Sasha Martin is a 28-year-old woman who lives in East London, South Africa. She narrated to The Weight She Carries how a condition called fibromyalgia has affected her daily life.
Fibromyalgia is a condition known to be caused by some kind of trauma to the body such as a car accident, injury or serious illness. In some cases, it can also be triggered by severe emotional trauma. Regardless of the source, fibromyalgia devastates the life it touches. Unrelenting pain and fatigue reduce a person’s ability to concentrate, perform daily tasks, work, socialize, exercise and sleep. The more severe the symptoms, the more incapacitating it can be. It can lead to depression, isolation and loss of self-esteem.
Growing up, I have experienced a tremendous amount of trauma, from physical, emotional and even sexual trauma. I come from a broken family. My parents divorced when I was young. During their marriage, there was constant fighting between them, and it got physical at times. Their divorce was inevitable, and so my mother, brother and I moved into a flat.
Soon after the divorce, my mum took to alcohol. That’s when she became verbally and emotionally abusive towards me. I think it’s because between my brother and I, I look more like my father. I remember a day when she came home drunk from work and attacked me and beat me up so bad that when my brother tried to restrain her, she hit him in the face. That’s when my father decided to take us in.
What is more painful for me is that even my brother has physically abused me since I was a child up until three years ago when we encouraged him to get help. That’s the thing. How can I, as broken as I am, be able to help someone else. But I found that it was something I had to do. I was tired of being pushed against walls and constantly being threatened with death.
The breaking point for me was three years ago when he came home drunk and began beating on me until he grabbed a knife, pushed me up the wall and held the knife against my throat. At that moment, I knew he was going to hurt me, but I knew that I had to help him get help. Reluctantly, he did get help and has not laid a hand on me since.
I got hooked on pain pills as a way of numbing the pain. Self-harming, like breaking glass with my bare hands, and alcohol became a part of my coping mechanism. This led me to a mental health institution.
After I was discharged, I felt better than I had ever felt in years. But unfortunately, one night we went out with friends, had one too many drinks and smoked weed, which I had no clue was in the bubbly pipe. One of the friends forced himself on me and penetrated me from behind even though I told him no. He continued because I was woozy from the weed and alcohol. I felt nothing, and for years I blamed myself because I felt I had put myself in that position. It is only years after that I realised that what happened to me was in fact rape, and I didn’t do anything about it.
The therapy sessions have taught me that I need to keep quiet even in the sea filled with sharks, which includes my family. Even with PTSD, I still have to find coping mechanisms, like writing, when I feel suicidal or just overwhelmed. I have also grown closer to God and include both my mother and brother when I pray. Remaining positive is my main goal even if my mother’s pessimism pops up. It has really helped more than before.
I have lost a lot of friends due to [fibromyalgia]. I cannot do [many] physical activities. I take pain medication and vitamins to help with the pain. Exercise makes everything worse, so I have since stopped. At some point it got really bad that I was bedridden for days, and my mother and brother had to help me do the basic of activities such as getting out of bed, bathing and even dressing up.
Sasha has a huge passion for baking and is working from home at the moment but hopes to save up enough to open up a shop someday. Her other passion is helping the less fortunate. For now, she continues praying and working hard towards coming out of the toxic environment she is in and starting her own business.