Ik Student
Universiteit Amsterdam
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‘I broke down. That was a turning point in my life’

Mucking around

‘In the end I was just mucking around because I didn’t know how to help myself and I was too stubborn to ask others for help. You tend to think: who could possibly help me? But that’s the negative spiral you’re in.’

Asking for help

‘Because I’m the sort of person who wants to solve everything by himself, I couldn’t see that other people might understand what I meant. You would think everyone would know that, but they don’t. In that respect I have learned to ask for help.’

Complete my first year

‘Once I’ve successfully completed my first year, I’m going to throw away all my notes. As a symbolic gesture to myself. I have left my suffering behind me, but those notes remind me of a period when I was doing very badly. Then I will be able to start my second year. Without any problems.’

Marsha (20) lived in a dump with an annoying flatmate, studied too hard and had serious issues with her big build. It was enough to cause a breakdown. But now she knows: ‘That’s the way it had to be.’

She was eighteen when she was accepted into medicine. Marsha: ‘I knew as early on as primary school, that this was what I wanted. And yet, when I compared myself to others in my class at secondary school, I had to work harder and spend more time on the work. But because I knew where I was headed, I didn’t mind doing that.’ Marsha threw herself into the student life. The people I met at the student union were great. I started studying well and initially I passed my exams. But during the third period things went pear shaped, I didn’t pass anything anymore. I found it very difficult to distinguish main issues from side-issues, so I tried to learn everything. That was too much.’

Pots of paint
Her living situation didn’t help either. ‘I lived in the southeast of Amsterdam. The living room was one big tip with pots of paint, so I didn’t go in there to relax. I had to do everything in my one little room: relax, study and eat. I felt terribly cooped up. Besides, my flatmate was mad. He would spend all day in bed, until three in the afternoon. If we ever spoke to each other, we got into a fight over the most trivial matters. My parents could see things weren’t going well in those digs, but they couldn’t do anything about it. They were in Limburg and had to go to work.’

A hundred problems
‘In the meantime I kept up with my social life. I suffered from headaches and was very tired, but my diary was filled with fun things.’
Despite the downward spiral, Marsha didn’t want to admit there was a problem. ‘I’m very good at keeping things bottled up inside and I always want to try to solve my problems on my own first. I’ve always been that way. That’s why I couldn’t see that other people may well understand me.
At one point I broke down completely. I didn’t even know my left from my right anymore. I had just had a period in which I had to be present in the dissecting room every day. There I stood, emotionally unstable in that theatre and barely managing to hold back the tears. I didn’t faint, but I cried so uncontrollably that I couldn’t stop anymore.’
There was no direct cause for Marsha to burst out crying. It was a culmination of a lot of things which were bothering her. ‘My build meant I had very little self-confidence. And of course, my studies weren’t going well either. At the time I broke down, I felt I had a hundred problems. When there are so many things going on at once, you can’t solve it all on your own.’

‘At first I wanted to see a friend here in Amsterdam, but I didn’t really know her well enough. I knew a lot of people through the student union, but they weren’t real friends. In the end I phoned my parents and told them things weren’t going well and something had to change. My father then drove up to come and see me that night. I didn’t even have any food in the house.’
At the advice of a student doctor, Marsha then saw a haptonomist. ‘That did me the world of good. I could tell her everything. She recognised all sorts of things and could use them in a very concrete way.’

In order
Marsha decided to retake the first year of medicine and her studies are going much better now. Looking back on it, she’s glad it went the way it did: ‘The moment everything went pear shaped, was a turning point in my life. That sounds very dramatic, but it’s the way it is. I’m not saying those problems have disappeared now, but I have my life in order. I live in a much better place and I’m doing very well now. I’m passing my exams with an eighty per cent score and I’m not so bothered anymore about my build. So I strongly believe that this is how it was meant to be. Besides, I now know that it’s not at all strange to go to someone with your problems. They may not be able to do much about it at that moment, but you have shared your story. Whenever I need to solve something now, I ask my flatmate, or I phone a friend. In that sense I have learned how to ask for help.’

Carmen’s story: ‘As you’re studying you are discovering yourself’
Dick’s story: ‘That time in Barcelona was a turning point for me’
Julia’s story: ‘It wasn’t until the third period that I really started studying’
Marsha’s story: ‘I broke down. That was a turning point in my life’

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