Change… or A Short Story Longer

My world changed overnight 10 years ago. One day I was fine and the next I had a burnout. I thought at that time it was the beginning, but it turned out certain things had started way before.

It was really overnight,  my Mum’s birthday on the 28th, for me it was a normal working day and late night shopping [9 to 9]. That evening I was the only visitor, friends and family had all been around during the day. After coffee I broke down, couldn’t take it anymore, the stress, the staff, the work, you name it all was too much for me.

The next day, Friday, I stayed home and two days later [for the first time] I called in sick at my insurers. Being self-employed you don’t do that often. I did try to get back to work the next Saturday, the most important day of the week, but turned back halfway. Days became weeks and weeks months…

September 24, a Monday, I had an appointment with my diabetes specialist, since I still didn’t feel well my Dad was with me. The specialist, who had not seen me before [that’s what you get at hospitals clinics, every 6 months a new specialist and you have to tell your ‘story’ again and again. In the mean time I’ve got the same doctor for years]. Next to hearing the story she asked why I walked on slippers, something I had been doing off and on for the past 10 months since my feet sometimes wouldn’t fit in my shoes anymore. She said I should make an appointment with the Neuro Ulcer department [NuPo], but in the mean time she made the contact. I could see them the next day at ten. That evening my Big Sis came to Amsterdam from Groningen, she would accompany me the next day.

That Tuesday, many pieces fell in their places, what was ailing me, next to the burnout, had a name; CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth. My right foot looked like Emmental cheese on the X-rays, more holes than bone and it was broken in five different places. My left looked the same but was not broken… yet. Six hours later  we left the hospital, my right foot and leg in plaster and I had to come back the next week or earlier if complications would arise. I heard the breaking of my left foot a few months later, for the next two years I was weekly or every fortnight in new plaster. Being in plaster brought another thing to the surface, I couldn’t work. I couldn’t go up the stairs just to sit in the office, or going up front to serve customers while wearing a plaster boot. Also the message my NuPo specialists told me wasn’t the thing I wanted to hear, there could be a possibility I would never walk again. So self-employed in retail, which is a profession in which you stand and walk most of the time, and then a message like that… Uhmm.

My Dad started looking for buyers for the business, no-one was interested or when they were they didn’t call back. Mid November I had to make a tough decision, going on or closing down, and how to tell the staff. With pain in my heart I had to tell them I would be closing the shop by the end of February, the closing sale would start within a week. And then something happened I wasn’t expecting, one of the staff members asked if I could give him a week to see if he could turn things around. Within a week, things looked brighter, we would sell the business to him and his wife, but a slimmed down version of it. No closing sale just a normal sale which started on December 1st. In a way I gave away the business, but all creditors were paid including the Dutch IRS.

Now 10 years later I’m still in a stable phase 2, some bone has grown back but I still have to watch out that I won’t become a phase 3. It would mean wearing Bermuda shorts summer and winter because my legs have to be amputated below the knee. And phase 4… just think of six wooden planks, ‘nough said.

I’m glad to have a good income via social security and my insurance. I’m also glad to have wheels to go places, a family who did all the shopping those early months, I lost 30 kilo in those first few months. [I gained them back and more when the wheels arrived early March 2002]. I’m glad I’ve wonderful doctors in the diverse departments, people who really care about their patients. They’re there when I need them even at ungodly hours, and I’m there when they need me… for testing new products, research or being a subject while they’re teaching student doctors/nurses about CMT.

Okay, I miss something too, the contact with people, like in the old days our customers, agents, colleagues and certain friends. Friends who were in the long run not friends at all but users. Just to have something to do I started in  2003 as webmaster for “the Guild“, the Dutch Association of Tailors and Fashion schools. A year later I became the administrative secretary too. It was a way of getting back in touch with people from my line of work, fashion. And I could do most of it from home, behind the PC. Since September 2008 I only do the website and 3 times a year a flyer when there’s a convention. Also the contact with the Dutch Craft Council and our partners, FeetBag [Association of Designers and Makers of Shoes and Purses] and NHV [Dutch Hat Association] is a plus, you get to know new people in my small world. BTW, since 2001 I had/have a shoulder to cry on, not only my Big Sis, but my good friend Josh, a lay minister in Podunk, Indiana. Yes, a long distance shoulder, but a good one. [and I’m not religious, left the RC church eons ago]. I’ve come closer to my Little Sis over the past few years. With Little Bro the contact has always been good, but he has his own issues [mentally handicapped].

And then came this blog in January 2007, it had nothing to do with fashion but with losing weight. IMHO you can’t write about weight-loss every day, so other subjects slipped in, Architecture, Amsterdam, History and the Thursday Recipes. But in the mean time I got to know new blogger friends from around the world. Some I’ve met in person over the years, others are on my list to meet. People from Salem MA, Harrisburg PA, Lynbrook NY, Rehoboth DE, Phoenix AZ, just to name a few. I’m planning a vacation for 2012 in the US, but have to gain strength to do so [the wheelchair stays at home].

So this is my Short Story Longer, 10 years of being at home, but not by choice. Don’t get me wrong I have a great life, a loving family, a “lease dog” aka Julius, a small circle of friends nearby and others spread over the globe and no burnout anymore!

13 thoughts on “Change… or A Short Story Longer

  1. sounds like you are in a good place after many years…bravo friend.

    and maybe someday you will add michigan to that visiting list? 🙂

  2. Well done you. You could have fallen into self pity, and who would blame you, yet you have carved a new life for yourself from parts of the old and some new.

  3. Thank you very much for sharing your story Peter. I’m glad we’re friends and I’d like to visit you when I’ll have chance to the Netherlands.

  4. Wow! What a story. And quite a ride (no pun intended) through the decade. Thanks for sharing. It’s sometimes a good, healing thing to revisit the past – look back to where we have been and where we are today.

    Take care my friend.

  5. Excellent summary! Thanks for filling it all in…I knew bits and pieces but now it all makes sense. I just don’t understand the part-time Julius connection.

    Keep me posted on your whereabouts for the 2012 tour.

  6. Yes, keep getting stronger for what Rick calls your “2012 Tour”. I’ve already purchased front row seats to see you.
    Take care and thanks for giving us some history. Mark

  7. Chapeau Peter! What a story. You told some bits and pieces already, but now I get the whole picture! I have a lot of respect for the way you always seems to be in a joyful mood.
    (BTW I hope the problems with the website are being solved soon, so we can work futher on it with pleasure instead of getting irritated (moi)

  8. Thanks for all your comments and well wishes. I’ve learned during the early years, of being at home, that a positive look on life gives less stress than a negative view. My cup is half full, not runneth over. 😉

  9. seems like i’ve dropped by just in time for an update giving me some idea on who you are and what you’ve been through. i can somewhat relate: i miss my patients but going back to this kind of work might be the end of me. “funny” how life works out and you find out who is relevant in your life, and who’s definitely not…

    you claim to be well surrounded by loving people. may this be true for a long, long time!!

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