“I initially concluded that I had a problem when I decided that I want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness about mental health disorders. I realised that I was too unfit and needed to let go of certain habits. Drinking was one of those habits,” said Hess.
“At first I was in denial because even though drinking was part of my daily routine, I didn’t drink to get drunk. I just drank because it made me feel good. I would even hide the bottles in my cupboard so my husband couldn’t find it, as I was ashamed,” she said.
After being diagnosed with depression, bipolar and anxiety disorder, Hess discovered her new-found passion - painting - at a psychiatric clinic in Durbanville after her third major depressive episode.
“Since I got married in 2012, I was admitted to different psychiatric hospitals every year, for three weeks at a time, but my husband has always remained supportive and loving. About two years ago, I decided to paint as it was part of the recreational activities offered at the clinics.
“I went a step further and then went for classes at the mall. After about four or five classes I decided to start painting at home, and soon after that, I realised it could be a substitute for making me feel better, which indirectly was a substitute for the alcohol,” she said.
Being sober for 122 days, Hess said she now feels she has a greater sense of self- control and self-awareness. “All the baggage I have I can now put onto a canvas, but I don’t feel bad about it like I used to with alcohol. It’s liberating. When life hands me lemons, I paint them.”
Her art now goes for up to R5000 as she is saving to climb Mount Kilimanjaro on World Mental Health Day in 2019. “The trip I am planning is to raise awareness about the various mental health disorders people are faced with. I will be climbing with 14 other activists with different types of mental health disorders,” she said.
Hess’s art also made it into The South African Artist magazine’s three-year art calendar. “I am so excited and feel blessed, as I just started painting, and my work is already being recognised on such a big scale,” she said.