At the age of 37 Tracee Te Moananui became unwell.

“I was living in Kerikeri at the time and really enjoying working as a caregiver in a resthome,” she says, “then all of a sudden I ended up in the Whangarei psychiatric unit.”

“I didn’t know why I had been put in the unit. I guess it was because I couldn’t admit there was something wrong.”

A messy relationship is what Tracee thinks led to her becoming unwell. “I was very angry and said things that I didn’t mean – like I could walk outside and step in front of the bus.”

When Tracee left the unit she went back home to her family in Paeroa. She says, “My immediate family were very supportive – they didn’t understand it but they learnt with me.

Journey to wellness

Tracee was initially diagnosed with depression and then with borderline personality disorder. It took her almost two years to accept any of the help offered from others. The catalyst for Tracee’s journey to wellness stemmed from a two-year period when both her parents became unwell and passed away.

Everyone thought that Tracee would become more unwell after her mother died, but she didn’t. Instead, it was then she decided that she needed to get well.

At the time Tracee was living at Pathways in Waihi and credits staff there, as well as her psychiatrist and a community health nurse, in helping her get to where she is today.

Lost friends because of stigma

Tracee says that when she became unwell there were extended family and friends that she lost because of the stigma associated with mental illness.

Tracee is not afraid to take a stand. “I get annoyed when people who know someone has a mental illness, call them names. I tell them not to put people down because it can happen to them. You never think it will happen, but it happened to me – completely out of the blue – and I never thought it would.”

Happier than ever before

Friends she has now can’t believe that she’s been through this experience – even when she tells them.

“I wrote a story about it and described it as going to the airport, handing in your passport and getting on the plane - and then never landing until you get well.

“Now after being in a place where I was scared to go into another relationship because I didn’t have any trust in people, I have a supportive partner - and two cats, Gypsy and Marley... I’m happier than I’ve been before.”