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 and suicide. 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 train 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 like to introduce you to Jett, whose passion for music helped him navigate his mental health challenges, and also understand himself emotionally.
JETT: So I was nine, and I was very, very scared about three major things, people in my family dying or people in my family splitting up like defecting, because I'd kind of seen it happen. I also had a major fear of asking for help more than normal, not just from mental health perspective, but for any task. My biggest fear. Anything that made me look like a beginner or still does to this day, nearly seems me like panic attack level because it's showing my vulnerability. I don't want to be like that but that's just how my brains deep set works.
I got diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) when my little sister her lungs collapsed. Yeah, that was pretty traumatic, because it wasn't just happening once that happened, and then it happened again. So I remember that's what triggered my OCD initially. Very scary when she actually stopped breathing, and I was there. So that was quite intense. Yeah, after that, I went home and my life changed. And I was walking around every night, counting everything, measuring everything I did, you know, like, I'd count to like 100. And then I'd count every step. And also, at the same time, as that happened, my big sister left home, went to England, she was 16 or 17. Yeah, so I didn't understand really anything that was going on. And I was starting to get really kind of identified at school as a trouble student back then. Because, well I was undiagnosed ADHD, I was very energetic with my way of dealing with things. I've had some good teachers in my life, who would identify the attributes that would get called negative and they'd identify them for what they were as positive and just say, mischanneled. I ended up in that stage though, with a bunch of people surrounding me who just didn't understand.
On top of that, I'd never asked for help in these things, it would be like, I wouldn't know how to do anything simple. I just, I'd just leave it and be like, okay, well, I'm born not to do these things. And so I kind of grew a lot of unhealthy patterns from that throughout my life, and that you either do something, and be the best at it, or you just don't do it. Because the only thing that matters is not showing any vulnerability. I've gotten so much better, but it's still very difficult to me to show any sign of weakness.
Got through the early years, I was about 10. And ummm, probably the biggest turning point in my life was when I started playing music that year as well. My family likes it very, very loud. We talk 24/7, in my family we argue 24/7, and we sing 24/7, every single one of us. It was actually my dad who completely put me on to it. He was the first one who planted the idea in my head of just being able to express myself. I remember being in the car with him, he said man, like OCD and stuff, you're going to have this forever. But also you can use it as like a gift when it comes to music.
After that, I went to a school talent show when I was like 10. I won it and then from then it was just like, kind of knew what I wanted to do. So music was really my big therapy as well. So I'd go into a music classroom and be told right you're you're gifted you're blah blah blah. But you get me in a room and try and teach me a bunch of chords and shit I'll be out. I couldn't sit in there for more than five minutes without leaving. Music teachers would be like, look, you have all this talent but you don't belong here because you don't work. Musicians are about training you know, you don't have any of this you've got no discipline. So this whole world that I'd kind of thought was me completely came crashing down on me because I had no discipline. It's exactly the same with the sporting world because I was quite talented in some ways but I didn't fully belong there. Because in those environments, I'd go in and want to be the absolute most dominant and not vulnerable. And the idea that I played music was like a completely vulnerable thing. And people would make fun of me for it and stuff. So I was very lost very caught in between because neither world seemed to want to accept me. Kind of just being barreled by everything around me.
I was 12 or 13, when I really started struggling with mental health again, I completely put the guitar down. And it was probably the worst year of my life. I got really, really depressed, like, I stopped going to school, I stopped hanging out with everyone. And that was because I was no longer able to bullshit my way through. In the past, people had said, like, you've got no discipline, you've got no blah blah blah, but I still had the ability, lucky enough, to bullshit my way through those low levels. So it was always seen as like, this guy's doesn't actually have any problems, he's just lazy. He can achieve, but he's just a lazy ... you know. And so I got to this age where people started catching up with me, because they actually learned good habits, coz' you're getting to the age in life where good habits matter, and I just had none. Like, I'd go home, try and play guitar, I'd sit there for four hours looking at a wall. And I didn't understand why. And so it accumulated into the worst depression of my life. Finally, got tested for ADHD, one of those tests that was just like, why didn't I do this when I was seven? Every single question on the test was just like, so obvious. My parents read it, even and just like the laughed because it was just like me, like, in a nutshell, the test was just like me from a young age, you know, and it was just like it made so much sense. So from that day on, I started focusing so much more on my own well being because I actually learned what it was. And the biggest thing for me was learning that it was a thing. Those communities I'd been outlawed from, well not outlawed, but felt like I've been outlawed were because of something that I couldn't control. And that there actually were other people like me. And so just having that first little bit of understanding was already so much.
So music saved my life and continually saved my life every day, that actually does come down to every day, I get up and I practice and treat it like it's like almost like an athletic workout how I'd used to treat sport. Busking was really, really big for me, because it was the first time I had my own like money and also attention, positive attention, not for negative stuff. As well as learning attention from performing I learned the attention you can actually just give yourself and the attention and the satisfaction of successfully building up tasks and overcoming them. I could play all these songs. But try get me to learn a new one, getting me to sit down and do it might take a year. But then once I do I'd learn really quick. And so learning like simple stuff, like I'm actually just going to learn to learn. And so just learning to learn was a really big part of music therapy for me. I had this thing I was really good at but I felt like it was too late for me to learn the simple stuff, which is so irrational. So I just went back to like the basics and really, really learned to overcome some of that stuff, which really helped. Music just for me feels like I just have a connection to what that I can't explain that. It's not like I want to sing everyday I have to. If I spend days not singing everything goes downhill. My ADHD patterns get worse, anything except this physical feeling I have when I don't do it, it feels like the whole day I'm itchy. It's always been the one thing that no matter how bad I feel I'm doing, it feels like I can bring joy to other people through it.
