Grateful to be authentically me

Today is world mental health day. The past few months have been hard. The lockdowns, Covid-19, anxiety and insecurity have taken its toll. Matthew Kingwill has been a Scout with both 1st and 2nd Bergvliet Sea Scouts in the Western Cape. He recently turned 21 and is sharing his personal struggle with mental health with us in order to inspire and support others going through similar challenges. Thank you Matthew!

Written by Matthew Kingwill

A couple of weeks ago I celebrated my 21st birthday. While it might not have been exactly what I had always anticipated due to our current global circumstances, I still found it an incredible and emotional day. During the weeks building up to my birthday, I was overcome with anxiety and worrying about having to embrace the “new me” upon turning 21. This was until I was eventually overwhelmed with the feeling of gratefulness, not only for this new chapter of my life but also that I had experienced everything that happened to me in my prior years.

For a bit of background, I have had a long history of mental health issues that have been ongoing since I was in primary school. When I was young, I was often bullied for being different and I was confused and lost as to who I was. The fact that I contained these feelings led me to the intense depression and anxiety that I experienced for many years. As I got older and I had more hardships and difficulties, my illness got worse and I eventually started getting suicidal thoughts.

This journey accumulated in 2019, which was an especially difficult year for my family and I. In February last year, it seemed as though I had permanently lost the battle. Thankfully, due to my powerful parents and an amazing support system of friends, family, and mental health professionals – I survived.

2019 then became the year of pressing the reset button and “finding myself” and to be honest, I think I found more than I bargained for. There were so many challenges; leaving university, being hospitalized, losing people that were close to me, and experiencing abuse to mention a few, but at the end I have come out of that turbulent time with one word in the forefront of my mind: grateful.

If I could go back and change that incredibly challenging year so that it would run a bit differently, I can sincerely say that I would not. Many may be confused, but if I didn’t go through all of those extremely tough experiences, I would not be the person I am right now, and my word have I learnt to love that person for every crazy thing that he is.

Therefore, I am grateful. I am grateful for my mom, my dad, my brother, my friends, my doctors, my colleagues, and everyone else in between for their assistance in getting me through that time. I am grateful for the relationships I have gained and even more so for the ones I have lost. I am grateful that I found such an incredible job at an institution that I have always admired where I get to work with people who truly let me be me.

I am especially grateful for the family that is my Scouting community. If it were not for the constructive outlet and ever-changing world of Scouting, with its never-ending schedule of events to be a part of and ever-thumping heart, I truly do not know if I would be here. So often when I was at my lowest, it was my Scouting friends that I felt comfortable turning to, and they are the ones who helped to carry me on their shoulders to get me here.

So often we feel ashamed to ask for help or share our stories, seeing mental illness as a weakness. I am here to tell you that identifying these feelings and asking for help is one of the greatest strengths you can have. I was able to realize that I was in desperate need of help, and because of that I am now thankfully here and much stronger than ever before. Help is always there; one must just not be afraid to ask for it.

As we sit in this time of uncertainty, anxiety is to plague us and it can be hard to look at life with the same “gratefulness philosophy”. I encourage you to think of the new opportunities that await ahead – post this situation – and to also reflect on all that is around you that you are truly grateful for.

So, I am 21 now, I am scared for what is to come but I’m ready to tackle it because I am authentically me and I’m grateful for that.  It is a new time, but it’s just regular old me – and that is more than enough. To the past 21 years, thanks for everything.


You too can get help:

SA Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG):

  • 24hr Helpline 0800 456 789
  • Contact a counsellor from Mon – Sun 8am to 8pm on 011 234 4837.
  • Thinking of taking your own life, call the emergency number 0800 567 567, and talk to somebody.

Related article: here