I was born on a Tuesday, a week later than I should have been, in Whangārei, New Zealand (Mum’s hometown). I was a “rainbow baby”, born a year after my parents lost my brother to full-term stillbirth. Being the ultimate in wanted children with kick-ass parents who came from equally kick-ass parents meant I was set up for a good life with good people.
I was four (4) when one of those good people, my grandmother, unexpectedly passed away while I was the only one in the room with her. We had been visiting after the birth of my sister. This registered as some good old-fashioned trauma in my not-so-soon to be discovered neurodivergent mind and the “good life” thing started to become a little less certain.
I started school in Rotorua (Dad’s hometown). I was always somewhat fond of school for what it was supposed to be: a place to learn. But socially, it was a bit of a struggle. I never had trouble making friends or anything like that, but I had developed some ~behavioural issues~ and strange “quirks”, which made me a target for bullying.
I was six (6) when Dad was given the opportunity to open a franchise of the restaurant he worked at in Rotorua back in Whāngarei, so we moved back. The following year, I was placed in a Gifted & Talented programme and tested for what I always thought was autism and ADHD, but no diagnosis was made. I spent the next 28 years believing that I was just a “bad, weird” person.
Dad decided to hang up his chef’s hat and go dairy farming when I was eight (8). This wasn’t a huge shock to the system, because I had spent my school holidays on the farm, but it did sort of push me in the direction of the internet as my most accessible form of socialisation because the nearest kids for me to play with weren’t just a fence or two away anymore.
By the time I was eleven (11), I had gotten pretty heavy into making websites and would spend most of my free time fiddling around with WYSIWYG editors before hitting up Lissa to have it all explained. All being HTML, of course. A year later, I discovered another passion which ended up being what I went to university for: serial killers. Or rather, criminal psychology.
I was thirteen (13) when I was officially diagnosed with major depressive disorder. I was put on antidepressants which didn’t do a whole lot for me, and my teen years were naturally rough. Bullying was a major problem, and although my behaviour improved, I still got myself in a fair bit of trouble which came mostly from my desperation to avoid bullying.
When I was sixteen (16), we moved back in the direction of Dad’s hometown to Te Awamutu. A place I can only describe as New Zealand’s answer to Sunnydale, CA: a hellmouth out of which bullies spawn. After a brief return to Whangarei on my own to try and finish my schooling in a “better” place, I ended up doing a few months of distance learning only to drop out before my final year.
Trying to repair my broken mental health became my full-time job, but eventually, I realised I was going to need to get an actual job if I wanted to contribute to society, blah blah blah. I also knew I wanted to eventually go to university via special admission when I became eligible at twenty (20), so I started working to save up some cash for a more comfy student life.
As it turned out, this was a smart decision. At least the saving the cash part was. I was diagnosed the first of many chronic illnesses, ME/CFS, at the age of nineteen (19). I thought the glandular fever (mononucleosis) I had was just a run-of-the-mill sore throat and didn’t rest, triggering a bum immune system for the rest of my existence.
I was unable to continue working, so the money I had saved for university went to taking care of myself until I became eligible for special entry into university. It was during this time I found my now husband, who helped me stick to my goals and even though it took me longer than it should have, I did in fact go to university (in Hamilton) and came out the other end with three bits of paper and lots of debt! Winning!
In 2015, my husband’s post-doctoral position was coming to an end, so then came the next step: getting the hell out of Dodge. I wasn’t terribly fussed on where, but when he was offered a position in the Netherlands, the decision was easy. On the last day of January 2016, we boarded a one-way flight with only four (4) suitcases.
Since moving to the Netherlands, we have bought our own home, adopted two (2) dogs, and travelled more than I ever expected to in my life. I was really enjoying life in the lowlands until the pandemic hit and I discovered that a Dutch trait (nuchterheid) that I previously didn’t think was so terrible was actually incompatible with who I am as a person.
Naturally, this culture shock sent me into a bit of a mental health spiral so I sought some help from a psychologist. And what’d ya know? This was also a smart decision. The previously mentioned 28 years of believing I was just a “bad, weird” person went straight out the window when my psychologist said: “I think you have ADHD!”.
I was officially diagnosed in November 2022 and I began treatment in February 2023. It’s impossible to look back on my life and my very state of being and think “Oh yeah, I was totally neurotypical!”. I am neurodivergent. Now I know, my self-concept has changed and I have begun the process of learning to live authentically as a ND person in a NT world.