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Case story: Women 22 years old

Life before coming to the Culture house

I have moved many times in my life, and life situations have changed quite rapidly. Before I came to the Culture House, I was a student, I joined at the end of my studies. I’ve been to doctors and psychologists and every possible place, but I haven’t been diagnosed with anything for years, even though I’ve come to the conclusion that I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). On the surface, I’m so happy and coping, and I understand my own situation perhaps a little too well for the doctors.

When I was five years old, there was a teenage boy living next door to me who sexually abused me. He raped me for a couple of years before we moved out. He was about 10 years older than me, and I shut it out of my mind for a long time, until sometime in high school when I started to understand a bit more about these things. That’s where all the memories came from. It wasn’t until my second year of high school that I drunkenly told a friend about it, who luckily was able to refer me to a psychologist. I went there once a week and then every two weeks.

I’ve had mental health problems since fifth grade. I was 11 when I was suicidal for the first time. I didn’t really understand why I was doing it (cutting myself), it was more of a cry for help at the time. It started to get worse in grade school and then the cries for help stopped, and the cutting turned into something in my head that I deserved this and no one needed to know. I was able to hide it pretty well, only once a year at a school health inspection did I get caught and it was brought up. Even at home it was noticed, but my mum was like, ”stop it”. It wasn’t discussed any further.

There was bullying all through school and even at vocational school – I was bullied and I was the bully. Then I have a pretty difficult relationship with my father, because he’s an alcoholic, a drug addict and a criminal. My parents divorced when I was very young and because of my father we moved several times when I was a child. I saw my dad maybe every couple of years, until the turning point came the year I went to confessional school and joined the church. Dad didn’t like it at all; I got hit on the head with a garden chair and was shouted at.

The situation now

I finally, after years, got a good therapeutic contact and I was diagnosed with severe depression, PTSD and anxiety disorder. I went to Dialectical behaviour therapy, it was very helpful for dealing with emotions and other everyday things. I still have a therapy contact and go for check-ups. It’s now at the point where I can stop taking antidepressants. I have a meaningful job, a good relationship, a lovely home and a couple of cats. I’m more social now, I see more my friends. I also find I need a bit more social relationships than I used to, but of course I also need time for myself.

Without the Culture house, my studies would have been interrupted, because I was already about to send those divorce papers away. But then I was encouraged to continue, so I found the strength to keep going. And dropping out would have been a big disappointment for me, and starting again would have been really difficult.

On the importance of the Community

Being part of a bigger whole or a group. Yes, I believe that most people have a need to belong or be part of something. For me personally, it is important. And when no one is discriminated against in a place like this, it reduces exclusion.

Being part of a community gives you a reason to leave home.

Being part of a community gives you a reason to leave home. I certainly wouldn’t have gone further than the grocery store in the past without a place like this. I’ve noticed that when you get tired, either physically or mentally, the longer you stay home, the more tired you get. I guess I am that social anyway. Even though being around people takes energy, it also gives you strength.

I’ve made friends in the Culture house, and I hang out with them in my free time. The place is a refuge where you dare to come, no matter what kind of mood you have. And it was really important in the beginning that I felt welcome every time. And the fact that I was encouraged right from the start, even though everything didn’t always go as it should have. Nobody minded if I messed up a bit.

The Culture house has allowed me to express myself a lot and encouraged me to try things that I might not have dared to try in other environments, like making music. And if you want to organise a happening, it’s possible – so you don’t just talk here, you can do things that are important to you. There are so many things to do at the Culture house, there’s always something to do. Another important thing is that the Culture house is a diagnosis-free zone: no one asks you what’s wrong with you, but how you can get involved. It’s a relaxed atmosphere where no one demands anything of you.

Characteristics of a good community

A good community has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. It’s a safe place where you don’t have to be afraid of what you are. So you can be yourself and be in the mood you are in at the time, and no one will ask you ”why are you like this today”. Otherwise you don’t have to tell anyone what’s wrong with you if you don’t want to. It’s strongly connected with acceptance. Compared to something like Kela (Social Insurance Institution) or something like that, there is a big difference. I am terrified of dealing with official institutions. In Culture house it is so much more relaxed. I think all places that serve young people should be the same.

Being part of a community is an resource; I feel like I’ve found a group of like-minded people. In a good community, you dare to be yourself, and not wonder after every sentence what people are thinking. When you join, it’s great not to be treated as a ”newcomer” for a long time, but to be immediately included in everything that’s done. You get to be a real participant.

I think it’s very important to have people in the community you can trust. Even at the moment, there is a workers, peers and friends I can trust. The vast majority of participants have a worker with whom they have established a good relationship. A good worker does not hold themselves up on a pedestal, but is human to human – valuing and treating the young person as an equal. And they are nice, kind, have a sense of humour – a nice person in general. Professionalism, in my opinion, is shown by the fact that the worker has the ability to read situations and is not too friendly with any client.