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Breaking Out of The Straight Jacket

This is the story of Tracie Mahia

Everyone knew everyone else in the town where I grew up - life was slow, easy and familiar. I was the youngest girl in a large family and my parents were well known.

My parents were quite progressive and hospitable, we were the first in town to get a colour TV! Mum was a wonderful cook and a very nurturing woman. I remember her prayers for us – she would pray for us all the time. The community knew my Dad as generous and kind, and he provided for our family a comfortable lifestyle - but he would often be drunk. He would work hard for three or four days a week and for the rest, he’d be drinking.

Mum ran the details of home and us kids, Dad was very quiet – I don’t remember him being involved with us kids much unless it was to my brothers to go with him to deliver a load of wood or to have the final say in a discipline issue that Mum couldn’t handle.

Tragic Loss

Mum was happy and healthy, the next she was tired and old looking. It was a horrible shock to our family when my mother got sick.

My brother and I were the youngest and no one told us anything when my mother started to get sick. The experience of seeing her in a hospital bed was terrifying! I clutched at my aunties’ clothing, when I was taken to the hospital room because I didn’t recognize the old lady in the bed.

Right up to her death, I remember her trying to reach out to touch me, or to speak to tell me how much she loved me; I remember the touch of her caress on my face. When my mother died, I was devastated. I was nine. I was shattered and adrift.

I was so very sad, but I didn’t know who to talk to or even what to say to express my pain.

On the night of her burial, my younger brother and I were told to sleep in Dad’s bed with him. My father – ravaged by grief and alcohol – raped me twice that night.

That night was the end of my innocence and the beginning of my hell. I remember my little brother asleep beside me. I remember the shock and brutality of the rape. I remember the weight of him and my revulsion. I remember my silent screams and the taste of my tears.

My Dad continued to abuse me, both sexually and physically for another couple of years. Eventually I was sent away to live with an Aunty in Rotorua, but in that short time, my young life had been ruined.

My broken heart over my mother’s death and my shame over what my father was doing to me had no boundaries. It spilled into my mind and heart and contaminated everything. It was like a black swirling tide. I was so angry. I hated myself and became very ugly in my behavior.

I was violent and prone to punching and kicking the other kids in my school. I would swear at the teachers and get told to leave. I stayed in Rotorua until I was about thirteen, but I was homesick. One day I just up and left - I got some money off an ‘uncle’ I knew and caught a bus back home.

After returning to my hometown, I went back and lived in the same house as my Dad, he never touched me again. We just co-existed. I remember Dad telling me one night that he was sorry for what he had done to me; but he was horangi (drunk) and I was so angry that I couldn’t hear it.

Darkness and Depression.

The hate that I had toward myself caused me to attempt suicide on several occasions.

Drugs were easy to get, so was alcohol. I was addicted to both by the time I was fourteen.

I would pop the prescription pills that my aunties and uncles would get from their doctors – valium, dopamine; anything and everything to numb my hate and forget my trauma.

I was also working full time in the Kaiangaroa Forest. I learnt to prune and plant trees; I was tough and could work as well as any man. I could drink them under the table and plant just as many trees.

Any man that was interested in me sexually, was firmly rebuffed. When I met John, he was five years older than me and I knew that he would be the man I married. We were both into drugs and fell into an easy friendship.

John and I were together for three months before I let him touch me. I became pregnant soon after. I had no idea I was pregnant. I was working hard in the forest as usual, carrying bags of 100 seedlings, I was also drinking and taking drugs heavily.

All of my friends were young and having sex, we had no concept of pregnancy or how to care for ourselves. I had gone to a doctor’s appointment for a sore stomach, it was in his office that he discovered I was pregnant, and my placenta was tearing. I was rushed to Rotorua Hospital by ambulance.

John was asleep at home and I had no way of contacting him. I went to hospital all by myself and was completely unprepared. I was so young.

The nurse and doctor were like God to me – remote and uncaring, “You know your baby is dead, aye” one callous doctor said to me.

My baby girl was born premature at twenty-five weeks, her lungs were under-developed and she was very weak. I named her Miria. I remember being bewildered and very afraid. My poor baby had suffered from the extent of my destructive lifestyle – she was only 880 grams when she was born and was flown to Waikato Hospital NICU before I was even able to hold her.

My daughter and I had no opportunity to bond or touch. Miria was in hospital for the first nine months of her life. I went to Hamilton to be as close as I could to her, but I was alone and without support – I didn’t know what to do.

