Danie | Leith Valley, Otago

**This story refers to child sexual abuse. For specialised help, with any issues relating to sexual harm, contact Safe to talk: 0800 044 334 or text 4334**

“I find it very hard to be proud of anything. But I think I feel the most pride in musical events that happen in Dunedin. The one I thought of the most is Nook & Cranny and it’s held here at the Dunedin Library each year, and has been for a while, and this year online because of lockdown.

I spent all day just online watching different musicians from all over the place. One was in America, and there’s this sense of pride in the community, even though we were so apart. It just felt comfortable. I’m a musician myself, so it’s the sense of home, or pride in Dunedin, just having this music festival online.

I’m originally from Christchurch, I studied at Otago, and stayed obviously. I’m still here. I studied for a Bachelor of Music, and I went into post-grad here, and focussed on vocal pedagogies, basically singing anatomy, and now I’m a singing teacher. So, that’s pretty much what I do, and I’m also in a band called The Mentalist Collective, and in a duo called The Acoustic Paintings, and we just play around Dunedin. We travel sometimes.

I grew up in Christchurch. All my schooling in Christchurch and I left pretty much after the earthquake. I decided I’ll go somewhere else. So, I came to Dunedin to study, and haven’t left here since. I find this my home now, I suppose. I didn’t have the most functional childhood, so I try to stay away from Christchurch as much as possible, just because of the associations I have with it. Not because it’s not a nice place.

The hardship? I don’t share it, because I always feel like I’m going to make people feel bad, or uncomfortable, but I guess I have PTSD. I’ve spent the past three years in group therapy trying to re-organise the brain, neuroplasticity, try and make it all happen, and have better core beliefs. I learned a lot of negative core beliefs and body image and everything from my childhood where I was sexually abused for quite a length of time, in a family situation. Just very young parents who didn’t know much, didn’t want to be parents, I think. There was a lot of neglect, and difficulties. They tried their best, but unfortunately their best wasn’t good enough for a kid. Now I’m doing so much better. The therapy here has been amazing. The access we have to different things to try and make us feel better is amazing here. I’m so thankful for Dunedin. Basically, group therapy has changed everything, just being able to have a space to practice these things or change our beliefs, or just state your beliefs out loud and realise, that’s probably not something I want to keep. I’m getting there. I felt during that period that I was wasting my life. I was wasting time trying to learn about myself, I suppose. Now I think I’ll become a better version of myself. I’ll appreciate things a bit more. I appreciate nature a lot more. I appreciate the sky. I appreciate everything so much more than I did. I think I’ve created a quality of life, instead of quantity. I’m not quite at the proud stage, but I acknowledge the work I’ve done, and I appreciate so much all the knowledge that I’ve got.

I value so many things, but I think health and understanding. Probably most of all nature. I find cities are quite hard to find the balance of physical and mental health, and then you get out into nature and you start getting in touch with what’s important. Going for bush walks and things, just looking for fungi, looking for things to forage. This connectiveness with what the planet gives us is so detached with these buildings and the supermarket and the accessibility of things. It’s just really nice to think there’s more.”

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