Last year I was part of an event called Last Man Standing. An initiative of the nonprofit organization MIND. Together with 100 other participants, I endured 6 hours of standing on a pole of 20 cm by 20 cm, in a lake, with a lot of wind. An endurance challenge to visualize the waiting lists in Mental Health care. I never expected to make it to 6 hours, but I did! Together with more than 80 percent of the participants. And when you step off that pole you realize, that with a good cause, a group of motivated people, music and support from the shoreside, you can achieve great things.

This year I will participate again. This time for a mentally healthy youth (MIND YOUNG). Another great cause. Because, whether or not you struggle with something, it is important to know, when you are young, that you can talk about anything. With someone. Without taboo. Without fear of disapproval. Without being seen as weak.

Puberty and young adulthood are, in itself, already turbulent. There are so many things happening, so much to learn, to see, and to experience. So many things that can influence you and so many things you can be. So much to choose, so much to fit in to, and so much to resist. To become your own person is quite the challenge for our youth and their surroundings. But it is a natural process of becoming an adult. And most of us make it to the other end, with a lot of fun too. But still, a lot of young people also will not make it or will not know fun.

My development into adulthood was roughly disrupted by Borderline. An emotion regulation disorder. I could not cope with all this turbulence. I did not know what to do anymore. My emotions became my enemy.

My puberty and young adulthood were dark and hard. A few times I wanted to give up. I did not believe in life anymore, or in that things could be well or were going to be okay (despite how many times people told me they would be). My emotional pain was so intense that I preferred physical pain as a distraction. My life, and clothing style, was black. I wanted to disappear. I did not understand who I was, where or with whom I wanted to fit in, and how this thing called life should be lived. I was consumed by worry, fear, pain, anger and especially desperation.

But that did not show. I finished my gymnasium and 3 college degrees, and started a successful management career. I had friends and played sports. But it often felt empty inside, as if I was not totally there, as myself, living life. And I was tired, so very tired. I did not dare to share this with anybody. Just carry on, I thought. Carry on. Survive.

I still have Borderline. But I am way more than that now. I know who I am. What I am good at, what I like, what I need. And it is so much more than the disorder. You know  what is beautiful too? When you start being aware and taking care of the whole person you are, you see that small part of you that once defined you and your life, become smaller and smaller, and manageable. I created space for myself and in this way created more peace and overview. I can be myself now. Now that I am somewhat older (36), I have a lot more overview, I understand better how life works and how I can relate to life in a more peaceful way.

At age 32, I started 18 months of Mentalization Based Therapy. A therapy especially for Borderline. It benefited me greatly. I am lucky that I could and was able to work so much on my struggles, eventually also with help. And this is when I also realized what I had missed when I was younger: support, love and professional help. The period that you need it the most. Especially when you struggle with your mental or physical health. And that is why I recon Last Man Standing and their cause to be so important. The more information is shared and the more we talk about it, the sooner our youth will dare to talk about their struggles too, and the sooner they can get help. I want this out of the taboo and stigmatization. I want more understanding, knowledge and openness. And I want more tools for recognizing mental health problems; for families, at schools, and in groups of friends. And for ourselves. The sooner we know something is not right, the more opportunities we get to create better quality of life and lights at the end of the tunnel.

Last Man Standing will take place on June 23rd at the Markermeer. I will try to stand for 6 hours again. And you can also participate! You can register at www.doemeemetmind.nl (click on ‘ik wil meedoen’). You can participate with my team or start your own team. My team is registered under ‘Team Bouwke’. You are very welcome to join!

Share this post! If this post was insightful for you, share it with your loved ones so that they can better understand what you are going through.
Deel dit artikel! Als dit artikel voor jou inzichtelijk was, deel het dan met je omgeving - laten we het samen hebben over mentale gezondheid.

Bouwke

NiceDay Writer. Organizational and work psychologist. I love nature, traveling and photography. I like to move and exercise, especially tennis, pilates / yoga and walking. With my story I am committed to more openness about mental health and I want to reduce stigmas around these topics. You can find me on Instagram: I am one Movement and backpackingbouwke and on Twitter: @iambouwke

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