‘You tried to jump out of a moving car.’ I woke up with strange men far away from home.’: Mom overcomes mental health struggles, suicide attempts to become advocate

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Disclaimer: This story includes descriptions of sexual assault, attempted suicide, and pregnancy loss that may be triggering to some

“I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, in a loving family of four, with my mother, father, little sister, and three dogs. In my early childhood years, I went to a good enough school and had healthy relationships with my friends. My life was pretty much textbook white-picket-fence perfect.

A young girl sits alone on a floral couch
Courtesy of Inam Qoma

My mom, a very hard worker, and was pursuing her Ph.D. in Gender and Human Rights. I barely saw her, as she spent most of her time in our study room or traveling internationally to secure funding for her research. My father was a salesman and also spent a lot of time on the road. I remember trying to be well-behaved so as not to inconvenience my parents. They both had a lot already to deal with. And they were doing their best to ensure their kids had a better life than either of them had.

When I was twelve years old, my father got ill and died. I felt hurt, angry, and alone. I was a daddy’s girl, and my world came crashing down when he was no longer part of it. The reasons behind his death surfaced in an unfavorable light, and the man I thought I knew had become a complete stranger. He had fathered other children while still married to my mother. For a long time, I was upset at my mother even more than I was at him. I’d ask myself: ‘How could she let herself be treated in that way by him? How could she allow him to look elsewhere for love or fleeting moments of pleasure? Why didn’t she fight for him?’

A young girl dressed in white sits with her father
Courtesy of Inam Qoma

Growing up, I was taught to not question adults and their nonsensical behavior, so I suffered in silence and internalized all my emotions. I quietly took my place as secondary caretaker to my sister and held down the fort as my mother continued with her career (in saving the world).

My teenage years were filled with a whirlwind of emotions, leading to self-destructive behavior. I went from goodie-two-shoes to having the worst behavior. I turned to alcohol, weed, and hanging out with toxic people in order to quiet the voices in my head. I put myself in dangerous situations; one vivid memory is waking up not knowing where I was with strange men in an apartment far away from home after a night out with ‘friends.’ When I asked said friends how I got there, the response I got was, ‘You acted crazy and tried to jump out of a moving car, so we just dropped you off somewhere so you could find your way home.’ I have never once faulted them, as they too were youngsters going through their own struggles.

A young woman sits at a table holding a wine glass
Courtesy of Inam Qoma

When I got home the next morning, I told my mother about the ordeal, and she took me to the doctor, who asked me casually while examining me in the ER, ‘Have you been having sexual intercourse?’ I was sixteen, and despite the odd lie to fit in, that was my first sexual encounter, and it was with a stranger(s)…intoxicated…passed out.

Later that day, my mother broke down in front of me, and her piercing cries still haunt me today. That was the one and only time we ever ‘discussed’ that situation. The shame was hard to bear, and the voices became louder. I didn’t like the life I had chosen for myself, so I tried to leave it—more than once. In my last attempt, I was seventeen, I ended up with a fractured pelvis having ‘fallen’ from a fifth-story balcony. That thud became the awakening I needed. I stopped trying and started focusing on ways to take ownership of my life.

A woman in the hospital displays her hospital bracelets on her wrist
Courtesy of Inam Qoma

In my late adolescent years, I had my fair share of subpar and emotionally abusive boyfriends, but none worth mentioning. The moment that changed my life was the day I met my husband during the 2010 Soccer World Cup, but that’s a story for another day. He saw me in a way I could not see myself. It was the first time I could allow myself to be so vulnerable with another person. We had challenges in the early stages of our relationship, mostly because I was in denial about the whole thing: it felt too good to be true. But together, we’ve been through so many highs and lows and are stronger because of it.

A man wearing sunglasses and a green shirt kisses his wife on the head
Courtesy of Inam Qoma

In the most challenging time, I fell back into a space of numbness. This was in 2018, when we had multiple miscarriages. Four pregnancies in a space of eighteen months resulted in one baby. It was a hard and trying time for our marriage, and particularly for my mental health. For a long time, I felt like it was my fault or my body was punishing me for past transgressions.

A pregnant woman holds her hands over her stomach
Courtesy of Inam Qoma

I was devasted, and every part of me wanted to cease to exist. But I had to be strong not only for my husband and son but for myself. That’s when I started introspecting. I attempted to seek external help, but private mental health care resources in South Africa are not affordable. Regular therapy is a luxury only a few can afford.

A woman wearing a blue dress and blouse leans against a wall
Courtesy of Inam Qoma

In dealing with my battles, I started writing my thoughts in a journal, but I quickly became bored of that. I then began goal setting, and one of my goals was to strive to become a better version of myself each day. This included an overhaul of my physical and mental health, finances, friendships, and just doing things I love.

I chose to go into business so I can wake up each day doing the things I love while making my dreams a reality. I joined the Rise fitness journey in order to get accountability for reaching my fitness goals. I began having tough conversations with my mother—it’s still a work in progress. But I am far more open with her now than I have ever been before. Our relationship is definitely in a far better place.

A woman stands in her home gym making peace signs
Courtesy of Inam Qoma
A woman balances on one foot by the ocean
Courtesy of Inam Qoma

There are still moments where I still experience lows, but they are not as intense as they used to be. It is a journey and not a destination, therefore the work still continues.

I recently began using my Instagram as an open journal to share my experiences and to potentially save lives. A good friend of mine approached me to start a Youtube channel with her, Mistresses of Mayhem, where we explore topics like mental health, relationships, sex, parenting—all while having fun. The channel has become an outlet for healing for myself and others.

A woman holds up a sign that says "You made it through another day"
Courtesy of Inam Qoma

I hope in sharing my story and in the conversations I’m having on my platforms, I can motivate others to either speak out or see the light in their journeys. Life is hard, and suffering in silence sometimes feels like the easiest way out, but what I’ve learned is our thoughts have the potential to destroy us more.

A woman stands in a green suit and pants with long earrings
Courtesy of Inam Qoma
A woman wearing a green dress and a checkered jacket stands on one leg by the water
Courtesy of Inam Qoma

‘What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create’ – Buddha

This quote rings true to me. When I was in a dark space, I attracted darkness, and I fell in deeper. When I began to see myself in a better light, I began to want more out of life and to create more goodness in the world. I hope you find yourself in a better place too, you don’t have to do it alone.”

A woman stands with her son and young daughter
Courtesy of Inam Qoma
A woman wearing red lipstick and a floral shirt
Courtesy of Inam Qoma

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Inam Qoma from Cape Town, South Africa. You can follow their journey on YouTube and Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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