A year in the life of…

I’m writing you from a warm apartment in Tilburg (Holland).
I’m ‘lucky’ cause I found a comfortable place to stay for almost 6 months.
But if you’d told me one year ago that I’d be here today (forced by my body) I would’ve cried my eyes out.

Verhuizing naar mijn ‘tijdelijke vaste’ appartement

Today it’s exactly one year ago that my body broke down, ‘broke down’ is my best description.
I remember it vividly; how within a few hours time I felt all energy leave my body and how I woke up the next morning, feeling sick as a dog, to a blurred world.

When I dragged myself to the family doctor a few days later she told me ‘You’ll be back on the bike in no-time’.. though I felt that something was seriously off.

So I started studying.
I diagnosed myself with ‘burn out’. Not that hard, since about 50 symptoms in random combinations point at that diagnose. A diagnose that doesn’t tell you anything about what’s causing it but is just a name tag to put on the box and consider is ‘dealt with’.

I read about this phenomenon, as much as my eyesight and concentration allowed me, and followed all the advice meticulously. I tried a expensive treatment for my almost unbearable insomnia, without result.

365 mornings I’ve woken up not feeling rested

In September I started seeing a (spiritual/gestallt) therapist.
Before then I didn’t feel like it because I felt psychologically stable enough and I didn’t think the problem or solution was to be found there. But, the sessions are nice and I always go home feeling ‘it’ll all be okay’. Even just that makes it worth it.

Where one year ago it was unacceptable for me that I wouldn’t get on my bike again within a few months, I now feel more space. It hurts, I can’t deny that, but to feel healthy again has become more important than anything else.

365 mornings I’ve woken up not feeling rested
365 nights I’ve slept (sometimes extremely) poorly
365 days I’ve felt sick

I’m so done with it.
Every moment feels as if I’m down to my last hours, minutes or seconds of life energy.

In the past few months I’ve been examined by a neurologist and a internist.
The good news: they didn’t find anything. The bad news: it doesn’t help me any further.

While I’m writing this the tears start flowing again.
At the same time I feel like a spoiled brat, a crybaby.
I have food, a roof above my head, safety and people around me who love me.
I have a few beautiful years behind me.
Can’t that be enough?

When I look at Buddhism, where I feel an affinity with, I seem to fail completely in its practise.
On the other side, I’m not a monk.
I WANT stuff! I have desires and I love chasing after those.
That is exactly how I’ve found my happiness in the past.
My heart floods with passion for thousands of things to do.
It beats wild in its urge for adventure.
But my body keeps calling it to a halt.

That fitfulness of my body makes it hard to find a rhythm to my days or to set myself goals.
And I’ve always lived from one goal to another.
I could shuffle the days from this past year and put them back in a random order without causing any logistical problems.
This gives me a strong sense of purposelessness.

I often feel like a little paper boat floating on the ocean.
Sometimes in sunny weather on calm water, sometimes thrown around in a storm and often directionless bobbing on the waves.

I’ve received so many loving and supportive messages!
While some other advice makes me boil with anger.

‘You just can’t do anymore what you were used to, accept it.’
‘Maybe you’ll have to find satisfaction in other things now.’
‘Enjoy your rest.’


To step under a warm shower after a day of cycling through the mountains in the rain, thawing my numb hands and feet in the heat, and to afterwards slip into my down booties and sit down at a fireplace with a cup of steaming hot chocolate milk.
Thát is when I can ENJOY my rest.

But if I carefully save my energy during the day just so I can go see a theater play in the evening and I still have to cancel because just before dinnertime I collapse, feeling like I’m about to exhale my last breath, then please don’t tell me to ‘ENJOY my rest’!

Where does that anger come from?
Why is ‘well-intended’ not good enough?

I notice how deep it touches me when people (seem to) underestimate how hard this is for me.
But even though there are many people who know how to support me, I’ve learned: ‘being sick’ is something you do alone.
Nobody can do it for you.
And this strikes me harder then anything I’ve had to deal with on my travels.

I often feel like a little paper boat floating on the ocean.

2,5 months ago I’ve started a different diet. The ‘HERA diet’.
I put it together myself based on the information I’ve found on what a ‘exhausted’ body needs (combined with my strife for sustainability). It’s based on vegatables, fruits, seeds, nuts and wheats. No added sugars, no meat and very little dairy.
I take a few supplements to compensate and complement.
After almost 32 years of little to no interest in cooking, suddenly I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and I enjoy it.
I cook everything myself, even bread and crackers. At least that way I know what’s in my food and my body doesn’t have to spend any precious energy breaking down E-numbers, antibiotics and other muck.
So far I feel good about this diet. It feels like my body is getting stronger.

This past month has been a step in the right direction.
It’s two steps forward, one backwards, but at least there’s improvement.
I can do things again; see friends, go to the theater, go for a walk.
Every now and the I can get behind the rudder of my paper boat and chart my own course for a few days.

A few pictures of nice moments.
We can capture a lot in a photograph, but not what’s going on underneath the surface and what it takes of someone to do something.

During a speech at the Tilburg Fietst Festival
Participating in a panel discussion about sustainable travel
I tried a aerial silk class
A ride in the sun

After this blog it’ll be silent here for a little while I expect.
I wanted to share this with you because many of you have followed my stories with enthusiasm and have also supported me when things got rough.

But for now I want to take some distance from this blog.
Because I believe that to get better I have to focus on myself here and now, on the Hera that has been walking this earth for the past 33 years and a bit less on Hera ‘the bicycle traveler’, since I can’t embody that title at the moment.

My passion for travel and adventure still burns bright, but right now there’s something else that needs my complete focus, namely: becoming whole again.

First this.

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