Young. Immature. Unprepared and stuck at home with a very needy baby, I fell into depression and continued my heavy drinking and drug taking. I was at a loss as to how to love or enjoy her. I was harsh and very strict - my expectations of my daughter were unrealistic and too high - so she was always wrong in my eyes.

I was able to take care of baby, but I hated myself so much that I couldn’t bond with her as my beautiful daughter.

Over the years, Miria would grow up to be a beautiful but sullen girl, careful not to do anything to make me irritated. She tells me that she used to gather up the left-over marijuana buds and smoke them after our parties. She basically raised herself and resented me for it.

Five years later, I got pregnant again but continued my drinking and drug habit throughout the pregnancy. This led to another premature birth, but without the trauma of the first experience. This time I was able to be at home with my Aunty as midwife and family as support. I bonded with this baby immediately and adored her. I named her Lisa.


My mental health was continuing to suffer due to my habitual alcohol and drug taking and the unresolved trauma of my father’s abuse.

I was depressed and falling deeper into insanity. I suffered from insomnia – weeks and months at time without sleep. I also suffered vivid hallucinations and visitations from strange demonic beings. John was desperate and admitted me to the Psychiatric ward at Rotorua Hospital.

My behavior had become increasingly irrational, violent and frightening. I was placed in a padded room and restrained in a straight-jacket. I don’t remember very much of this time, but I am told that it took five policemen an hour to wrestle me from the house to the car. I fought them the whole way.

Sedation medicine would only last for twenty minutes before I was up and fighting the restraints and the nurses again. I was like a zombie – desensitized, vacant, twitching and stumbling.

The official diagnosis I was given was bipolar and schizophrenia. During my stay in the hospital, the sedation drugs kept me in a perpetual stupor. I would dribble and shuffle, not able to see clearly or think through a plan.

John remained with our daughters. He was really awesome, he would visit me as often as he could. It was because of John’s relentless love that I started to become well.

I wanted to be well, I wanted to be loved and to love myself. Slowly I weaned myself off the drugs and became part of my daughters’ lives again. I didn’t want to ever swear or be unwell in my mind again.

The Difference of Destiny

I was invited to Destiny Church by my neighbor. She was persistent, even though me and John hid from her every time that she came to our door to invite us!

The first Sunday I went, I was still foggy from the medicine I was on, but I could understand the preaching and I went to the front afterwards for prayer. I felt instantly new and fresh. I got home and told John all about it, “there’s this new Maori guy preaching, you’ll love it!” He was skeptical.

I usually would shout and argue with him, but this time I kept my peace and I prayed. My prayer was raw and childlike: “I don’t know how to talk to you, God, but all I’m going to say is, “Can you tell John that he has to come to church tonight, ‘cause I’m too scared, and this is all really new. Can you zap him?”

I went to church again that night. So did John, but he sat at the back. He told me later that he thought I must’ve told the Pastor on him! The message of the love of Jesus pierced his heart and he too, went forward to receive Jesus.

I noticed that things at home, and in our relationship, were instantly better because of Jesus and Destiny Church. My relationship with John was better, my parenting was better and I noticed that the more I listened to the preaching and the more I read my Bible, the faster my old habits dropped off and my mental health was restored.

We got water baptised and then married within months of our salvation. Life was so completely different. I invited our whole street to our wedding. I wanted everyone to experience the love and peace of God that I had found.

Bishop Brian and Pastor Hannah were so lovely to us. They spent a lot of time teaching and loving us. They were never ‘judgy’ or religious, I always felt welcomed and important. I noticed that there was a need for the church to be cleaned, so I decided to volunteer and would walk the five kilometers on a Monday morning to vacuum and clean the auditorium and bathrooms.

I was so fresh and so in love with Jesus and this new way of living. Nothing deterred me. Slowly and surely, God began to make all things new. My sanity was restored. I was able to forgive my Dad and was released from all the brokenness and trauma of my past.

I Have Found a Better Way.

I have been in Destiny church for thirty years. I have seen the Lord work miracles in my life and the lives of those I love. My daughter Lisa, her husband and their two precious daughters are with us in church, as well as Miria’s son.

I work as an advocate for those suffering from mental illness and have challenged the medical profession at all levels on the practice of prescription medicine given to mental health patients. I can tell you they don’t like me very much! Prescription medicines given to mental health patients are not the answer. I know a better way.

To the woman reading my story: Trust yourself and your internal faith and strength. Find your voice. Allow yourself to be set free.

Don’t let your past or trauma limit you. You can be confident. You are beautiful. You are forgiven.

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