At the age of 20 most girls are stressing about university, planning their big 21st party, or making the most of their somewhat fleeting youth. However for Whaiora Patrick, it was the beginning of a long journey that threatened to take her life many times. This is her story.
It was in 2014 that Whaiora received the diagnosis of dysthymia, otherwise known as persistent depressive disorder. Dysthymia holds the same qualities and effects as depression but with ‘less severe and longer lasting symptoms’, so is the less diagnosed yet just as deadly sister of depression. For many people that are diagnosed with dysthymia it is something that the sufferer does not feel is worthy to talk about, so consequently a lot of the time dysthymia is undiagnosed for many years. The way that Whaiora describes her dysthymia is as a storm; It blew into her life with no warning and attempted to destroy everything in its path. The goal of finding the cause of this storm lead to self blame, which further lead to guilt and hatred towards herself, and ultimately closing herself off from her loved ones was enough to cause Whaiora to feel utterly broken inside. This illness and guilt ate away at her, controlling her life, her mind and her spirit, so much so that she attempted to take her life four times within a year of her diagnosis. But as Whaiora stated, it is like a storm. “Storms never last forever. They eventually pass through. In other words, those demons of mine eventually [left].”
Something that many people struggle with when faced with a mental illness is to discover an alternative and healthy way to cope with the emotional turmoil that is going on inside their heads. If you’re still in the grips of any kind of mental illness, or if you are currently recovering, Whaiora has given some advice about ways to cope and her Top Tips when faced with a bad day. Her top coping strategy when she’s having a bad day is to breathe, to write and to find a way to release her feelings in a non self-destructive way. “I find writing my feelings down helps me to figure things out properly. I find it hard to talk, so instead, writing is how I express myself. I learnt that bottling things up is no good, and I hate keeping things inside my head because they tend to build up and eventually they explode. So, before it even gets to that stage, I write.”
"When giving up seemed easier to do, any type of advice felt like a blur. However, I know that if someone who had been to rock bottom and survived told me to keep going in those dark times, I may have paused for a second and listened. You may not realise it right now, but I can guarantee you that life does get easier over time. With a vision in mind, you’ll feel more motivated to carry on living. You DO have a purpose to fulfil, and as each day goes by, you’ll figure out how to achieve that purpose.”
In the four years that have followed Whaiora’s initial diagnosis, she has accomplished and overcome so many things. 2018 is her last year studying at Massey University. By the end of this year Whaiora will have achieved a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies and will continue to chase her dreams in film making and screen writing, both of which are a passion for her. Whaiora is filled with passion for many things; she is hoping to use her skills and experiences to help others, starting with potentially organising a HopeWalk within her community this year. She says “It may be beneficial for people to talk more about the issue of suicide in our country. It’s something that sort of gets pushed under the carpet, and I want to challenge that.” As with most people in their early 20s, Whaiora's plans for her future are mostly in the drafting stage but I think that something that is truly beautiful is that she is able to experience that feeling of having so many options and of being able to choose any path that she wants for herself in the future.
Another amazing thing that Whaiora has achieved since 2014 is motherhood. She discovered she was pregnant in 2016 and says that “I finally felt nothing but happiness. She’s brightened up my world and without her I would feel completely lost. When people say that they’ve been privileged enough to have someone in their life save them, I couldn’t agree more. Zahvina’s presence has changed my entire perception of life. She saved me.” Her daughter appears to be the sunshine after the storm that Whaiora faced, and her presence in Whaiora’s life is so bright that it keeps even the darkest demons at bay.
This is Whaiora’s story. Read it, absorb it, draw strength and knowledge from the words of someone that has hit and recovered from the rock bottom that you may be at.