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

‘I didn’t want to tell the same story over and over again’


‘In preparation of my studies I had already bought Wittgenstein’s tracts and tried to read them. I immediately found them impressive. They fascinated me tremendously. It’s not until later that you find out why it’s such a powerful and unique work.’


‘I have a relatively strong tendency towards compulsive, behaviour. In 2005 that at once cost me my job and my relationship. For years I only slept two to four hours. I would spend my nights at the computer and my days working. Eventually I broke down. I was completely empty, drained, numbed and all the fire in me had been extinguished. I think that compulsive behaviour was at the root of my study problems.’

Left to drown

‘Perhaps it would have made a difference if I had been at a different philosophy faculty. A faculty where the lecturers had taught me more actively what studying philosophy actually entails. I’ve always felt that they threw me in at the deep end and left me to drown, at the UvA.’

He’s 33 years old now and he gave up his studies last year. But before he reached that decision, he had been through a lot: he suffered a great loss and study problems. In the end he looked for help. ‘I should have done that much sooner.’

Louis: ‘When I started my degree course in philosophy in 1996, I instantly enjoyed it. It felt cool to be into that stuff. We read Wittgenstein in the first period, I loved it. I really got stuck into that.’
Besides studying, he enjoyed all that student life had to offer him. ‘I was a member of a student sailing club, played a lot of chess and occasionally went out to the night café De Biecht in the Pijp area. I didn’t have any problems socialising, I enjoyed meeting people.’

Off the rails
The problems began a year later. ‘My father got cancer and died. That turned my whole world upside down. I heard about other students who carried on regardless in a similar situation, but I couldn’t do it. I no longer enjoyed many things. His death made me think a lot about why you do things and what motivates you.’
His father’s death was a great influence in other ways as well. ‘I always liked going out and doing fun things with my friends. But if you experience something like this, drinking beer isn’t so much fun anymore. I also found most conversations to be boring. The emptiness of it all bothered me. I went a little bit off the rails. I lived during the night and I slept during the day and I ate irregularly. I would eat a large bowl of pasta every one or two days. A lot of coffee and cigarettes. I didn’t see my fellow students as much either. The bragging and boasting didn’t suit me anymore.’

Endless surfing the net
From the second year on, his studies deteriorated as well. ‘I set the bar very high, but wasn’t really sure how to approach the subject matter. Sometimes I would spend weeks working on papers, but I wouldn’t hand in my work, because I didn’t think it was good enough. That was very disheartening. I put a lot of energy into it, but I didn’t reap any reward for it.’ Louis started procrastinating: I spent a lot of time surfing the internet, installing PCs or mucking about with operating systems. Just doing things, by means of distraction. That took a very long time and looking back, it was the beginning of a long and gloomy study period.

Louis: ‘I became very sad and desperate and never went to my fellow students or teachers for help. It was a terrible and painful thought to me that other people could understand something that I couldn’t. That’s why I always tried to solve the problems by myself, with self-help books, for instance. Also, I grew up with the idea that it’s normal to solve your problems by yourself.’
Louis doesn’t talk about it with his friends anymore either. ‘There comes a point when your friends have an idea of what’s going on. Then you don’t talk about it anymore for risk of repeating yourself. Perhaps that is where it all takes a dangerous turn, when you find something is bothering you, but you stop talking about it, because it’s the same old story over again. That should be a sign that something needs to be done.’

Coolest course
‘At a certain point I decided to get a fulltime job in order to get back to a healthy day and night routine. I kept that up for eighteen months, but then I went back to university, as a part time student this time round. I didn’t want to let go of philosophy, I didn’t feel this was the wrong choice of study for me, at all, it was the coolest course there was. The first semester was great again. I even passed the first subject, ‘the evil in philosophy and literature’, with good grades. But in the second semester I ran into all those old study mechanisms again. I wasn’t feeling right in myself at that time, either. A number of things weren’t going well in my private life either. I couldn’t keep everything going at once, causing me to capsize again. I started smoking weed and felt infinitely miserable.’

Finally he ended up at Mentrum. ‘I was on a long waiting list, but I’m in therapy now, the most common type there is. I should have done that much sooner. But I still find it hard during the week, to stop what I’m doing and go to bed on time. I have long, therapeutic conversations about that. The verdict then is; compulsive and obsessive. Because that’s what it is when you spend ten hours at your computer obsessively reading operating programmes. The medication I was given, has been a tremendous help. A true relief. I feel so much better, freed of all those horrible, depressing feelings.’

Not closed the book
Louis gave up his philosophy degree course last year. ‘I’m 33 years old now and I’ve given up. In total I was enrolled for ten years. Now I’m doing temping jobs, but eventually I want a good job which I enjoy and which earns me some money.’
He would like to find a job in IT. He hasn’t closed the book on philosophy entirely though. ‘To be honest, I’ve never let go of philosophy, but I have relieved myself of the duty to finish my degree course and graduate.’

Elle’s story: ‘And once again I was rejected by a group of girls’
Joe’s story: ’There’s always that tendency to give up or procrastinate’
Louis’s story: ‘I didn’t want to tell the same story over and over again’
Megan’s story: ‘You’re not crazy if you see a psychologist’

 print version