Poetry and a Mechanical Engineering programme. At first glance, they seem like two worlds that could not be further apart. Nevertheless, Wouter Grob, UT student from Almelo, devotes many hours a week to his great passions. ‘It’s an unusual combination, there’s no denying that. The contrasts are stark, but for me, they work like yin and yang. Writing down my emotions keeps me on track analytically.’
Something to hold on to
Like many other teenagers, Grob struggled with doubts, worries and anxieties during adolescence. ‘I had trouble sleeping and couldn’t stop thinking about things at night. One day, I tried to get it all off my chest by writing a poem. That sort of got out of hand.’ When, after a few years, Grob had amassed a pile of dozens of poems, he decided to compile them into a collection. If you browse through the booklet, you will mainly find English texts written in rhyme. ‘The language and form actually came about by chance. I’m better able to express myself in English and the rhyme format gives me something to hold on to.’
Grob clearly recalls how the first poem came into being: a classic case of a lovesick teenager. ‘I liked someone but I was so shy that I didn’t have the guts to tell her. So I thought: I’ll try to do so through a poem. It didn’t work out, unfortunately. Or at least, it didn’t lead to anything in terms of romance, but I realised that dealing with my thoughts and putting my doubts aside like that gave me peace of mind.’
The rejection was something Grob could cope with, but at that point in his life, he was struggling with bigger problems. He was suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) due to bullying incidents, slept little and irregularly and felt like his symptoms could not get any worse, even though he was afraid they might. His mental issues took on such serious forms that he considered suicide. He had been struggling with his feelings for too long and did not share his fears with anyone. Now, years later, he feels a lot better, although he still has his bad days. ‘I’m at peace with the past now, otherwise I wouldn’t be so open about it.’
Where can you turn to as a student with mental health issues?
UT has stated that students are not always aware that they can turn to their student adviser for problems that are not study-related. The student adviser can act as a gateway to UT's different forms of help, for example to help students struggling with a lot of stress. Students can learn how to deal with stress during the stress management workshop, developed by UT student psychologists.
These same tips apply to students who feel dejected or anxious. There are also opportunities for students who feel lonely to get in touch with fellow students, for example by joining a student or study association. Additionally, student psychologists offer a “Look after your friend” training, in collaboration with the Student Union.
There is also an option to talk to a Confidential Contact Person (CCP). CCPs are UT students from different programmes and backgrounds who are trained peer listeners and work in complete confidentiality. Practical tips and advice on how students can deal with feelings in a healthy way are available on UT's Student Well-being Canvas Platform.
With his poetry collection, he hopes to give young people who are now in a similar position a sense of direction. ‘Because I know what not to do. Even though attention to student welfare and well-being is growing, I notice that talking about mental problems among young people is still considered taboo. They think they’re the only ones with depressive thoughts, but sharing your struggles with someone else is incredibly helpful. I only started working through my problems after I began writing about them.’
Reactions from friends and family to his collection are positive. ‘They think I should be proud of myself. After all, there’s a book on the table with my name on it. I’m not very extroverted, so not many people at UT know about the existence of the collection, but the fellow students who do know about it are very enthusiastic.’
Grob has no plans for the future with regard to poetry, even though he says there is enough material for a second or even third collection. ‘I'm not very marketing-savvy, so I don't think those things through enough. And it's not like dozens of my collections are flying off the shelf, although I do think the poems appeal to many students. Some poems are about panic attacks at school, being in deep trouble, stress, mental health issues in COVID-19 times. It’s recognisable to many UT students. Whatever happens, I will continue writing - no matter what. Who knows, maybe I’ll release a new collection after I graduate.’
Wouter Grob - Poetry With Passion is available via Boekscout or in bookshops at €17.99.
Wouter Grob - The roughest day
The last couple of days have been rough, but today certainly is the hardest of them all.
I tried to manage all the stress but last night I lost control and took the fall.
An ear infection, a course I failed and work for 3 committee’s got the best of me.
It’s past noon and I haven’t left my bed in the past 14 hours, so yeah, living the dream.
I feel a tad lonesome as well, as I try to figure out what to do so I can feel fine again.
I want to leave this all-time low in the rear-view mirror, but that’ll take some time.
I missed a class this morning, which wasn’t exactly part of the plan.
For now, I just got to suck this all up like a man and try to see the bright side of this downtime.
This evening I’ll go to swim practice after which I’ll call a friend.
it’s time to admit that I can’t hold this in and that I really need to vent.
After that I’ll crawl into bed to get some rest, because I need to get back in this fight.
And when I wake up tomorrow I’ll get to work making things right.