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My Mental Health Journey

By Cecie Johnvan-Shana

As we embark on Mental Health Month, I find myself reflecting on my mental health journey—a journey marked by silence, stigma, and ultimately, resilience. Like many, I once hesitated to discuss mental health openly. The topic was shrouded in taboo, burdened by misconceptions, and marred by societal stigmatization. Terms like "attention-seeking" or "playing the victim" lurked in the shadows, ready to silence those who dared to speak up.

My battle with clinical depression began at the tender age of 16. In those early days, mental health was still a realm of mystery, its complexities often misunderstood. I navigated through a maze of antidepressants and therapy sessions, desperately seeking solace amidst the turmoil raging within my mind and emotions. Panic attacks, anxiety spirals—the rollercoaster of highs and lows seemed endless.

Yet, amidst the chaos, I faced an additional challenge: cultural perceptions. In the African context, mental health concerns were often intertwined with notions of "madness" and viewed through a lens of shame. Fearing judgement and ostracisation, I made the painful decision to abandon my medications, hoping to blend into the illusion of normalcy embraced by my teenage peers.

But the facade crumbled. With each passing day, the episodes grew more intense, their grip tightening around my soul. It was a stark reminder that denial only fueled the flames of suffering.

Today, as I stand before you, I embrace my truth without reservation. I am a survivor—a testament to the power of resilience and the importance of destigmatizing mental health conversations. My journey has taught me that vulnerability is not weakness; it is the foundation upon which healing begins.

So, as we honour Mental Health Month, let us pledge to shatter the barriers of silence and stigma. Let us create spaces where voices can be heard without fear of judgment, and where compassion reigns supreme. Together, we can rewrite the narrative surrounding mental health—one story of courage, acceptance, and hope at a time.

Cecie Johnvan-Shana is a versatile professional with a multifaceted skill set. She is a professional marketer, mental health advocate and support figure. Armed with certifications in human behaviour and childhood trauma, she is committed to promoting awareness and destigmatizing conversations surrounding mental health. As the host of the "Behind Closed Doors" podcast, Cecie provides a platform for candid discussions on a range of topics. Connect with her on Instagram @cecie_j and Linkedin @Cecie Johnvan-Shana

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Edited by Bwalya M Mphuka

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