DecorativeVietnam

 

"I think medication; rehabilitation centre and relaxation are the most helpful things… The most difficult feelings or challenging issues I think are being unable to have a normal life e.g. can’t have a wife a kid, a normal job. Being not able to do what you want to do. Having to take tablets all the times. That’s a bit of nuisance….."

About my culture
My early days in New Zealand
At the beginning
Dealing with it
Doctors, hospitals and other supports
Getting better
The hardest things
Thanks to...
My personal perspective
A piece of advice
Download a PDF version of Tam's story here (105.83KB)


 

About my culture

I grew up in Vietnam until I was 10 years old. My family left Vietnam by boat through Indonesia. We stayed in a refugee camp for 10 months. Then we were told we had been accepted by New Zealand officials.

Return to top

My early days in New Zealand

I started intermediate school in New Zealand at the age of 12. We were the only Vietnamese family in the whole town. The people in the town did not respect our culture. They were saying,”Arsehole”, “Jing”. The locals did not like us. We had to just ignore them. Life there was hard, because the locals did not accept us. It was very difficult to educate them about our culture. We had tried to do this, but failed.

I did not like the school there. It affected me mentally. I just got upset all the time. My family did not know that I had a hard time at school, because I did not tell them. I have one older sister and two young brothers and one of these younger brothers was born in New Zealand. So it was just my mother and my dad and my sister and three brothers and I and we were the only Vietnamese family in the whole town.

At the beginning we experienced racism there, but then we became adapted. However the racism has had an impact on my mental wellbeing. I got very frustrated by New Zealand people and feeling suppressed about our culture. They were strange people. They suppressed me all the time. I felt I had to hold back my feelings and I got bottled up, which only built frustration.

I found it was very hard to live as a person who has two cultures. I experienced the confl ict between the Vietnamese and New Zealand cultures. For example outside my home if as a child I did not agree with you I could argue about it and this was acceptable. I had adopted this idea at home. If my dad said something and I did not agree I argued back. But in Vietnamese culture, if my dad said something, even if I did not agree with him I was not allowed to argue back. Because of this I had family problems and there were quarrels all the time. My dad was not happy with that. But he did not do anything to change the situation. The New Zealanders did not allow us to practise our cultural values. The New Zealanders did not understand our culture at all, they did not try to understand our culture. We could not explain or educate local people, as they did not listen. They wanted us to adapt to their culture. They were sarcastic. They would say things like this to my dad, “Since you came to New Zealand, you helped a lot to your wife”. Because in Vietnamese culture men did not help women with the household chores.

Return to top

Decorative

At the beginning

I was afraid of people when I was 17 years old. I was anxious. I was sweating, losing weight. I could not sleep at night. I was withdrawn. I just stayed at home and stayed in my room. I just could not face people. I was nervous. I did go to see a school counsellor. The school counsellor brought a psychologist. The psychologist thought that I was re-experiencing like other boat people. This was not true. I had a mental illness at that time. At that time I was one of some exchange students. I was about to go to the United States to study. But I was so afraid of people. I did not seek any other help except the psychologist. She gave me a letter to take to the USA. She said if I got a problem in the USA, I could get help there. But I got worse in the USA. I lost touch with reality. I said things and did things which I did not even know.

I made my host mother and my host brother very upset by doing and saying things which I did not even remember. They tried to cheer me up, but it was not working. They did not do any other thing to help me as they did not know what was wrong with me. I just lost touch with reality. Even when I was going through this tough time, I still stayed and studied in the USA for one year. For that whole year I was not getting any help from mental health professionals. I was tired all the time. I wanted to go home to sleep all the time.

When I came back from the USA I still did not know what was wrong with me. In New Zealand I went to hospital four to five times. But they did not diagnose anything. The doctor just told me that I had a nervous breakdown. I continued to struggle with life for five to six years in New Zealand. Then I migrated to Australia with my whole family when I was 24 years old.

Six months later I rang a local community health centre, I went to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist did not do any tests but during this appointment the psychiatrist said that I had schizophrenia. I found it was a big relief to know what was wrong with me.

I then read some pamphlets and other information which I found to help my condition. I was capable of understanding all the information in English. I found all the information by myself. I think the most important places to have information would be at the psychiatrist places, or GP places.

Return to top

Dealing with it…

Before when I was taking some medication my brothers were not very accepting towards me. The medication was having a lot of side-effects, because I looked strange and I reacted strangely. My mother and my dad have been affected by my mental illness. I think they don’t treat me the same as my brothers. They gave a lot of attention to my brothers but they did not give me as much attention. I used to sleep very late at night, and get up very late. Sometimes I went to bed very early and got up very early. My dad used to ask me,”Why do you wake up so early?” That seemed to really annoy them. That was when I was really sick. Then I went to another doctor and my new doctor put me onto another new medication which made me feel a lot better.

My mental illness has been definitely affecting my life. I can’t study and I can’t hold a full-time job. How I have managed my life is by getting a low demanding job and becoming involved with New Horizon and rehabilitation services. These have both given me a sense of achievement.

Return to top

Doctors, hospitals and other supports…

I think my parents go to a carers’ group which helped me. They received information from the group. This helped me a lot. I think medication, the rehabilitation centre and relaxation are the most helpful things.

I have taken all of these medications: Soliam, Lithicarb, Oroxine, Efexor and Deptram. I have had side-effects. These are: I drink a lot of water. I go to the toilet a lot. I have a dry mouth. My body seems now to have got more used to these side-effects. I don’t do much in the morning.

Return to top

Getting better

The things to help you feel better are:

  • Getting into a routine.
  • Going to a rehabilitation centre. Do activities there. Do relaxation. The leisure activities and relaxation are most helpful.
  • Sleep early, wake up early depending on your capabilities.
  • Do a job. Do a low demanding job.
  • Listen to music, watch TV.
  • Help around the house.
  • Do whatever you can do.

Return to top

The hardest things

The most difficult feelings or challenging issues I think are being unable to have a normal life, e.g. can’t have a wife, a kid, a normal job. Being not able to do what you want to do. Having to take tablets all the time. That’s a bit of a nuisance.

Return to top

Thanks to…

My family have supported me all the time.

Return to top

My personal perspective…

I think mental health workers and my GP understand a little bit about my mental illness. I don’t think they understand a lot. Recently I have been seeing a new psychologist. He understands what I went through in New Zealand. He understands my culture because he is a Vietnamese psychologist. What he has given me that’s really helpful has been relaxation techniques.

Return to top

A piece of advice…

Do what is good for you. Take your medication and don’t argue with your psychiatrist.


Download a PDF version of Tam's story here (105.83KB)

Return to top