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Michael Nanai’s Story


My Name is Michael. I am 39 years of age and come from a New Zealand born Samoan, part Tongan heritage. What I learned about myself was that when I was a child I was more or less an auditory learner, with a ‘hands on’ approach. When asked to tell my story I leaped at the chance. I have so much too tell! So as a young boy I always day dreamed…a lot. I cherish those feelings and emotions because they were sweet, carefree and innocent, curious and always optimistic. Always wondering what will happen next? This was short lived and stolen from me when I was 8 or 9. I’m not quite sure when but I get confused when I try to pinpoint it in my own mind?


I was the eldest of my siblings and I was forced to give oral sex to an adopted cousin in my Grand Aunt’s family. The act itself was completely alien and foreign to me. As a child I thought that this is what was done? I was naïve and gullible at this time because I didn’t know any better. I said nothing. After a year went by being forced to do these horrid acts, the secrets I was forced to keep later manifested themselves to be quite retarding in my own emotional and personal growth. I grew to hate this person over the years. I just wanted to kill him and I still do at times! My father and mother were completely unaware what had happened to my brother and I for many years till I finally told them. I have memories of my Grand Aunt ripping my mother’s hair and whilst holding my mum’s head by a clump of it and then tossing her down 10 flights of stairs.


I remember my mother telling me stories about when her Grandfather, a 7ft Tongan nobleman, migrated to Samoa. Thus centuries of war against each other left relationships between the two islands in a mortal rift with a lot of deep wounds and bad blood, this left a generational apathy which still remains between them both making them weary of each other. In those days when my mother was growing up they were treated very poorly because they were part Tongan/ German. Tongan Dogs they were called and this form of prejudice or ethno centric behaviour grew to change over time as well.  My father supported my mother’s family financially supplementing their income because they were providing accommodation etc. In our culture it has an element of hierarchal distribution where the chiefs down to the heads of family share or give to those who are needier as a form of respect. This also involved a traditional respecting of elders and older members of your family and bearing gifts, money or food was also a sign of social cohesion. 


My abuser was Catholic and my mother seems to think he had it done to him at Boarding School. I attended church every Sunday and was originally an Orthodox Presbyterian. I was comforted having a good experience which added a new found respect for other religions and cultures including my own. I found this to be quite fascinating. When attending Primary School the minister’s wife would come along to our classes and sing Christian songs. In this period of Primary School I never knew I was going to be learning lessons about sadistic racist attitudes coupled with riveting and inspiring stories about history!


I used to look after my mother a lot because she was always sick and as of consequence I would be late for class sometimes. My teacher one day just walked up to me and said “Hit me, hit me!” I said nothing. He then exclaimed “I can tie one arm behind my back, blindfold myself and still beat you”. He made me sit in class with no one allowed to speak to me and I wasn’t allowed to do any school work for a whole year. He also strapped me at his leisure.  He was excluding me from learning and he had issues around my ethnicity. I don’t know why I didn’t tell my father but I knew if I did he would have lopped his head off with a machete! I guess I could have handled it and I knew my father would end up in Prison! I know I was somewhat mature in my response to the manner I was treated and, as a child growing up, my father would keep his father’s picture in pride of place on our walls. This was who I was to be measured by, one of the few to be appointed to the bar of judges since gaining our independence from the Commonwealth.


Two unseen forces were impacting on me. The hatred of my own Culture and of Catholics and the ill treatment we received from extended family. Physical discipline was a means of teaching respect for the breadwinners or those who come of age and are expected to lead.  The other was the gloomy future after experiencing racism, physical and sexual abuse at a young age. My grandfather belted me and I was arguing with him over what had been arranged prior to him having to looking after me.


I knew my mother was deeply saddened and hurt by her father remarrying and somehow this was transferred to me because my mother would seek my counsel because I was quite rational and logical about domestic disputes concerning our family? I never forgot that beating so one day when he and his new family were asleep, I covered all the gaps in the door and closed all the windows. I then turned on all the gas cookers and took all their empty bottles to the shop so I could get a refund to buy lollies. My brother had no idea what I was doing. After an hour I came back only to find my mother and father were there. My mother had a horrified expression on her face and said “look”. People say hatred burns you out shortens your life; for me it was a case of being patient and feeling I had put right a wrong? Revenge for a young man like me at the time was quite inflating for my ego and honourable in the sense I did this for the sake of my mother and myself!


