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'Silence has made me sicker.' Kathelijn Hulshof aims to break the taboo on mental illness with her book

An insight into her stormy inner self - that is what Kathelijn Hulshof (32) wants to give with her book Case of borderline. We should dare to talk to each other about mental illness, she believes. 'Then the burden becomes less heavy and lonely.'

Hurricanes in my insides

'No, you can't have borderline, people told me. I had completed my education, I had a job and a social network, then you can't be mentally ill, can you? I thought so myself: if you have borderline, then you really are crazy. I had always kept to myself how bad I felt and that I suffered a lot from suicidal thoughts and self-harm, well-known symptoms of borderline. The loneliness this causes was one of the reasons for writing this book: to show others what it is like and to break the taboo of talking about it.'

'Daily life is tough for me. All day long, hurricanes of thoughts and emotions rage inside me. Very strong mood swings, separation anxiety, an unstable self-image and very erratic behaviour are just some of the symptoms I have to cope with. The hardest thing for me are the suicidal thoughts. Constantly thinking about death while living is terrible. Once I actually attempted it with an overdose of pills. When I am not doing well, I become unreachable. That causes a lot of uncertainty for my family and friends: should they leave me alone for a while or will things go wrong again?'

'Borderline is caused by a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors. Traumatic events can also play a role. When I was 3, my father got behind the wheel with alcohol on and caused an accident, killing two people. After two years of court cases, he went to jail for a year. From one day to the next, my father was gone because he had 'gone to work in a hotel'.

'During those three years, there were enormous tensions at home, which I felt but did not understand because I was not told about them. Because I was so young, this made me insecurely attached, as it is called. That co-caused the onset of this mental illness, which started revealing itself when I was 18.'

Kathelijn Hulshof: 'Writing this book turned out to be healing.' ©Bianca Toeps

'Writing this book proved healing. I was able to take more distance. It was intense to describe my suicide attempt and my childhood, but I have now literally closed that chapter and put it in the cupboard. At the same time, it is a handbook that I can reread in bad periods: what helped me through that?'

'I find it scary to publish my story. Some days I wonder why I wanted to do this again. Because when I have something exciting to do, like giving this interview, it starts raging even harder in my head. Last night I hardly slept, tonight I am kapót. I have cancelled social engagements for the whole week. Yet I am behind it for a thousand per cent. Because my own silence for so long has only made me sicker. I hope my book creates more understanding and encourages talking about it. Because when we share the difficult things with each other, the burden becomes less heavy and lonely.'

Good to know Good to know

Case of borderline appears at Blossom Books, €19.99

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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