HOST: Please be aware that the content in this podcast may be unsettling for some listeners. It discusses mental health challenges and contains references to depression. If this story brings anything up for you, please talk to someone you trust. You can also free call or text 1737 to connect with a trained counselor day or night.
Kia ora, welcome to hear me see me a chance to hear young New Zealanders share their experiences, speak their minds, and maybe even change yours. I'd like to introduce you to Jacko, whose passion for surfing and connection with nature helped him better understand his mental health and what he can do day to day to support his well being.
JACKO: What Agoraphobia is, there's many types, but for me, I have thing that's called conical Agoraphobia. And it's a fear of wide open spaces, which commonly comes with like feeling like the earth is like a dome, and like enclosing you, and it's sort of like, the way it's always felt for me is that feeling when you look at a tall building, or like you look down, right, and you feel like you're falling through the earth, and that there's no middle ground between myself anything else or the atmosphere. And that it kind of just feels like I have some sort of, if not spiritual, physical ties with everything else in the universe. That's kind of what I get when I look at anything.
So basically, I grew up just as an only child, with my two parents. My first memory was me walking through holding my dad's hand in the train station, looking up at the big ceiling and getting this weird image. Sort of like quite kaleidoscopic, like the roof of the train station, just sort of falling down and spiraling down on me, but also my consciousness expanding. My dad has sort of been surfing since he was about my age. So when I was born, I guess he got me into that. I love everything to do with water. It's nice, and like always therapeutic. And it's something I like to be around. I, I was probably about five or six and I got diagnosed with anxiety and OCD. My first experience with anxiety was probably mainly the Agoraphobia and separation anxiety, which has basically affected me from doing anything.
For like months on end, I wouldn't go to school because I couldn't like leave my parents side and stuff. Also, just general anxiety about everything, food getting poisoned, getting diseases, anything that has the potential to ignite fear within someone for me, it's just enhanced and amplified to the point where it can affect my day to day life. In order to prevent the things that I was scared about with my anxiety, say, if I was scared that I was going to contract some sort of disease, I would combat that by rearranging everything. That whole, like perfectionistic OCD thing where you just have to keep rearranging, but the thing with OCD is that you can never reach the summit.
My whole childhood until I was like 10 was growing up around my cousins. They're older than me, and I admired them a lot, you know what I mean? I sort of viewed them with a halo around their head, and like, my cousins side of the family had this quiet sort of, you know, it's like, it is ingrained in New Zealand culture of sort of that whole, like, masculinity and just like, you know, get up you'll be right. There was a quite traditional nature that I was surrounded by. And I guess the problem was that whenever I say something that you know, like, my cousin will just be like, Oh, he's such an only child, you know, like, grow up mate and stuff like that. It's just constantly been like this kid of spoiled, you know, this kid gets whatever he wants. But real talk to what was going on in my mind, I was genuinely in pain crying out for help as much as I possibly could. My dad always showed great empathy and would always sort of, you know, contradict their viewpoints and help me out. But everyone just never really understood that. Giving someone like true emotional recognition at a young age is important. No matter how old you are, an emotion is separate from something like intellect.
When I was five, having bad panic attacks, quite depressed, not being able to articulate it. But that doesn't take away from the intensity of it. Emotions don't necessarily have an age. It's important to value the severity of emotions as the same. I guess because of that it created this massive disparity in what parts of myself I let out and what part of myself I don't. That disparity between myself and society, and just school and everything just got so much larger, because I just felt so disconnected. And I guess that whole thing with like being spoiled and stuff, because I didn't know any better. And I didn't even know what I was going through. I thought I was spoiled. I would have these expansive episodes of panic that my brain couldn't even comprehend at the time. So it translated into this physical feeling of me needing to get out of every situation I was in. Basically, every time I left the house, when I was younger, I would just burst into tears and begged my dad to go home. I'd never actually gone over to someone's house for more than hour without having to just come home. I felt so disconnected from everything else and I look at everyone else in my life and just be so amazed, they could live in absolute harmony with the simple things that I could never even do. I feel like social media has had a big impact on my mental health, I understand that a lot of people on social media are providing a false image of themselves. At the end of the day, like those are the people who I'm associating with, it just makes life seem so much more separated, as it sends me deeper into a hole of not knowing what to do, because I feel like everyone's trapped. But in reality, it's so easy to get sucked into that. And that when you're pulling yourself out of the earth in terms of sort of social media or anything superficial or some sort of other extension of consciousness, whether that be engrossing yourself in materialism, you involve yourself in anything like that, that's just going to be detrimental.
So it was at 13, I had the big turning point for my bad anxiety. One day I was surfing and a fin hit me in the head, I got a bruised, nerve. And what it did is it sent out false signals to the rest of my body. And that's when everything started crumbling down. The way it makes me perceive the world is sort of like a grid like view of a blueprint. And each individual corner or change of lighting, I can feel it in my brain. The way I combat that is I'd like punch my inner thigh, really, really, really hard. About six months after I hit the nerve, I got my first really bad panic attack. Like I've had them all through my childhood and stuff but this was my first out of body experience. And basically I started like falling through the earth, I just like collapsed. And then basically, I lost complete touch with reality, felt like I was looking at myself in complete third person. So this was about a two year process where I was trapped in this notion of complete, like depersonalization. And I couldn't recognize anyone. The worst part of that was that I couldn't recognize my parents. Everything was beyond comprehension.