As I was nearing my teens I had to endure the blue collared type of attitudes most kids in my neighborhood endured. Hearing and knowing everyone’s personal business. Domestic violence and drunkenness. Wife beatings and kids being beaten. Men worked hard, came home and abused their wives, ate well and drank hard, and if you were lucky you would get into a fight or brawl at the end of the night to consolidate your place amongst your mates; this is what it was to be a man but these were not the best of fathers. I remember a time when all the neighbourhood kids would get together to play long ball or build huts and castles at the local park with scrap materials that would get dumped there. Hunting for eels to smoke and eat. One night my father had his band practice at home and I was the envy of all my friends. All the kids piled into our humble small house to listen to the music. 


I use to mediate arguments between my parents and I respected my father for being so modern in allowing us to have input as children when there was a crisis. He was very democratic and forward thinking, whilst at the same time very proud. It was hard growing up always being compared to your cousins who were doing very well. It made me feel I wasn’t good enough and inadequate but this I always kept to myself. I just wanted my father to be proud of me. This was the dusk of my childhood before entering my turbulent teens.


The testosterone was raging for most of my rebellious friends, but for me it was a quiet solitude of headspace I was in. As I was in this phase of life I wasn’t bothered by anything, disturbed by any inconveniences, mishaps or traumas. I took up Martial Arts (Kempo Karate Bushido Ryu). I was learning self discipline and how to defend myself. When I went from White belt to Yellow belt I had to fight a 1st Dan Black Belt. I knocked him out and on the floor in 5 or 6 seconds. My life seemed empty in this stage of my life and I was developing an interest in the fairer sex.. I was so screwed up because I was struggling with my own sexuality so later on experimented. We were both in our teens and he was about 2 or 3 years younger. It was at that point I knew I was not Gay.  I am still friends with my first ever girlfriend who had similar abuse issues to myself. 


The Maoris use to call us coconuts or Boongas. Some still do today. Maoris were called Horys by the Anglos and Horys would call the Anglos Honkeys. This was a fact of life! I personally thought of it as a joke! As I got older the more experiences around racism or prejudice and indifference were rife. Our national code to be the best Rugby nation in the world was quite evident when watching the protesters against apartheid at a All Black and South African Match disappointed at our then Liberal Government not intervening to boycott these games. It was good to see that we had people who were passionate about Human Rights abuses but what about the insidious layer in the mainstream character of the country we lived in?  I think this “she’ll be right mate “ attitude we had in those days was more a humorous way of making distinctions of how each culture tolerates another.


I was starting to see a generation of New Zealand born Islanders trying desperately to hold on to their culture for fear of losing their identity. The adoption of the Maori culture was quite significant because Samoans are of a Warrior Cast and it was not dissimilar in attitudes and mentalities that Maoris had at the time. Nowadays Islanders are in most of the traditional Maori national gangs in NZ including my youngest brother. 


I played professionally in Rugby League and Amateur Rugby before it became professional. Jonah Lomu got his first contract with my club Weymouth RFC straight out of school after I had left. I then met my first wife who didn’t support me much in my sporting career. I chose to sacrifice my career for a future with her. I worked hard and the hard times got harder under the New Zealand equivalent of work choices when it was introduced. No protection anywhere for common workers’ rights and conditions. They were sold down the river for a higher annual pay rise. I had to become more flexible and adaptable so I tried my hand at running a small business where I eventually had 3 courier franchises.


It was at this time in my life where I think I had my first episode of psychosis. I thought it was a breakdown and it was of sorts. I use to smoke cannabis recreationally unlike my friends whose lifestyles incorporated it everyday. The music and culture of reggae was very strong at one point where most Islanders and Maoris use to associate their current hardships with being oppressed by the man and the system.


When my first wife was climbing the corporate ladder her behaviour and attitude changed towards me. I had a gut feeling that something was going on but no matter how much I tried to pleaded with her to talk and try to resolve matters…she remained cold towards me. It was like “I’m too good for you” and it was a kind of defiance that rattled me to my core making me feel like a nobody. My drinking started to increase and I started smoking more cannabis. Our housing trust home had thin walls and I could hear everybody around me. I was feeling I was hurtling out of control! This went on for a few weeks she would go out at night wearing her best casual outfits after losing a lot of weight at her company gym. She would put her face on and all the female wares needed to fulfil her plans for the evening. One night I just confronted her and asked, “are you seeing someone else?” She just gave me the silent treatment. Her mother whom we lived with would tell me nothing, being the bloody gossip bag that she was! All this pressure started to build up in my head. I was frantic about trying to save my marriage.


