My life began in the north of New Zealand in the late 80s. I was born to two absolutely kick-ass human beings who, after losing my brother to stillbirth, were so pleased to have me. I was also blessed with a stellar cast of characters to help raise me who only ever wanted the best for me. It was clear I was set up to have a great life.
One of the major characters who contributed a lot to my development was my maternal grandmother. She would care for me while my parents worked, so I was with her a lot. I only got four (4) short years with her before she passed unexpectedly, but those years were instrumental in who I eventually became. For many reasons.
It wasn’t until I started school the following year that it became clear that something was wrong. I absolutely loved school in an academic sense and I found it easy to make friends, but I had some ~behavioural issues~ and “quirks” that the other kids didn’t. In the 90s, the only real label they had for me was “naughty”, but I was able to skate by on the fact that I am intelligent.
My teachers had discovered that if my brain was not engaged at all times, I would go feral, so I was given extra worksheets and eventually, when I was old enough, placed in Gifted & Talented classes. It was during this time that I went through testing that I had assumed was for neurodivergence, and I came to the conclusion that I was just a “bad, weird” kid.
As with most weird kids, I became a target for bullies. I was so incredibly easy to get a rise out of that kids would deliberately antagonise me just to see me “Hulk out”. Even my friends would do this. My inability to regulate my emotions was funny to them. I wasn’t officially diagnosed until my teens, but I think this is when depression started being considered “my problem”.
When I was eight (8), Dad decided he wanted another career change that would allow him to spend more time with us. A reasonable decision, yes, but one that meant moving to the country and becoming isolated from other kids. I had friends at school, of course, but aside from my little sister, I didn’t have anyone to hang out with outside of school.
A few years later, I found out that the Internet thing we used in school for research could also be used to chat with friends after school without parents’ overhearing the conversation. I set out to convince my parents to get an internet-capable computer, and by Christmas ’96, on our hideously slow 56k dial-up internet, I had begun my journey into cyberspace.
I would spend most of my afternoons on the computer, chatting with friends and then… strangers. Like with a lot of pre-teen girls in the 90s, I was obsessed with girl groups and boy bands so I would seek out other pre-teen girls (and likely a few predators) to chat with. It wasn’t long before I discovered fansites, and the rest is history.
Weirdly enough, the World Wide Web has never felt like a replacement for the real world for me. I’ve always treated it like an extension of my own world, even when it was totally normal to be anonymous or create an online persona to live out a life different from your own. I think I may just have a terrible imagination, to be honest, but I always felt comfortable being me.
I was thirteen (13) when I was finally officially diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Even though I now know it wasn’t the correct diagnosis and the treatment for it did little to help, I felt a little bit of comfort in knowing there was something actually wrong with me, and I wasn’t just a “bad, weird” person. This, unfortunately, didn’t stop me from being a target for bullies.
Despite feeling ashamed of the fact that I’m “weird”, I never really put too much effort into hiding it. I was known as the obsessive know-it-all nerd girl who finds serial killers interesting and doesn’t know when the hell to shut up. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out why I was bullied, but I never changed throughout any of it.
It wasn’t until my second-to-last year of high school when the bullying turned into threats of serious violence that I bailed on traditional school. I tried distance learning for a few months before realising I needed the structure of school to give a shit, and I ended up dropping out in my final year and started my first real attempt to “fix myself”.
I know now that “fixing myself” ended up being naught more than learning how to mask my neurodivergence, but at the time, I felt as though things were going great for me, so I started working to save up money so that when I turned 20, I could fund my special admission to university to legitimise my interest in serial killers by studying psychology. The bullies weren’t going to win!
Instead, I started being bullied by my own body. Not long after I turned nineteen (19), I fell ill with glandular fever (mononucleosis) which triggered a bum immune system likely for the rest of my existence. I had to spend all the money I saved for university on my health, and I really thought I may have had to give up on the uni dream.
I met my (now) husband just after I turned twenty (20). He was a university student himself, so he was highly supportive of me picking the dream back up. And I did! It did take me longer than the average student to finish my qualifications, but I ended up with three (3). My interest in serial killers was officially legitimised!
In 2015, my husband’s post-doctoral research project was coming to an end, so we started looking into what was next for him. During his PhD, he had spent some time in Belgium and was interested in moving to Europe. I didn’t really consider how my qualifications would fit in to that equation, but I wasn’t going to say no to the adventure of moving to a whole other country!
When he was offered a position in the Netherlands, I was so excited. I had Dutch friends! I figured English-speaking jobs weren’t difficult to get, but I started learning Dutch anyway. I might have not been able to use my qualifications the way I originally intended to, but I kept thinking it’s THE NETHERLANDS! The reality ended up being quite different.
Don’t get me wrong. We have done some amazing things since moving here that would have been difficult to do in New Zealand. We own our own home, we adopted two (2) dogs, we’ve travelled a lot, and our overall quality of life is fantastic, but the pandemic brought out a trait in Dutch people that I am fundamentally incompatible with.
During the second New Year’s Eve of the pandemic (2021/2022), another fireworks ban had been put in place to reduce the burden on the healthcare system. At around 3am, with fireworks still going off as a blatant “fuck you” to healthcare workers, I had a complete mental breakdown. I was almost ready to yeet myself back to New Zealand.
I decided to seek help from a professional, because yeeting myself back to New Zealand was not a reasonable option. After only a few sessions, she told me to look into getting an ADHD diagnosis. I resisted at first, thinking I’d already been tested for ADHD, but when I looked into it, EVERYTHING started to make perfect sense. I was neurodivergent this whole damn time!
I was officially diagnosed in November 2022, and I began treatment in February 2023. I’m now relearning how to be authentically me without the mask, and hopefully regaining some of the health I believe I lost from masking. And yes, the Dutch still suck as a collective group of people, but treating my ADHD has made me okay with that.