‘I closed my eyes and swallowed over 30 pills’- Gospel star on her attempted suicide

2018-08-10 17:39
 
Nosiviwe Bottoman Mabona. (Photo: Supplied)

Johannesburg - Hers wasn’t an easy childhood. “You’re worthless,” she was told, and even as a child she would wonder what she’d done to be born into a life of poverty.

Growing up in the township of Mdantsane in East London, gospel singer Nosiviwe BottomanMabona was often mocked by neighbours – for being poor and for being the child of a single mother.

But it was her mother’s love that helped Nosiviwe hold her head up high, and it was her mom, Nonceba Bhongoza-Bottoman, who set her daughter on the path that would lead to her success as a gospel singer. The 40-year-old says her new album, Uyafumaneka (He can be found), tells a rags-to-riches tale of a young woman overcoming depression and learning to love herself.

 IN THE BEGINNING

“My mother was asthmatic and sickly and I don’t remember her ever working,” says Nosiviwe. Yet despite her mom’s challenges, Nonceba’s faith and love kept her daughter going. Nosiviwe was enrolled in Sunday school as a young girl, and there her love for music blossomed. She joined the Sunday school choir and she’d occasionally be asked to be the lead singer at church concerts and events. Despite these accomplishments, she was often told by her peers she was “worthless” because her family was poor.

“I don’t know how my mom managed to keep us alive, because at times we’d go to sleep without food, wake up, then go to school without food. But when I came back from school she’d managed to make a plan for us. We’d take it one day at a time,” she says. Throughout their struggles Nonceba was always hopeful their lives would improve.

CHORAL CALLING

“It was at Sunday school I discovered my singing voice, and from there I joined a children’s singing group called Jesus Kids,” the singer recalls. She adds the group’s music was professionally recorded and played on local Eastern Cape radio stations. In 1994 Nonceba started a choir group for adults at her church and a children’s choir, which Nosiviwe joined.

“We’d travel and sing at churches and family gatherings. I joined many choral groups and felt like I was in demand,” she recalls. But that young girl never imagined she’d be a recording artist one day.

HERE'S A VIDEO OF THE SINGER PERFORMING LIVE:

THE HARD ROAD

Through all her struggles Nosiviwe was always close to her mom, and when Nonceba was killed in a car crash in 1997 the singer was shattered. Nosiviwe and her firstborn, Yonela, were also in the car but emerged from the crash without serious injuries.

“Luckily my child survived the accident with only a few scratches, but my mother’s death put me in a very dark place. I suffered depression and I couldn’t cope with the loss.” Not long after her mother’s death Nosiviwe, then 21, fell in love for the first time and was soon married. “I had no idea what love was, except for the love my mother gave me. I expected the same kind of love when I got married,” she says.

She prefers not to name her husband but reflecting on the early days of her marriage, she says she now realises she was craving her mother’s love. “In my marriage I behaved like a child instead of a wife because I was lost. I didn’t understand what being loved by a man meant. “I wanted to be loved the same way my mother loved me and that was impossible.”

ROCK BOTTOM

Married life was hard for her, she says, so hard that in 2015 she wanted to end it all and attempted to take her own life. While her children were sleeping, Nosiviwe prayed for forgiveness for what she was about to do. “Then I closed my eyes and swallowed over 30 pills. I tried to fall asleep but I couldn’t. I spent the whole night tossing and turning until I decided to drive myself to the hospital. God gave me a second chance,” Nosiviwe says. 

NEW BEGINNING

She embraced her second chance at life and went for counselling. Her experience inspired her to compose the song Uyafumaneka and many others on her second album, which was released in February this year.

“I found solace in music. It was my place of escape and I felt connected to God through song. Every song I wrote on the album is about me, my struggles, my happy times and being grateful.” Before she became a recording artist Nosiviwe was involved in music projects in the Eastern Cape and traveled across the province to give motivational talks and to perform. Her first album was recorded in 2013 after she was signed by ECAVC Records when she was spotted at a concert, and the singer has worked with the likes of Nobathembu Mabeka, Joyous Celebration, Dumi Mkokstad and many others.

THE ROAD AHEAD

With the release of the new album, Nosiviwe says she’s healing and is in the process of learning to balance motherhood, music ministry and being a wife. “I’m learning a lot about myself and I’ve realised my calling is to heal people through music and by telling my story.

“My husband and I are learning to work together. I’m here to help my husband and I rely on God for foresight and insight.” Last year Nosiviwe was nominated for two Mzansi Christian awards for her Uyafumaneka single – best songwriter and best newcomer – which she says she “never expected, because all I wanted to do was to share my story”.

“I have no education but my children, Yonela (23), Luthando (19) and Yolanda (13), are keeping me strong because I know I want to give them what I never had.”

Do you need help?

For a suicidal emergency call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group on 0800 567 567. Their 24-hour helpline is 0800 12 13 14.

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