Yes, my wife beat me.

I was embarrassed, ashamed, and wanted to take my life. But I didn’t. I realised I was more than those beatings. I have more in me and I have my children to care for and who care for me.

Roy*, Friendship Bench Client

Being a man who is being beaten by his wife is something that all men cover up, it’s an embarrassment, it means we are not really men in our culture . We walk with our heads high on the outside, our chests out and hold deep voiced conversations full of strength, but inside, inside we are being torn apart by shame, anxiety and depression.

My name is Roy* and l am aged 42. I am married with 4 children. Before Covid-19 started l was employed as a gardener and my wife as a maid. Unfortunately, l lost my job but was lucky to have my wife continue with her work. I began to see the other side of my wife; that is when the beatings started. Whenever l asked for food l was replied by a slap on my face. l lost my dignity as the man of the house as l had nothing to put on the table. I tried to look for something to do but due to this Covid-19 pandemic nothing materialised. One day when l got back to the house, it was empty all the children were not there. When l got in contact with my wife, she told me that she had taken the kids to her mother as l was unable to feed them as their father. I was heartbroken, torn in pieces. I saw myself as a failure and useless, l thought the best solution there was to take my own life.

It was not an easy decision; l did not have a plan and the courage to do it. One of my neighbours saw how troubled l was and approached me but l could not share anything with him. He talked to me about the Friendship Bench which was a free counselling service offered by the Lay Health Workers at our local clinic. I decided to try that out.

I met with one of the Lay Health Workers who said she was there to listen, she told me there would be no judgement but that I needed to talk about what was happening at home or it would make me sick, she said I was already showing the signs of ‘kufungisisa’ (thinking too much in the local Shona language, roughly translated in depression and anxiety) according to the 14 questions we went through . Opening up about the beatings was something that l had not done before to anyone, because l felt l was not man enough, but Ambuya Utano (the Lay Health Worker) was able to create an environment where l felt safe and understood, she just nodded and shook her head, she didn’t laugh or raise her eyebrows and she told me she had a few men who talked similarly to her and that I wasn’t alone. To learn it wasn’t only me helped me to share, I found myself pouring out my agonies. For the first time l felt I was being myself, I was allowed to share the truth, it was different from sharing stories with friends where I needed to pretend all was okay and my wife was good and she was just visiting her mother for holidays.  

As l was suicidal, one of the questions that the grandmother asked me really helped to make a smart decision of my life. She asked me if l had planned anything for those that were remaining behind since l was planning to take my life. I began to think about my children and realised how selfish l really wanted to be, l had nothing left for them, and I knew they needed a father, too many neighbours had lost a parent and one parent was not enough. From then on, l decided to go back home and keep looking for work, for my kids I wanted to show them not to give up but to keep trying.

I am thankful to Friendship Bench, l am alive today because of you. I am working hard today for my kids because of you. I have accepted myself and have inner peace because of you.

I have not looked for my wife yet as l have decided to work on myself first and prioritise the welfare of my kids. I would not know if we have separated or not as she moved out with her clothes, she is now living at her workplace. When the pandemic lockdown is lifted l will go to my in-laws to collect my kids. What will happen from there I don’t know but I can be living today and make changes for the future now.


*Names have been changed to protect clients anonymity and confidentiality

Unearthing Perseverance

A TESTIMONIAL

How a Youth Friendship Bench Client found himself again after becoming lost in grief, loneliness, pain and hopelessness.

l started to see that we tend to live in our yesterday rather than the today of our lives. So even when we have joy and fulfilment, we will not be able to identify it because we are still stuck in the agony of our past.

Youth Bench Client

The problem with grief is that it often doesn’t completely go away. The loss of someone you have loved deeply seems to live on in your heart, your mind, you every-day actions. I carry this indescribable, inconsolable little hole that catches me off guard as I think ‘something is missing, there’s an emptiness inside of me’. I think the hole is loneliness or at least the feeling of being alone, I can’t wrap my head around it but I get lost in it.

I became an orphan early, I lost my mother when I was 5 years old and l never knew my father, he passed away before l was born. I was forced to grow up fast after being placed in the guardianship of my aunt. Yes, family took me in so I had support and love but it’s not the same as that from biological parents, I could see that when I looked at others. My aunt and uncle gave me an education and l became aware of my the importance of knowledge and learning. I started to lay out my dreams, having goals to sustain myself and living life under my own terms. But, my education and dreams were affected by my weak immune system, l would always fall sick, not go to school, and as l thought l have faced it all, l had a stroke at a very young age.

This resulted in me losing a lot of valuable time, time l should have been sitting in school, gaining knowledge and skills, making strong friendships and working on my goals. What affected me the most was watching my friends move on, getting on with their education, starting to chase their dreams by going overseas; and I was nowhere, I felt stuck, stuck with nothing and nowhere, it made me hate myself. My girlfriend started to act up, she was someone I had always confided in and so this hurt a lot. In all these times l started to wish if only my parents were here. My mind started to tell me things l never wanted to hear, l was alone and failing at life, I had no one to talk to, I should forget about my dreams. I felt lost, I had no self-esteem, I lost my tenacity and energy for chasing goals. It was easy to think why not end I all.

