Julia Devos (1991), works in a shelter for homeless youth, Australia

Julia Devos (1991), works in a shelter for homeless youth, Australia

Julia Devos (1991) works as a educational scientist in a shelter for homeless youth in Australia, we interviewed her in June 2017

FEELING HEAVILY IS OKAY

In Australia a Native American healer tried to chase away her violent nightmares. “I’m not sure if I believe in it, but it’s a beautiful intention. A group of people coming together to take away my bad dreams. I find it strange how people believe in certain things. I’m secretly a bit jealous. Because it makes your life a little simpler. You follow a path and don’t think about it too much.” She doesn’t say it, but the overthinking weighs on her. “If I could pick a dream, it would be that we were all happier. The emotion of sadness is useful, being unhappy isn’t. It’s okay to feel, to feel heavily and allow yourself and others to feel it. It’s okay to be on a rollercoaster. Emotions have a purpose. But sometimes they’re difficult and frightening. Therefore, in our society we learn to shut them down. Or to label and medicate them. Sad and angry? Must be depression. Too happy? Manic! We’re all human and we’ve all been through stuff."

BEING HAPPY IS FRIGHTENING TOO. THEN YOU HAVE TO MAINTAIN IT.

"It’s better to accept things than to push them away with for example medication. There’s nothing wrong with feeling sad, but there is something wrong with the solution of psychiatry. People inside the walls of institutions are not less than the ones on the other side.” Then she shares her own experiences. Her best friend passed away when she was sixteen, a few months later her dad followed. “There used to be a time that I thought: ‘How can I be happy with all I’ve been through? Or ‘How can I use this as an artist?’ Now I know that sadness isn’t the same as being unhappy. And that it’s okay to laugh your outrageously one moment and start crying one minute later. But to submerge yourself in unhappiness serves no one. You start making other people unhappy too. Being happy is frightening too”, she suddenly says. “Then you have to maintain it. Or when you’re in psychiatry, you’re panic-stricken to be sent home.” When she was 20 she worked in traditional mental healthcare, a few years later in a Recovery House where client and mentor are equal, live together and there are no locks or mandatory medication. “I saw two extremes. At the same time confusing and enlightening. I’ve been through things myself. Sharing that isn’t weak. It’s about connecting and giving people strength. However, putting yourself out there is hard. And carrying all those other stories is exhausting. Then you realise that there are boundaries. And that human beings are self-centred. I am too. First you have to take care of yourself, then come the others. That’s the only way you can do it right.”

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Hans Lambrecht (42), European Union, Liberia

Hans Lambrecht (42), European Union, Liberia