I was born and raised in South Africa. As an only child with few friends, I kept myself entertained with various arts, crafts and hobbies, and wrote to pen pals from all over the world joining the global community long before the Internet came along.
After studying horticulture and then spending some years travelling on and off, I moved to New Zealand in 2001.
Horticulture didn't work out for me - partly due to health issues that started to emerge at the time so I ended up working as a secretary and medical typist for many years. Later I went on to a career in publishing working mostly in online communications and as a freelance editor .
I did my time in the corporate world doing various city office jobs until at last, in 2016 I achieved my dream of moving to the country. I now live in rural New Zealand and spend my days happily immersed in my favourite childhood activities of arts, crafts, writing, some gardening, walking the country roads and spoiling my darling rabbit, Trixie.
As a child and teen I loved drawing and painting, but I didn't believe I had any talent, so like most people I stopped trying. Every so often I'd try again but end up disappointed and the old belief that only some people are born with talent and the rest of us may as well not bother.
It was only in 2009 when I bought some paint-your-own plaster Christmas decorations that my real ventures into art began. I enjoyed the experience of painting - the way it allowed me to 'zone out' of the world around me and so I started to teach myself through books and a series of DVD tutorials by Bob Davies (founder of ArtTutor.com). I was excited to learn that drawing and painting are skills that can be learned and I have indeed seen my skill develop of the years.
I still consider myself more as an art student than an artist and I am a dedicated fan and member of ArtTutor.com - it is the best website-based art school out there.
Writing was a large part of my childhood, teens and early adulthood. As a child I wrote stories and articles for a gardening club I belonged to, at age 12.
In my teens I moved to poetry and my best memories of high school was of being a member of the Writers's Circle. It was a bit like a therapy group for the class nerds as we shared poetry about feeling outcast from society because we were different.
Once I left school though, my writing moved more to writing personal journals as a means to process the grief I was feeling after losing my best friend in a car accident. I aspired to writing a book, but somehow life got in the way. I'd had it drummed into me that "no one makes a living writing," and that I needed to get a proper job. So I studied and did various jobs that never suited me and damaged my confidence.
It was only after I was made redundant from my job with a national radio station that I decided to give up corporate life altogether, moved to small town New Zealand and returned to my true self that I started writing again. I only wish I had done it years ago. I wasted so much of my life trying to be something I wasn't.
Invisible Disability Advocate
As a child I struggled with issues of breathlessness and dizziness on exertion, headaches, muscle weakness and joint pain, but these were never seen as anything other than lack of fitness from being an introverted shy kid who preferred to do creative activities instead of sports.
In my teens I was diagnosed with Keratoconus - an eye condition that causes deformation of the cornea and significant visual impairment. At the time, it seemed like this was the worst thing that could happen to me, but 20 years later I was told I needed to have brain surgery for another condition and that not having the surgery was not an option. Yet, that still wasn't the end - later came the diagnoses of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and then Mast Cell Activation Disorder.
The most of significant of these was the diagnosis of Arnold Chiari Malformation in 2010 after headaches I complained of since childhood started to get much worse. The diagnosis was made in April and in July I had decompression surgery. My surgeon was not impressed that it had not been picked up earlier - this surgery is usually performed on patients when they are around 12 years of age. I was 36.
It was only until several years later when telling my cousin's daughter (who was studying medicine at the time) that I had the condition and she asked me to explain it as she hadn't heard of it. So I went on to explain that it is when the cerebellum (base of the brain) herniates through the foramen magnum (hole at the base of the skull) into the spinal canal causing pressure on the brain stem and blocking the flow of cerebrospinal fluid.
She responded with "How the hell are you not dead?!" She had just learnt in class that when this happens in a traumatic event like a car accident, it is almost always fatal. I went on to explain, that it's not immediately fatal if you are born with it.
It really brought home how serious the condition is and how I had been let down by family GPs who labelled me lazy and attention-seeking instead of taking my symptoms seriously and investigating further.
It was only until I was nearly 40 that I learned that all these 'character flaws' of being non-athletic, sensitive and quiet were actually the result of health conditions and from having heightened sensitivity. Not a medical condition at all, but rather a genetically-inherited trait documented in extensive research by Elaine Aron that occurs in around 10-20% of all populations (human and animal) whereby certain individuals process information and stimuli more deeply than others. This highly intuitive and natural 'mentalists' - my sensitivity is kinda like my super power. However, most of the time it is seen negatively as people are labeled "too sensitive," "whiny" etc.
And it is for this reason that I talk openly about having chronic illness and sensitivity in an effort to raise awareness, remove stigma and help others reach diagnosis sooner.
As a brain surgery survivor and person with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Keratoconus,
Arnold Chiari Malformation and Mast Cell Activation Disorder, Skye advocates
invisible disability awareness.