Welcome to MENTAL

A collection of stories ON mental health experiences

lady for side.jpg

“I was crafty with my trouble making.”

On the 3rd of November 1984 I came into this world three months early. There was no emergency incubators at the hospital I was born in, so I was whisked away from Auckland to Hamilton, and wasn’t held by my parents for a week after I was born.

After this rude welcome to the world, once I had started to grow and started doing all the things I was meant to do I came home on Christmas Eve 1984. My early years were largely unremarkable other than becoming the eldest sibling to two younger brothers.

My class year at school was a large group so had been split into two. In Year 6 we all came together for the first time. It was this year that would change my life - taint my view of myself, my relationships with other people and my family. I spent the year being bullied, called names, taunted. I was asked to play with the other kids then laughed at when I joined in. My Mum tried talking to some of the other kids’ parents and the school. By the end of the year it had calmed down a bit, but the damage was done.

In intermediate my behavioural problems became evident. I was given my first after school detention within the first month; this went on to become a pattern throughout my intermediate and college years. I had no self-esteem. I had worked out that by acting up I was getting attention. It didn’t help that new teachers would instantly call me out, when I didn’t even know their names. I would start to act out in those classes.

My school had a policy that so many lunchtime detentions meant an after school. If you had more than two after schools in a term then you would get stood down. I was crafty with my trouble making; I never got that third after school detention so my parents were never brought in to discuss my behavior. You name it, I did it: wagged school, swore at teachers, graffiti, started smoking when I was 14, lied to everyone I knew, made up stories that obviously weren’t real. Some of my teachers relied on this reputation however, and a few got me in extra trouble -  giving me 0’s for assignments then telling the Dean that I hadn’t done the homework and had forged their comments and signatures on the assignments, which made my behaviour worse.

When I was in Year 12 my best friend changed schools. Thinking back on it she was the one person at the time that I felt like I could be myself with. Her new school involved over an hour and a half of travel each way, so our promises to stay in touch easily fell by the wayside. I think I had been suffering from depression for some years before she left school but that was the trigger for my self-confidence to plummet. My feelings of isolation resurfaced and I began the inevitable descent into my first encounter with real Depression.

I was 16 when I first self-harmed. I have no recollection of why I started or where I got the idea from, I certainly wasn’t exposed to any negative pop-culture of the time (I was a Catholic schoolgirl after all). I first used a pen knife a friend had given me as a gift. Then I was pulling apart razors, breaking glasses, burning myself with lighters… anything to make myself feel physical pain.  

During the holidays between Year 12 and 13, my extended family was doing a walk around the Pinnacles in Martinborough. I found myself on top of a cliff and climbed over the barrier. I held on and leaned out looking down (I’m terrified of heights). I’m not sure how long I stood there but I had the strangest feeling of calm. Then I heard voices and footsteps and I came out of my trance and climbed back over. I still remember all the feelings I had that day.

The first time I heard the term ‘Depression’ I was in Year 13. I had burst into tears in a class after an argument with my Mum that morning. A teacher found me and took me to the school counselor who called my mum in and told her I was depressed but that was all that happened. My parents didn’t know how to help me and the school counselor never called me back into her office, or offered me any support at all.

With the stress of Bursary looming my self-harming became worse. I lived in long shirts and I recall one time wearing a long sleeved thermal under my short sleeved shirt and I had taken off my jumper and left it in my locker. A teacher made me go into the supply closet to take off my thermal and give it to her as it wasn’t part of the uniform. I had no way of hiding my arms. She saw them, looked me in the eye, didn’t say anything - just took my thermal and left. I recall wearing those long sleeve shirts until the end of the year because of the state of my arms. But as summer got closer and I knew I wouldn’t be able to hide the cuts I moved onto my upper thighs and stomach. I’m now 32 and the scars are still on my legs from this time.

By some miracle I managed to get my 3 C passes I needed to get into University. My first few years at University passed in a blur of drinking to excess, being carried out of parties by friends, even worse risk-taking than I was doing earlier. I mad bad judgments with boyfriends (one manufactured P, one was a car thief… you get the idea). While during this time I had stopped self-harming, I was abusing my body any every way I could. I couldn’t go out unless I was drunk. My friends recall me as a quiet, reserved, shy person but the truth was I didn’t feel like I belonged and I couldn’t bring myself to fully participate in their lives, or mine.

When I was 21 something inside me changed. I knew that if I didn’t get help that I wouldn’t make 22. I had already tried the free counseling service at Auckland University but didn’t ‘gel’ with any of the counselors there. I told my best friend first that I really needed help and with her and my mum we went and talked to my GP who put me on Fluoxetine.

I kept telling the people I was closest to that I wasn’t coping, I wasn’t well and I was seriously scared of my thoughts. It took me being hospitalised before I got to sit down with a therapist and a psychiatrist. I was lucky - my mum was a medical receptionist at a private counseling/psychiatry practice so I was able to go there for help at a discounted rate. I went to counseling every week, sometimes twice a week, for two years.

