex,
enlarged abdomen and/or problems conceiving) often find fibroids difficult to
live with. The cause of fibroids is still relatively unknown but doctors
speculate that it could be a hormonal and genetic condition. Age, ethnicity
(fibroids tend to be more common amongst Black women) and diet are also
contributing factors to the development of fibroids.


Recently, I went to the gynecologist for my yearly
checkup and pap smear; unfortunately, it looks as though one of the fibroids is
beginning to grow back. It’s manageable though and it doesn’t look as though
I’ll have to go in for a second surgery to take care of it. That being said, reproductive health should be a right, not a privilege but we need to get to a point where everyone in
need (women, trans men,
intersex, genderqueer and non-binary people that still experience menstruation) has access to
regular checkups with experienced medical practitioners.


I had a myomectomy because my
period was interfering with my quality of life and I was privileged enough to
have a medical aid that was able to cover the costs of the surgery. If something
feels wrong, trust your body. The sooner you get help, the better.


* Page last updated: April 01, 2019.

This article provides general information and
discussions about health and related subjects. If you or any other person has a
medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek
other professional medical treatment


How Almost DYING Saved My Life

Dying isn’t as painless as we hope.

Instead, it’s like floating in a deep, cool, waterless ocean. It is a sieve, and as you begin to descend, you feel the weightlessness of life begin to leave you. There’s a split second where
you’re caught in the in-between. Therein you must decide. Live or die. The pull
is extraordinarily inviting and you can taste the darkness you so desperately
crave on the tip of your tongue. It is a strange struggle to hold off, it feels
like you’re a rub away from an orgasm and it is in that moment that you choose
to snap awake.

Part 1

I’m unsure of where it started but I can remember feeling my head begin to crack open like
an egg. It was violent and terrifying and stained with red wine. It was me
crying into the phone at 2 am asking my mother to tell me it would be ok. It
was 240 characters of tweets about wanting to die sprawled across my timeline
like spiders. It was staring into lying eyes. It was about feeling angry and
sad and hopeless all at once. It was wailing until the white shook out of my
bones. It was pacing at OR Tambo International Airport. Yelling at my (then)
partner over the phone. Crying in a public bathroom that stunk of shit. More
pacing. Falling asleep on a bench at Gate A1 before my flight. Waking up.
Taking off. Drinking wine. Asking the flight attendant for a refill. Landing
with teeth shattering precision. The calm drive into Windhoek. Taking out
rotten meat from the fridge. Crying. More yelling.

A blacksmith could have used my anger to shape any sword.

I drove without headlights praying for metallic collision. I smoked cigarettes hoping
to make my heart stop sooner. I gargled 3 Alprazolam pills with wine and
crushed a Gillett Razor with the heel of my foot. I held it to my wrist and
slashed my skin open. The warm ooze of blood calmed me but not for long. I
paced and paced. Tore pages out of books. Tried watching YouTube videos. Anger
scorched my throat. Fuck life. Fuck this. I want to die. I want to die. It’s almost 4 am. Sleep.

Part 2

My relationship had been deteriorating for months. It was to the point where
trying to stay together felt a lot like beating a dead Bojack. We were two
pieces of a Lego set that didn’t quite fit. Crystal gems that couldn’t fuse.
Ironically, the idea of separating felt like trying to split one solid colour
into two. We lived together, had a dog and an ill-fitting life plan.

I woke up and sent a text to my partner’s mother;

Hi, I am not ok. I have been

consumed by thoughts of taking my
own life

I am not ok

I watched her bandage my left wrist and sit by me in guard. I felt so bad. So guilty for
rattling this old woman into taking care of me. Something was not right still. I’m not a good person. I’m not a good person.
I was unhinged.

Part 3

I packed my beloved books into brown boxes murmuring under my breath. I made sure to
make a noise, to disturb and disrupt. I wanted no peace and craved chaos. LOOK INTO MY EYES! I wanted to scream,
I AM SO HURT, PLEASE HELP ME! I WANT TO
DIE!! I WANT TO DIE!!
But my partner carried on, organized the flat, shaved
and sat down to read. I felt abandoned in all honesty, wished I were the word
documents he worked on religiously. CAN
YOU EVEN SEE ME? WHAT HAVE WE DONE?