Like, the way I sort of best describe it is that, you're in a really, really bad nightmare, but you actually don't wake up from it. When my friends would try and talk to me about it just kind of felt like white noise, when you're in that state, you can't really interpret anything. And like for ages, each one of my friendships just every time I saw them, it was just a therapy lesson, but nothing came out of it. It was so so so hard to talk about, because no one would ever really understand it, so I stopped talking about it. I generally just cannot describe how terrible the experience was, I didn't understand what was going on. I just felt like a completely broken human being. This mindset went on chronically. And at this point of time, I stopped surfing, because everything was way too visually complex, I would look at a tree and my brain would malfunction and I would just get sent into a panic attack. You know, I'd try to talk to people and people would be like, Oh, yeah no, like trees are pretty like crazy like it's kind of weird how they actually look like that. Because it's natural human reaction to when someone says something, your mind instantly goes, it scans your whole mind. It's like what have I experienced like that, the most similar thing that you might have experienced to what you think that persons saying you'll let out and be like, oh I get you. But at the end of the day, you're not really getting anywhere. My mental health was never actually validated and identified as that big of an issue.
I was experiencing it constantly, I would just have to hide away and create my own narratives around it, to justify to myself to actually validate myself to actually admit to myself that it was bad. Because I guess the thing is, that's very hard right is that with my mental health especially is really rare. And the Agoraphobia, and the depersonalization types that I had were really rare. The problem is, you know, when I've had like depression and general anxiety in the past there's a lot, a lot of facilities to go into, to get help. But for this one, no one understood it just because of how obscure it was in compared to normal struggles.
Co-ed school really helped sort of open the floodgates for me to sort of become more self expressful. And that's where I became a lot more aware of like the dynamics of my emotions and how I work. The whole education system doesn't quite cater for mental health and how much of a disadvantage it is. School was absolutely unbearable. The teachers were on that sort of wavelength of not quite understanding what was going on. But with my mental health, I'm going to have to go home a lot and come back. That whole culture around school was that oh like if you go you can't come back. It's hard because there are a lot of other people out there that experience the same struggle. And I guess the pressure on academic success is so unconsciously circulated around our opinion on education, because mental health is silenced to a degree in the community. When you go into that system, you feel alienated from the rest of society because it has been silenced so much. It all comes down to the teachers and everyone involved in those sort of systems understanding that the way you think about mental health doesn't have to be black and white. You need to have some baseline experience to educate people around mental health. Like even to start off like some sort of 30 minute briefing on mental health to teachers to make them understand The current situation with teen mental health would do so much.
At the end of the day, like what anyone wants when they're experiencing bad mental health is just comfort like, they'd rather have a hug and a cuddle and just say that they're there for them and need anything, instead of trying to fix their issue. Instead of just trying to be the persons psychologist, just kind of listen and just acknowledge that that is really, really tough. From there, you can work together with that person to find the best thing to help them. That's the good thing about having a balance with a friend as well, you want to help your friend get help by professionals, and you want to talk to your friend because they're your friend and you care about them. It's really important to have a foundation of friends which understand and know what's going on, and they're there for you.
But also, you can just coexist with to try and live more of a normal life. I mean, I'm still coming out of it, but I have like experienced a lot of layers of mental health like all throughout my life. And it's always something that is gonna be there to a degree, I still can't look up at the sky, I have panic attacks. And the thing that's hard is that people talk to me longer about a breakup thann my mental health. And the difference in how it affects me is insane. The one thing I did learn about mental health was if I get this much of exercise eat this much good food and drink this much water, I'll come back feeling a bit better putting that routine in is gonna make me feel better. There are no boundaries, or limits on what can do that as long as it has some sort of relation to the earth, going for a surf experiencing the water, temperature change, physical exercise, is the only thing in my life that can make me feel alive.
When I first started surfing to try and get myself better, my perspective on reconstructing my mental mindset with surfing was that one day I was gonna go out there and I was gonna get enlightened straightaway. But what you realize is that every time you paddle out, persevere through a bit, you notice that it just gets better and better. And that's why I knew that that is a form of therapy. A good routine that I do is before I go out for a surf, I meditate for a bit. And then once you're in that state, it's really, really good to identify the situation logically, I'm going out for a surf, I'm paddling out into the water, and I'm gonna go ride this wave, and then just go out, accepting the fact that it might be bad. When you do that, when you have that mindset, you're opening yourself up for change to occur, when you close yourself off, it's never really going to help you. So I guess it's working on curing with a slow process rather than hoping for an immediate fix. I don't know what people necessarily think of it. But this is what I truly think, I might be loopy. But if everyone actually listened to what I just said, and took it in, they might be able to change their life. It's not about knowing the facts, it's about actually taking them in and applying them. Now when I go surfing, I can feel good. And when it is good it is what drives me through the week to make me feel better. The muscle did take a long time to build but you can eventually get to a point where for me, I can go surfing. The thing is that anyone can change the way they are feeling.
But it comes down to how we think about change. Because it can take a while and there are always going to be spurts in your life where you experience that. But I think people need to be open to talk about stuff because what they won't realize is that there are people out there that feel the same thing. I still don't quite know how I overcame what I went through. And I still can't do a lot of stuff. But just like for me like I think of overcoming as just being where I am. Like I generally feel that with my whole heart if I could do that I think anyone can do anything.
HOST: I really respect Jacko's ideals of having to take breaks from things like social media, and instead going out and doing something you love like surfing or connecting with nature, which helps you greatly understand your mental health and just day to day makes you feel better in yourself and support your well being. I also think it's vital what he mentioned about emotions not having any age and that whatever age you are, the feeling you have is valid and you should speak up about it because so often people look down on emotions of younger ages and see them as less when really it's something we need to stop doing to address this issue of mental health in our country.
If Jacko's story has brought anything up for you, please talk to someone you trust. You can also free call or text 1737 to connect with a trained counselor day or night. Hear me see me is a safe place for young New Zealanders to share their stories. please encourage others to listen to them. If you or anyone you know would like to share a story, please email email@example.com or search Hear Me See Me NZ on Facebook, Instagram or Tik Tok and send us a message.
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