I tried countless different medications and was on a cocktail of sleeping pills, antipsychotics and antidepressants. The worst times I remember was when they changed my medication and I had to withdraw from one before I could start taking another. Eventually I found one that didn’t make me feel like a zombie – Effexor – and I was on that until I was 25. During this time I put my flatmates through hell; they had to ring ambulances for me three times, the fourth time I had moved back to my parents and took a 30-something pack of Nurofen, 24 Panadol and my sedatives. That was the last time I went to hospital in an ambulance.

I credit my change in mindframe to music, my best friend and the people at the time who stood by me. Vikki, Katrina, Daniel, Jackie – you are angels that saved my life. Also thinking back on it now, I truly believe I didn’t want to die, I just wanted the pain I was feeling to end.

While I was living at my parents the Red Hot Chili Peppers came to NZ. I paid over $500 for two tickets for me and my youngest brother to go. It was there, amongst 15,000 screaming people, that I felt happy and alive for the first time since I was probably 8 or 9 years old. I got a tattoo for that experience: it’s a Fantail with ‘Carpe Diem’ on it. The fantail represents new life.

Music had always been a big part of my life and was always the one constant that made me feel better when nothing else did. When I was starting to function again and had gone back to University and work part-time, it was announced that Linkin Park was coming to NZ. Linkin Park was the band I listened to when I was 16 and first self-harming. I bought and cut up their first two CDs at least twice.

My life changed again at that 2007 concert. I was given a flyer for an after-party at Oblivion bar and went along. I went back the next week with my friend Megan and we saw our first NZ Metal gig there – with Upraw, who became the first band I managed. At Oblivion I met so many musicians and amazing people. None of them expected me to be anyone else than who I was. They accepted my baggage and my scars, which were still very visible then. Oblivion quickly became my home away from home.

In 2008 there was a meeting for a group that has now closed, called the Heavy Metal and Hard Rock Society. I went along and at one point they were calling for people to become officers. I put my hand up for the Youth Coordinator Role and was backed by two people ( I still don’t know who they were). Those first few events were some of the best times of my life and I knew that I needed to pursue those positive feelings. So I applied and was accepted for the Music Event and Artist Management Course at MAINZ. In 2009 I started the course that would cement my love for live Music Events and working with bands whose music stirs positive emotions inside me. It was also at MAINZ that I started receiving Merits for exams and assignments for the first time of my life, instead of just scraping through or failing like I had done before. Education suddenly became fun. I also made friends that I consider family. While admittedly it was a year of partying and binge drinking, for the first time in my life I wasn’t drinking to escape or to fit in -  those friends I made then became my first music family and also taught me that it’s not just Heavy Metal Music that makes me happy.

Fast forward seven years and I am a company director and have toured with many local and international bands all over New Zealand. I’ve also been to Australia twice with different bands I managed. There is nothing more that I love than seeing a punter with a giant grin on their face watching the band I’ve paid to be on stage.

Life since Depression hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Between 2009 and 2012 I buried three friends in their 20’s and three grandparents. In 2015 I felt myself starting to slip again after suffering many crippling anxiety attacks (one while I was running a gig). I went back to counseling where I was diagnosed with PTSD. I now haven’t had a panic attack for over a year and I don’t remember the last time I had a suicidal thought. Recovery is a very long process and will likely be a lifelong one - but I know that with music in my life I will be able to keep fighting Depression.

The support group that I now have in my life has grown from those four people who initially saved my life to include people from all over New Zealand. The musicians whose music saved my life are now some of my closest friends, so close I call them my fam. I know I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for music. There are still people in my life who want me to ‘grow up and get a real job’. I hope by them reading this they will finally understand why I can’t do that. Music for me is more than just something you put on when you are bored or sad or happy. Music saved my life and I am going to continue to follow that light, wherever it may lead me.

To everyone out there suffering from the blackness that is Depression, there is a way through it. Music was my saviour and I have managed to follow the light that music brought into my life and turn it into a career. I believe that everyone has this one ‘light’ in their life, it could be a pet, a friend, a sibling or something as ethereal as music. The magic is finding the strength to hold on to it hard enough, along with the hope that you can come out the other side. I’ve never been happier in my life. I’m 32 and still muddling along with life but there hasn’t been one time since I started following music that I’ve regretted asking for help. Battling your own mind is one of the scariest human experiences in existence. It’s something that not everyone understands or experiences but know that you are not alone. You will be happy again. It is truly something that I wish everyone to experience. Hold on, it does get better and the light does come and it will eliminate darkness.

 


If the content on this website is distressing or triggering, or, if you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, we have provided in contact details below for you to speak with a professional. If you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call the police immediately on 111.

• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor (available 24/7)
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
•WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757

“Sleep became something of a rarity. I was too scared to let it take me.”

“My advice to those suffering: be open, in some way, whether it be through talking or touching someone/something, feeling fresh air or sun, or splash water on your face….”