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Beyond shame | Part 2: Tears - Natasja van Loenen

Burnout tears - blog photo Natasja van Loenen - CoachingMatch

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.

Beyond the shame | Part 2: Tears

The first tear slides down her cheek almost unnoticed. It is only when the tear reaches her mouth that Sophie notices she is crying. As if reacting to the cold tear, her lips begin to tremble at the first touch of the salty liquid. Then the fence is drawn. The tears can no longer be held back and she rolls up sobbing from crying into a pathetic little ball on the sofa. This is not a romantic cry with beautiful individual tears slowly trickling down. This is a real, raw, ugly cry. One of those with soaking wet cheeks and running nose, with long outpourings and gasps. This is the kind of crying that makes you hoarse, makes your eyes bulge and your head pound.

A cathartic app

Sophie does not know how long it took her to fall asleep, but when she woke up over an hour later, the couch cushion was still wet with tears. At least, she hoped they were tears. It was probably some drool, too. Her mouth was producing saliva as if it aspired to become a waterfall. How could she drool so much and still have such a dry mouth? She dragged herself to the fridge and grabbed the bottle of cola. Probably a bad idea, it was only 11 o'clock in the morning and her still sober stomach was probably not ready for carbonation. Everything is shitty anyway, that bit of heartburn could go with it. She sinks onto the sofa and turns on a rerun of Grey's Anatomy. She already knows this one, so she doesn't have to think about it too much. Which is just as well, because she currently has the concentration span of a dachshund who has to choose between running like mad after the neighbour's cat or growling wildly at that stupid dog in the mirror. She chuckles for a moment at her own bland burn-out humour. Oh well, you have to do something.

Late in the afternoon, she gets an app from Vera: Hey girl, how are you? Cat asked me to come pick up those notes from you. I said yes, but of course I'm not going to do that. She won't ask for them anymore anyway. Rest well, will come some day. Sophie could kiss her. Well, not really then, but virtually. She sends Vera a message back: Thanks! :-*

She hadn't had to take any extra stomach tablets all day either, so that wasn't too bad either. Maybe she will be able to sleep tonight after all.


An hour later, Sophie hears the key turn in the lock. She startles and feels a wave of guilt wash over her. Immediately followed by the activation of her defence mechanism. As soon as she sees Marko's head looming out of the stairwell, she starts talking: 'Hi darling, sorry it's still such a mess, but Cat called and...' She lets the rest of the words die on her lips. It sounds like a lame excuse and it is. She sinks back on the sofa and listens to Marko force a barely suppressed sigh of frustration through his lips as he grabs a rubbish bag. He walks over to the dining table which is buried under empty packaging, cans and other rubbish and starts demonstratively crushing cans before dropping them into the bag. You can't see anything from outside, but Sophie's head is working overtime.

Blames fly back and forth between her guilt and her last shred of militancy. 'Couldn't you just clear that table? You were going to do the floor too, look what a mess. You haven't even showered today! And Marko keeps working.' 'It's not like he does so much housework now. You got burnout for a reason! Now it's time to take care of yourself. He chooses it himself huh, to clean up the mess immediately after work, sighing and supporting.'

Healing tears

While the thoughts were still racing through her mind, she suddenly felt the soft lips of her supportive lover on her forehead. 'Hi honey, how are you?' There is no longer any sign of his earlier annoyance. Maybe that annoyance wasn't there at all and that too was just playing out in Sophie's head. It doesn't matter either. She bats her eyes. He looks at her lovingly. The arguing voices in her head quiet down as she lays her head against his chest. 'Cunt...' and the tears swirl down her cheeks again.

Yet now is different from the crying fit earlier today. These tears vent. These tears are collected by Marko's dusty work shirt instead of soaking her pillow. These are the romantic, healing, tears Sophie so longed for. Yes, she will definitely sleep well tonight.

* 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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