Bantu turns darkness into light

Bantu Zotwana, of Welgelegen, was diagnosed as schizophrenic in 1997 and he has written a book, Schizophrenia, theres a way, on living with the condition.

My intention in sharing this with you is to aid my healing, help others who suffer from a mental illness and educate people.

I want to let you know that a healthy and normal life can be lived if you look after yourself and take the proper medication. Family and community support are also important.

My daily life: Since I have made this book project my career, I focus on getting it out there. I do a lot of research because I train myself to be able to stand on my own two feet. Rain or shine, I take my walk to clear and relax my mind. But, most of all, I always listen to good music and the news to know what is going on around me.

I meet and talk to people every day, but there are days when it’s just me and my family time.

How I cope: It is very easy to cope living with schizophrenia.

All one needs to do is stay on your prescribed medication. I stay focused at all times. Find yourself good and positive hobbies. Help around the house or others around you.

Most of the time, I am working towards being an inspiration to others in my daily activities. I have positive conversations with people who are positive.

I read a lot about other people’s stories to see where I can be of help now or in the future.

Things I endure that others don’t: Being unable to keep a 9-to-5 job like everyone else is something most sufferers experience. That is why I chose to make it my career to educate others through my book.

I keep myself busy and move on with life. It takes a lot of energy to stay focused because I rely on my medication to have better health and to stay normal throughout my day. But once on medication, it becomes easier. You give yourself a tomorrow by living life positively, to the fullest and by lending a hand to others.

My struggles: My fight is for people to be more educated and stand together. This is what I am working towards through my book and my networking with mental health institutions. And by always being in good health and setting an example.

Come on, South Africa, we can make our country’s mental well-being better.

I also struggle financially. The disability grant I receive helps, but things are expensive. So I need to make a way to survive. There’s a way.

Society’s understanding of my condition: My family and community support me. But sometimes people misunderstand my character and illness instead of getting to know me and learning more about mental illness.

There is a difference: I am Bantu, not schizophrenia. I have a condition called schizophrenia. It is not split personality, it is split mind. I thank my family and community for being there for me. I am grateful to everyone.

What brings me joy: I am engaged to be married and have kids.

So there’s no time for sulking or letting an illness control you. They make me happy and I need to think straight and enjoy life to the fullest. It is not all about myself anymore. Spending time with my family is my joy.

What gets me down: When I travel by train or taxi, I see a lot of people, homeless people, who appear to suffer from some sort of mental illness. And this saddens me a lot because people don’t want to be associated with them, because they haven’t bathed for a while, make a noise, beg for money… the list is endless. This happens every day and everywhere I go. I ask myself: where are the families?

The other issue that really gets me down is when some people have no idea what a mental disorder is and what to do to help someone or themselves.

What am I doing to help others: I am waiting on my NPO certificate so I can do talks at schools, rehabs, prisons, etc. In the meantime, I did two radio shows and also did an article in a Xhosa newspaper in the Eastern Cape.

I am in contact with the Mental Health Information Centre and took part in a study at Stikland Hospital. I’ve also met people from the Life Changers Foundation. I’m working towards being a motivational speaker.

* To buy a copy of Bantu’s book, call 072 814 0860.