I could hear the neighbours gossiping and would yell out and swear at them. I was convinced that my neighbours were spying on us. I often use to answer them when rebutting conversations relevant to me. It got really bad to the point where I was arrested and taken to my family home. I could hear voices condemning me. All I could think was what did I do to deserve this. I was overall a good son, brother and husband. She then rang me a week or two later stating she was pregnant and said she wasn’t sure whose it was. She wouldn’t hear of having a DNA test.


The person she was having the affair with was a Maori guy who was known in the neighbourhood as some cool cat who had women all over him and known for playing guitar with his Slash type hairstyle. I loved her all the same and I was willing to do anything to win her back. When she told me I was weeping for a whole week wishing and praying for his death. I even saw some spiritualist to try and curse him. By the end of the week he died in a car crash.  Oh how they mourned. Far be it for me to speak ill of the dead but I thought this would be an opportune time to reconcile.


She moved into her own place right across from his family home. I was a treated like a visitor and everyone was treating her as the last incubator of his last legacy. I felt pathetic like some peasant who was a distant relation. The harassing voices continued. I had approached a mental health service where I thought I could manipulate them so I could reconcile with my wife. This is how I eventually gained entry to her new residence. A lot of my personal friends hated her and were shocked at how she reduced me to a snivelling and grovelling mess. She told me some time later the little girl was mine. For years she said it wasn’t mine and then she would change her mind when it suited her or when there was some financial gain from saying yea or nay.


Rumours were all about; about my sexuality, that I was some deviant. I manipulated mental health services in New Zealand so that I could reconcile with my wife and start over. How I went about this was I always self sabotaged myself by ruining anything that would destroy the good image or memories of achievements that I had fulfilled. In this case of my ex-wife I self sabotaged myself once again not for pity but out of desperation to keep my minds eye of a less than perfect life. The Anglos in New Zealand were racist towards me because of this but I was use to it. The on-going rumours and gossip that followed, a letter I wrote mysteriously disappeared.


After exhausting my efforts to get my property back. I was confiding in a so called mentor and friend who happened to be my coach and an ex-copper. He gave it to Mental Health Services and then the on-going gossiping about me continued. It has been almost 12 years since my first episode but I know that if push came to shove I would sue them for every last penny they had! They accept no accountability for the trauma they have caused me nor have they assisted or supported me in recovery of sexual abuse, racism, education discrimination and not to mention the array of human rights abuses. They are insignificant scared little people who have the mentality of sheep. It’s interesting how a double Whammy like sexual abuse, other traumas and racism have studies that all prove that it contributes to schizophrenia.


My neighbours and my ex-wife represent the ignorance of white people and how they view people who are dark like myself with culture different from themselves as inferior. Patronizing behaviours and paternalistic even find this to be the case with clinicians who think they know what recovery means!  Over the years I have been suicidal over the attempted murder of my Grandfather and sexual abuse. I have reconciled these feelings a long time ago and human nature such as it never seems to surprise me how it will always repeat history. I could write on forever about my laymen theories about sociology, philosophy, etc, but I won’t! I would have delusions despite believing them at the time that it was a mix of echolalia and thought broadcasting as the clinicians in mental health would call it. I called it newspeak, a form of communication which gave license to the person who could use it in conjunction with a wide variety of media, be it a single transmitter/ receiver then being relayed to a radio station or television live screening. It was the silent form of communication where thoughts like an ongoing tic that a person has with Tourette’s but without the abuse. There is no description for the machinations I use to think especially when I use to do Nasal Palatialing.


In my own mind I had done great things for the world and I was certainly shaped by the experiences of others especially when I was homeless in Brisbane living in and around the red light district of Fortitude Valley. In and out of SRFs, redneck coppers trying to do drug busts. When I arrived in Australia John Howard had just become Prime Minister. Now that he’s gone I feel like I’m full circle and I can grow. I travelled around and met a lot people who have made meaningful contributions to what the real people are doing. In the Salvo’s homeless shelter I loved playing chess with all these men and everyone was dignified despite their circumstances. They still had standards and they would want you to know it. I was so accustomed to pride that in the end I just had to swallow it. Homeless, Drug Addicts, Mentally ill or possibly one person having a co-morbid condition or situation of all three. These were people with stories and I loved learning from these people who have been stuck in limbo or fallen from grace like the Choir of Hard Knocks. This opened my eyes to better self management. Improving your self-esteem when you feel you are insignificant, seeing yourself with a world view all your own or with others who can help shape it makes good sense to me.


