Coping with daily life can be a struggle at times for most people but for 19-year-old “John,” of Timaru, a victim of chronic childhood abuse, it is a massive challenge. However, “John” now has something to help him, as Chris Tobin reports.
Some people’s early years have been so traumatic due to chronic sexual and other abuse that just getting through each day is a formidable challenge.
Timaru man John (not his real name), aged 19, is one of these people.
He suffers from acute anxiety, depression, an overwhelming sense of not feeling safe and lives a socially isolated life.
Most of his life revolves around daily survival.
“It can be chaotic. He has no idea from one day to the next what his health will be like,” John’s social worker Phil Sunitsch says.
“I say to him his life is like living on the top of Mt Everest with the terrain and weather – each day you’re using all your energy just to move 200 metres.
“Like a lot of people who have suffered childhood trauma, he feels a lot of shame and embarrassment.”
John declined to be interviewed and wants Mr Sunitsch to speak on his behalf.
All sorts of “horrific” things happened to John as a child, Mr Sunitsch says, as he was handed on from family members to others who were supposed to care for him.
Instead they abused him.
Some of them abandoned him.
“He might have a half-sister but he’s pretty much alone having to fend for himself.
“He has an amazing sense of emotional awareness.
“At his age, 19, he’s lived through more than people in their 40s. He’s incredibly intelligent.”
John is flatting and has shown Mr Sunitsch the place where he can feel safe.
It’s in the basement.
“It’s down some narrow steps. For him it means if someone wants to get him they’ll have to navigate them.
“He has a window, too, that he can get out of. He’s set up this safe environment but as a result he’s socially isolated himself.”
Some hope to make John’s daily life more bearable and to help break through his social isolation has now been made possible.
A national organisation, Computers Against Isolation Trust, has given him a computer.
The trust provides internet-ready computers to people like John and others living with disabilities.
The computers are either ex-rentals the trust has bought or others that have been given to it.
John’s computer has made an immediate difference to his daily battle, and with internet access, opened the world to him.
“I don’t know what to say,” John said in a text message.
“Having something to do makes my day ever so slightly brighter. It does so much for me now.
“I didn’t think having a material object would impact in so many ways positively as my experience has always been negative.”
Mr Sunitsch said having meaningful activity each day had made a real difference to John’s life.
“John’s goals are just to get through the day,” he said. “As it gets easier for him from day to day, then the shift will be that we focus on employment for him.
“John wants to do better for himself. It’s a compliment and a testament to him.”