Nicolette Writes

Professional Freelance Writer and Stay-at-Home Mom

Staying Alive: What Helps



This year I have learned my most valuable tool so far in my journey with Depression: feed the white dog. There is a folk tale where an elder is teling a child about a fight between a white and black dog. When the child wants to know who won, the elder answers: the one you feed. My therapist made me realise that my white dog was very thin and malnourished, and that my black dog was a fat and well-fed dog – because I was feeding him so much.

I took some time that day to think about what feeds my white dog. Things like drawing for the sake of therapy (and not with the end product in mind), working in the garden, creating something, writing, going to the Hospice Shop to find ‘treasures’, using my ‘devices’ (my iPad, Macbook, etc.), digging into minimalism, listening to and discovering new music (Bootstraps, Simone White, Alexi Murdoch), and so forth.

So when I feel the darkness coming, or when I am already in it, I do things from my ‘feeding the white dog list’. When I am in that space, that horrible, frightening and lead-heavy space of Depression, my go-to for surviving the day is feeding my white dog.

The most important way of feeding my white dog has been HELPING OTHERS. Looking up, away from myself, and trying to make life, even if just in the smallest way, better for others. This very morning I forced myself to get in the car and to pick up donations I have been promising to collect. And I have sent an sms to someone who might be able to direct me to another creche that needs help. These two things took so very little from me, but made me feel useful.


I try to spend time every day doing something useful for the Sibongile creche in Kayamandi, situated in a township outside Stellenbosch. It doesn’t have to be hard at all to reach out to others to help – because I promise you: I am an introvert and socially anxious and I have to take some medication if I am going to face people! But getting in touch with the REAL world and with REAL people, instead of staying in a fantasy world in my head, has made me feel so useful, and has given my life so much meaning.

It only has to be ‘small’ things: I would post on our local Facebook page that the creche has three broken windows and ask where I might get the best quotations. I would place some photos of the building and its people. Pretty soon someone would offer to help with paying, and in this particular case, a glass company offered to fix all the windows for free!

Another example: I merely posted some photos of the messy walls in the baby room, asking for donations of leftover paint, and someone whose husband is a builder, offered paint, and another company that I have worked with before, Call2Care, offered volunteers to do the painting. And nothing has involved me being extremely ‘out there’ or extroverted. I could just be myself. Quietly working for the good of others.

For such a long time, and as a stay-at-home mom, I would feel so useless, and when people asked me what I did, I would ride on my former occupation as freelance writer for magazines. But now I don’t feel like I have to say anything, because I HAVE CONFIDENCE IN WHAT I HAVE BEEN DOING. (in any case, stop asking people you meet ‘what they do for a living’, but rather substitute that question with ‘what are you passionate about?’ (something I have learned from The Minimalists Ryan Nikodeumus and Joshua Fields Millburn – this is a way more interesting question and makes so much more sense to ask!).

Reaching out to Anna and all the other ladies at the Sibongile Creche has been life-changing for them in many ways, but it has been therapy for me and LIFE-SAVING. Reaching out to the real world and helping others in a very real and raw way has been a challenge to me, but so unequaled in its healing. I just went there the first time and asked the lady to show me around – just to get an idea of what the creche might need. I started taking them simple things like paper and crayons and making them posters. Soon it all escalated into something bigger, and I didn’t have to spend much money at all. I started a Facebook page and I have been reaching out to the privileged people of our community and the help has been astonishing.

I read a quote recently that said, something along the lines of ‘you were placed on this earth, because you were going to be important to someone.’ This helps me quite a bit with hanging on, also with regards to my own children and the unconditional love and support I can give them. I have often felt that I have done nothing with my life, I haven’t become a great ice-skater, I haven’t even got an impressive job title. But I get messages of thanks from real people. I mean something to someone. I have changed lives.

More reasons to stay:

* I want to write a book one day.
*  There are still so many times my kids will cry and need me to hold them tight and tell them that I love them.
* So many tattoos I can still get! 😉




Mental Health: Towards understanding the Black Dog

chester quote


Reason to stay: Rebecca’s small lips in pouting-perfection, reaching for a kiss from mommy, for no reason other than that she truly loves me.

It might sound crazy that a sensible woman with a good portion of common sense has to think of reasons not to take her own life when she has two small kids whom she has chosen to bring into this life – two beautiful children whom she would be leaving without a primary caregiver if she commits suicide. Well, seeing it written like that, hearing it in my mind, it sounds so crass and wrong. But Depression is not pretty. It’s not appropriate and it’s not what other people would like to hear.

Depression takes you down like a dark, ferocious beast and makes you grasp at reasons to stay alive. It makes you convince yourself that your children will be fine without you. It is exactly like this quote I saw on social media: “It’s not about not wanting to live”, (suicide, that is) “it is about not wanting to feel the pain anymore.”

That is absolutely why I think people commit suicide. It’s got everything to do with not feeling the unbearable (truly) pain and fear and deadness anymore. It – the feeling of Depression – IS A FEELING OF UNBEARABLENESS. It is like when you have a really bad tummy bug and you truly feel like dying, because you cannot bear the nausea anymore.  It is that feeling of ‘I cannot bear this anymore’, but psychologically, exactly as you cannot bear some physiologically symptom anymore.

