Following a difficult childhood, Loveness Mangezi struggled with her mental health throughout her 20s and into her 30s. But life-threatening surgery changed her perspective on life, and showed her the strength she never knew she had
Since I was seven years old, I was surrounded by all kinds of dysfunction; watching my own parents constantly fight, being in abusive environments, and surrounded by chaos.
At 14, I was sent to a boarding school because I had become a bit rebellious. I guess that was my own way of crying out for help, but no one heard me. I did make some incredible friends while there, and then I started dating less than a year in. But by the time I was 18-years-old, I was so guarded and cold that I couldn’t fully allow any form of attachment.
When I hit 21, I began focusing on shrouding the dysfunction that had challenged me all the way into my late 20s. I got caught up in trying to pretend everything was fine and hide my pain from the world. I didn't want to admit that I was hurting, even to myself. In the end, I would realise that brokenness can only attract brokenness.
I chose to sit with the pain of the past, festering the unhealthy feelings, watching them arise, and not judging them myself, which I had done way too often before. My plan was to keep others out. Instead, I was caging my own heart. I thought I was being tough by shutting everyone out, so I did what most of us do when challenged with wounds of life. I numbed the pain and pretended that everything was OK so that I would no longer be judged.
But my body was struck by abnormal growths while trying to heal from the psychological pain. I remember lying on the floor as I felt a strong pain spreading, pushing, and sinking into my abdomen. Groaning and screaming with anguish, I stood up as quickly as I could, and doubled over in pain. I was grimacing and limping from the tight, sheering pain that spiralled all over my body, even though I had just taken a dose of prescribed morphine.
At that point, my sister walked into the bedroom to check on me, only to find me vomiting. She dashed to get a bowl for me to use. When it finally stopped, my mouth tasted sour. After cleaning up, she called the ambulance, and I spent several hours in the accident and emergency unit, before being admitted into a surgical assessment ward for further investigation with MRI scans (which were very scary and long), and an ultrasound.
A few months later, suffering from the excruciating pain and insomnia, I was finally admitted to hospital for major surgery to remove the abnormal growth. By now, my abdomen looked like I was heavily pregnant. After nearly five hours on the operating table, I woke in the recovery room.
I was astonished at what the consultant said as I gazed at the images of the growths he had removed. He said that one weighed 5kg and that I was lucky to be alive. That mass had grown drastically in two months, despite being on treatment to stop it.
The wound took more time to heal than expected. At some point, it even reopened and they had to try to close it again. All this made me re-evaluate the way I was doing things in and around the house. Was I not allowing myself time to rest, or was I not eating well?
To think that the same pain nearly made me give up on life when I became helpless, because it looked like every area of my life had been hit by a plague. To then look myself in the mirror, naked and see the scar that runs from way above my umbilicus all the way down, I was grinning from ear to ear just enjoying looking at my body once again.
We all have scars to show, be it emotional or physical, and for some it's both. They remind us of the challenges, strength and transformation that they brought us, the courage that we possess.
Now I proudly get to accept my scars, and realise they are reminders of how I conquered pain, anger, guilt, shame, loss, rejection and resentment. I can proudly display and be mesmerised by them, as they permanently dwell in the trophy cabinet of my inner core: the essence of my soul.
Find out more about Loveness' work on her website gamechangerjunkie.com