Brave women share how they overcame trauma

by Pamela Madonsela
Brave women share how they overcame trauma
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Two years later, I can still hear gunshots and still avoid the Golden Highway in Johannesburg South. This is because it is a reminder of how my family was nearly hijacked, our car shot at close range and running in the bushes at night with a baby in my arms, my bleeding husband leaping with our other toddler daughter as we sought safety.Healing from trauma is a complex journey. By Pamela Madonsela

In March 2021 a night at a friend’s place ended with us rushing to the hospital after an attempted hijacking. Johannesburg will never be safe in my eyes. Life continued but the incident will forever be etched in my mind.

According to research, trauma can make you more vulnerable to developing mental health problems. Depending on how you’re affected, trauma may cause difficulties in your daily life. For example, it may be harder to trust people, which can make relationships and friendships harder to maintain. You may struggle to look after yourself, hold down a job or take pleasure in things you used to enjoy. You may have difficulty managing your emotions and react in ways that feel illogical or over-the-top – because your mind is reacting to the memory of what happened, not your current situation.

Car accidents & injury

“It was time to be emotionally independent. I focused really extensively on my healing.- Nompumelelo

Nompumelelo Magezana, a 27-year-old from Soweto, is a mental health advocate and Crime Prevention Warden Trainee. Her own trauma encouraged her to start an organisation for young women, ‘Ladies Meet Women’.

A trip to Mpumalanga with her friends (without her parents knowing) ended up being a nightmare, “When I was 15 years old, I was involved in a terrible car accident and I got badly injured. My leg was fractured in three places. I woke up after 6 days in ICU because my head was also injured. I suffered vision loss. It was a very dark time of my life and I had suicidal thoughts.”

She says her healing journey started after she buried her grandmother, “It was time to be emotionally independent. I focused really extensively on my healing. Every time people asked about my leg scars it would hurt so much to be reminded. But, eventually I healed internally.”

READ HERE My traumatic birth experience

Trauma & mothering

“I believe that we all need to be kind to ourselves because we’ve all been through so much. Take time to take care of yourself.” – Melissa

Melissa Mtshali is mixed race, born of a German father and a Zulu mother. She says her mom was an outcast growing up. “There have always been issues in my family because I have never met my father and there are lot of secrets around it because at some point my mom got arrested.”

Growing up in a black dominated community was difficult but also good because she garnered a lot of attention. “My mom burnt herself in front of me when I was 15. I didn’t have feelings after that. I didn’t care about myself.” Melissa started to hate her mother the day she became a mom and blamed her mom for not being around.

“That’s when I realised that I had many traumatic experiences and was taking it out on my child and husband, the people I love,” she explains.

Melissa adds that through education and her faith at church gatherings, she found her light. “ I would like to believe that it is the grace of God that took me out of that dark place,” she says.

Teaching children with special needs has brought out the best of her. “I relate to the children I teach and every day I try to be a better mother to my child. I’m slowly regaining sensitivity– I care about what I say and how it comes across. I believe that we all need to be kind to ourselves because we’ve all been through so much. Take time to take care of yourself,” she says.

Her advice is: we all have different journeys and similarities that can make us relate. Let’s all look deep within our hearts and be the help that others need.

READ HERE Course correcting infant trauma through therapy

Prison baby

“Her journey of healing began when she decided to change.”

Felicia Goosen, 28 years old, is a Youth Wellness Counsellor. She recalls vivid memories of growing up in a Thailand prison where her South African mother had been incarcerated on drug charges.

“Growing up I felt like I was a mistake. I was confused and rejected and didn’t understand why I saw my mom and then couldn’t see her anymore. While studying in my first year at university, memories popped into my head, even the smell of jail. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. I was in the darkest hole and had suicidal thoughts.”

Her journey of healing began when she decided to change. She says, “I had lost my foster mother who was my mom’s best friend–that broke my heart because she meant so much to me. I had so many questions and blamed God a lot. I was a  teenager and a mess and drinking alcohol extensively.” The changing point came when her mother, who had just been released from prison, introduced her to payer. “That very moment I felt that I was not alone,” explains Felicia. Brave women share how they overcame trauma

Felicia’s work is something she is very passionate about. “Dealing with young people every day and teaching them to choose the life they want is fulfilling for me. I’m also kinder to myself. I had to forgive myself for  the self-harm I caused for my healing journey to start.”

She takes day offs where she does nothing and taps into all her support. “I see a therapist. I had to unlearn things and learn things about a better lifestyle. I also revisit my vision board to remain on track.”

Trauma can be healed with support, willingness and a belief that things can change for the better.

READ HERE Overcoming a traumatic C-Section
ALSO READ ABOUT Post-natal depression

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