Ik Student
Universiteit Amsterdam
profile 1
profile 2
profile 3
profile 4
profile 5
profile 6
profile 7

‘I think about literally everything’


‘At school I had a group of friends, but when I became increasingly tired, that stopped. After that I kept to myself more. Different lives, different viewpoints, I suppose. I did feel lonely during that time.’

Your body’s limitations

‘It’s frightening that your body imposes limitations, when you’re living in times when anything seems possible and people are expected to be all round.’

Mary (18) has only been at university for two weeks. But already she can feel her body telling her to slow down. She’s familiar with extreme fatigue. That’s not easy for someone with this much ambition. ‘And everybody else can do it all.’

Mary chose political sciences, because she has been interested in that for a while now. ‘In secondary school I was on the board and on the youth committee. I also took part in the European Parliament. I found that I was verbally strong. I enjoy convincing people of my point of view and coming to new insights myself. Political sciences seemed to offer me the opportunity to do that.’

‘Halfway through secondary school I suffered from fatigue to such a degree that I spent eighteen months in bed. I did very little during that period. When I’m tired, it affects my mood and then I’m very negative about myself and I don’t feel like doing anything. Sometimes the people around me suffer for it. During those periods I am gloomy. I can’t imagine there was ever a time when I felt well. It’s a general feeling of dejection.’
Her fatigue never really got in the way of her studies in secondary school. ‘It was always far too easy. So I passed with honours without much effort. Perhaps it was the lack of a challenge that caused the fatigue.’

Endless crap
Mary: The lectures are good, but the study groups are full of endless crap. I enjoy everything around it, although it does all get a bit crazy. There is so much to do. I joined a rowing club and they have drinks parties and dinners. I also went to a young democrats meeting. There are so many fun things to do. I have a whole list of people with whom I’ve planned to go to the theatre one evening, or have drinks with, but I just don’t get around to it. It’s insane.’

‘It’s only been two weeks and already I find I have to make conscious choices. I do too much and then I get home and spend the whole weekend in bed with a migraine. My muscles are rock hard, or as my ex put it: they’re like bones. It’s a nuisance that I can’t keep going when everyone else seems to be able to.’
Much to her amazement other students do go out for drinks and carry on the next day. ‘It makes me think things don’t affect other people the way they do me. It may sound stupid, but I think about literally everything. Everything I see impacts on me ten times as hard. I’m much more sensitive to things we see and hear. I experience impressions intensely. That makes me more tired.’

I’ve always wanted to be the best. If I fail at that, I punish myself. Because I always want to be in control, it’s frightening to see the body take over. It imposes limitations, when you’re living in times when everything seems possible and people are expected to be all round.’
Mary feels the pressure of having to live up to expectations. ‘That could be anything: studying, travelling, being sporty or having nice clothes. There are so many things and everything is possible. So if you are physically impaired you’re always lagging behind. That can be a nuisance sometimes.’

Too many balls up in the air
‘You mustn’t deny fatigue, but you mustn’t give in to it too much, either. You mustn’t try to keep too many balls up in the air at once. It doesn’t work. In difficult times you have to get rid of a few balls. I try to have a rest every day. Doing something spiritual would also be good for me, I think, yoga or meditation. Something that helps you let go. But I don’t really have the time for that.’

Hoesem’s story: ‘I don’t expect much of people’
Ida’s story: ‘As long as I don’t attempt suicide, I’m all right’
Mary’s story: ‘I think about literally everything’
Marco’s story: ‘Typical for me is that I lose friends along the way’
Marianne’s story: ‘Now I will persevere, even if it takes another 20 years’
Simon’s story: ‘If you don’t live in Amsterdam, you do not really belong’

 print version