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Te Reo Māori Gave Me Hope: A 17 Year Olds Journey

This is one of the 25 stories from a book written by young people throughout NZ, entitled “Been There – Young People’s Stories of Struggle and Hope”. This book can be ordered from

Growing up, I always had one parent with me. From since I can remember, my dad missed all my birthdays as he was on deployment. My mum was always there for me. Even if I was a pain and trust me, I was a pain after my parents split when I was 10. To say I felt pretty alone every day is an understatement as all my friends moved away as they too had parents in the military. I had no one in the most important point in my life that far.

After they split, I didn’t know what to do with all the emotions I had. I couldn’t tell my mum. She had her own problems. She worked nights just so I could go to school, have 3 meals a day and have a roof over my head. I couldn’t tell my dad. He was in Australia, and it didn’t feel right to talk about these serious feelings over the phone. I couldn’t tell my friends as I didn’t have many and the ones did have continually made fun of emotions when I brought it up.

So pretty quickly, I was on a downward spiral, to depression at the age of 12, and a binge eating disorder at the same age. This is extremely young and since I didn’t know how to deal with everything, it all just added up. By 13 I was sneaking food into my room, eating it within 20 minutes and then being sick over and over again as that was the only way I could distract my brain from the constant bad thoughts of “you’re not good enough … no one loves you … why are you even alive … you’re disgusting.” Pretty soon my brain was working against me, and I was on the winding, terrible path to social anxiety, panic attacks and suicide.

Since I never told anyone about all my feelings and problems, I had to rely on myself to get me through my tough times. I used to have an anxiety attack every time someone new would come to the house. I used to lock myself in my room, so I didn’t show my mum and sister how I wasn’t coping with all the pressure of Year 8 and going to high school, and how I wasn’t the easiest person to make friends with.

I soon developed into an introvert and relied on the constant company of music to make sure I didn’t go to a place that I couldn’t return from. I tried many times to end all the suffering, just so I didn’t have to feel bad anymore, but I kept thinking, “who would look after my sister? What would this decision do to mum?” and so I walked myself down from that cliff many times. I knew it wasn’t the best decision, but at the time it was the only one that I felt would take away the pain. I knew that those thoughts were just my mind working against me and so I dug myself into the middle of the one thing I remembered that gave me the one thing I was starved from, happiness.

It was Māori culture I surrounded myself in, so I didn’t feel so bad. Because of that I discovered how Māori culture is all about love, about appreciation and whānau. The only time I really felt happy was when I was in class, with my whaea learning Te Reo Māori. It gave me comfort and strength in my time of need. It gave me something to focus my negative energy from within on and pretty soon I wasn’t just one panic attack away from suicide.

During high school, my matua gave me hope, he gave me something to focus on. He didn’t know that he was helping me in the way he was, but he was the only reason that I was showing up to school every day, as the language gave me hope. It allowed me to be

myself, even if it was only for one hour a day.

After 2 years of Māori at school, I no longer had my panic and anxiety attacks and I had made a group of friends who would do anything for me.

Māori gave me hope. Māori gave me my life back after I had closed myself off.

I should have asked for help, but in my own way I found the way back to the light and now I might have my down days, but I have more days that I am glad to be here. If there was one thing that I would do differently, I would ask for help as it is not a show of weakness. It is a sign of strength.

To ask someone for help is one of the most powerful things someone can do.


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