Society is quite broken, you can call up a random driver to go anywhere around, but you can't call up someone to save your life very easily at all, or talk about anything. So many people experience mental health, but it's almost that thing of put everyone in a box, okay, that guy is fine. His brain works good. But that guy's fucking crazy. But it doesn't work like that. For me, at least it was almost like there was no in between of the world of having mental health and the functional world. There needs to be a more of a bridge between being off the rails and normal, is that there's actually a middle ground and it's not black and white. New Zealand has the highest youth suicide rate in the world. The amount of people we've seen now it almost does feel surreal. Generally just feels like who's next like every single time there's constantly just the risk of it and it's just really, it's almost like the silent pandemic.
I was very, very withdrawn socially. People have spent their teenage years hanging out with friends. And so I've done some of that. But most of the time I never have and no one will know anything about the story. People know nothing about my feelings. People just see me as like, I was very, very shut off through all these years. Like it's the whole thing of learning slowly that the gray in between of like, being able to accept myself and being able to accept socially as well, all that negative stuff I've been told and then having my friends being able to open me up. One of my crucial friends, would instead of talking to me about stuff, he'd actually just drag me to do things. And that was pretty life changing, because I'd see how other people live. So like, being with these people, completely changed my life, just seeing everything, and just like going and seeing everyone and meeting lots of unique characters and just doing I think, doing stuff without thinking about the end result or thinking about what other people thought.
I genuinely thought that I had no struggle. So I'm comparing everything to everyone else. And of course, everyone, there's always gonna be someone who has a worse struggle than you, there's no point comparing, because it's all unique. You need to stop thinking about happiness as like, what you should be at, because it's not. People think of happiness as normal, but really, happiness is happiness, it's not normal, it's a good thing. And so you need to stop acting like you should be at that level every day and what you should look at, is treat it like happiness is like hunger, right? If you don't eat meals every day, you're going to be hungry, it's just how it is. So to achieve happiness, you have to do tasks every single day to get there, it's like eating right? If you look back on your day, and you've sat around all day it's the equivalent of not eating anything. And of course, you're gonna be hungry, of course, you're gonna feel sad. But then realizing that could've helped yourself and that everyone is at the same level of potential instability or stability. You know what I mean? That was like, that was a really, really big realization was realizing that we're all humans, and that no one kind of has hierarchy over another. I know, if I was a school principal, one of the first things I'd do would be discuss openly my struggles with mental health. And I think that that would actually change the whole environment of a high school. How much a difference it would actually make to show; look, I'm here now, but this is why. It would change it probably more than I could ever imagine. Because even recently, I got a youth worker. And that was just like, one of the most helpful things in my life, because look at where he is now, you know, and he's been in that, that state you're in. He's a person, he's willing to share about it. And I think that's like, just for me is so crucial if their were people in authority who did it because as well as there's a call for say people of minorities or other ethnicities to be in workplaces and have a representation, which is amazing, there should be the same thing of mental health, in all areas of life. And that you should try and employ people with experience in it. There's all this awareness around, right, that's really good. But there's no point in speaking out if the people above you aren't willing to hear it.
I'm lucky because I've always loved reading, lots of books about religion and kind of other cultures. I got really into some podcasts online. I really found a community through the internet in some forms in the self improvement online because I'd never really had it shown anywhere else. Yeah, really lucky on the environments I started to surround myself with through the internet. They would talk about stuff that I was interested in as a young teenager, but then they'd kind of talk about self improvement. And empathy was a very, very present thing, because it was always very present to just think about other people, I cared about other people a lot. I got lucky because my mom, one thing I really do look up to her for she spent majority of her life trying to help people, which has opened me up to a whole world of complete acceptance and helping people that I really never want to forget and won't forget, because it's really been such a big part of my young life. And so always the desire to help was so prominent and still is, that's the biggest thing I take out of my upbringing is that I want to be a youth worker one day, not just for, I'm not just looking for people to helping me I really just want to help. And I think that everyone, no matter how much as you can, anyone can help as well. I can connect with people and I can showcase how I actually feel and without that I would have never been able to do what I'm doing now.
HOST: I personally really respect and admire Jett's story that he shared as certain themes of showing vulnerability were very present. And how sort of music gives you like a natural, emotional outlet and how that can sort of be a gateway into expressing emotions to a wider range of things in your life. Jett was also very fortunate that he could get a diagnosis and find help, but I think another thing that's very important to talk about is people who aren't as fortunate and can't get diagnosed. So I think as a country, we can work harder towards diagnosing more people putting more funding into everything so we can help improve mental health as a whole.
If Jett's story has bought 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. Here 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or search hear me see me NZ on Facebook, Instagram or Tik Tok and send us a message.
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