An Update From a Few of the Writers One Year On
Have you read the stories in the book, and wondered what the young people who shared their stories are up to now? We caught up with them one year one from publishing the book, and here is what some of them are doing.
As I sit in a room full of not only my new-found friends but my family, I take a step back, close my eyes and embrace the energy I feel flowing around me. Embracing the loving environment I have found myself in. This is my home, this is where I found my identity, my ‘fresh start’ as they say.
Over the time since I last wrote, the following will be what my life has consisted of until our world got the opportunity to fight through a global pandemic. Woah where do I start? 2019, multiple plans to travel the world, spend 3 months in America, to take part in the Camp America programme being able to teach youth my passion, having a potential positive impact on their life to pursue my dream to fight in Thailand. Then BOOM! The world gets their life put on hold, Covid 19 hits on a global scale, and New Zealand eradicates it back to our normal life with some precautions.
Here we all are with a new outlook on our lives. We all have taken something from this experience differently. Surprisingly, through lots of varied potential redundancies I managed to keep my job working in a restaurant with the bravest, most kind hearted kitchen team ever seen. I have seen my friends and family have their whole life turned completely upside down, it has broken people, but I have seen people use this as a stepping stone to grab the bull by its horns and keep pushing forward.
I am now spending my days teaching young kids, coaching a kids kickboxing class run out of my gym at Elite Fight Complex and working alongside underprivileged youth giving back to the people who have helped me in my journey. In doing this I have met many new faces and found new ways to share my energy and pass knowledge on to others. I have been given my fair share of hurdles these past few months as everyone has but I believe it’s all about how we approach each obstacle. A mindset can change an individual so much with just a small change.
It has been 8 years since my hospitalisation. When I think back on the enormity of it all, I become overwhelmed at the size of the journey and the amount/intensity of the pain. I still don’t think I did it justice in my submission to the book. Sometimes there are no words.
These days, I have finished my studies in psychology and have started a job working with individuals who have sexually harmed others. Many are surprised at this choice of job, but I wanted to prove (to myself) that I am strong, healthy, and ALWAYS compassionate. More so, I know the pain of sexual abuse better than many. When people told me “it would get better” I didn’t believe them for a second. But now, I have a man who loves me, a little cottage we own, a beautiful little kitten we love, and a job that means a lot to me. So I guess they were right.
I moved from Christchurch to New Plymouth due to an abusive family situation. I had to leave pretty much my whole life behind in order to escape and help myself. It’s been a long road of ups and downs but I’m slowly getting there. The past year has been one of the worst years of my life but hopefully it will get better from now on. Although there have been countless tears and arguments, my life is slowly improving and I’m creating a new one. Essentially a home away from home.
It’s a real privilege to be part of all your stories. And funny to think we are all bound together in this way. Paige and I still yak every day. I just showed her some shoes I bought. Because she knows heaps about cool shoes ... and I don’t!
Sometimes we talk about hard stuff. The past. And think about some ways to calm it down. But lots of times we just laugh and talk about shit. She checks what I’m up to. Gives me good feedback on my writing. Helps me to track down some young people I might have lost somewhere in town. And is very, very kind to me. She treats me like I’m part of her whānau and that is really special to me. Her capacity to love is huge. I duck sometimes when I say the wrong thing... but she’s great at keeping me honest when I nag. I love her heaps. And I’m really lucky to have her in my life. Both of us send out a massive hug to you guys from us.
Post my story I moved out of home, moved to a new city, and started a completely new job. I've since worked with people experiencing the same hardships who have thanked me with some even saying I saved their lives (unsure how true that is).
Now I am back home working in paediatrics, and so working with people who have also experienced trauma and stigma. I have even worked with some of the same staff who looked after me years ago when I was in hospital.
I love my job, and my life, and honestly would not have been able to do it without everyone and everything I have been through. And even though I still have dark days they are always filled with a purpose and a reason to get up in the morning, to keep fighting and remind others to do the same. I have now started working as a preceptor mentoring student nurses and new nurses and hope to complete my post graduate study in mental health.
I have been really well recently. In about November/December last year (2019) I went into remission for the second time in my life. I’ve been having check-up scans and have decided to do a trial chemotherapy, in order to keep the cancer away, which I am able to take at home and it does not generally affect my daily life. My scans have been all clear so far, although there is still a tumour in my jaw, it is no longer cancerous and I plan to keep it that way.
I continued to write my thesis on sexuality education and intimate partner violence prevention. I saved up and bought an apartment on my own (which I didn't think would ever happen and has been a huge step in regaining my independence fully since the relationship experience that I had) and I have taken on a new role as a National Manager, supporting those facilitating the healthy relationships programme in schools.
A lot of exciting developments, and I truly think the power of hope comes into that. By having hope after what I went through, I envisioned a life free of violence for others and have integrated that into everything I do in my studies, work and personal relationships. So thank you for giving us all hope with this book.
Wow! I can't believe it's almost been a year already! So much has happened since writing that story. I remember re-reading it about a million times before I pressed send and yet looking back I would still rewrite some parts of it. Not change the content, just change some sentences and all that, forever editing - isn't that what writing's about? Haha.
Since the story I have been discharged from all therapy, graduated from college (even getting some awards/acknowledgements of work I did), found a dream and pursued it, started studying youth work and development which includes a practical placement, and very excitingly turned 18! Something I never thought I would do two years ago.
I've met so many amazing people and gone on some crazy fun adventures. I'm still learning more about myself everyday, and I think I will for the rest of my life. If I was to add anything to my story it would be that contrary to what I was told, complete and full recovery is possible. We don't have to be stuck with a diagnosis forever, and it may take time and for me personally it has taken God, but I no longer have any of the many names given to the issues I was facing. Oh boy does it feel GRAND!
I now have good days and bad days like everyone else and they are usually very balanced. To be completely honest the whole Covid-19 lockdown thing shook me up a bit. I was afraid that being stuck in one place with not much to do would lead me back to old patterns, but it hasn't. It's definitely been harder though.
One of the things I have discovered about myself over the past year is that I am actually an extravert! So it's been interesting, and I have found myself using the coping mechanisms I learned in therapy to cope sometimes which has been really good, especially considering how little I wanted to learn them at the time.
Motivation has been hard, but I'm learning to be more kind to myself in that area. I've taken the pressure off myself for feeling like I have to 'do' something with this time and have instead been focusing on looking at the good coming out of this, and growing myself more...and binge watching Netflix with my dogs, haha!
So yeah, that's me. Crazy how quickly things can change! Takua tātau kia aroha noa - Let us love freely. Nga mihi xx
If you haven't yet read this wonderful book, you can purchase it here:
Been There – Young People’s Stories of Struggle and Hope