An Open Discussion: Dealing with Mental and Physical Health with Te kura students Nick and Aimee. By Ella Long

An Open Discussion: Dealing with Mental and Physical Health with Te kura students Nick and Aimee. By Ella Long
Photo by Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

Ella: So I will be asking you some questions about your physical and mental health and what it is like living with them and how you cope with it. I will also be gathering advice for other people that are struggling with the same things.

Nick, what is having chronic fatigue like?

Nick: It’s pretty tiring. It’s pretty awful. It’s just a sort of constant tiredness that ever goes away and really affects everything, and makes everything slightly more difficult. A lot more difficult than it would be for just a normal person.

Ella: yeah that sounds pretty awful.

Aimee, what would you say your most physical challenge would be?

Aimee: Probably learning to live with chronic pain 24/7 and nausea as well most often.

Ella: How hard was it for you to not know what you were dealing with in terms of your physical and mental health? And do you have a better understanding now?

Aimee: When I didn’t know I was definitely, probably the most depressed I have ever been because not knowing what is going on with your body, when it’s affecting you to the degree that you can’t get out of bed and you can’t function like you normally do, it is quite detrimental.You just don’t really feel like you have control anymore, like you body kinda takes over. So like learning about the cause of that, learning how to I guess control that, or how to help reduce that has kind of given my life back. So that’s quite nice now.  

Ella: Can both of you speak a little bit about your journey with your physical and mental health, even though Aimee just spoke a little bit about hers. Like when did you find out you had what you have and when did you start your journey with getting better or making things a little bit better?

Nick: I guess I’ve had it for quite a few years now. When I first got it, I didn’t actually know what it was, no one knew. I went to so many different doctors but they kind of just shrugged their shoulders and blamed it on something else. It took me years, multiple, until I actually got a diagnosis and I saw someone who actually knew something about it. Even then, with the diagnosis, no one actually knows what it is and it’s still getting worse over time. But I guess over time I’ve learnt to kind of work around it and deal with it somewhat. It’s just getting difficult, very difficult, but I’m getting better at it I guess.

Ella: Yeah that must be really hard. Aimee?

Aimee: Well, because it’s from something bad that happened to me, and then learning about the connection your brain has with trauma into your body was quite weird, especially because when looking back at staying at the hospital and what was happening to my body, it all clicked and made sense.

I was quite young, I think I was almost 14 when my body started bloating to the point that I looked pregnant, and I even had a few teachers ask me If I was, which is quite humiliating because you're not! You know you're not but you know that people can see that. I’ve never been comfortable with sharing when I’m struggling with other people, so trying to balance that and balancing the vomiting and trying to make sure that know one finds out that I am being sick and running out of class to throw up, I don’t want anyone to see that. It was quite hard and suddenly with the vomiting stopping. It continued for like a year, and I lost almost 10kg. I had to go see dieticians and they put me on weird bars to help me gain weight. It was just really strange watching how you work when you are fine and how you can change really quickly. And learning to have coping mechanisms is probably the easiest way to deal with it.

Ella: Yeah that’s a good answer.

What do you think would be your biggest challenge in your life right now?

Nick: I guess the biggest challenge would be the fact that it doesn’t exactly get better, it’s still worsening over time. I’m still going to have to keep dealing with it and still come up with new improved ways to mess with my life.

Ella: Yeah understandable. Hopefully it will start to get a little bit better over time.

Aimee: Probably just processing everything that happened to me and accepting that it happened and I can’t change that, as much as I would like to. I guess also seeing people in my that I admired a lot for who they really are, If that makes sense. It’s really relevant to me because of what happened, but I guess just accepting that they’re not good people for me to be around and trying not to let them into my life as much as I would is quite difficult because I’m quite a people pleaser, most of the time.

Ella: What are some of the things that you have learnt to help you, not just overcome because I know that with physical illnesses that you can’t just snap your fingers and they go away, as well as mental illnesses. Like are there any coping mechanisms, I know you touched on this Aimee, that you do to help yourself?

Nick: I guess there isn’t really any solution that helps but I guess the only thing that really does help is just accepting that you will have more limitations, won’t do as well as others, and I guess it helps to not be too hard on yourself for something that you can’t change.

Ella: Yeah that’s a good piece of advice.

Aimee: I found, well I will talk a little bit about Christianity because that’s what worked for me, I kind of cling onto Jeremiah 29:11 where it talks about God has a plan for you and he’ll keep you safe and that kind of thing. That kind of helped me get through what I did because I didn’t think that I had a future anymore, so like yeah that just kind of helped me move forward and know that physically it might not get better, but I can at least try to get better mentally and have my faith to lean on in that sense and reminding myself that I’ve been through so much worse and I’m in a better place now so I feel like I can get through what I’m going through now, because I’ve overcome other things. So kind of reminding myself of that is quite helpful.

Ella: Yeah

Is there anyone in your life or on anything like social media that you look up to who have gone through the same or similar things? It could be books, celebrities or even random people.

Nick: I guess there aren't really any role models but the only thing I really look at is people I know that are also going through stuff and I see them surviving it, so I just do the same.

Ella: Yeah that can be quite helpful I think. Aimee?

Aimee: Taylor Swift! Because she’s gone through a lot of similar things to me, in terms of having an eating disorder and other things that she goes into. At the time, when I watched her documentary I’ve never really heard many people talk as openly as she did and I found quite a lot of validation for my own experiences through what she was talking about, which made me feel a lot closer to her, and so yeah I do find her inspirational and she’s still producing music for everyone and still being herself and not trying to be someone she’s not, It’s quite nice. And friends as well, definitely.

Ella: Yeah that’s good!

What’s something that you have learnt? Like what advice would you give to other people who are going through the same or similar things?

Aimee: You need to open up to people more, and just accept help from people and know that not everyone is out to get you! You can lean on your friends, trusted ones, like obviously don’t go around telling everyone things that are personal to you. Even if you have a few friends that you trust enough to share about what you’re going through, that can be really helpful. I didn’t share much with any of my friends, which actually made my life harder. I shared it with the wrong friends, which also made my life really hard. So, just finding the right people to have in your life and trusting them enough to be open with what you’ve been through is really good to have because then you don’t feel as alone or stuck.

Ella: Yeah that’s great advice.

Nick: When dealing with more of the physical, I guess it can apply to mental issues, it’s ok to do things half-way when doing the full job seems impossible. Doing something is better than nothing. Say if you’ve gotten an assessment and you just don’t have the energy to do the whole thing, at least completing a couple of questions is better than just giving up and not handing it in at all.

Ella: Yes that’s very good advice!

Well, thank you both for letting me interview you!