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My healing journey had started a few months before, but it was in the middle of the Karoo that I found myself

I’d often heard about AfrikaBurn, a seven-day event held in April, where a barren desert spot is transformed into a bustling culture hub, with up to 10 000 attendees performing and creating art and music. There’s no Internet- or cellphone reception, and no shops, so you bring everything you need for the week with you.

A few months before last year’s festival,

I bought two tickets, and invited a friend to come with me. We drove down over three days, and as we approached the entrance to AfrikaBurn, it felt like discovering an oasis in the desert. The atmosphere was incredible. There’s always someone performing or creating art, and giant wooden sculptures made by festival-goers adorn the desert landscape. People wear beautiful and eccentric costumes, and live in themed camps. There’s no need for money. The festival encourages gifting as a way of recognising how much you truly have to give, and of connecting with others. Some people made pizzas, others gave an experience through their artwork, and I gave hugs. I must have hugged 100 people, which I hope helped them as much as it helped me!

At night, huge wooden artworks are set alight as a symbol of letting go. One night, I watched as a huge sculpture of wooden branches went up in flames. I picked up a burning stick lying nearby, and visualised it as a symbol of the pain and heartache I’d been through over the past few years, before I threw it into the fire to burn. It was a profound moment. As the sculpture changed and contorted with the flames, I felt myself changing from within.

I went to AfrikaBurn to reconnect with myself, and months on, I still think back on it in amazement. I learnt acceptance and confidence there, which have been catalysts for moving on in other areas of my life. Since then, I’ve had wonderful career opportunities, I’m happier, and I feel like myself again, only better -a result of seven life-changing days that healing is about acceptance, forgiveness, letting go, and moving on.

Author Marion McGilvary writes movingly about the feelings and events that led her to spend New Year in a psychiatric ward – and what’s happened since

On New Year’s Eve two years ago, I wasn’t making a list of new resolutions that I would break before Twelfth Night. I was sitting on a couch talking to a psychiatric nurse, my knees pulled to my chest, asking him if I would ever get back from the hellhole I’d fallen into. He assured me I would. I didn’t believe him.

By April, my Facebook profile picture still featured a festive lounge, decorated with hand-printed stockings, one for each of my four grown-up children, my partner, and not forgetting the cats.

But what do you post for your online acquaintances when your status is broken ? Do you keep that information for the locum GP you manage to see the day after Boxing Day, who tells you to stop crying because you’re embarrassing both him and yourself as he writes out a prescription for antidepressants and tells you that God will help ?

God may have been guiding his prescribing hand, but he wasn’t doing much for me, and actually, the doctor’s diagnosis was wrong: I wasn’t embarrassed. I’d left that emotion far behind with everything else that was normal about me on Christmas Day when, just as I put the roast into the oven, the vague sense of foreboding that had been stalking me for weeks, enveloped me and brought me to my knees.

From the woman who put up the tree, bought the gifts, made the stupid stockings, got up on Christmas Eve and made two fruit cakes and an entire Alpine village out of chocolate cake, and who, at 11am on Christmas morning, was calmly reading a book in the lounge,

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