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Beyond shame | Part 5: The hassle with Frederique - Natasja van Loenen

burnout the hassle with frederique

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.

While she is in conversation with Maya, a memory of a rather intense confrontation with Cathelijne is triggered. At least, it was intense for Sophie. Cathelijne was clearly less bothered by it. Sophie thinks back to the incident that made her unable to even utter anything out of anger and bewilderment. It was about one of the co-workers on Sophie's team: Frederique.

Part 5: The hassle with Frederique

Once every fortnight, Cathelijne and Sophie had a consultation meeting. Just tune in together, head in the same direction and move on. It often concerned practical matters, budget matters, sick leave of the teams and sometimes individual employees. The meetings had always been short and businesslike, until Sophie started working on a new project. Her departments would run a pilot for a new timetable. It would slightly change the tasks that hung on the job profiles, but most of all it would be better for the work-life balance of employees. In addition, it would also ensure that a familiar face was at the residents' bedside more often, so it was really a win-win situation. Sophie was very enthusiastic about the pilot. Cathelijne was too, but for very different reasons.


Cathelijne had been annoyed for years at the vested rights some of the veterans had within St Vitus House. Things had been agreed with some staff before Cathelijne came to work there that she did not agree with. Unfortunately, she could not just get rid of this. Through the pilot, she saw an opening. There was approval from the Works Council to break open old contracts so they could fit in with the new way of working. There had been some resistance to this, but to her surprise, Sophie had resolved it without too much trouble.

Cathelijne saw more possibilities. So when Sophie walked in, she immediately fell right in: "Hey, Soof, those contracts have been cracked open haven't they? Now I understand that everyone has agreed to that now, is that right?" Sophie looks at her questioningly for a moment: "Uhm, yeah, aren't they? I thought everyone was on board, I got signatures from everyone...?" "Yes, that's right, I saw that. That's totally fine too, but I just wanted to talk about Frederique.".


Frederique was a nurse who unfortunately had some physical problems. She was an incredibly sweet and patient woman, but could no longer do heavy work due to rheumatism. Before Sophie came to work at St Vitus, she had been home sick for a while. Fortunately, suitable work had been found for her. She was able to do activity counselling. All the other activity supervisors had meanwhile left and been replaced for more hands at the bedside. Frederique had always stayed and also did a lot of housework and took care of feeding all the residents when she was there. It worked fine that way within the rota.

But yes, it was different from the norm. Cathelijne couldn't take that very well. So Sophie already felt the mood hanging a bit. "I actually think Frederique should just go back to doing all the duties now too, she has the papers for it, so she should just start providing care again." Sophie was bitter as hell, why was Cathelijne making such an issue of this now? No one was complaining about it, no extra staff were needed for this solution, it costs Cathelijne nothing at all! Sophie would gladly throw that in her face nicely unsubtle. She didn't, of course. Instead, she tried a more subtle approach: "I am afraid that if we put her back into full care duties, she will drop out in no time. Then absenteeism will go up again."

Sophie was very happy with this angle. Cathelijne was very sensitive about the absence figures. She was secretly a little proud that she had come up with this so quickly. She was always quick, but with Cathelijne, somehow it often didn't work out. Then her head just blocked. Now it worked, so that was nice. "Nice." Sophie looks at Cathelijne questioningly: "Beautiful - what do you mean beautiful?". Cathelijne's thin lips pressed into a small line. Was it a restrained smile now or was she just hiding? "Yes, beautiful. If she drops out, we can finally start a trajectory with her. She needs to realise by now that there is no place for her. Let her feel it, I want to get rid of her now!". Sophie was stunned. Was she really saying this?

Sophie walks dazedly down the corridor when she hears Cathelijne's door slam shut. She had been sitting there staring at Cathelijne with her mouth full. Who hadn't even noticed. She just moved on to the next agenda items. She just assumed Sophie was going to do this. Sophie really didn't know what to do at that moment. She knew only one thing, she was definitely not going to use the new pilot to kick Frederique out.


Of course, she had to go to Vera. Vera had worked with Cathelijne for some time and was the only team manager who had put up with her for so long. Apparently, she knew how to deal with her. She stormed into Vera's office and sat down behind the desk opposite her. This used to be Sophie's office, but it was really far too far away from her team. She now had her own office right next to her one team and around the corner from the second team. That way she was much easier to reach and also kept a better overview. It was ideal. Still, she did miss being able to spar with Vera at any time; it always came so naturally. Vera was still busy typing.

When Sophie entered, she had briefly raised her hand and Sophie had thus plopped down on her old chair. She was just stuffing her mouth with goodies from Vera's candy jar when Vera looked up at her, "Tell!". Sophie quickly swallowed the sweet mash and, without nuance, threw out the whole story in an instant. Vera listened, raising an eyebrow every now and then and shaking her head at the end of the account. "Oh well, yes, that's typical Cathelijne. Then she's got something on her mind again." Sophie looked at her in amazement: "Do you think this is normal?" Vera thought for a moment: "No, I'm not saying that, but it's usually not meant as vehemently as she says it is. She just wants it all to be shared fairly and for Frederique to do her best too.

If you just start slowly building up with her and looking at what she can do in care, that will be enough. She really doesn't have to do all the heavy work again. She's just saying that now to make a statement.". Sophie still didn't feel quite comfortable with this answer, but Vera had been holding out with Cathelijne for a long time. She decided to just wait it out for now. She had an appointment with her HR adviser scheduled next week anyway, so she would discuss it then.

* 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


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