#FridayFeature: Yvette Beneke

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Yvette Beneke’s name first appeared on my Facebook timeline as one of those suggested pages I should like Yvette’s Art Page – Yvette Beneke. I was drawn to her. Obviously because we have the same name AND she is an artist- something I’m working on quietly on these hot summer’s nights.

I read up about her on her website and followed her Facebook page where she spoke of how she changed her career path and took up painting full time.  Her personal story of how she became a successful, a not-so-starving artist, was an inspiration to me. It wasn’t long before I initiated the chat and asked for some input with regards to my own work.

Immediately, I felt a something. Was it a connection? Or does she just give off warm, fuzzy feelings naturally? I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

It wasn’t long until I saw a post by Mental Health South Africa where she was featured and spoke about her life after her suicide attempt. I immediately made contact again and told her about Our Lived Experience and just like that- we got to have a short interview with her- the busy artist that she is.

Taken from Mental Health South Africa:

Yvette says,”As I sit here on the last day of 2015, I realise how happy and blessed I am to be here. Being able to celebrate the new year after my suicide attempt is truly a blessing.

To all of you who feel anxious, depressed, sad and just that you can not go on any more; that you feel you want to give up, please, don’t!! There is so much in this world that is beautiful.

Look around you, try to feel and see the beauty. I know how difficult it is but, thinking more about the beauty and the good eventually leads to happier thoughts. Lets all make 2016 our year!! Please be safe and happy and keep on sharing and talking! Blessings to you all!”

South African artist Yvette Beneke was born in 1969, grew up in Bloemfontein, and studied Architecture. After completing her studies, she moved to Cape Town where she worked as Architect in training. She worked in the industry for 10 years and left it to take up art full time after the demands of the job became too much.

Q: I read that you suffered from depression- could you tell me more about that? Do you suffer from a specific mental illness like Bipolar disorder or did you just experience the depression?

A: Hi Yvette, no I do not have a diagnosed mental illness like bipolar etc. I have always been very anxious and get anxious quite easily. I worry a lot. My depression was something that, over years, just got worse and worse without me realising what was going on.

Q: At what point did you realize that you had a problem? Was it this year? And why did you decide speak out about your depression?

A: It was at the beginning of last year. Tried anti depressants but they did not work. I thought I was managing but obviously wasn’t. Only after my suicide attempt did I realise that I needed help. I was prescribed another anti depressant and luckily it worked.

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Q: What symptoms alarmed you enough to get help? This would be helpful for those not knowing they have a problem.

A: Well, I think before the suicide was that I felt completely freaked out because it felt as if there was just absolutely nothing to go on for. A sort of desperate feeling of darkness if I can explain it like that. No “want” to carry on with daily routines. Or rather, you feel as if you cant do anything and everything was just too much.

Q: I absolutely understand that feeling. I’m sure many can relate. Yvette, besides the pills, what do you believe saved you?

A: A clear understanding of where my biggest anxiety and unhappiness was coming from and managing and dealing with that.

Q: What does your support structure look like? And in your opinion how important is that in managing your mental health?

A: I have a very good support structure. Family and friends as well as therapy and medical. Yes, it plays a very big and important role.

Q: What in your opinion is the highest issues we face in South Africa with regards to mental health awareness? Was it part of why you decided to speak out in public about your depression?

A: I think stigma is a big thing. Most people are told to just get over it or think happy thoughts etc but also if you say you are depressed people frown upon it.  Talking about it to the right people is a very important thing I think. I am no professional though. I decided to speak out because I realised there are so many depressed people suffering in silence and not getting the proper help.

Q: Absolutely agree with you. What advice would you give to the following people? Those suffering in silence not knowing what to do

And the loved ones of those who suffer from depression or have attempted suicide?

A: For those who suffer in silence. Get help ASAP. Someone to talk to, professional would be best. The loved ones, to understand and support and not judge.

Q: Thanks so much Yvette. I know it must have been a tough time for you but you really do look so happy and well by what we see on Facebook. Is there anything you’d like to add?

A: Thank you. One thing yes: never allow others to steal your happiness, bully you emotionally. Walk away from anyone or everything that makes you unhappy, anxious or icky. We only have one life and we must choose what and who is best for us

You can find Yvette at http://www.yvettemolenaar.com/ and on her page on Facebook.

*All works are by Yvette Beneke. Other beautiful paintings can be viewed and bought through her or the galleries where she is represented (can be found on her website).

Have you got a story for us? Send details to ourlivedexperience@gmail.com.

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