Ruby (24) is from a strict Dutch Reformed family in Bunschoten. She had to break all ties with her family in order to come to the ‘depraved’ city of Amsterdam. But after a period of unbridled partying, she found it wasn’t easy to connect with people.
Ruby: ‘The problems began already when I was twelve. We always had to wear a skirt and in the streets we would be called names like ‘refo’. I hated that and the fact that I couldn’t wear trousers. I wanted to smoke and drink, go out and listen to pop music.’ When she was eighteen Ruby decided to move to Amsterdam to study music sciences. Her family was very upset. ‘They kept pressuring me, because they believed they had to fight to get me back. In the end I broke off all contact with them and left for Amsterdam. I simply couldn’t carry on in that religion. I had had so many problems with it. Amsterdam, that it was the place to be. That was where I was going to discover the world.’
‘After the first six months I had only earned five credit points. I was mentally drained. At the end of each day I got a fever and felt terribly weak. I couldn’t do anything. I slept and cried a lot during that period without actually doing anything. After a few months I decided I wanted to successfully complete the first year to retain my student grant. So I set my sights on that. It brought a little structure to my life. Eventually, with resits, I managed to earn thirty credit points and my student grant was not turned into a loan.’
Nietzsche and Schopenhauer
‘I was looking for people who had gone through the same thing I had. Unfortunately I never found them. I felt totally alone because nobody understood my situation or knew about my background. Talking about it with people who don’t understand you, only makes you feel sadder. I did have a girlfriend at the time, but she was away a lot. I didn’t really want her around either. I spent a lot of time thinking and reading: Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. Back then I played the organ a lot as well. That was very important to me. I also went back to my studies. Just reading books at home; a little every day and then a bit more. I was highly motivated and truly wanted to pass. That’s why I stopped smoking and drinking. I simply didn’t want to fail on my new life path.’
Because Ruby felt music sciences didn’t offer much of a future, she switched to medicine. Instantly, studying became easier. ‘Once I started passing my exams, I felt energised. From that moment on things went well.’ Making new friends among her fellow med students wasn’t easy. ‘I did get to know some people there, but I didn’t strike up any friendships. I found that very hard. I was very lonely. The course is so overwhelming and the people are quite demanding and ambitious. I didn’t belong with these people, I really felt that.’ Ruby followed her own course from then on. ‘I wasn’t doing very well again: I suffered from headaches, stomach aches, things like that. I didn’t feel like going to school in the mornings. I felt lonely and I was always tired. But I kept on going to the study groups, even though I wasn’t happy there. Eventually I passed everything.’
Ruby has been to see a psychologist about her problems in the past. ‘That didn’t really work. When I was there I would think of things which I thought would impress him. I didn’t actually make things up, but I did always present them in such a way that they appeared very serious. I was actually always very insecure about whether it was all serious enough. On the one hand you don’t want it to be so serious that you need to see a psychologist, but on the other hand you do need help, so you think, how bad must it be? ‘Besides, I desperately wanted to become a doctor, so I didn’t want to enter the job market with a psychiatric past. I thought that as a doctor you were obligated to be psychologically healthy. That stopped me from seeking help.’
‘My time as a student was always difficult and black, but I do look back on it as being beautiful as well.’ Ruby still doesn’t see many people, although she does have a few good friends now. ‘I don’t really need it anymore and I am happy to be alone. I study and every now and again I go out to see my friends. It’s fine like this.’ Her gloominess has slowly subsided as well and she has restored contact with her family. ‘We had a talk in which I told them not to pressure me anymore. The way they see it, it’s God’s will to do that. But in the end love conquers all. They have come around and they don’t talk about it anymore.’ After all the hard times, it looks as though Ruby will graduate this summer without any problems. This coming academic year she will go to Latin America for her internship.