Primary school teacher Nomandla Ndlovu (36) tells her story of being attacked by a group of thugs and the agony of suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Her path back to mental health involved being in and out of hospitals and mental health facilities.
“One day on my way to school I was running late and decided to take a short cut to get a taxi, hoping to get to work on time. Four men confronted me with a gun and knives, they pulled me by my hair and dragged me into the veld. They then took my bag with all my belongings and I was terrified they were going to rape me today. I still don’t know what stopped them from raping me, but they left me and ran off with my things.
“A few days later I went back to school. I thought I was okay until I got to work and I had to engage with the boys at school and somehow it reminded me of my traumatic experience,” Ndlovu recalls with tears in her eyes.
Ndlovu’s mother Zethu recalls the traumatic period on their lives: “It was a devastating period for me and my family. She was not coping and we took her to every doctor and clinic, but nobody knew what was wrong with her. She was complaining of back pain and headaches and that she couldn’t sleep at night. At one point i thought she was bewitched. At one stage she was booked into a mental institution and she escaped. A doctor eventually suggested more intensive counseling and that is when she started getting better.”
Nurse Phumzile Matshangase Matolo concurs that Ndlovu had suffered from what is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Some people are scared to talk about a traumatic experience and we have even had cases where they stop talking and engaging with the outside world. But we have found that it came be managed with psychotherapy and medication. It cannot only be be medication, the counselling is necessary critical and patients need to undergo it for an extended period or they run the risk of relapsing,” explains Matolo.
PTSD occurs when an individual experiences a traumatic event such as motor vehicle accident, robbery, sexual assault or domestic violence. and many more. A nurse, doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist can diagnose the condition.
* The names of Nomandla and Zethu were changed as they preferred not to be identified.