Royden has lived in Avondale his whole life. For most of his 20s, he battled severe anxiety that saw him stuck inside his house for much of the past decade. Since 2018 though, with help from counsellors, doctors and local initiatives like Feed the Streets, he’s regained the health and confidence he needed to get back out in the world.
“I grew up pretty well. I grew up in a Housing NZ driveway thing so all the kids would just meet in the middle and play. But at the same time everyone was tryna be a gangsta back in those days. There’s still people like that, but it’s not as bad. I got robbed walking down to the dairy on Avondale Rd when I was like 14… got a knife to the throat then one of them punched my mate. I’ve seen heaps of fights over the years, friends almost dying.
"I don’t know how my anxiety started ay. The first memory I have of it [was at 17], I used to work at my mum’s work in the school holidays. One time as we were driving my stomach started going crazy and I was like ‘I think you needa turn around, I needa go back home’, and it went like that for a little while. Then there was a big gap where it stopped. I started uni [at 20/21] then towards the end it started kicking back in and getting worse from then on for almost 10 years.
"I couldn’t even leave the house really. It progressed over the years too. Originally it was just a travel sort of thing, going in the car I felt real sick. Then over time it became sitting around, in bed, just on and off whenever the hell it wanted to.
"But yeah, it took a long time to start making any decent progress. Sometimes I still feel younger than I am cos I had no social development through that period. It was easy to feel depressed when you don’t do anything. People always made comments like ‘oh maybe you should get a job’ and in your head you’re like ‘yeah why can’t I do that?’, but then your body’s like ‘hell no, I’ma kick your ass if you try that’.
"It was a combination of medication and counselling that kickstarted it. [Then] I started helping at Feed the Streets. Every time I do something at Feed the Streets or Community Hangout people say at the end, ‘thanks’, ‘thank you for your help’, but they don’t even know how much this is helping me. The amount of help I’m getting from this is way more than what I’m giving to them. Way more. Even just getting out in general. When I first started coming I’d barely speak, look down, all quiet, that sorta stuff and now I’m probably annoying as hell [laughs], too busy making jokes to cook anything. But yeah nah, it was crazy how much it helped.
"They’re gonna get rid of this community centre [where these initiatives are held] and I guess that’s part of ‘upgrading’ Avondale, part of getting new people into Avondale to make it – at least according to other people – ‘a better place’. You know, it’s already a pretty good place.”
Thanks to I Love Avondale for permission to use this story.