½ “I was never taught to share my feelings. I am an only child so whenever I would go through something I would try to talk to my parents about it. However, I never felt taken seriously by them. At the age of fifteen I got into a serious depression. For almost four years I would not leave my room. In the beginning of my depression my mother took me to see a psychologist. We had a one-hour conversation and when I was done my mum came to pick me up. It felt really good to talk to someone. The psychologist said to my mother that from now on it was important that she would speak to me about feelings and emotions. My mother interpreted it as criticism and an invasion of our family’s privacy. She never took me back to see the psychologist..’‘

(Tunis, Tunisia)

“I was seven when I started writing in my diary. It was in the middle of the civil war and the basement of our building which was a clothing factory became our shelter. From my little window I could see the snipers aim and bombs falling on Beirut. I was so affected by the war that I would write down everything I saw and felt. My diary had a beautiful green cover and it became my best friend, my all time confidant. Every time I finished writing I would hide it as a treasure so no one could find it. At some point our neighborhood became a hotspot. Bombs were flying around so we had to flee. I was afraid of losing my diary so I hid it very carefully in the shelter where I was sleeping. One year later, when we returned, the building had been rebuild after all the damage of the war. The first thing I did was look for my diary but it was nowhere to be found. For many years I searched until at some point I came to realize that I would never find it again. I couldn’t write for a long time. I felt that I had lost my story. Sometimes, I still stand in front of that same building and I feel like that 7-year-old-girl again who wants to go into the shelter to try to find her diary, to find her story.”
(Beirut, Lebanon)

“After I came back from my travel to south East Asia I felt that I wanted to help others. I figured the best way I could do that was by going to University and do a Bachelor’s programme in Pedagogical Sciences. I really wanted to be able to understand other people’s problems. I could see myself working with troubled teens or addicts. In the programme we had a drama class and the idea was to learn how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. For the first assignment I had to pretend I was a piece of fireworks. Later on the assignments got more complex. Together with my classmate we had to build a human Spaghetti Bridge. I just couldn’t figure out what the connection was between me wanting to help others and being a string of spaghetti. So I quit.”

My father has never been able to fully accept the fact i’m in a wheelchair. My mother on the other hand has always been my support system. Three months after I became disabled she passed away. She was dealing with an alcohol addiction and unfortunately it became her death. A few weeks before she passed away, she had gone to the market to do some groceries. When she came back she was all excited because she had seen someone in a wheelchair that was full of positive energy and managed to move easily and smoothly in his wheelchair. She said: ‘Paula, one day you will be just like that. You will be able to move just as fast and energetic in your wheelchair.’ A few weeks later she died. When she passed, I was only 25 years old. It was the very first time I really felt handicapped. Life without her was so incredibly difficult. I’ve dealt with many depressions after that but the story she told me that day has helped me to never give up on life.“

“I was raised by my grandmother. Last year she was diagnosed with incurable cancer. The doctor said she will live another year. I don’t want her to go to one of those a nursing homes. That’s why I gave up my apartment and in a few weeks ill move in with her. She was the one who raised me now it’s my turn to take care of her.”
“What will be the hardest part about leaving your own apartment?”
“Probably giving up my freedom. No more parties, no more bringing home girls.”