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Beyond the shame | Part 3: Rock Bottom - Natasja van Loenen

burnout rock bottom - dirty laundry

Ten years ago, my world was turned upside down. I was faced with a challenge I had not seen coming and thought would never happen to me: burnout. That period in my life was filled with uncertainty, exhaustion and powerlessness. I felt completely lost. What followed was a shaky road to recovery. In the end, it made me stronger and I am now the person I want to be, without compromise.

In this blog series "Beyond the shame", I share my personal story*. From the low points to the moments of breakthrough. I invite you to watch, listen and feel with me.

Part 3: Rock Bottom

Well, sleep she did indeed, but whether it was good... She had spent the first half of the night twisting and sweating. The nightmares were only interrupted by sleep-deprived trips to the toilet to throw out the pizza from the night before. That pizza was a really bad idea, by the way. Sophie had been diagnosed with delayed gastric release a few years ago. Popularly known as lazy stomach.

'Really everything about me is lazy!" she had chuckled then. Panting on the bathroom floor while from the front she no longer knew if she was alive from the back, she had a little more trouble seeing the humour in it. Stress is quite a trigger for a lazy stomach. So is fatty food. All in all, in a brief delusion of hubris, her choices had led to this moment. The moment when she had thrown herself on a pile of laundry because she no longer had the energy to drag herself back to her bed. She had her eyes closed. Just before she fell asleep again, she rose briefly from her body to look down at the naked pile of self-meal in the corner of the dirty bathroom. So this is what rock bottom looked like. Delicious. The biggest hangover of her life and that without the enjoyment of a good party beforehand.

Binge of laughter

She wakes up to the soft tap of the light switch. She opens her eyes only to close them again immediately with a dramatic frown. With eyes still squeezed shut, she scrambles up to a sitting position. Cautiously, she peeks through her eyelashes at the perpetrator of the light attack. Marko looks down at her worriedly. 'Have you been lying here all night now?' Still somewhat dazed, Sophie looks around as the realisation of the absurdity of the situation slowly dawns on her. She is sitting stark naked in the middle of a pile of dirty laundry half a metre away from the toilet bowl. The half-hearted attempt to scrub away the acidic smell of the vomit now causes a considerable chlorine haze to hang around the toilet. Her mouth tastes and smells as if something has died in it.

To make matters worse, the man - whom she hopes to have sex with again one day - looks pityingly at that sagging pile of man in the full, harsh, bathroom light. Dahag, last vestige of romance. She starts to chuckle softly. Marko raises a questioning eyebrow, prompting even more laughter from Sophie. Before she knows it, she is sprawled out on the bathroom floor again, this time laughing uncontrollably. Marko clearly doesn't know how to hold his own, which doesn't help the situation one bit. Sophie can't stop and manages to get a few words in between bursts of laughter, 'Let.... me..... but....effe.....'. Marko had experienced such a burst of laughter before, but never in a situation like this. He has never experienced a situation like this at all. He shrugged and walked out of the bathroom. 'I'll leave the door ajar, ok?' He gets no answer.


Sophie wipes her towel over the fogged-up mirror and looks at herself. Puffiness? Check. Red eyes? Check. Pale as a ghost? Check. She moves her lower jaw somewhat uncomfortably from side to side. The laughing fit had severely tested her jaw muscles. She takes another look in the mirror. Although it did not make her look much better, the shower session had done her some good. Struggling to manoeuvre her still clammy legs into her skinny jeans, she hops into the bedroom, where Marko is just putting on his work clothes.

That's right, he also had to work today, a job in between for a regular customer who couldn't wait. Disappointed, she looks at him. 'Can't you say you're sick or something?' she gestures with her head towards the bed. 'Don't tempt me!' His stern tone is completely undercut by the playful smile on his face. 'Will you leave me all alone now?' Sophie pouts her lip. She sees that Marko hesitates for a split second and quickly conjures another smile on her face. 'No ya, I'm fine. I'll call Maya in a minute.' Above all, she doesn't want him to feel guilty. At least not now, she genuinely feels fine.

* Names and personal characteristics have been changed in this story for privacy reasons.

** This article was previously published on my website. For all blogs visit

Burnout tears blog - writers bio - Natasja van Loenen


© 2024 Natasja van Loenen - All rights reserved

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