Marco Tessers (46) was photographed with his wife Marscha and their two daughters, Larissa (18) and Kirsten (16). I haven’t always been easy for them, to put it mildly. My PTSD has beaten some deep craters, also with them. However, they are always there for me, always involved. They’re my everything.”
By Edward Swier
Marco decided to seek help in 2015. For years he knew something was bothering him. But he couldn’t and wouldn’t put it into words. Until his eldest daughter confronted him harshly with the truth. She said: I don’t know what just happened to you. But I was very scared of you. He himself hadn’t taken much of the fight in. I had lost the reason for it, but also the fuss itself. I just didn’t get it at all.
It was the alarm bell that triggered him to seek help. “I did some kind of self-test then. Where others were urged to talk about problems if they scored 46 points, I scored almost 90. That was reason enough to go to the doctor.”
Then the ball started rolling fast. He went to see a psychologist, got help through the Veterans Institute, group therapy followed. “There I sat with boys who had been to Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia. Each with their own story, but so many similarities. I had a lot to gain from it.” No matter how difficult the circumstances, during the group discussions he found the togetherness that claimed him during his years in the army.
It’s a long and intensive journey,” Marco says bluntly. And I’m still walking it, that’s necessary. But things are going a lot better now. The fact that I will join the Invictus Games in 2021 is proof of that. I also find that togetherness there, a very pleasant feeling”.
Although, even now that the event has been postponed until 2021, he will participate in several parts during the Invictus Games, his heart is mainly with archery. He discovered the sport during one of the first open training sessions in Doorn. ,,It immediately struck me: I want to continue with that. It works very well for me. That bow and I, we belong together. Normally I’m extremely unconcentrated. I am very quickly distracted, and if something doesn’t work out I quickly get frustrated. I still can’t handle a lot of things very well. But if I have that bow in my hands, it’s all just a little different. That bow demands that I stay focused. Otherwise such an arrow flies in all directions. So archery is very therapeutic. “In all this time, I’ve only thrown that thing out of the way once.
The origin of his PTSD was not difficult to determine. Between 1993 and 2000 Marco was employed by the Army. He was on a mission. He went twice to Bosnia, was also in Kosovo. There he saw things that touched him hard. “Some things I never even told my wife, who was also in the army.
“I’m pretty good at talking about it. Broadly speaking, I leave out the details. They’re too incriminating, for myself and others. Of course, there have been a lot of incidents during all those missions. Some of them I still haven’t quite figured out yet. But I’ve learned to deal with them’’.
In the moment he could handle his duties. “You’re busy, your mindset is different. Even an accumulation of incidents is almost normal. A number of times it’s been pretty critical. I’ve had a hostage-taking in a school building and a serious shooting incident.
At one point, all that started to eat him up. “I knew there was something there, but I didn’t give in. Until he was repatriated in 1999 during an exercise abroad. “I had bought a house, claimed it was homesickness. I couldn’t sleep properly, had panic attacks.”
Once out of the army Marco thought he could pick up the thread in normal life. I slept restlessly, had an anxiety sweat, but didn’t have anything to worry about for the outside world. When colleagues cared about me, I waved it away.”
Until that day his daughter said she was afraid of him. “That was the last straw for me. I’ve got two super cool girls that really help me. And I feel very guilty about it, even now. The guilt is still there. When I’m in town with them, they always look out for me. They help me, feel responsible for me. While they have to go shopping. “I have to look after them, not the other way around.
He doesn’t keep it a secret that he has PTSD. There’s no reason for that. I’m an open book, at least as long as I can direct it myself. I’m past the shame, too. Though I have to say it’s pretty worthless sitting at home in Lelystad all day. I’m completely dismissed from working, I’d prefer to pick something up again. On the other hand, I also have to admit that I can’t do everything yet. I now try to do one household task every day at home. One day I manage to vacuum the whole house, but sometimes holding a duster is too much for me”.
Marco doesn’t want to be dramatic. But he says he’s still here thanks to his wife and children. They’re my everything. They’re so involved, they’re always there for me. They’ve always been there. It’s the reason I’ve kept going.
His wife Marscha had a lot to do with him. “We’ve also been through relationship therapy together. I’m glad she’s so firm in her shoes. That she’s always been there for us. I don’t know if I would have had that strength in her position. She’s always motivated me, sometimes with a hard hand. “I’m very grateful to her for that.
“I don’t want to burden those two girls with everything, they just have to be nice and young. But over the years they have become more or less my assistance dogs, I sometimes call them joking. They stand in front of me, and behind me. Keeping me out of the wind when it gets difficult. That’s very nice. “I’m also very proud that they both wanted to be photographed.
Portraits: Ed O’Mahoney