I huffed and puffed my way into the outside room, borrowed a car and got myself two
bottles of wine and a large pizza. Perhaps there is no food in hell. Better to
go there on a full stomach. Logic.

I sat quietly, curtains drawn and began to unwrap the blue alprazolam like sweets.
One, two, three, four, five. Wine. Six? Maybe 7? If it doesn’t kill me, maybe
I’ll sleep for days. I washed down my sins with wine. Sleep.

Later, I had the dream. I’d tasted death and knowing I’d want to again, I fled into the
night. I was a ticking time bomb, the final jump that starts your period. In my
delirious state I craved the depth of darkness but flew into the light.

Part 4

I’m standing outside MediClinic, I’m shaking. I walk in.

“I am a danger to myself and those around me,” I say.

“A nurse will be with you now,” was the receptionist’s reply.

I sat through words that meant nothing to me. Gave my name, answered their questions
teary eyed.

“I just want to die,” I repeated over and over again.

Unmoving and unfeeling, my partner’s mother soon joined me in the trauma room where I
was barely being held together. Soon after, the doctor on duty strolled in.

“Ok ma’am, we’ve managed to get a hold of a psychiatrist but he is in Olympia. Can you get
there?”

I looked at my partner’s mother, “I’ll take her,” she said.

Part 5

I don’t remember much but white walls and the stench of cigarettes on the
psychiatrist’s breath. Flashes of nurse badges and the sensation of drowning. I
wasn’t a writer anymore or Masi or @SunsetPunk. I was a patient in a
psychiatric hospital, assigned a room and put to sleep.

The psychiatric ward is everything and nothing. It’s exactly what you’d expect but
different. Everyone in there with you is as fucked up or traumatized. We look forward to our meds. We follow the
schedule. We go to therapy. Rinse and repeat. Day in and day out. What is time?

On whatmust have been my third day there (I’m not sure), the doctor came to see me.

“What’s my diagnosis?” I asked.

She took a deep breath, “Major Depressive Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.
From your file, it seems you’ve been living with this for about 5 years.”

Good, I know what to Google once I get out of here.

“What does this mean actually?”

“You’re probably going to have to be on medication for the rest of your life. Something
traumatic must have happened in your childhood and Ms. Mbewe, we’ve also found
something else.”

“What?”

“You have a dependency on prescription drugs and alcohol. We see this a lot in patients
like you that probably have a genetic predisposition to these illnesses.”

*I’d like to pause here and stare down
my bloodline*

“So, I’m not bipolar?”

“No. We haven’t seen you manic but it’s a thin line.”

I just sat there long after she’d left. Thinking. This
explains everything.

I was put on 75mg of Venlor and 50mg of Lamotrigine.

Part 6

After 5 days, I was discharged. They gave me all my things (along with my medication)
in a transparent plastic bag. I walked down the corridor, past the seclusion
room, through the door and into the abyss of the outside world.

In some ways I feel better and worse. I really don’t know who I was these past 5 years
and I don’t know who I will become on these meds. I’ve grown used to going from
one extreme emotion to another so much so that the quietness I now find in my
head disturbs me. I know the medication wont fix everything and that I’ll have
to go to therapy every other week but somehow, I’m glad that the madness in me
finally has a name.

If you or someone you know is
experiencing a crisis, contact the Bel Espirit Mental Health Clinic’s 24/7 Helpline
at 0814550945


Advertising While Black

Colonial coldness hisses past the aging air-conditioner and loops over
my head in perfect intervals I’ve learnt to anticipate. I’m sitting in yet
another advertising agency, my third in two years, and yet again I am guzzling
back toxicity in every form it could take. From the denialist paleness of whiteness
to the bizarre binaries of heteronormativity, the advertising industry in
Africa is built on the breaking backbone of marginalized people. Anti-blackness
is a global condition, one that has stuck its slithering tentacles into every
pie and in Namibia, a country desperate to uphold its glittery promises of
post-apartheid equality, the advertising industry has become a safe haven for
white privilege to thrive unhindered.

