Ik Student
Universiteit Amsterdam
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‘I didn’t pass many exams because I was too tired’

Not normal

‘All the pressure from my studies caused a lot of stress and I was extremely tired. I decided to take it easy for a while and wait for things to get better. But they didn’t get any better. Eventually I went to see my GP. He ordered all sorts of tests, because he didn’t think this level of fatigue was normal either.’


‘Sometimes I’m alright. Like last week, I went on a bagpipe weekend and that cheered me up tremendously. I thoroughly enjoyed that.’

Passes more exams

‘I’ve passed more exams this year, than I did last year, because I am more aware of the problem now. That way it’s easier to cope with.’

Because she was constantly worn out, chemistry student Nathaly (21) went in search of help. But when they failed to find a cause, she tried to solve her problem herself. ‘I’m finding out what I can and what I can’t do.’

Nathaly liked the independent nature of university from the start. ‘I come from a Montessori school and the UvA has a similar way of working. I enjoy doing things myself and taking on the responsibility.’
Her problems began in the second semester. ‘I didn’t pass many exams because I was too tired to do anything at all. After a day of lectures I would come home exhausted and I couldn’t do my homework anymore, I was shattered. During the day I would fall asleep on the sofa. I would just doze off, but I didn’t wake up refreshed. Fatigue is a dreadful thing.’

They can’t find anything
But the fatigue persisted and at the end of the semester, she decided to find help. ‘My GP didn’t think it was normal either and he ordered all sorts of tests.’ The tests didn’t offer any results. ‘There was one liver enzyme that wasn’t quite right, but that couldn’t be the cause. So he referred me to an internist. After many examinations he concluded it must be psychological. He thought mine was a rather strange case, but my attitude that day was simply a little uninterested. I didn’t feel up to anything all that day and just wanted to go to bed. Then I was sent to a medical psychologist, but he couldn’t find anything wrong with me either.’

Strict routine
Because the tests didn’t offer any results, Nathaly decided to find a solution for her fatigue herself. ‘I’ve never had a problem like this before. Nobody can help me, so I’ll solve it in my own way. I think that would be best.’
She now sticks to a strict routine. ‘I go to my lectures and I have a good wholesome meal every evening. It’s nice to have a routine. Because I’m tired from time to time, I don’t go to all my lectures. I now have a good idea of which lectures are useful and which aren’t.’
She limits going out as well. ‘I find out what I can and what I can’t do. Last Friday there was a big party at the chemistry bar. I only stayed until twelve because otherwise I would be wiped out for a few days. Sometimes it gets me down that I can’t do very much. But worrying about it doesn’t help. It only wears me out more. I’m trying to break through that cycle. So then I think: too bad, better luck next time.’

Live with it
I’m in my second year now and things are going a lot better. I’m slowly learning to deal with it. I know what I can and can’t do and it’s teaching me to plan things better. Besides, the study advisor has arranged for an extra year of student grant for me. That gives me some breathing space.’

Ebru’s story: ‘That headache gets in the way of my life’
Nathaly’s story: ‘I didn’t pass many exams because I was too tired’

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