Anyway I don’t want to ramble on too much. I met a lovely woman in Queensland and we chatted about mental health amongst other things and from there we’ve been together ever since. I later became paranoid that someone was going to kill me but I had good grounds for this which landed me in the Witness Protection Program prior to travelling to Queensland. Anyway I held my partner hostage in a verbally threatening way whilst on holidays. I took the car and sped 400 kilometres from Coffin Bay to Whyalla. I had been drinking all night and I finished a bottle of whiskey by the time I had arrived at the beach. I got into a car accident. I checked the occupants then used the nearest household’s phone. I rang the Federal Police and was quoting Protocols and procedures of a 1503 or 1508 under the international covenant of political and civil rights. The State Police burst in shouting at me to put down the phone. I told them I was on the phone to the Feds. They threatened to shoot and were gesturing to pull out their guns, I put down the phone and they hand cuffed me. They then booked me for drink driving and took me to the ED.


No one wanted to listen to what I had to say but for me mental health services were the enemy and my nemesis. I was co-operative and I was under the impression I was going to catch a bus home. Yes I was under the influence of alcohol but I certainly wasn’t a threat to anyone or myself.  They acuphased me twice and  the Royal Flying Doctors service flew me to the Royal Adelaide Hospital where I was then transferred to a locked acute in-patient setting called Brentwood at the archaic Glenside Hospital. All I could think was these b*stards finally got me. I felt they were judging me because I was dark and 6ft 2 with a solid build. Despite being compliant and confused.


These days I teach recovery based groups at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. I’m a pro-active consumer. I do a lot. My latest job I do community rehab work in a Community Rehab Centre with a recovery focus. I am currently accepted to study a Grad Dip in Mental Health Sciences. I’m happily married with children. Life has given me the riches of experiences unique only to me. “I know who I am and have always believed that my life is a continuum of experiences that contribute to the better part of me for better or worse. It shapes who I am and this I believe is life!” My life is full and I don’t need much more than to ensure I’m well for my sake and the sake of my family, friends and peers. I’ve been living in the streets when I was in my early teens. I have been homeless. I use to take illicit drugs. I’ve been educationally, culturally discriminated against including with my disability. I’ve been sexually abused. I have been severely beaten on a number of occasions. I have been on the witness protection program. I have been divorced. I have been forcibly drugged. I have been put in seclusion unjustly. My human rights have been trampled since the day I could conceive it wasn’t meant to be this way. I am satisfied with my life now and for all the pain and grief I have been through, its good to know that only I could have endured it! I’m pretty sure there would be other people who would not be so fortunate to survive!


Furthermore whilst I was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia and have components of anxiety and stress related factors which exacerbate my symptoms. It is an on-going challenge. I self-manage reasonably well and often I find myself questioning whether I need to be taking anti-psychotic medication? This is of course can be complacency on my part to feel as though the need for medication has now ceased because I am feeling as ‘normal’ as everybody else and why bother?


If I was to go down this road of not being compliant with my medication I am lulled in a false sense of security because I start to experience negative symptoms and being a little stubborn about this I would persevere with self managing not really conscious of the fact that I am very close to relapsing and becoming psychotic.


Mental Health Fields are pushing client centred care and recovery oriented principles in care with Consumers but due to this their seems to be a significant proportion of us who are high functioning and can maintain a living standard in which we can be happy with. I guess it’s just good to know that the case management is now changing for the better and consumer focus is the priority of most clinicians who assist us.


Its is a very delicate balance when you are detained in an acute inpatient setting especially if you relapse and become psychotic? The mentality of institution for consumers when detained is still rife. Feeling disempowered and having an “us and them” attitude only represents the actual circumstances they are in due to detention. It is a level of acute care but at the centre of it there is no client focus other that what seems like a patronizing and disrespect of the differential of power between the clinician and the consumer. One would hope that this will change.


I maintain that duty of care is important every assessment of individualized care is important but humanity should be at the core of it all! It is unfortunate the system as it is does nothing to offer autonomy where your simple freedoms are violated i.e. freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom of association…who knows when we will get to a time when the system and its policies aimed at care for consumers addresses the imbalance  it so obviously reflects in actual practice?


If you haven’t already done so, I am inviting you to submit your Consumer or Carer story on your personal experiences with: - Anxiety Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, PTSD, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, Anorexia, Post Natal Depression, Hearing Voices or any other MI I have overlooked.

The average length of stories are 6 to 15 pages. However I do have those that are 4 pages.

Minimum accepted is 4 pages, narrow margins, size 12 Arial font and single line spacing. Send them through to in a MS Word document as per the above settings.

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