Angel: Ankarien’s Story

Ankarien Oelofse holding Zoe.

Ankarien Oelofse holding Zoe.

Every week Ankarien Oelofse and her small team of volunteers take care of 20 needy families. The soft-spoken CEO of Table View Angels assists these families with everything from food and clothes to haircuts, doctors’ visits, computer classes and funerals. A mother hen in top gear, you might say. But for years Ankarien was in dire need herself.

She pushes up the sleeve of her jersey to reveal a collection of scars on the inside of her wrists, other scars loop over the bridge of her nose and cheekbones. They are the scars of her battle with bipolar disorder, abuse and addiction. It’s a battle she has overcome and has just shared with the listeners of OneFM940.

“My problematic years lasted from when I was 21 until I was 35. I’m 40 now. I’m bipolar. For me, being bipolar consists of more lows than highs. I was diagnosed when I was 30. I had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals up till then. Alcohol also played a part. I went overseas at the age of 23 and became an alcoholic. I drank so much that I had to drink vodka in the morning in order to wake up.

I did stupid things
In Yorkshire I went home with a guy who raped me, and I did not report this to the police. I had an affair with a druggie who pushed me down a staircase.” She points out the scars looping like lacework over the bridge of her nose and cheekbones. “I broke my nose and cheekbones and my shoulder. He took me to hospital. Afterwards, I did not go back to him, and so I lost everything I had.

I was not thinking straight and so I landed on the street
For three months I slept under pieces of cardboard on the streets of London while I waited for my face to heal and for the bruises to subside. During this time the other street people bought me liquor.

My parents were fine. But even at that stage I was too proud to call my mom and to let her know what my situation was.” Ankarien found another job, at a pub as fate would have it, and again tried to commit suicide. She pulls up the sleeve of her fluffy white jersey and shows the scars on the inside of her arms. They are long, fine lines. “I had heard that it (vertical cuts) is the quickest way to commit suicide. I also cut myself on my leg. I tried to commit suicide by drinking pills and liquor. I went into a forest to do so, and the next moment the police were there!”

After another bloody suicide attempt Ankarien’s mother got to hear of her plight and bought her an aeroplane ticket home.

Coming back to South Africa did not end Ankarien’s troubles
After being in and out of homes Ankarien was diagnosed as bipolar. She says reflectively, “And I thought this is who and what I am. I cried and I slept.” The situation continued until she joined the AA 13 years ago. That was a milestone, and four years ago there was another milestone when the psychiatrist at Valkenburg took her off her anti-psychotic medication. “My mind cleared up and I started to lose weight,” Ankarien says. “I lost 35 kg in three months. I had been drugged on medication for years. I’m still on medication but my bipolar disorder is under control.”

Two years ago Ankarien’s real life started
“I woke up on the night of 14 September, 2014 knowing that I had heard God say, ‘Table View Angels.’ I just sat up in bed and took my phone and created the group. I believe God took me on this journey so that I would be able to help other people. When I went through a difficult time in London there was no-one for me and I do not want the same thing to happen to other people. I want people with mental illnesses like mine to know that it is not the end of the world. You do not have to spend years lying in bed. If you’re depressed, go to a doctor.

I recently went to church and I asked out loud, which is something I don’t enjoy doing: ‘I want to know if Table View Angels is my mission?’ A woman answered, “I want to tell you God says: ‘I am well pleased.’”

Ankarien looks at me with a look that says, ‘And that’s my story. Finis!’ She bends down and picks up the little Yorkie that’s been sniffing around her feet. “Smile for the camera, Zoe!” A woman approaches our table with three bags of clothing, a donation prompted by her hearing Ankarien’s talk on OneFM940 earlier this morning. It’s been another successful outreach.

Table View Angels is a registered non-profit organisation. It helps people from Boundary Road in Milnerton to Melkbosstrand. You can contact them on 0714075445 or 0834128009 or



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