Te Ngākau Atawhai (The Tender Hearted)

When I was asked to carve a taonga for a friend’s sister, there were two things she said to me that made the korero easy to come by. Firstly, she said that her sister loved pukekos. Secondly, her great, great, grandmother came out from UK on one of first 4 ships, clambered over the Port Hills, settled in Kaiapoi and started looking after Maori women in childbirth. They called her Granny even though she was younger than them. Mortality rate went down so they loved her.

Straight away, I knew what I was doing. Firstly, there is a symbol in Maori art called Pungawerewere, and it represents the beak of the pukeko in relationship to the legend of Tawhaki. The symbol also has another meaning, and is referred to as ritorito. The term rito refers to the heart of the harakeke flax bush were the outer leaves protect, or nurture the younger shoots until they are ready to flourish.

I am blessed to know members of the Hetet family in Waiwhetu who have adopted the ritorito as their family symbol. I have been privileged to experience their nurturing first hand.

So this piece represents the pukeko which has a contemporary ritorito symbol on each side of the beak. Nurturing of our young promote strength and harmony within the family unit. Sometimes it takes an outsider to help that family flourish. These are the sorts of people, people like my friend’s great, great, great grandmother, who are worth remembering.


Hospitals and mental health

Over the past week I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health, especially my own. How much of a struggle it is to get out of bed some days, how bad the lingering thoughts of self harm or suicide are. I know that a lot of people don’t talk about their experiences with this, mostly because it’s still a taboo thing to talk about in most communities. Mental health isn’t spoken of at all, and it’s a problem.

Most of my friends and people that follow me on Twitter will know that I’m very open about my mental health problems. So, I thought given recent occurrences, it’s probably a good idea to talk about it more.

Last week I was admitted to to Waikato Hospital’s Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre, which is a mental health facility, after a suicide attempt. I was picked up by the police, who arrested me and brought me into the police station, where I was interviewed by a psychiatrist from the Crisis Assessment Team. The outcome of that interview was basically “we’re taking you to a safe place, since we don’t think you can keep yourself safe” - which I agreed with. It was hard to think after spending an hour and a bit in a holding cell in intense pain, but I could see that they were trying to help - which is not the impression I usually get from CAT people at all. So that was nice.

On arrival at the hospital, I was placed in one of the adult acute open wards. This was a bit of a culture shock, coming from only being in child and adolescent wards in the past, but it wasn’t too hard to get used to.

I was served a document saying that I’m required to attend an assessment under Section 9 of the Mental Health Act. This, and the follow-up paperwork (sections 10 and 11), meant that I was legally required to be in the ward. I couldn’t leave as I pleased, as I could if I was an informal patient. This was good on one front - as it meant I couldn’t hurt myself any more, but it was really restricting and kind of depressing.

I had a couple visits from friends in the first couple of days, which was nice.

And then 4 days pass like nothing, because it’s extremely boring being in a ward with no laptop or tablet to do anything on, no books to read, nothing to write with.

The day before my discharge, yesterday, I had Ky and Michelle visit. And those two reminded me why I should stay alive. Friends that care about you are the best and even though you don’t see that they care when you’re at your worst, they always are.

I’ve ended up rambling and turning this into a diary entry, really, haven’t I?

I need to put these here, though. So that I’ll see this in a few days when I open this blog again accidentally. Maybe you’ll find some use in them, too.

  • Keep breathing, keep your head above the water.
  • There are always people who care, even if you think they don’t or they shouldn’t.
  • You are loved. Far more than you realize.
  • Your mental health problems do not define you. They are something that you may struggle with, but they can’t win. They are not you. You can make it.