The Unbearable Pain of Being


Anli Schuin

20 February 1968 – 13 November 2003

On 13th November 2018 we will mark the 15th anniversary of the night Anli, our daughter, sister, mother, aunt and sister-in-law, ended her own life and changed all our lives for ever. This collection of poems and diary extracts, lovingly and thoughtfully curated by Anli’s sister, Marianne, is a way for us to remember her life and death, and to reflect on the impact she has had on all of us.

Re-visiting these poems has of course been a very painful process, opening old wounds and bringing back many painful memories. However, we also feel that publishing this book of poems is the next step in a re-membering of Anli’s life. It keeps her and her influence alive in our lives. It reminds us of the lessons her life and suffering taught us, and it reminds us of the lessons she has left us in her death. We are reminded to feel grateful for one another’s love, for stability and health, and for friendships and communities of love and care around us. We are reminded to appreciate time together and the preciousness of life, both in the special and the ordinary moments. We are newly and repeatedly invited into a commitment to living with kindness, with tenderness to the vulnerabilities of life, those of others and our own, and with acceptance and openness to others, those who are like us, and especially those who are different. Too often those who are deemed ‘different’, because of how they look or act, their struggles, their poverty, their skin colour, their sexuality, their faith, etcetera, are thought of as not ‘right’, not ‘good’, ‘less than’, and therefore are judged, rejected and stigmatised. Anli’s life and death shockingly and finally remind us all of the incredible pain caused by such messages that one does not belong. Everyone deserves to feel that they are good enough and that they belong. Maybe these poems will be an invitation to kindness, an invitation to see no ‘us’ and ’them’, but only ‘us’.

Our sadness about Anli’s death never leaves us, and we miss her every day, much more so on these anniversary days. With this book we hope that her influence in our lives and the lives of others will continue.

Lizette Nolte

A word form the publishers

Anli was born on 20 February 1968 in Bellville, Western Cape. She grew up in Kimberley where she matriculated in 1986. She obtained her BA-degree at the Free State University majoring in English and Zulu.

After completing her studies, she worked as librarian at the Bloemfontein Library where she met her husband, James. They later settled in Ficksburg where their daughter René was born.

In 1998 she and James separated and she moved back to Bloemfontein with René. After a short stay in Cape Town she returned to Bloemfontein where she successfully completed a course at the Bloemfontein Hotel School.

She worked as chef at a house restaurant for a while. During this time she attempted her first suicide by cutting her wrists. Shortly afterwards the restaurant closed down and she set up her own stall at the flea market at the Bloemfontein Loch Logan Waterfront. During this time she attempted a second time to take her own life by swallowing a large number of over the counter sleeping pills.

To help her cope with her psychological pain she started using Marijuana and was arrested and fined for possession. In her diary she emphasised that she never used any stronger drugs, “always only Marijuana” she wrote.

After her third attempt to end her life by again cutting her wrists, she was admitted to hospital. In hospital she was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and transferred to the psychiatric hospital for treatment. There she was diagnosed with severe depression for which she was treated. After her discharge she had regular follow-up sessions at the hospital where she received ongoing treatment and was provided with anti-depressant medication.

During the night of 13 November 2003 the pain of being however became unbearable for her and she decided to end it all by swallowing a lethal overdose of anti-depressants which she had hoarded over time.

While she suffered deeply, her life was also more than this suffering. She read widely, loved music and movies and had a dry and infectious sense of humour. She was politically aware, was deeply moved by inequality and had a deep awareness of and sympathy for others’ suffering. Her love for her daughter, René, was the focal point of her life.

To commemorate the 15th year of her passing, we have decided to publish a collection of her poems and verse. We also include a number of extracts from a diary that she kept which we believe will supplement her verse and poems. We hope that by publishing these, it may give readers an insight into the desperation, loneliness and pain that people suffering deep distress, with labels such as personality disorder and severe depression, experience and which eventually can lead to a tragic self-destructive act. These poems are a powerful reminder of the pain caused by feeling excluded and that one does not belong.

If you are experiencing your own distress and are feeling vulnerable, please note that reading these poems might trigger difficult emotions. We hope that you will prioritize taking good care of yourself and maybe read the publication at a time you feel on a more secure footing. Please remember that there is always help available – do talk about how you are feeling with someone you trust or with your GP if you find it hard to manage on your own.