In advertising, blackness cannot exist outside the perimeters of racist
stereotypes. Creative brainstorming sessions are littered with jarring
regurgitations of problematic ideologies that are no doubt founded on outdated perceptions.
Blackness is labelled ‘urban’ and ‘street’ and without so much as a quick
inspection of context, emerging sub-cultures and language deviations (slang)
within the black community are commodified and used to spearhead tone-deaf
campaigns that do nothing for black people except perpetuate their
dehumanization. Informal settlements are used as location sites for the
production of high-end TV ads that glamourize and normalize poverty, a problem
that affects mainly black and brown people.

Advertisements that are targeted towards black people are considered ‘Lower
LSM’ (Living Standard Measure); these brands and their ads and are often guilty
of erasing black members of the LGBTQAI+ community, as well as disabled people
in the black community.

There is no accurate representation of diversity within the black community
in the advertising industry, not even in the agencies themselves.

For the few black creatives who land jobs at these hideously white
establishments, one can predict with precision that they will earn much less
than their white colleagues regardless of their qualifications. One can also
predict that black creatives will be subjected to microaggressions on a daily
basis on an almost fungal level. Black creatives are not afforded any real
humanity or autonomy in these work spaces. For instance, when I worked as a
copywriter, I would be expected to speak on behalf of all black people and come
up with ‘urban’ and ‘funky’ ways of saying basic things that really didn’t need
to be overtly peppered with blackness. I began to protest these suggestions and
maintain that retaining sensitivity to other people’s cultures would help us
find innovative ways to create brilliant ads that did not rely so heavily on
bigotry. This never went down well with the white creative heads that felt like
they were entitled to pick and choose what aspect of black African life they would
sell to consumers that day.

Being socially conscious and aware of the blatant inequalities and
gross power dynamics in advertising didn’t make for an easy or mentally
inspiring work environment. If anything, the constant reopening of racially
traumatic wounds nearly broke me. Whiteness washed over my blackness like
bleach. It ruined my hair, stained my clothes and smarted my skin into an empty
ivory shell. It is only in this way that I could exist in the advertising
industry as a queer black womxn…a washed out stoic version of myself that
existed only to pander to the detached insights of rich white people soaked in
the remnants of apartheid and white supremacy.

Living in Namibia, a country where the majority of people are black and
POC, one would imagine that white people living in Africa would be more sensitive
and aware of the needs of the people around them. In many ways, colonialism,
white supremacy and white privilege has allowed the exclusion of black people,
black women, black LGBTQAI+ and disabled black people from the advertising
industry. With black people often lacking social and financial capital, it is
difficult to analyze if true diversity will ever be accomplished in advertising
if black people and POC are not put in key positions that enable and empower
them to take over the narrative. But I’m not really holding my breath for the
day white people willingly dismantle their privilege and allow blackness an
equal creative platform.

Instead, in light of black exploitation, black erasure and caricatures
of an alleged black monolithic experience in the exclusively white advertising
industry, we (as black creatives) have alternatives. Rather than bake in the
rays of colonial splinters, we can undertake roles as the raconteurs of our stories
in creative and exclusive ways. Doing work for black owned brands that might be
struggling to penetrate a wider audience is always a great start. Conceptual
thinking, innovative design and brand marketing by extremely talented creatives
of color could catapult small brands into multi-million-dollar companies. This
act of radical selection when it comes to how we utilize our talents, and for
whom, could be a game changer. Black clientele pushing products for black
people could help us establish our own sphere of advertising that could
successfully dislodge itself from the cesspool of toxic whiteness.

Let’s begin to speak to other black people through our work in the advertising
industry – instead of at them - understanding that not everything about the
things that make up our culture needs to be commodified and sold, we are after
all, human. In a dizzy day dream under a baobab tree, I hope for a thoroughly
decolonized art and creative industry in Africa (and the world), one where
being black means more than just filling out a diversity quota.

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