“Tēnā koutou katoa, tōku ingoa Millie Matahiki.
I was actually brought up at Tokomaru Bay with my nan, but she moved to Gisborne and then my great-uncle died, which I found hugely upsetting. I tried to take my own life. It was a very silly thing to do.
I felt I needed to be in town with my friends and whānau and support team and I lived with Nan again for a while, but really wanted to be more independent.
That was how I ended up in emergency accommodation at Albert Lodge, then I got stuck there! I had this dream that I was going to be in a proper flat but that was all smashed. I felt really upset about that, as though I was in prison. But I knew I had to do the right thing and stay in my bubble.
Day one of Lockdown was really hard, I felt really negative, worthless, all I could hear was ‘virus, virus, virus’, echoing in my head. But I followed the rules to keep myself and everyone else safe, and that was a big responsibility.
At 7am my whānau would have a Zoom meeting where we would do our exercises. That helped keep me more positive, but I wasn’t sleeping, my mood was really low, I just felt like it would never end.
Every year, on April 25, I make sure I am at home on the East Coast so I can join the Anzac Day commemorations. But this year I couldn’t go because we were still in Lockdown. I felt really emotional about that, standing at attention at the mailbox was something, but just not the same.
Even though Lockdown wasn’t the best time of my life, I knew what I had to do so I just kept telling myself ‘be brave, don’t mess this up’. I knew that at the end of it some really good things were going to happen. The most important thing was being in my own home.
I have never actually lived in a flatting situation so I was a bit unsure about how it would turn out. But at the end of Lockdown when they said they had a place for me and it was going to be with two other girls I was so excited. I thought ‘that’s more like it. . . . put me in there!’.
Everything has changed. I feel happy, I feel free, I have my privacy and no longer feel like I am locked up.
I can dance around and listen to my music. I’ve always loved music, especially reggae. When I was younger the band Ardijah came up the Coast to film a video and I managed to sneak into shot. It was cool!
The Lockdown was hard but I learned a lot – listen to Aunty Jacinda, stay in your bubble. Doing all that taught me that I have a lot more resilience than I thought and with that, you can do anything.
Growing up on the East Coast te reo Māori was my first language, we only ever spoke Māori. I am so blessed with my culture, my whānau, my community.
Since going through the Lockdown I know I can do much more and I feel like I am getting stronger and stronger every day. I’m interested in learning more about rongoā Māori. I have all these hopes and dreams, things I want to achieve while I am still young, so I have lots of things to focus on.” – 17 September 2020
- This article appeared in Life in a Pandemic, a book about disabled and autistic people in Covid-19 Lockdown, 2020. © Life Unlimited Charitable Trust (now known as Your Way | Kia Roha).