May 31, 2024
June 2022
Tū Ora Story

James’ story.

After suffering both physical and mental injuries, James found himself in desperate need of help.

I ended up climbing trees as an arborist. My ex-wife didn’t keep very good health so there was a period where I had to stay home and look after her. She had a lot of mental health struggles. She was in her bed for a year and I looked after the kids and stuff. 

I returned to climbing trees, but had a big work accident, nearly 10 years ago now. I had a bit of an equipment malfunction and fell five storeys out of a tree.

I’d sort of got used to being the one who took care of everything and I got meaning in my life from caring for other people, which is ok when you’ve got resources but it got pretty dysfunctional after I was the one that had the needs. The marriage broke up only about three months after I came home from hospital. So I ended up pretty badly injured, still with a lot of recovery in front of me… and homeless! 

Long story short there’s really no support for victims of mental injuries, like PTSD. I thought as soon as you get an x-ray that shows your back’s broken they put you in to get your back fixed right, so as soon as they show you’ve got a mental injury, they would book you in to get your mind fixed, but it doesn’t work like that. I got the PTSD diagnosis but ACC wouldn’t treat me for it. I’d asked for help from all the right places. I had screamed until I was blue in the face for help. I had been f***ing desperate for help and I didn’t get it. After five years I was still trying to get treatment and in the meantime, the panic attacks were getting worse and worse, then depression and anxiety, until I was losing my mind.

I’d never had any trouble with the courts before in my life but I just started flipping out. It was at times when I felt my life threatened, my way of life, my survival threatened, to the other person it wouldn’t have seemed like that at all, but, that’s how I felt. It’s hyper flight or fight, it’s a classic symptom of PTSD. 

One of my biggest triggers was my ex. She had borderline personality disorder. So I ended up smashing up the car while we were in it together and then trying to hang myself after I had seen what I had done. I got an attempted murder charge. 

After I got the attempted murder charge, then ACC accepted my claim for mental injury. That hurt because if they had just accepted the claim five years earlier, I wouldn’t be here. 

After I got the attempted murder charge, I got my treatment, so prison for me was actually a positive thing in the sense that I finally had somewhere to lay my head at night, I had some security, and I had someone take my mental injuries seriously. I got the chance to put myself back together.

After prison though, there’s these barriers to getting back into any kind of normal life, barriers to getting back into the community and those barriers almost guarantee that we can’t rehabilitate, they almost guarantee that they’re going to end up reoffending at some point.

If there’s no job waiting for you at the end why shouldn’t you go back to selling drugs; if society has it’s back turned against you and has determined that there’s no way back for you, no matter what programmes you do and how long you maintain your clean slate, then why would you practice pro social behaviour?

With Pathway there is the idea that there is still a place for you in society, where they’re not only going to welcome you back in, but they’re going to make sure that transition is one you can handle.

All of the practical supports and all the rest of it aside, just that idea is huge, that there is a way for me back into the community. I don’t have to be defined by this single act for the rest of my life.

There’s plenty of times where I’ve felt myself sort of losing my grip and I think I would have been in a bit of trouble if I hadn’t had people around me with a better vision for my future, because it’s hard to sustain that vision yourself then you get people around you who’ve got not just a better vision for you but resources and a road plan. 

With Pathway you get people around you who not only have a better vision for you but resources and a road plan. They have a picture of the world with you in it that you can buy into and it’s a better version of you. It’s a much more healthy, stable version of you, someone who can contribute… and they’ve got resources there to make it happen. That’s a powerful force for change.

That  can actually change the world, maybe not the whole world, but it certainly made a huge difference to my world. 

Names have been changed.

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