“I am a former soldier who fought in Bosnia and Afghanistan. I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. When I came back from Afghanistan, all went downhill. I was depressed; I did not want to live anymore. I thought these feelings would go away with time but they did not and had terrible consequences on my life. I got divorced, lost my home and lost contact with my kids for a time. Back then, I lost everything that mattered to me. I ended up living on the street, until I finally looked for help and was granted housing and medical support.
This was 9 years after I returned from the front.
The Royal Danish Theatre called the veterans home where I was staying, looking for a soldier for a new show. I had not spoken up for 9 years. This was a unique opportunity.
I did not think about what being on stage would mean. I did not think about all the people watching me. I just wanted to tell my story; share what was on my mind. For the first time. It was then or never.
I am not sure this was courageous. It was a matter of survival.
The first people I told about what I went through in Afghanistan were Christian Lollike and Tim Matiakis, who choreographed the show. It was a huge relief. Then I told my story again. In the studio, in front of the dancers. Although I was first scared to do it, it had a good effect on me. I could feel the dancers respected my story; they did not question my experience and suffering. As soon as I had spoken up, I felt a strong bounding with the dancers and choreographers. I felt secure. I belonged there with them.
And the next time after that I told my story, it was in front of the audience during the performance at the Royal Danish Theatre.
“In Contact” enabled the audience to see the reality behind the soldiers.
My parents did not want to hear the hard stories from the war. Then I just shut down. However, not to be able to speak about it made my wounds grow increasingly soar. My mom and dad came to see the show 5 times. They learnt a little bit more about me each time.
My wounds are invisible. I sometimes feel it would be easier if I had lost a leg or an arm, as everyone could see it. Today I still think about what war put me through, all the time. I rarely feel safe; anywhere I go. My mind never gets quiet.
Still, being part of this dance performance made me a stronger person. “In Contact” is the most important thing that happened in my life after being a soldier. I do not think I would be here had it not happened. I had a period when I was sitting in my flat for several months just staring at walls. I would still do that today. “In Contact” helped me come back to life.
What Dance Can Do?
I am not a dancer and will never be. However, I have the biggest respect for people like Femke who can powerfully express feelings that words cannot express.”
– Jesper Nøddelund Hein