In the previous part, Anje talked about her experience as a South African au pair in America. She also shared 5 tips on how to help with homesickness. She really opened up and talked about a lot of personal things. I’m sure her journey/story will help someone. All of her links will be below. Now, without further ado. Let’s jump straight in where we left off last time.
- You’re balancing a full-time job and being a student. Can you tell us more about this experience?
Yes, so I started studying online for a few months after arriving in the US. It all started when I had told my host mom that I was thinking of going to Canada as an au pair after I finished my contract in the US so I would be able to save up more money for my studies. My host mom took this as an “Oh no, she is going to leave us,” and immediately started researching colleges I could apply to while in the US. So the next morning she comes down and tells me about a college in South Africa that offers a three-year online course for a Bachelor’s degree in social sciences. With her encouragement and assistance in the application process, I got in. I soon had to adjust to having a full-time job and needing to study. I would work from 8 to 5, then immediately go downstairs and study until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. Every few weeks I would have assignments and essays to do, which meant a lot of the weekends I was in my room or in Starbucks working.
It also became extremely important for me to budget and save most of my salary. What definitely counted in my favor was that I was paying for my college in Dollars and seeing as it is about 14 South African Rand for one Dollar, I was definitely saving a lot of money. That doesn’t mean, however, that it was always easy to save the money. I would make around $800 to $850 each month, and my studies came around to about $500 in the first year, and $650 in the second year. So needless to say I had to budget really well. I started prioritizing the necessities, making monthly lists of things I needed. Luckily I didn’t have to pay for my own food, so it was mainly just personal things, like clothes, shampoo, school books, etc. I would also work a lot of overtime, which helped a lot. I soon became used to it and was still able to enjoy my time in the US. If I knew that I wanted to do something or go somewhere, I would work overtime and save up until then.
It wasn’t always fun, there were days when I wanted to give up, but I am so happy I pushed through. I am now in my third year and after this, my goal will be to get my Masters and maybe even a Ph.D. as a clinical or child psychologist. Right now I don’t have any debt or student loans, which will help me so much.
- Unfortunately, you struggle with anxiety. Can you tell us more?
Anxiety is actually still a pretty new concept for me, though I’ve had it for most of my life. During high school I would often wake up with such a strong feeling of dread and panic, it often felt like I couldn’t breathe. I would have this weight on my chest and begin to feel so extremely stressed, even if I wasn’t doing anything stressful. When I told my mom one time she told me that I was probably just stressed about school, not having any other explanation I accepted it. That following year I went to the Netherlands to be an au pair and things seemed to be getting better. I still experienced that feeling, but whenever I traveled or explored a new place, it went away.
When I came home I did not adjust well at all. It felt weird being back, I missed the family, I missed my best friend. It was just really strange, so I became really moody, easily annoyed, and would have these bursts of anger I couldn’t control. I would lie in my bed for most of the day, not having any energy to get out. I then got a call from my aunt, she lives in Johannesburg which is about 2 hours by plane from where I live. She owned her own mobile grooming company and wanted me to help out. I jumped at the opportunity, eager to get out of the house and feel as though I am doing something meaningful with my time again.
I went there thinking that she would only need me to work for her for about a week or so. When I actually arrived she told me that it would take more than a few months, I didn’t feel great about this, but didn’t argue. In all honesty, the first day was probably the best day of my whole time there. She showed me the work that needed to be done, we went out for lunch, had dinner at her friend’s house. It was great, but then the next day came and it was like she was a completely different person. As the months went by things got worse and worse. She would often yell at me about emails that were sent out, even if the date of the emails was before I had even arrived. She would talk about my family in such a negative way, telling people who were complete strangers to me about how my parents are struggling financially and how bad things are back home (she was lying). She would often call my grandma and tell her how ungrateful and spoiled I am, she would say I demand things and tell her she needs to buy me things (she was lying). She would tell me how I was ruining her business whenever I made a mistake and how I was causing her to lose a lot of money (surprise, surprise she was lying). She would also make comments about my weight and say that having a fat belly ran in my family on my mom’s side. I often cried myself to sleep, waking up with such intense dread and worry. Whenever I heard her drive up to the house, it would feel as though I needed to run away. I was so stressed and anxious, though I still didn’t have a name for how I was feeling.
