Leif Holmstrand, Malmö, Sweden

I am 47 years old, but I feel slightly older. I grew up close to the forest in a small community in Dalsland, not far from the Norwegian border. During childhood and school I read a lot, talked a lot and created a lot, but was at the same time not really engaged in what we consider reality or normality. This was both a blessing and a curse.

When I got older paranoia entered my life, and also shame for experiencing gender confusion and homosexuality. Psychotic symptoms started to damage me, as did violent abuse and very poor life choices. I seemed to attract dangerous and angry men, and I became increasingly dispatched to normal means of getting income, to leading an everyday life, to socialising.

From time to time I entered prostitution, and my first large scale psychosis almost killed me and left me hospitalised for a while. In spite of this, I eventually made it through art academy, during which I experienced several psychotic episodes, and soon I got diagnosed with schizophrenia and I was put on disability pension. Some quite dark years passed, only bearable because of friends and days of creativity. After a heavy episode with attempted suicide and destroyed language and destroyed self image, I was suddenly rewarded with an artist scholarship to spend three months in Japan to develop my skills. (My art production was seldom a problem, nowadays my writing and art is my job and livelihood, and also what keeps me sane and happy.)

I was scared to death of making this journey, and almost turned the opportunity down. But my psychiatrist calmly told me that I should go, she said: ”Don’t you think they have doctors in Japan too? And you can always come home if trouble should arise.”

I went to Tokyo after adjusting medication, and it was the starting point of a fantastic artistic journey that made me a self-sufficient artist and writer, no longer in need of disability pension, and I have traveled the world since, presenting my work in Mexico, Russia, Japan, France, South Korea and so on, and I share my life with loving and compassionate men who I adore. We are a queer beautiful family. I’ve started to enjoy living, learning to know people — and it seems nowadays it’s easier for people to know, understand and like me as well.

A certain kind of spacious openness has manifested itself, without fracturing the need to create borders against violent and destructive elements on my paths. I eat lots of delicious food cooked by someone special to me. I cook too, loving it even when I don’t succeed. I take long walks. I arrange flowers. I make beautiful things.