Photography: Martin Snoek
One and a half years ago my life was quite different from now. I just came back from a very long and traumatic hospitalization in a mental health institute. It was not my first time that I had spent some time over there, but it was the most severe one. I have been in the closed ward for over four months. I even had to stay in solitary confinement and - I can tell you - this did not contribute to the way I saw myself as a human being or a person that really could participate in the real world again.
When I came home there was not a lot left for me, just my creativity which was the only thing that was always there for me. I graduated at the Art Academy here in Maastricht in 2011 and ever since I was looking for a way to combine my love for people and human psyche with art. This was already a struggle but after I experienced several disruptions with my own psyche and got diagnosed in 2013 with a severe disorder the struggle got even worse. After adapting for a few weeks I felt the need to get some more structure again so I was looking for voluntary work.
I wanted to feel needed again and with my knowledge and experience I would love to help people. But I found it hard to find something that really felt like more than just a way to spent my free time. A friend told me about this organization that helped youngsters with problems and gave volunteers the opportunity to broaden their horizon when it comes to knowledge of the human psyche.
I was very enthusiastic but also a bit scared because of my own history. Maybe this was a little too much and maybe I was just not suited for the job. But during the training I felt immediately connected with my peers and also my intake conversation gave me so much more confidence that I could use my experience for a very good cause.
Not only was I welcomed in this interesting group of various people that became my colleagues and some even close friends, we also exchanged experiences ourselves. I felt I was growing and that I mattered again and I cannot explain you enough how much this means to me. They also quickly found out that I was making art and were all so enthusiastic that eventually I got the opportunity to exhibit some of my artworks in Maastricht and later I was even involved in decorating the new @ease venue in Heerlen.
I really feel that I started flourishing again, @ease has brought me so much and also the conversations with the youngsters made me realize that - with all my experiences - I can actually contribute in helping them. Guiding them or shine another light on the problem. I got creative with my thinking as well and I really feel I am growing every day.
Even in my own recovery process I have grown. Sharing experiences about treatment, medication, financial issues, relationships or having children in the future. I have the feeling that I can bring up every topic with my peers and staff to talk it through. And I am even starting another therapy now.
@ease has brought me so much and I really feel acknowledged and valued. They see me and I can only be grateful to be part of such a great organization.