By Claudia Van-Nimwegen
A strange concoction or a suitably-apt combination? Whichever way you look at it, all three form a huge part of my identity.
Why you may ask? Well you’re about to find out.
I’ve always struggled to fit in and find my purpose in life. Living with Autism or Depression or Anxiety it can be just that little bit more difficult.
However, I realised that I don’t have to live up to societies expectations of what I am meant to be because of my diagnoses; I can create my own purpose.
Now; at 21, as I sit here and have a future, I’ve learnt that the world needs a little bit of crazy sometimes and that it’s okay to be who I am. It’s better to think outside the box than to be trapped inside the four walls of my head. Instead of constantly trying to put off starting my journey, I’m going to surrender to the emotions, the doubts, the fears – both rational and irrational and live in the present, taking each day as it comes.
I first time I truly acknowledged my abilities was when I was 17. I was sectioned in a psychiatric hospital section after a suicide attempt. I had always enjoyed the arts but at this moment in my life I was lost down such a deep hole that I couldn’t see any point in continuing to be creative.
Things changed about two months into my admission to the hospital. A music tutor came in weekly and ran sessions with all the patients and I found myself involved in an outlet that I could express myself through. The music tutor recognised my abilities and suggested that when I was discharged from the hospital, I “should go into the arts and inspire others”, so I did!
When I was discharged, I took a theatre production course for 2 years at a local college. I learned about backstage lighting, sound, set design and stage management. I really enjoyed working backstage because it was a channel for sharing my creativity that resonated and reflected my personality. In fact, I loved it so much that I decided to study it at University.
Since moving to University, from which I’m about to graduate with a Bachelor’s of the Arts Degree in Theatre Technologies, I’ve learnt that my skills not only lie in technical theatre but as a performer in my own right. I see myself as a Theatre Artist; as an individual who fuses live performance with technology, as a stand-alone artist and as part of a group. When I graduate, alongside continuing to create theatrical artworks with the world, I’ll be broadening my horizons and expanding my skill-set by training to become a teacher so I can inspire and motivate the next generation of creatives.
From espressos, to macchiatos and from lattes to americanos…it’s safe to say I adore coffee.
Coffee gives me a boost for those late-night studying stints and a buzz in the morning to get me started for the day. However, it’s so much more than that. For me, it’s a social thing.
I’m going to be honest here, I’m a procrastinator extraordinaire and I can find it really difficult to get things done if I am at home (trust me, Netflix and a fully stocked fridge is all too tempting).
If I want to get things done, I find getting out of my flat and sitting in a café, coffee shop or bistro helps me to be productive. There are plug sockets, comfortable seats, free Wi-Fi and usually other people working too; so, what more could I want?
Coffee motivates me to get work done but also relaxes me. It helps me to be creative because wherever I go, I always manage to find inspiration from my surroundings; from someone I chat with, from the music playing or just the view.
Every day is different so it keeps me on my toes and allows me to be inquisitive and adventurous. A lot of coffee shops are open quite late too, which makes it handy if I have insomnia or have an evening burst of creativity.
It helps me to cope with my anxiety and social communication issues too; sometimes when I spark up conversations and share my story with people, they compliment me on getting to where I am today, which is very nice.
For me, this is the best form of healing. When I can help somebody else by talking openly, sharing my story and spreading awareness of mental health and learning disabilities into every day settings such as coffee shops, it’s my small contribution to breaking the stigma.
I always remember that I’m only one person amongst many trying to make a difference. I’m just your average human but if I’m able to be there as an accepting and honest set of ears, shared my story and used my creativity to inspire others, then I’ve done what’s important to me.
Claudia Van-Nimwegen is a theatre artist and motivational speaker.