Christiane Fichtner




Biografie 036


Allow me to introduce myself to you. My name is Christiane Fichtner. I am now an artist and was born in Cologne in 1974. Very briefly this is my story.

My parents were both very loving and did their best to bring me and my elder brother up. My Dad was an engineer and often worked away and was usually only home at the weekends. My mother was a fulltime teacher. Bringing us children up was also her role and we were very close to her.

We lived in a small town in the country and nearly everyone knew everyone else. I always remember this as a very secure time. In fact, I am still friends with some of the girls I went to day care with and later primary school. In some ways I wish that we never moved from this town as I felt so secure there. I think I was little bossy and often had my friends around for the weekend. We talked, we laughed and did a lot of crafty things as well as drawing. At primary school I was fairly popular and looked out for the younger students. My best friend however was the cat. She was a very independent animal. She was the sort of cat that would not sit on your lap. She didn’t like being petted and was prone to bite people. In fact when we had visitors the cat had to locked in my room. I was the only person who was really close to her and there was a real bond between us. To this day I love animals and prefer them to people. Their love is unconditional not like people!

Later as I was about to commence high school we had to move to Dussledorf. I left all my friends behind and had to start at a new school. This was not easy. It was difficult to make friends and I tried very hard. The “popular girls” were downright nasty to me. On the surface they pretended to be nice to me. They would often invite me out and then not show up or would make fun of me later. This made me very depressed. It was hard to know how to deal with it. Sometimes I would cut myself. I did this to relieve the mental pain that I felt. I withdrew to my room and along with the cat would try and lose myself in art and craft.

My mother was very prescient, and she became concerned about me. Especially when she found what I doing to myself. She spoke to the teachers at the school, but it didn’t make much difference. The “popular girls” seemed so nice on the surface that they had everyone fooled. This included the school and their parents. I knew they were real bitches and they were making my life hell. I did make a few friends with time, but these never lasted. They believed that I was too sensitive. Often I would ask them out and they would say they were coming but not show up. I took this hard but cutting where no one could see was the only relief that I had.

I didn’t do too well at school. I guess that you may sympathise with me. Maybe you had a similar experience. Any way by the end of school I seen a psychiatrist and was being prescribed antidepressants. I couldn’t really handle stress so I knew I could never be academic and pass exams. I decided that I would become a hairdresser and attended a small school where we learnt the trade over a six month period. I didn’t really like the work and some of the girls were so untidy. I often had to tell the teachers about how some of them were not cleaning up after themselves. I did graduate but only due to the pressure applied by my mother. In fact I think she is the one who should of graduated. This was the last time I touched as set of hairdressing sissors.

I found a job working in retail. I worked in a department store and initially did very well. I was very good with customers as I was able to sense what they were looking for and what they would look best in. I was very good at designing displays. On the surface my life looked like it had settled down. Underneath my mind was still in overdrive. I was still “depressed” and taking a higher dose of pills. I didn’t have many close friends but I did meet a boy. We became an item together. One night while we were kissing one thing lead to another. We were both nearly naked and he started to go further than I wanted. I told him to stop but he wouldn’t.

Up until now everything had been good. Now I hated him. Once I had my courage up I went to the police and I made a report. The police really made me angry and after several months no charges were laid as they said they didn’t have enough evidence for a case. I was really angry about this. My job became a bit more difficult and because I was stressing I was not able to sleep at night. When morning came I was able to sleep and getting up for work was hard.

I had to leave this place. I sold most of my belongings and decided that I would travel to Scandinavia. With a new start I would be ok. I booked into a youth hostel in Copenhagen and set about finding a job. I soon got one in a small department store just before my money was about to run out. It was not a fulltime job but at around 30 hours per week was just enough to keep me in food and find a roof over my head. I lasted nearly three years in Copenhagen and I liked it a lot. The people were a little different to home. I did pretty well at my work and even managed to complete a management course. I was offered a promotion to visit other stores and assist the stores with their processes. Around this time the “Me too” movement commenced and Christmas was coming. The chain had a card that was completely inappropriate. I really lost it with the company and told them what I thought. The strain was too much and my doctor gave me a month off work. I couldn’t really sleep and when I spoke with work I really gave them a piece of my mind by screaming a them.

Well I lost my job. My parents were worried and they came to visit me. They wanted me to change but it is not my fault I am like this. I got really angry at them. They were a bit shocked to see me I later learned. I wasn’t eating and the only way I could eat or calm my nerves was to smoke marijuana. I didn’t really take good care of myself either. My parents tried to persuade me to come home where they could be closer and look after me. I didn’t want to go as that was where I had fled.

In the end I had no real choices. In some way it would be nice to be near my parents who I felt really cared about me, but I was still scared. I came home and things were not really as bad as I thought. My parents got me to a counsellor. I didn’t like her much at first but we grew on each other over time. In the course of our appointments she diagnosed me as having a personality disorder. At first I didn’t believe it and when we discussed it with my parents they said it suddenly made sense of my life. They were then also able to love me for who I was unconditionally understanding a bit more about me. With time I learnt to recognise the warning signs about my behaviour and the steps I needed to reduce my anxiety. My first job was helping out in a small art gallery. I was able to use my customer service skills as well as arranging art works. This was an important step and I found that I had a real interest in art. I later attended university and completed a Fine Arts degree.

I lived with my parents for many years and we were able to give each other space. I became good friends with my father. He even became a good artist in his own right and we were able to help each other. Today I am in the later part of my life. I have female partner who is my best friend and loyal dog from the dog rescue association. I became quite well known as an artist and it is really my condition that predisposed me to do well. Sometimes a disability is really an asset. I have never lost sight of this and actively support young people who are struggling mentally.

Text by John Gourley


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