Written by Neshni Naidoo
The perfect wife, doting mother, supportive friend, gracious hostess, always smiling – that is how most people described Jodie. Very few knew that her beautiful smile hid a painful secret. She was dying. Not of a physical illness, but a dis-ease of the mind that was slowly robbing her of joy and purpose.
The shrill tone of the alarm pierced through her dream. Jodie reached over and hit ‘Snooze’. “Five more minutes,” she thought to herself. The alarm jarred her sleep again. “Why don’t you turn that damn thing off if you are not going to wake up when it rings!!” barked her husband, Reese. Cursing silently, she rolled out of bed and into the bathroom. Looking into the mirror, she wondered, “Where have the last 20 years gone? Where was the zeal, energy and passion I had at university?” She splashed cold water onto her face as if to wash away the unwelcome thoughts. As she dressed, each piece of clothing, each layer of make-up served as her armour, preparing her for the day’s battles. The finishing touch was the lipsticked smile. Jodie looked at her reflection, pleased by what she saw, and said to no-one in particular, “Let this be a good day.”
Her two children, 10-year old Sarah and 13-year old Joshua were extra slow that morning, having only got to bed at 10 after completing their schoolwork. It still added to her frustration though and she scolded, “If we don’t leave in the next five minutes, you are going to be late for school. Then you can explain to Mr Steyn why you are late!” They sped up whatever they were doing silently, knowing that it was best not to argue with mom when she was in “one of her moods.” By the time, they arrived at school, Jodie had calmed down a little and feeling guilty, she gave them each a quick hug, saying, “I’m sorry. You know I love you, right?”
The conversation at the school gate revolved around the same issues – too much homework, lack of motivation, too much screen time, and their hectic lives and what to cook for supper. Even though it was reassuring to know that other moms shared the same problems, Jodie’s insecurity still raised its ugly head. “What am I doing wrong? Why are my kids just average and not excelling at anything? Have I done enough to encourage their talents or is it too little? Leaving work to be at home with them hasn’t seemed to make any difference.” Once again, there was no stopping that nagging voice once it started.
En-route to her car, Jodie suddenly stumbled, feeling faint, then felt herself falling as everything went black. When she came to, her friend Laura was at her side, a concerned expression on her face. “Hey, you scared us when you toppled over like that. How are you feeling?”
“Weak…… a little confused…….. Don’t know what happened, “she said, the metallic taste of blood on her tongue.“
“Don’t try and get up, “said Laura, “We’ve called for an ambulance and Reese is on his way.”
The paramedics checked her vitals when they arrived. Her blood pressure was 80/60 which is why she had fainted. She had a split lip from knocking it against the gate as she fell. However, she would have to be taken to the hospital for observation and x-rays to determine if there were any other injuries. Reese arrived just as they were placing her in the ambulance.
“The kids……” she muttered.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of everything,” Reese assured her.
Thankfully, there were no other injuries but Jodie would have to remain in the hospital for a few days for an MRI and other tests. Initially, she was concerned about the children and how they were coping without her, but relaxed when she saw that her mum and Reese had everything under control. Not used to doing nothing, she used the time between tests, the prodding and pricking, to catch up on her reading, complete a knitting project and plan for the following week.
One morning, she picked up her diary and pen with the intention of compiling her “To-Do” list. She went no further than the date. Her hand began moving across the page as if it was being controlled by another force. A picture began to take shape. Minutes passed, as she drew, unaware of her surroundings. When she finally put down her pen, she felt spent, as if she had finished an intense workout.
Putting her pen aside, she focussed on the drawing. It was a little girl, curled up on the floor, crying. She was alone, surrounded by a protective shield. Around the shield were arrows being hurled at her and bouncing off the shield.
“THIS IS ME,” she thought. As the tears welled up, Jodie went to hide in the bathroom, trying to stifle and mute the sobs that racked through her body. Returning to her bed, she began to write. Every sentence helped her understand. With each sentence, she could feel a part of her protective shield breaking away.
After all the tests, the diagnosis was that she was stressed. The doctor gave her recommendations and suggested a psychologist help her manage her stress levels. Jodie smiled inwardly because she’d understood the message delivered with this incident and received the guidance she needed to start the healing process.