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Beyond the shame | Part 6: You have mail - Natasja van Loenen

Burnout blog you have mail

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 6: You have mail

Sophie sits with Maya on the sofa to talk about Cathelijne. Maya notes that Sophie only gets angry with Cathelijne when it is about someone else. She remembers the confrontation about Frederique and the anger she had felt in the process.

She looks up at Maya. She has a point. She is fine with getting angry at everything Cathelijne does, just not when it comes to herself. Sophie is not so sure what to make of that right now. Most of all, she balks at herself. Her staff are not resistant to the political game Cathelijne seems to be constantly playing. She should be. That is literally her job. She is the buffer between Cathelijne and the teams.

She looks at the far too full ashtray and her untouched glass of water. Yes, she is really looking after herself nicely. A deep, despondent sigh squeezes between her lips. Her head is momentarily done with all the insights and analysis. She is just too tired. She tries to ignore the panicked voices in her head for a moment as she says goodbye to Maya: "If there is anything you can always call me huh."


Walking home, she decides to go swimming for the tenth time this week. She hates running. The idea of sitting among sweaty bodies in a gym gives her spontaneous stomach cramps. At least swimming calms her down. The water that muffles all the noise and makes you lighter. She has always loved the water. Her mother hadn't put her on swimming lessons at the age of three for nothing. Yes, that idea feels good, swimming! Deep down, she knows she won't, but the mere intention feels strong in a very fragile time. She just needs that. She wallows in the illusion of her choice.

Once home, she notices a light on her computer subtly blinking. Huh, she had turned it off, hadn't she? She rams the enter key a few times.

1 app is closed

Her computer once again gets stuck on a file that apparently was not closed properly. She stares at the screen for a moment and presses cancel. Her computer sometimes seems to have a mind of its own. Full of enthusiasm, it restarts the web pages from her last session. Her mail is on the front tab and her eye catches an email from one of the staff members of team Fontein: Riekie. The subject of the mail is: pity.

That's odd, Riekie is not at all into e-mailing. She hates anything to do with computers. Sophie taught Riekie extensively when they switched to digital reports. Although she really just wanted to shut down her computer, she clicked on that one email anyway.

Há that Sophie,

I heard from Cathelijne (wanted to write another name first, but let me keep it neat), what is going on with you. I feel very sorry for you. You want so much, not only for the residents, but also for the staff. I have always felt this with you and that is why I like you so much. Not to suck up, you know me. I already had such a strange feeling about you being ill.
Sophie, I hope you recover soon. Don't let my feelings come out. Yes Sophie, I can't dick, but I can e-mail.

Big kiss, Riekie
Riekie van Waveren Caregiver IG ZorgCirkel - St. Vitus

Powerful tears

Sophie had been waiting for it all day and yet they come like thunder: the tears. The tears that should already have come when she received the message from the company doctor. The tears that should have come during the conversation with Maya or the memory of the hassle with Frederique. All those tears now come streaming out of her eyes in one big waterfall. Yet this time they are not tears of helplessness and frustration. These tears do not come from despondency. These tears give strength. The e-mail from Riekie touches her deeply, because Riekie sees her. Riekie knows what is going on and why. For the first time since she's been at home, it feels like it's okay. It feels like it makes sense.

Sophie reads the email again. One more time. And again. The tears dry up and she now also reads the humour for the first time. Riekie's typical humour. Riekie is the embodiment of the adage rough around the edges. Riekie hates Cathelijne and is one of the few who dares to say so. She does not say it directly to Cathelijne, but everyone else knows it. In conversations with Riekie, Sophie has always tried to temper that and add some nuance. Now she is so happy with Riekie's unsubtle dislike. She really needed that for a while!

* 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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