It finally came to the point where I had had enough. I told her I needed to talk to her, so we sat down and I explained that I wanted to come home. She immediately started guilt tripping me, saying that I wouldn’t make as much money back home and that my parents are struggling with money. She said I would only be making it harder on them. Something you should know about me is that I am very sensitive when it comes to things like that, especially revolving around my parents. So I gave in. I went back down to Cape Town for three weeks as a holiday soon after that. It was amazing, I felt relaxed and at peace. When I found myself on a plane going back to Johannesburg again, the dread and panic returned. The second time around was even worse, I think it is because I was more aware of her emotional abuse and what she was doing. As the days went by I felt worse and worse. I’m not going to lie, suicide crossed my mind every now and again. I just thought about how easy it would be to end things. How I could take the pain away. I think what made everything worse is that I kept most of what was happening to myself. I didn’t want to burden my parents or anyone else for that matter. Tensions rose with every passing day, fights becoming a very regular thing, though they were often very one-sided. Growing up I was taught to respect those older than me, especially when it came to family. So, for the most part, I stayed quiet. But it hurt, a lot. Her verbal assaults became even more personal, as she targeted everything from my personality to my eating habits. She once sent me out to go to the store for her, which I didn’t mind but it turned out to be a complete disaster. I got lost more than once, seeing as I didn’t know the area well enough and Uber was a new concept to me. But I got everything she needed, at least, though my feet were full of blisters from the walking and my shoulders in pain from carrying everything. That night she went through everything I had bought and, of course, she wasn’t happy. Apparently, I had bought the wrong color fabric for the bandanas she made for her dogs, even though I had called her and she said it would be fine. For a whole week, yes a week, she continually brought it up. Telling me how careless I was and how I’m too used to having my parents do everything for me. Another incident I remember is when we went to her friend’s house for dinner, wanting to start a conversation I just asked her “so what do you think she made for dinner?” Of course, I didn’t mean this in a rude way, I was simply curious. She immediately went off to tell me how rude that was, how my parents should have taught me better. She again said that I was spoiled and too use to things being given to me. As always, I allowed it.
It was only once I was matched with a family in the US, that I finally decided I was done. Again I went to her, we sat down and I told her I wanted to go home. I told her how I felt in the nicest, most respectful way I could. She didn’t care for it, at all. I think it must have been half an hour of her telling me how ungrateful and spoiled I am. How the whole situation was my fault and how I needed to work harder in life. Her words cut deep, but not because they were true, they weren’t, but because after months of me putting in everything I had into her business, after crying myself to sleep for most nights, after giving everything I had, it wasn’t enough.
I booked the plane ticket for two days after that. It was awkward and uncomfortable, but I already felt like crap so I barely noticed. When I got back, again I felt a thousand times better. But it was only temporary. The dread and panic now came back regularly. It was only once I had begun studying when I finally had a name for it. I had anxiety. I don’t blame her for it, even though she definitely contributed to how bad it got, I know it was always in me. Being able to call it something definitely helped, I now knew why I was feeling like that, which made it a lot easier once I started getting panic attacks.
One thing I had to accept is that most of my family does not understand why I sometimes behave differently or why I get overwhelmed by certain situations. It is, unfortunately, a part of it. I wish I could say that I have conquered anxiety, that I no longer feel as though it is controlling me, but then I would be lying. I have accepted that it isn’t something that would one day just not be there anymore. I now know that some days are going to be better than others. I also know that I am strong enough and that what I am feeling is valid. I hear too often about how people are told to “get over it” or “just be happy.” This completely invalidates how they are feeling, which is beyond wrong.
I don’t really know where I am going with this, the words just kind of spilled out. But just know, if you are struggling with mental health, you are not alone. You matter. Your feelings matter. And you are strong enough to get through it. Focus on yourself and do what makes you happy. Be unapologetic about who you are and what you need in order to be happy.
- What is your favorite quote?
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
I’ve thanked her privately but I’m going to thank her on here as well. Anje is the kindest person I know and I’m so incredibly grateful to have her in my life. She has been with me through the bad and the ugly. She is my sister. I’m so proud that she opened up and shared her struggles with Anxiety. I’m sure doing so made her feel anxious. Please show her some love on her Instagram or in the comments down below. I will send it all through to her.
Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!
Abnormal Roses — https://www.wattpad.com/story/170208404-abnormal-roses —
Anje’s Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/anje_tait/ —