I will never understand how people can think mental health disorders are ‘made-up’ illnesses of the weak, because it just makes biological sense that if your physical organs such as your liver, kidneys, pancreas, heart and so on, can get ‘sick’ and fail you, so can your brain.

I recently read a tweet from a Linkin Park fan following the suicide of my favorite singer through my teens, twenties and thirties, Chester Bennington, that she is beginning to believe Depression is like a Cancer: you go into remission and things get better, but eventually it comes back to take you down.


Chester Bennington from Linkin Park. The only celebrity I ever adored.


That tweet, together with the death of an idol of mine, scared me literally almost straight to death. I was suddenly convinced: There was no, no way to overcome this beast. There might be moments of lightness and joy, but ultimately that dog WILL take me down. And the Lord knows I am tired of trying again and again and again.

Getting out of a Depressive Episode feels like forever and it is pure torture, scary and alone. If you do not know the black dog, you cannot imagine how it feels. And even if you have many people in your life, once you are beneath the beast’s grip, you only feel completely alone. Unfortunately, still so few people talk about this feeling that I THINK IF IT WASN’T FOR SOCIAL MEDIA, SOME OF US WOULD DIE THINKING WE ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO FEEL A PARTICULAR WAY.

We read things on social media, or we watch You-Tube videos and we hear things like Chester Bennington in one of his last interviews: “This skull – this place between my ears – it is a bad neighborhood – I should not go walking there alone.” (quoted more or less correctly). And I am like “YES! Yes – THAT!! I know, right?! He gets it!” And I look around to see if others also get it. “Did you hear that? That! That is how it feels!”

I remember one night my husband said that he and the kids were going to do a sleepover in the grandparents’ room (they were visiting at the time) and clear as daylight I heard a voice in my head saying: “No, you can’t do that! You can’t leave me by myself with my mind!”  I was so, so afraid of that bad neighbourhood. I still am.


You are not alone,


My next few entries will involve a series on mental health.



Holding on…


Wow… no idea where I am going with this post, but I just have to write something… because Chester Bennington is dead. His voice and the lyrics he sang has been a part of my life since my friend’s brother introduced me to their music at 18, and today at 34 I am still following Linkin Park and am an even bigger fan. When I was pregnant with my first child, my baby was practically listening to Linkin Park in my womb for hours a day!

I think what is the hardest for me about his death, is that because I struggle with Depression myself (not saying that that was his diagnosis, but we can assume mental health was a factor), so because I am a Depression sufferer myself, and have been for probably the last 15 years of my life, I can’t help but feel anxious, thinking: ‘If HE couldn’t make it, if HE couldn’t beat Depression, how on earth will I?” If Chester Bennington, who had ‘the world at his feet’, couldn’t handle life anymore, how will I, a ‘mere stay-at-home-mom’ who no one knows about, how will I pull through the dark times?

He seemed invincible. His whole life. The band. I can’t get myself to listen to any of my Linkin Park CDs right now, as I am not sure which emotions will show their face…

“CRAWLING in my skin, these wounds, they will not heal…” I guess they never healed for you Chaz, even after all those years you first sang that song, and after so many interviews I have seen where it seems you have overcome all your demons.

Looking forward to meeting you one day when my journey comes to an end, and until then, I’ll try to find some answers about life. I already know that pain is sometimes more than humans can take. I know that knife feeling in your heart. I know how it feels when everything in your mind is just so heavy. But there has got to be another way out.

Two different worlds – let’s bring them closer together

I would like to just have two minutes of your time as you read this:-)

This morning I went straight from my kids’ school to the creche at the Kayamandi Trauma Centre. The difference between these two spaces brought me to tears. I was just dropping off some fruit for the kids. I wrote a piece about the Trauma Centre four years ago and recently heard about the creche and wanted to go check it out to see what needs they have.

The Kayamandi Trauma Centre is right behind the Kayamandi Police Station, basically on the R44 as you exit Stellenbosch on the Kaymandi side. It is a safe house for women and children who are victims of domestic violence and abuse.

I expected that maybe the creche would need a few things, but what I saw left me in tears. I cannot explain how very little these kids have to keep them busy during the day. I was standing in the Checkers before I went, checking out some crayons, wondering if I should buy some for them, but then I thought, no, let me first go check out what their needs are. I so wish I had bought those crayons!

The kids are divided into two groups – the babies and the toddlers (about age 3-5). Four babies were sitting on the floor, crawling around or just sitting, one was sleeping on a bed – the ‘baby creche’ is basically a bed room in the Trauma Centre. No blocks or toys lying around to play with. The toddlers are in a Wendy house outside the building. I have never seen such an empty space! They have plastic tables and chairs, but other than that I spotted about three pictures on the wall.

I asked Mary, who works there, what the greatest need is at the creche. She said educational supplies. Anything educational! Crayons, puzzles, play dough, educational posters.

