Trigger warning: Includes mentions of abuse, suicidal thoughts, alcohol
During the first semester of 2020, remote learning forced the Tuākana Arts programme online. In order to continue fostering a sense of community (without kanohi ki te kanohi), Tuākana established a Facebook page, where they began to reach out to teina through videos, photos and personal stories. Much of these online interactions focused on overall hauroa, ensuring that teina had a hub to talk about and give space to their wellbeing. During remote learning, many of the hardships that teina were already facing were exacerbated. Levi Turner, a Tuākana mentor, saw an opportunity to collate and share some stories about facing and overcoming hardships with teina. He explains,
“The aim of the exercise from my point of view was to collect stories from everyday people who have gone through a trial that someone else might be able to relate to and share it with our teina in the hopes that they might see that they aren’t alone in their struggles. I notice a lot all over campus that a lot of students feel lonely, are anxious, depressed, hopeless and don’t know where to turn. I did this initiative this way to shine a light in a way, and hopefully students will get something from someone else’s story and perhaps even share their own.”
Back in 2014-2015 I wasn’t doing well: I failed classes multiple times, lost my scholarship, had my first real bad breakup, members of my family passed away, and I had been in some dark and abusive situations. I couldn’t tell my family I was failing uni, they were so proud of me being there in the first place. I didn’t want to admit I was failing when people saw me as smart. I didn’t want to burden my friends with my personal issues. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone so I pretended everything was fine. Then my academic standing got so low I was told to leave uni for a year before attempting classes again. I didn’t know where to go from there and I couldn’t hide it.
So I left for a year. I worked where I could to support my family, I saw the doctor and started medication and counselling. It took time to realize the expectations I placed on myself weren’t helpful, that I needed to be truthful to the people I love so they could support me and in turn I could support them. I needed to find a way to remove myself from people and situations which caused me harm, and with the help of professionals I did.
A year came and went. I was able to start uni again, only part-time for one semester to improve my standing. I threw myself into it and for once admitted to people I needed help where I could. I surrounded myself with people who also were focused on getting through their classes.
After four semesters, I was able to graduate. I am now in postgrad study and have found an area which excites me. I am better mentally and have developed strategies and a community to help me when things get rough again.
Sometimes I think back to those years, and I am thankful for the lessons I learnt, and where I am now.
It might take a while and it might not be the way you planned it, but you can get there. You will get there.
A few months ago my partner & I split up. That’s it in short. What made this a monumental change in my life is that we had been together for 12 years. He left me due to me cheating on him. What made this a mental health challenge for me is the guilt that plagued me for the days, weeks & then months to come. At the time of my partner walking away I felt empty. Battered. Undeserving. Unworthy. I felt ugly. Ungrateful. These are just a few words to describe the overwhelming dark feelings I harboured since it happened. Guilt over ran me. It still does.
So to give you a bit of background: Most of my adult life has been, in my humble opinion, relatively successful. Having worked for a large bank for close to 10 years, owning a home at 19 then building our second home at 25 my life has been largely built around ambition & goal setting. I haven’t faced a lot of upset or down turn in my 31 years of existence. I haven’t really suffered any mental health issues in my life. I had always thought people who suffered them had genuine reason and I didn’t think a break up, no matter how huge it was, would render the start of some fairly dark & life changing thoughts. If I was left alone I started to overthink things, I started to wonder if people would care if I was alive or dead. I used to beat myself up for thinking so dramatically and that it was selfish of me to think this way. But I didn’t know how to stop it. I had to give myself a strict routine to adhere to so I didn’t fall off the wagon. I stopped drinking for a while in case alcohol triggered dark thoughts that I would severely regret in the morning. I lost a lot of weight, weight I didn’t have to lose. I felt stressed a lot. It dawned on me that breakups can be a lot harder on people than I originally thought. I count myself lucky we didn’t have kids involved and I take my hat off to men and women that manage on throughout life with kids involved.
I’ll give it to you raw. For about a month I woke up every day wanting to kill myself. All I did was the bare minimum to get me through my days. I didn’t make any extra effort because I didn’t see the point. I was fortunate enough to have some friends that still loved me. My strong contingent of friends are the backbone of me being able to write you this today. I was plagued by financial difficulty for the first time in my life. I was plagued by guilt every second of every day & I was plagued by thoughts I didn’t think I could change. One day, I thought to myself; this isn’t me. I am not this person. Someone said to me, I did a horrible thing but I’m not a horrible person.
I decided to start changing my thoughts. Remembering some of my successes which were driven by ambition to do well in life but instead I changed to do just….doing life. I didn’t have to be the best at it. I decided to take responsibility for my actions instead of feeling sorry for myself. This story isn’t one where I suffered a mental illness as such, I don’t really know what it is. But I feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel if you can change your chain of thoughts. It’s a lot easier said than done. I’m 4 months on and still struggling. I guess I just value life a lot more now. I had to wake up and feel optimistic, not the opposite. I decided that for everything bad there was at least one good thing. I decided that I couldn’t dwell on past mistakes but I had to play the cards I’ve now been dealt. My cards are still pretty shit haha but I’m learning to be patient. I know good things are on the horizon, I just need to stay positive. Live every day. Be thankful for what I have. All the cliché things people tell me. I hope this has helped? I haven’t told anyone this and I really hope that it will make a difference to someone who may be in a difficult place. I believe in the power of the mind and heart. Suicide is not something I take lightly now. And I would like to help people in any way that could be struggling in any capacity. It can really get you down if you let it. Know that you’re never alone.