Depression is real – that’s the message former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s daughter Wenzile wants to spread.

Wenzile recently took to Facebook to post a heartfelt piece about the mental health disorder that’s haunted her since she was a teenager.

The 26-year-old writes that she grew up in church, was always surrounded by religious figures and attended a Christian school.

But little did people know that behind her smile and “surrendering knees” lay a lot of anguish.

“From Grade 7 I remember being plagued by dark thoughts of suicide which lead to self-mutilation,” she writes.

“Days in the house varied from laughter and dance to others of hunger, angst and seemingly endless trials.”

Depression continued to follow her through high school and her time at the University of Pretoria, where she enrolled to study psychology in 2010, a year before her mom was appointed South Africa’s public protector.

“I had little knowledge of the fear, grief, loneliness and isolation this change in our lives would bring,” Wenzile says.

“I turned to perpetual partying and anything that would fill the silence within. Smoking and drinking was never a stranger to my day-to-day.”

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She dropped out of university and got involved in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship, “which I stayed in as if to shelter myself from isolation which this new world in the public eye brought”.  

She finally escaped the relationship after two years and three suicide attempts, she adds.

“I went home to begin anew.”

That’s when she decided to study law and met the man who’s now her husband, Khulekile Msimanga.

“During this time God seemed near at times of joy but distant in tribulation,” Wenzile writes. “My family faced death threats, were victim to lies and propaganda.”

She says that’s when her “old friend depression reared its head again”. This time she found solace in marijuana.

“It made me feel good and distant from the realities of the harsh world.”

In 2015, she made headlines when she joined the Economic Freedom Fighters and was elected secretary of the organisation at the University of Pretoria. She immersed herself in social justice.

“The more my heart was embedded to my party the more injustice I experienced – workers who might as well have been paid peanuts and students living in the shadows of the night on campus because they had no home.”

She says she had no idea how fighting injustice on campus had continued to affect her. “I wanted to be strong but I was so broken.”

But Wenzile says she never stopped praying, no matter what came her way. “Even when I didn’t believe my prayers, I prayed and God heard me.”

She’s still on a journey of healing.

Wenzile is grateful to God for her man who “treats her like a queen”, their new-born child and the strength to be able to speak about depression.

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“Today I’m still pursuing my studies in law and taking things one day at a time.”

She firmly believes it’s God’s love and grace that have brought her this far. “His love and grace perfect the imperfections in my life.”

In an exclusive interview with YOU in 2015 she said being the daughter of a public figure came with certain pressures.

“There’s that thing that my mom is a lawyer and a public figure, so ‘What are you going to do and how are you going to shine?’ ”

Thuli told the publication her fear was that her daughter would unintentionally put too much pressure on herself.

“I just try to make sure she knows she doesn’t have to shine to please me,” Thuli added. “She just needs to live her life the best way she knows how.”