'To Hell and Back'
Although the journey had covered more than a million miles already, the way left undiscovered was the one leading within.
Heavily overworked and underpaid. That's how I felt in the mids of 2015. At this point, I was travelling more than twenty times a year to places like Afghanistan, Lybia, Gaza, Iraq and Liberia. It was the hights of my career as a cameraman, but the very depth of my well-being as a human. Numerous attempts to regain a grip on a proper balance between my professional and personal life failed as my executives couldn't see the problem in 100 hour work weeks.
Enduring murdering deadlines and the confrontation with a s**tload of existential misery combined with a lousy salary that left no room to save up for a decent and healthier lifestyle had made me thoroughly sick. Doctors told me I suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a severe Burn-Out and ordered I should stop working immediately.
I felt relieved because this finally gave me room to rest and a possibility for my employer to re-evaluate his operational management. He did, and after fifteen years of hard and devoted labour, I got laid off. Sick and broke with no other place to go than the unemployment office.
I was shocked by the lack of integrity, loyalty and humanity displayed in the whole process of me being sick. The psychologist had told me that, to get better, I had to learn to speak up for myself, and I did. But instead of getting the help and respect I needed and expected, my honesty seemed to have undermined some dictatorial regime which had no intention of improving itself. Giving in to my needs would have had terrible consequences on the way they manage the rest of the employees. I was no longer a valuable, obedient and hard-working labour force. Instead, I had turned into a rebellious financial liability that had to be re-converted or else expelled. I had risked my life multiple times working for this company. I had put aside my personal life for years. But it turned out emotions don't count when counting money.
Realizing this made me even sicker and I developed depression, paranoia and utter disillusion. I had seen corruption and manipulation over and over in third world countries. I had never guessed it would occur with the people and social systems I trusted with my life though.
The only thing I could conclude was that I had been naive. Trusting life to be fair had ultimately led to clinical insanity and the start of five dreadfull years of recovery.
During this recovery, I noticed I was not the only one suffering from similar 'diseases'. The more I talked to people about my illnesses, the more I found out others were also having trouble finding their way during the transitions our digital age is evoking.
This led to a series of paintings, poems and short stories (mostly written in Dutch). These works examine and document the process I went through rebuilding my core values from scratch in a world that was not willing to help me evolve, and the friends and enemies I encountered along the way.
'Star Child Don't Die' Painting made within the depths of my depression when I was terrified I would somehow hurt myself. It also relates to the naive dreamer in all of us. The place where we feel life is just and fair. A place we all want to believe in and, I now know, we all can believe in.