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Beyond shame | Part 8: Mother and daughter - Natasja van Loenen

Two hearts from Mother and Daughter

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.

An email from Riekie brought up a memory about a nasty confrontation with Cathelijne. Sophie shakes it off and tries to pull herself together again when she remembers she has yet to call her mother back.

Mother and daughter

By now the tears had dried and Sophie decided to take a shower before calling her mother back. She had tried to reach her yesterday, but after the previous day's emotional rollercoaster, Sophie had not had the strength to pick up the phone. Besides, she didn't want to sound so breakneck when she had her mother on the phone. She was already so worried about Sophie.

Exhausted on the sofa

With a towel wrapped around her wet hair and her house suit on, she glanced at the clock. Only half past two in the afternoon, to her mind it could also have been ten in the evening. Yet the tiredness is not annoying. It is less desperate. Sophie has to try very hard not to laugh hysterically at her own situation. Apparently, lying slightly despondently exhausted on the sofa while trying to delude yourself into thinking that is a good thing has become the new norm. This has been almost a daily occurrence since she has been at home: thinking of ways in which everything she is feeling is okay anyway. She has become a master at relativising to death every feeling that comes into her mind. She should go into politics. Meanwhile, she can expertly straighten out everything that is crooked.

Calling Mum

Time to talk to another person. She has only been home for an hour, but is already more than fed up with her own circle of thoughts. She grabs her phone and calls her mother. 'Ha dear, nice of you to call, I was a bit worried about you... How are you now?' If there is anyone who can ask that question with genuine interest, it is her.

Sophie is overjoyed with her mother's voice, although it now takes her more energy than usual to enter into the conversation with her. This is entirely down to Sophie herself, as she doesn't want Marie to worry any more. It must be incredibly difficult for her to see Sophie struggling like this. After all, Marie is quite fond of her daughter and proud. Sophie always gets a little uncomfortable when Marie once again tells people how good Sophie is. She has also always believed in Sophie unconditionally. That she can do things, that she makes the right choices and that she will be fine. And now things are not fine for a while and Marie can't change that. So that's tough. So Sophie balances all the time between wanting to talk to her mother, but also protecting her a bit.

And if she is completely honest, she is also protecting herself with that. Marie is already furious with Cathelijne and if the fire gets even a little bit more fiery, Sophie sees her storming into Cathelijne's room in person. Standing there as a 28-year-old toddler, she watches how mum puts the teacher in her place. No thanks. Whether she would actually do that, Sophie does not know, but she has no intention of finding out.

A good listener

Sophie begins to talk, about the missed appointment and that she worries about the consequences it might have. About her lethargy. About the conversation with Maya and that she just can't manage to be angry with Cathelijne and about Riekie's e-mail, which came in very hard, in a good way. Marie listens and empathises. Marie can talk well. If you throw in a quarter, she talks the time just like that, but Marie can also listen very well. With her daughter so stuck, she does that more than she cares to. She listens and encourages.

She occasionally makes a suggestion or offers her help. Sophie would like to take that help, especially with cleaning up her house, but she can't. It doesn't work out. Even the idea of another person cleaning up in her house makes her feel like her throat is being squeezed shut. Marie feels the resistance and lets go. Sophie talks and talks and the words keep coming. Her mother is a psychologist, but mostly her mother. She doesn't try to psychologise or solve Sophie's problems. That's why she can talk to her mother so well.

Of course she has an opinion, normally she doesn't hide it either, but now she does. Sometimes she very gently tries to offer an opinion, but Sophie is unable to listen to it. She can't process it. Eventually Sophie is outspoken and empty. They agree that Marie will come over for the weekend. By the time Sophie hangs up the phone, they are two hours on. She feels comforted, but is also dead tired.


Sophie is just sleeping when Marko comes home from work. He leaves her lying down. He has no idea about the day she has had, but he knows she desperately needs her rest now. He quietly crawls behind the computer and disappears into youtube's algorithm. Three hours later, he wakes Sophie and takes her sleepwalking up the stairs. He puts her to bed. She vaguely realises she is hungry, but sleep soon takes over that thought.

* 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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