Then a friend who knew about the Friendship Bench approached me, she said she could see I wasn’t managing and suggested I book an online talk therapy session. I had nothing to lose, I signed up and met Youth Bench Buddy Dellone, a young gentleman like me, it was comforting to have a peer, someone who I could relate to rather than an adult, and he welcomed me.

I told him my story as it is and how l was feeling. By simply knowing that there is someone l am talking to who is there listening to me work through and do away with some of the tensions of this loneliness. The feeling of being alone had always overcast my conscience and would stop me thinking straight.

Having the Friendship Bench Youth Buddy there helped me look at my goals again, he showed me how to take steps to keep going and rediscover my dreams, he encouraged me to not give up but to see I was more than loneliness.

I started to realise that l let my past have power over my future, l had jammed my life in other people’s projections of theirs and l entrusted my happiness in other people’s hands; my parents, my family, my girlfriend and my peers. In other words, l was stuck in other people’s lives, crying foul over my past and stopped living my own life. I had to get back on it. The way he asked me about certain things l would have stated in my story made me question myself on why l even felt that way.

Together, we unearthed my perseverance. He shared something with me that l continuously tell myself every day, he said that, you will never know how strong you are until something almost breaks you and knocks you to your knees. When you reach that breaking point that is when you become stronger so rather embrace the problems that seem to be breaking you and see them as a pedestal of hope for the greater good. This is how l started to view my world.

Through the working solutions l had picked up in overcoming my loneliness and stunted growth, l started to see that we tend to live in our yesterday rather than the today of our lives. So even when we have joy and fulfilment, we will not be able to identify it because we are still stuck in the agony of our past. For this l thank my friend for she referred me to the Friendship Bench and I thank the Youth Friendship Bench for the support and encouragement that has helped me regain my resilience.

Tendai’s* Covid-19, Experience on the Front Lines

A COVID-19 SUCCESS STORY

“Being confined brought a lonely feeling inside me, that when I let it all out to someone who was ready to listen;

I felt a sense of relief. “

Tendai*, Friendship Bench Client

My name is Tendai*. I’m a middle-aged female residing in the city of Harare, Zimbabwe. I work in the health field at a private facility.

I was going through a period where I was overwhelmed with anxiety and paranoia. As a result of working in the medical/health field, I had been openly and directly exposed to the COVID – 19 virus at its onset in Zimbabwe. A few of my colleagues and I had to stop working and go into quarantine and isolation in our own homes after going through the screening process. I was forced to stay away from my family and my children for two weeks as I could not leave my room. It broke my heart to have to hear my youngest daughter cry for me at the door and not be able to do anything about it. Every single day, health professionals from the ministry would come and check on me, dressed and protected. I felt like the contagion itself. My temperature was said to be high by the screening officials which increased my anxiety. I had no meaningful interaction with anyone at all so I was forced to make do with my racing thoughts for two weeks.

After having been cleared of the virus by the Ministry of Health, I was then allowed to exit self-quarantine. You would think the decision made my days easier but after the restrictions on me were lifted, I was so confused and anxious. Everything to me felt like it could be potentially dangerous, being around people made me anxious, letting my children play outside made me anxious. Seeing one of my family members constantly going out the house would really make me upset. I was paranoid about everything my children and family touched. My obsession with sterility became unhealthy, and fortunately that’s when I came across the friendship bench advertisement. I reached out to The Friendship Bench after seeing a social media advertisement of their free counselling service offered on an Open Like Talk Therapy platform.

I began my sessions shortly after booking on the Friendship Bench platform. In my sessions, i was allowed the platform to fully explain my feelings and what I was going through without judgement.

Firstly, what I found to be most helpful was just being able to let some things out before you even get help in handling the problem. Being confined brought a lonely feeling inside me, that when I let it all out to someone who was ready to listen; I felt a sense of relief. The constant check up as well really helped me as I realized someone was there to make sure I was improving and feeling better.

My fears of contracting the virus were gradually eradicated as I got encouragement to do my best in making sure I follow the measures put in place to protect my family and I regardless of the fact that one family member was not adhering to those measures. The guidance and encouragement I got about focusing on things that I can control was also extremely helpful in reducing my anxiety. I then realised some things are out of my control and I cannot change them. Worrying about it would not help at all as it would just bring me more problems.

*Names have been changed to protect and respect the privacy of the contributing author.


DO YOU NEED TO TALK?

Should you or someone you know relate to Tendai’s story and need to talk, the Friendship Bench Open Line team is here to support you.


FREE TOOLS TO MANAGE ANXIETY

We set up some worksheets to help people who may be struggling to manage with their anxiety during this global pandemic.

If you would like to learn how to build resilience, become more grounded and find some peace in the storm you can download the exercises for free from our website.

Tools To Thrive
https://www.friendshipbenchzimbabwe.org/tools-to-thrive

Till next time!

Stay safe, wash hands, create safe spaces for people to talk. We all need a sense of belonging, it doesn’t cost anything by empathy and time.