Welcome to MENTAL

A collection of stories ON mental health experiences

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“Have you ever experienced that deep, tight feeling of not being able to breathe?”

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There’s always a light within the darkness. journey of freedom from a life filled with anxiety and depression.

Have you ever experienced that deep, tight feeling of not being able to breathe? Where you lay in your bed awake for hours, staring at the ceiling, walls, your hands? You toss and turn, throwing the blanket over your face. You curl up into a foetal position to feel secure, wide awake, as immerse yourself into deep thoughts. Questions about life and your mere existence. You debate what your life truly means. You wonder who truly cares about you, and who is just using you. You wonder who wants to see you fail - because there are only few who want to see you succeed.

You worry because you have a million of things to do but you barely have the energy to feed yourself. You put others first as you see them as more worthy than yourself. You want to express how you feel to others but you know that nobody will understand you. You want to be happy and you put a fake smile to hide away the  pain that you feel inside. You feel insecure because you worry that people will find out about how you feel and use it against you.

When you let people in, you already know when they will leave. Because your mind has convinced you that you cannot truly commit to somebody as you do not value yourself. Your insecurities become so unbearable that you push away anyone who matters to you. Then you realise you are alone, so you begin to cry and hide away from all the pain. This is what it is like living with anxiety and this is what I have experienced for 25 years of my life.

I believe it starts back in my childhood. I remember growing up in a broken home. My parents were alcoholics and often left me alone. I remembered my mother going on two-day binges while my father worked. When she came back is when the abuse would happen. She would scream at me telling me how much she hated me and wished she had an abortion. She would constantly break toys that I loved as a way to control what I was feeling. I remembered one time when I was six years old and she lost control, she woke me up after leaving me alone while she went to the pub to drink. She came back home extremely intoxicated and started breaking every toy in my room. She was full of rage and hate, that she went into the kitchen and picked up a hammer, walked towards my fish tank and smashed it. All I remember from that night is that incident and when the police had shown up. She pulled me out of the room into the lounge and convinced the police that I had a tantrum.

The police had just taken down what she had said and left without a follow-up. However I knew the truth. The next day I went to school with no lunch and lack of sleep. My poor concentration affected my ability to learn and health problems began to follow.  I spent the next 10 years going in and out of the hospital with asthma attacks, ear aches and eating disorders. My health issues were probably brought on by constant worry and fear from my mother. When she would go out, I would worry about who was going to care for me or if she was going to come home. I would always stay awake wondering why my mother didn’t love me. That’s when I developed thoughts of killing myself at an early age.

I do not have many photos of me growing up and the photos of me from the ages of 6-15 are quite sad to look at. Some photos looking anorexic and others chubby. My weight would fluctuate depending on the events that were happening during that time. Most of the time I am not smiling. If I am smiling, I have a crooked grin. If you look closely into my eyes, you can see a girl begging for help. Things started to change when I went to an alternative high school. My grades were not the best but I had a way to manipulate my teachers into passing me. When I reflect back now, it was a horrible trait that I had developed. That is when I found a group of people that had similar upbringings as I did. So at the age of 16 was the last time I put up with my mother’s verbal abuse. It got so bad that she chased me around the house threatening to kill me. I will always remember that night, as I left my home with nothing but the clothes on my back.  

Then from there, I spent almost six years battling with drugs and alcohol. I used drugs and alcohol to mask the pain and escape reality. I remember being immersed in the thought of escaping and being lost with Kurt Cobain. I listened to Nirvana’s ’“You know you’re right” and wondering when it would be my time to end it all. During my adolescent time, I started to lose many friends to suicide, meth or drunk driving. I was just waiting for my time, which came close when I had almost overdosed from a three-day binge. It was then that colleagues from work told me - “you are beautiful and young but you are killing yourself”. I listened to them and left my boyfriend to go overseas and travel. After travelling for years, I spent the next eight years recovering, I found someone and had children. However, similar to J.K. Rowling’s failed marriage, I was in a similar situation as her and had to start my life from scratch.  

Since being back in New Zealand as a single mother, I have had my fair share of ups and downs. My anxiety does affect my work/life balance and I worry constantly about whether or not I am doing a good job. I developed a fear of letting anyone come close to me in case they were just going to leave me. Therefore any man that would enter my life, I would doubt their loyalty and commitment. However, I am okay for not being able to settle with anyone. I have learnt that it would take someone special and extremely understanding to impact my life. I do not want anyone to feel that they have to walk on eggshells or feel that they have to reassure me that they love me.  

Due to growing up with an alcoholic mother, I have decided to never drink around my children. I commit a lot to my children and show them a lot of love. I try to never put them down and constantly tell them how proud I am of them. I have tried to build a relationship with my mother but I know I cannot let her control me anymore. I laugh at her negativity and respond to her with positive and kind words. Even though she doesn’t say she loves me, I tell her that I love her. I may never get an apology from her, but I am okay with that.  

What I have learnt from my experiences is that life gets better when you can be at peace with your past. What has helped me with anxiety and depression is running through the forest and reconnecting myself with nature. When I feel overwhelmed by all the anxiety, I just put on happy upbeat music and dance, dance, dance. I also commit a lot of time helping out in the community and giving back. I feel good knowing that I can help those who need help but are afraid to ask - whether that is supporting the elderly, teaching migrants or charity work. Another thing that has helped me is acceptance.  I can accept my flaws; I know I am not perfect and I am always finding ways to improve myself.

I know that my life is not all about me now and that my children are the ones I need to fight for in this life. I know that under all this rough surface, with my crooked grin and droopy eyes, I am a diamond. When I lay awake for hours during the night and the next day my body just wants to sleep, I know that I have two angels to provide for and they need to have the best life that I can provide them with.  

“It taught me a form of empathy I am so proud to have now, and it teaches me more every day.

“Mental health and wellbeing is multidimensional and is reflected by a healthy society, community, whānau, community, spirit, body, heart and environment.”