Our Stories: Tegan Linwood

Posted Monday December 17, 2018

I was born in Invercargill. I’m a southlander. I moved up to Dunedin when I was 8 or 9. School was pretty good for me up until year 9.

At the end of that year my back started spasming; muscle spasms. I went to the doctors, they said it was stress and everything would be fine. It went away after about a week. Then it came back in year 11, every day, all day, until I would fall asleep. It’s very painful. I’ve ended up in A & E quite a few times. There was one time at a wedding and I had to go home and my step dad called an ambulance because it was that bad. No doctors really seemed to know what it was. I went to see a neurologist and they told me I had this thing called Sydenham’s Chorea. When I was younger I got strep throat, which turned in to Rheumatic Fever which is when it becomes possible for you to get Sydenham’s Chorea. My back just spasms… just because it can.

I didn’t really go to school for all of year 11. I’d sit at the back of class spasming and everyone would look. It really got to me. I was still enrolled in school and I would go when I could, which wasn’t a lot, so I lost a lot of my friends. I’d just stay at home. Watching Netflix was my thing. My mum and dad were at work all day. Other people were at school so I had no one to talk to online. I used to go see my nana everyday, walk her dogs and play cards with her. 

 It went away in November last year. So this year I went back to school and the spasming went down. Then in March they came back. I was devastated. I left school again and started doing correspondence…. Well I knew I had to do it but I didn’t really do the work. That was when my step-dad saw a post about Farmhand on Facebook and he showed it to me.

I had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety at the start of this year, so I didn’t really want to spend time around a bunch of new people. I ended up going to meet Jethro, who runs Farmhand, and he convinced me I’d fit right in.

Everyone in Farmhand gets along so well. We went to Quarantine Island at the beginning and really got to bond. I get along with everyone really well. I’ve got a best friend now! It’s so nice after such a long time of being isolated. I’m not bored, I’m not worried about things, I’ve got friends!

My anxiety was centred around thinking that I was gonna fail at a lot of things and thinking that I wasn’t good enough. Starting Farmhand you have to suddenly talk to lots of new people, in the group and at places you go to. Before Farmhand I started having panic attacks I was like “What is this!?”. I had one at the start of Farmhand and everyone was so lovely, we just stopped the van and they helped me calm down and waited for me until i was ready to get going. My depression is not that bad at the moment but I do still get in to that headspace of like “am I good enough to be friends with this person”. Both my anxiety and depression have gotten better since joining Farmhand. It’s helped being around people who understand those things and don’t judge me. It’s so good getting to make new friends here.

Farmhand isn’t what it sounds like. It’s not just farming. You get to learn so many handy, interesting, practical things. You get to go on all kinds of adventures and bush walks. You will make friends. You’ll get to see the big picture. Annnd I should mention you get free food as well! You can save money! Some of the food even comes out of the garden at Kowhai Grove that we go to every Wednesday with Guy. 

There’s a lot of things at Farmhand that we’ve done and I’ve enjoyed but I don’t think I could do as a job. I loved the docking and tailing that we did with the lambs. Jethro had to push me to do it, at first I was like “na, can’t do that.” But Jethro encouraged me and so I did it eventually and I loved it! I could definitely do that again. It’s so fun! Getting to lift the lambs up and give them a little cuddle before you put the rings on!

I thought that I wanted to be a dairy farmer. Now after having a chance to see what that’s actually like there’s no way I’d be a dairy farmer. It seems like a lot of work, early mornings and all that. Not for me.

I’ve been on placement here at the Silverstream Equestrian Centre. My nana had two horses when I was growing up in Southland. I’ve always loved them. When we came here as a group with Farmhand I was pretty much the only one who said they’d be interested in placement here. The main things I do is mucking out the stables. In the holidays I helped out with the holiday programs. I helped with beginners horse-riding lessons. There’s a lot to do here, I didn’t realise how much work horses are. Some people think that mucking out the stables would be gross but it’s really not that bad. You get to brush the horses too which is nice when they’re not trying to bite you or shove you. They can be very stubborn. 

 At this stage I don’t want Farmhand to end. I love it. I don’t know what I’m going to do afterwards. When you think about it 17 weeks is not that long, I wish we didn’t have holidays. At school I used to look forward to holidays. So I guess that shows how different Farmhand is to school. We do classroom work still but it’s not like school. We go to Polytech 2 days a week. It’s not just classroom work at Polytech. We get to learn heaps of practical things. We’ve learnt welding. We’ve made toolboxes. We’ve made farm gates. There’s so much more to it. And Jethro’s amazing too, he’s someone you want in your life.

If I could talk to my past self I’d say “If you look at the big picture, life’s actually worth living”. Don’t let a limiting mindset stop you from doing what you want.