If there is any way you can help to bring some educational things to these children, could you please help me? Any toys or posters or crayons or books your kids don’t need anymore. Things you are throwing out. They really have close to nothing. I wish I could show you photos, but it felt too intrusive to take the camera out. And if you want to make sure if the place is legit, you can google ‘Kayamandi Trauma Centre’, I could give you a phone number, or even directions to the centre – I felt very safe, you have to walk by the front door of the police station to get there. I am also willing to drop off any donations. I think I am going to make some posters this weekend.

Hoping to hear from you xxx
You can mail me at

20170504_091117_resized. My very privileged kids at their school – enjoying a Mothers Day event with me.



Wowzers! Is that even a word?! I haven’t blogged in over a year! For so long I have thought that I have given up my writing career to be a full-time mom… but I think I am not finished yet.

Besides being a stay-at-home-mom, my laptop was also kaput and I haven’t been able to access my blog. Well, my birthday is tomorrow, and my husband got me a new MacBook Air! Can you hear me screaming?! Just to justify such an expensive gift, my previous MacBook was TEN YEARS old and the guy at the Apple Store actually laughed when I took it out 😉

So here I am. Pretty much the same Nicolette, just a little bit wiser I think. I have been in therapy for my Depression this last year, and I have learned significant coping mechanisms. At the moment, however, the black dog has got quite a solid grip on my ankle again, and the tool I am trying to whack it over the head with is MINDFULNESS.

Mindfulness seems to be all the new hype – if you are into self-help reading and minimalism and all those kind of things like I am.

Here are the two mindfulness techniques I am currently TRYING (it’s not easy) to apply to make life with the black dog bearable:

1.) Thoughts are just visitors. Last night I read this quote: “There is only one meditation – the rigorous refusal to harbor thought.” – Nisargadatta Maharaj. In other words, when my black dog thoughts come to torture my mind, I tell them, ‘Okay, here you are, I see you, and there’s the door, there you go again.’ I literally picture the thoughts coming in, and then a door opening in my mind and me letting them out. I try to NOT entertain these visitors. Here you are, there’s the door, there you go. Perhaps it sounds silly… but it does help.

2.) I try to not think about yesterday, I try to not think about tomorrow or anything I still have to do – I try to become aware of what is going on in the moment. I hear the clock ticking, I hear a car outside. I love the look of my new laptop. I see Rebecca cutting up a piece of paper. She looks cute. I become present. And I try to remain present. This is possibly the most difficult part of mindfulness for me.

So that’s that for now – this is just where I am at right now. Please share any stories of mindfulness that you want to!

Oh yes – I forgot a third mindfulness thing that I am trying:

3.) Look up. Look up from the mess going on inside your head and see where you can help. Anyone. In any small way. Email your church to find out about needs in your community. Offer to drive an old person somewhere. Buy a friend something small you know will cheer them up. Walk puppies at the shelter. Make something for someone. Buy food for someone. Look up from the mess in your head that only makes you bleed, and stop someone else’s wound from bleeding. This actually helps me the most.

Love to you all
Picture for attention 😉

My son’s dress…

The past year my husband and I have been challenged with my little boy of three years old wearing dresses. I say ‘challenged’, because even though many might say it is nothing and just a phase, we have had to face the disapproval of loved ones. Despite this disapproval, it is understandably also hard for my husband (a real farm boy!) to come to terms with, as he really wants to love and accept Alex as he is (and encourage what makes that little heart happy), but we live in a society entrenched in gender divisions of male-blue-strong and female-pink-weak.

I have turned to my Lighthouse and I have been trying to find an answer – I have been yes/no, yes/no on this matter too much. God has showed me Jesus – who was Jesus? What does the Bible show us about Jesus? Well, everything that the Word teaches me about the kind of person Jesus is just confirmed to me that there is nothing wrong with Alex wearing a dress…

Try to imagine Jesus on earth, and a little boy running up to him with the biggest biggest smile and showing him with great pride his beautiful (sister’s!) dress that he is wearing. The little boy’s eyes are so bright. His smile is so big. He wants Jesus to look at his dress and give him a smile so full of love before he will run off again and play. I can only imagine Jesus rubbing this little boy’s head and laughing with him. I cannot imagine the Jesus I have come to know in the New Testament breaking this little boy’s heart. And that is what happens when we take away Alex’s dress… his little world falls apart. I have never seen my little boy so sad, so inconsolable, as when his dress gets taken away. He doesn’t understand. And quite frankly, it doesn’t really make sense that little girls are allowed to play with whatever they like and wear whatever they want, but little boys are not.

We have decided to ‘let Alex be’ – the less fuss we make of it, the smaller the chance that he will one day feel he will have to wear dresses (or do anything he thinks we might disapprove of) in secret. And if he turns out to be a dress-wearing adult (which I doubt), he will know that his mom and dad love him unconditionally and that he can share anything with us.


Lots of love,


I’m back! I think…

Wow… I haven’t blogged in over a year… that is almost the time that Rebecca has been with us. In this year I have also stopped working for magazines and taking on any professional writing. I have made a decision – for now I am a stay-at-home-mom, and my main focus is my children, although I do plan to return to my writing and career again one day… For now, maybe I can start again slowly, blogging for my own delight!

So watch this space!



My focus at the moment!

My focus at the moment!

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