You are currently viewing “In my community, it’s taboo to be too sick” – Mlindeni, South Africa

“In my community, it’s taboo to be too sick” – Mlindeni, South Africa

After I was hospitalised by COVID-19 in 2020, I developed Long Covid and was diagnosed with ME 2 years later. I lost my job as a mixer in an industrial bakery as I couldn’t physically lift and carry bags of flour anymore. My capacity is less than 50% of what it was. It’s difficult because there is no understanding of ME or POTS in government hospitals and I can’t afford to pay for IVs in private clinics.

Gaslighting by doctors is very depressing, it’s so painful to be dismissed as mentally ill. South Africans still need to be taught about this sickness. In my community, it’s still taboo or a disgrace to be too sick. They believe that if you’re not getting better with any illness, there is something wrong, something you didn’t do for your ancestors, so you must do a ritual so you will be recovered. My community thinks ME only affects white people.

As a Black African guy, you can’t tell people you’re sick, because a man can’t speak like that. A man must work hard for the family and feed his children, he must act strong even if he is in pain. As a man, if you are sick then you are seen as weak. It’s taboo even to talk about it.

So you can’t share details of your illness with people. When you go to public clinics you find only 3% men there, because we believe that men can’t be helped in clinics. Our culture and traditions limit us as African men. More awareness of chronic conditions are needed in our country and Africa at large. 

I am grieving a lot of things that I can’t do without my energy and my brain at full capacity. But I have learned that our mental strength is more powerful than our physical strength. I’m proud that my sickness has never made me give up on life but has made me feel special in this new community of the chronically ill.

As a #GlobalVoiceForME, I would like to say to the world’s health authorities that their ignorance and ignoring of our sickness will have a negative impact on the global economy. People are still getting COVID, and the mass disability caused by post-infectious energy-limiting conditions like Long Covid and ME is becoming a new pandemic.

#GlobalVoiceForME Mlindeni Gabela

To answer the questions took Mlindeni one hour, with two hours’ recovery time.