Things you learn on this journey called life


In the past four and a bit years I’ve learnt so much about life. You might wonder why four? Well, four years ago my son was born.

I went from being a relatively carefree 29-year-old to become an instant mom in about 45 minutes. Matthew has been my greatest teacher in life – he’s showed me how to love and how to feel emotion again.

Mango juice in a jar.

A photo posted by Wilma den Hartigh (@painted_heart_diaries) on Jun 13, 2015 at 12:52am PDT

But there are also a few other truths I’ve picked up along the way:

  1. Do what you love and follow your heart. Always.
  2. Don’t let the noise of the world drown out your inner voice.
  3. Listen to your inner voice. It is always right.
  4. Trust your journey. People might not get it, but that’s okay. It’s not theirs.
  5. Be happy with less. There is freedom in simplicity.
  6. When things get rough, remember how far you’ve come.
  7. Stay close to the things that make you feel alive.
  8. There is unbelievable freedom in not caring what people think about you.
  9. Be badass. Don’t wear boring clothes. Surround yourself with people who get you.

It’s okay – just be sad


I just love this. I’m realising how important it is to give myself permission to feel what I feel and just “sit” with my emotions. It takes at long as it takes…you don’t owe anyone a performance.

“It’s okay to be sad. You don’t owe anyone a performance of being okay when you feel like you’re falling apart. It isn’t your job to smile or hide your truth to make other people feel more comfortable. If it gets awkward, let it be awkward.

If people try to silence your pain by telling you to get over it and cheer up because you’re no longer fun or you’re ruining the mood, you don’t have to push away your sadness. You have to honor your feelings and trust that you don’t need anyone’s permission or approval to feel what you feel. You don’t ever have to sacrifice your self care for the sake of people who only want you around when it’s easy and comfortable.

Their discomfort isn’t about you — it’s about them and their own limitations, and no matter what they think or say, you deserve to give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you feel. You’re allowed to show your feelings honestly. You’re allowed to talk about your pain and reach out for support. You’re allowed to scream and wail and cry. You’re allowed to be sad.”

—Daniell Koepke

Opportunity that comes with depression


opportunity that comes with depression


This is a perfect description of what of my life is like living with depression. It is something I have to manage all the time, but it isn’t all bad. In fact I’m experiencing some of the most beautiful times of my life right now. I feel connected. I know who I am. I am healing. And when I feel pain and uncertainty and fear – and this happens very often – that’s okay. I allow myself to go there and experience it. I’m learning amazing things about myself. I appreciate my life and the opportunity to have another go at it. ❤

Capturing life


I’ve decided to share a couple of my photographs with you today. I love photography and I’m always seeing a photo in everything. What I like about photographs is that they capture a piece of my soul. Photographs are there to remind us of the things we forget. When I made this selection I was reminded how beautiful life is and what a privilege it is to be alive and experience life.

Birth certificates show that you were born. Death certificates show that you died. Photographs show that you really lived.

My son Matthew always plays along ;-) This was taking in December last year on a road trip through the Karoo. We were in a small town called Hanover in the Northern Cape. Beautiful place.

My son Matthew always plays along 😉 This was taking in December last year on a road trip through the Karoo. We were in a small town called Hanover in the Northern Cape. Beautiful place.

Blue house, Hanover, Northern Cape, South Africa

Blue house, Hanover, Northern Cape, South Africa

Father and son <3

Father and son ❤

Spectacular Drakensberg, South Africa, in summer

Spectacular Drakensberg, South Africa, in summer

Central Drakensberg weekend getaway at a magical little place called The Ponds

Central Drakensberg weekend getaway at a magical little place called The Ponds

Matthew and mom :-)

Matthew and mom 🙂

Drakensberg, South Africa

Drakensberg, South Africa

Flying ants and summer evenings



Karoo door, Hanover, Northern Cape - South Africa.  I too

Karoo door, Hanover, Northern Cape – South Africa.
I took this photo last year December on a road trip through the Karoo. I love doors. To me they symbolise closure, the possibility of new beginnings, expectation and safety. I think something I’m learning is to not be too hasty to close the door on grief. I have to properly grieve what I’ve lost in my life – the absence of a proper childhood, a mother and a father. I have to mourn what I never had. I’m not going to close the door on this too quickly – I have to grieve so I can find constructive ways to move forward and build a life filled with happy memories. 

One of the things I like to write about is memory. I have a handful of beautiful memories from my childhood that I hold on too so tightly – my childhood years were filled with so much trauma and fear and that’s why the good memories are so important to me. One of earliest good memories – I must have been about 6 or 7 years old – is of catching flying ants under a lamp pole in the street with my nanny, Rosina. Random I suppose, but it was such are carefree and happy moment.

It was a hot balmy evening and we walked down to the lamp pole at the corner of the street. Rosina held my hand and told me I mustn’t walk in the middle of the road. I was wearing shorts, a t-shirt and slops. She showed me how to catch the flying ants that were attracted to the light. I was jumping up towards them, grabbed them in my hand, and stuffed them in a plastic container.

We were out there for a long time. I was concentrating on my task but I was also listening to Rosina talking to her friends who were also catching ants. I didn’t understand what they were saying. They were speaking sotho.

I remember feeling free and child-like that evening. I was having fun.

Then we went back to the house, removed the wings and fried the ants in butter (I know, sounds quite hectic now that I think of it). In traditional African culture it is a common practice to fry flying ants in butter – it is very nutritious and tasty.

Decades later I don’t really know why this is such a prominent memory. I read something that said memories are the architecture of our identity – and I think there’s truth in that. Some days the bad memories still knock me down and this is why the good ones are so precious to me. I have beautiful memories of Rosina. She tried her best to shelter me from my parents when they were fighting – I remember she would always take me to her room and I would lie on her bed and watch TV. I would stay there for hours. She was a safe refuge.


The road to recovery – it isn’t about the easy days



Source: Interesting Engineering

Source: Interesting Engineering

Doesn’t the road to recovery from depression, anxiety and PTSD feel like this sometimes? What I know is that “recovery” isn’t a place you can get to. It is a journey and sometimes there will be really big potholes in the road. What’s really important is to trust the process. I read about this concept all the time – it must be the universe trying to tell me something ;-). Allow life to unfold. The late Jeff Buckley says “life has its own rhythm and you cannot impose your own structure on it – you have to listen what it tells you.”

I saw this the other day and I think it is true:

Anyone can do recovery on a good day. Recovery isn’t about the easy days. Recovery is fighting through the worst days and coming out the other side. You’ve worked incredibly hard to get there. Don’t throw it all away. Keep pushing through.

Listen to your heart


Cheerio Farm, Magoebaskloof, Limpopo – South Africa

Everyday, try to find time to sit in complete and total silence with yourself. Dig down deep to the centre of your soul and listen to your heart. Find your inner voice and it is there you will find true peace. – Melanie Koulouris

This has been a very difficult week. Overwhelming actually. But what I continuously try and remind myself is that just because I’m struggling doesn’t mean I’m failing – although it feels like that now. This week I’ve been thinking about lots of things, but a quote from a book I read recently, The Fault in our Stars by John Green has been with me the whole week. One of the main characters, Augustus Waters says “that’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.” And I think that’s true for me right now.

I don’t think anything in life goes away until it teaches us what we need to know. I don’t think I’ve ever had to deal with anything more difficult than my own soul, but I’m not going to rush this process. The answers always come. The soul always knows what it needs to heal itself.