If someone said to me “It’s not just twitter” two years ago I would have laughed in their faces. I mean, why would twitter be more serious than any other social media platform out there? It’s not the real world and most users are there for a bit of escapism, right? I couldn’t be more wrong!
Any South African twitter user who doesn’t know or follow @sindivanzyl is not really on twitter! I have been following Sindi for as long as I can remember. It was her tweets about HIV wellness that had me glued onto her timeline – they were both informative and scary. But it was her openness and vulnerability that kept me intrigued. Long before we actually met, I already felt like I knew her.
Towards the end of 2014, we met at a press briefing – we talked and I even wrote an article on how she has used Twitter and other social media platforms to raise awareness about HIV. The interview was meant to be short and sweet, but we spent hours talking and we even went eye shopping at the LV shop (she is totally obsessed with LV bags!) During our meeting-turnt-bonding session, Sindi candidly talked about her life and some of her most defining moments. We kept in touch and would chat from time to time.
Now fast forward to earlier this year when my life was on a downward spiral. “What am I doing with my life?” crisis that I had become so accustomed to but this one seemed never ending. Every time I felt like worthless and that my life sucked, I would be overwhelmed with guilt.
My career was soaring, I just completed my undergrad, I lost about 18kg and was fast approaching my goal weight. I kept on asking myself “What do you have to be sad about?”
I knew something was wrong but I never had the time to sit down and do some soul searching. Days got longer and life just got worse. I did a few online quizzes to see if I was depressed and all the results said yes. I thought to myself, “What the hell does Buzz Feed know anyway?!”
I went on for a few months in denial and pretending that I was fine meanwhile I was drowning. In a moment of weakness, or after one too many glasses of wine, I would tell my close friends I was not coping and that I need help. One incident I remember was when I was busy cooking with my best friend and I randomly blurted out to her “I really want to die … But don’t worry I am not suicidal!” She was shocked, but I reassured her I am just very tired and need a holiday.
I started sleeping about 12 hours a day – and then 12 hours became the whole day. I could not wake for anything anymore – not even work or school. I started making excuses not to see friends, why I didn’t pitch for work or lectures. At my worst, I was sleeping for 22 hours a day.
I was on twitter and I saw Sindi tweeting about depression and there I was again, faced with the truth. I messaged her telling her I was suicidal, but there was nothing to worry about. She tried to reach out and I simply brushed her off.
I hit rock bottom two weeks later when I physically couldn’t get out of bed and I was laugh-crying and shouting at my best friend that I just want to die. I completely broke down. I could not keep it in any longer. I must have laugh-cried for two hours and once I was semi-calm she said “You need help. I think you should call Dr Sindi”.
I sent Sindi a voicenote – telling her what was happening with me and that maybe I need help. Not a second later, Sindi messaged me back and asked me a few very doctor-like questions. She asked me to send her my details and a picture of my medical aid. Before I knew it, she called to tell me that I will be admitted into hospital where I will get all the help I need. I was resistant and she explained to me why it is important I get help. The next morning, she came to my place and drove me to the hospital, where I spent three weeks healing. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stess Disorder (PTSD), which escalated my anxiety disorder and depression. (I will write about this in the future).
If it wasn’t for twitter, more especially Doctor Sindi, I think – no scratch that – I KNOW I would have taken my own life. And that is why it is never and has never been just twitter.