Category Archives: journal

Indonesia does wonders for my brain (and soul)

We’ve been a couple of days in Jakarta (actually, BSD City in Tangerang, to be precise) and already I can tell there’s a real improvement in my energy levels. It’s been so nice to meet up with family and friends again, in a great country with nice weather (even if it is the rainy season), and such a nice atmosphere all-around. I feel completely at home and at ease.

Having a great appartement, with a great view of the city, doesn’t hurt either.

We’ve been visiting several of the great malls and marketplaces (passars) they have around here, visited and got visited by a lot of our family members and friends here and had lots and lots of awesome food.

Picked out one of these guys to be my lunch, at Bandar Djakarta, yesterday.
Done, off to be prepared.
And… ready. Bon appetit!

As a consequence, my stress levels have taken a significant dive and I’m feeling better by the day. Tonight it’s Christmas Eve here and we’ll go to church and hang out with family after. Good times.

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(Pre) Shower Thoughts

My wife said “Babe, seriously, write.” — So write I wil.

I’m sitting naked on the edge of the bathtub. I just shaved off my beard of a few days and am about to take a shower. Today we’re going to meet with some friends that have invited us for dinner. It should be a relaxing and nice day.

I feel lost. Not desperate or anything like that, mind you. Nothing as immediate as that. I just don’t know how, what, I am supposed to feel anymore. I’m lacking a way forward.

Next week I’ll meet the psychologist again. Her first question will be “How’s it going?” And right now, I don’t know how to answer that question.

Jotting all this down, I can tell, is making me feel more at ease, though. Things feel less out of place, with some puzzle pieces falling into those irregular-shaped openings that before were just emptiness, places without a purpose.

Maybe it is as simple as ‘write’.

Going to take that shower now.

Grounded

“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.”

― Carl Jung

Yesterday was not a good day for me. Cooped up inside, my brain ran rampant with negative thoughts that weren’t getting me anywhere. So I decided that today I needed to get out of the house.

To get out of my head, and into the here and now, walking is perfect. I put on a nice warm jacket, my warm hat, some comfortable shoes and out the door I go. Easy, convenient, no preparations necessary.

Oh, and I take my phone with me and make some photos along the way. For me, it’s a little something extra that makes it even more appealing to go out and breathe in some fresh air, be there and see where I am.

Although I always start out thinking ‘I’ll just go around the block’, before I know it, it’s a few hours later and I’m still outside, putting one foot in front of the other.

What else is there to say about the last few days? — Oh, yeah, I left a bunch of social media platforms and after a few days, I can report I already feel the positive effect of that.

The problem with social media is that, together with making new friends, looking up old friends, checking in with family members, seeing what everybody’s up to, sharing what I’m up to myself, etc. — I’m also getting that whole attention sucking machinery attached to it. At the beginning of social media, that was maybe still a little hidden. But then, all of a sudden, updates of my friends were not being offered to me in a ‘recent first’ way, but in a way that was ‘optimized’ for my personal consumption, most ‘important’ updates first! (Unh-huh…)

More and more the Facebooks, Instagrams, TikToks and Twitters of this world started offering up stuff that I actually didn’t ask for, but they think I will like, trying to grab my focus and attention and throwing some advertisement (well, a lot of advertisement actually) in the mix as well.

So, while I’m trying to dodge all the ads, I’m scrolling through droves of short videos that usually either bring me nothing of importance or annoy the heck out of me. It’s like the intelligence and calculations behind it are getting smarter, while I am getting dumber and dumber with every flick of my finger. 

It is not a feeling I miss.

Life’s too short

I shot this photo on one of our walks around the neighborhood. It’s not that far away from our house.

“The thought that I might kill myself formed in my mind coolly as a tree or a flower.”

― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Last September, I was driving home from work through one of the forests of the Veluwe, one Friday afternoon. While I was driving past the trees at the side of the road, a thought hit me: if I just steer a little to the right and crash into one of those big trunks, then all that constant thinking about, like, everything, would end and I would finally have some peace of mind. As soon as I realized what I was actually thinking about, I knew something was really, really wrong with me.

I hit the brakes. No, don’t worry, not the brakes of my car. I hit the brakes of my life. I came home and talked about what was going on with me with my wife all weekend. She had noticed that I was “different and somewhat absent” for a while already, and had tried to get me to talk about it. (Since at that time I was already in way too deep, I had no clue as to how to answer her questions.) Now she gave me a metaphorical smack on the head and said: “you are calling in sick and you are getting help”.

So, after the weekend I called in sick at work and made an appointment at our family doctor. Doc told me she was worried about me, and that she didn’t want to have to wait on the GGZ (which is the Dutch Association of Mental Health and Addiction Care) to plan an appointment with a psychologist for me. I was in more ‘immediate’ need of help. She gave me a referral to the in-house psychologist, who was able to see me the next week.

What’s going on

As you’re reading this, I have seen the psychologist several times, and I have spoken with the family doctor and with the occupational physician that my company told me to go to. As far as I can tell from all those talks, it looks like I am experiencing something that is called ‘autistic burnout‘, building up for a while now and exacerbated by a number of recent (and older) events in my life. I am exhausted mentally, and in part also physically. It prevents me from being able to get back to work right now. The doctors told me I should first recharge my ‘batteries’ and get some balance back to be able to deal with, well, life.

Opening up

I have spoken about all of this with several (online) friends, family members, and colleagues. When I ‘open up’ about these things, when I talk about it openly, they sometimes tell me, that they think that that is brave of me. I get what they mean, and it’s very sweet of them to say so. At the same time, it is actually relatively easy for me to open up about this stuff, I don’t feel embarrassed or anything like that. So I really don’t feel I am especially brave for telling them (and now you).

But it got me thinking nonetheless.

It could also be it’s because I’m in my fifties now (I turned 53 this Halloween), that I start to worry less or care less about what others think of me. Life’s too short and all that. It sounds like a cliché, but to me it is really not. I’ve been through too much and I am too far into this life, to let stuff I don’t have control over be an influence on my thinking and the direction that I’m going in. (Yes, I’m thinking about how much time is left a lot these days. I don’t want to waste it, you know?)

There are some inescapable truths for me. The sooner I accept that, the happier and more at ease I’ll be. I’m certain of that.

P.S. I am planning to write more about what is happening with me in the coming time. It helps me in finding out what is going on with me and what I can do about it. Maybe it can help others as well.

Twan

November 4, 2022

Seriously contemplating if I want to stay on Twitter with all the news coming out about mass lay-offs by Elon Musk and how those are being handled. Heck, WordPress has the ‘status’ format for posts, right?

Scared shitless

I need to get an operation. I have cataract in one eye and they need to replace the lens. And little old, very rational me is scared shitless. So I thought I’d write something to distract myself. Well, with that beginning, not a great way to start, is it?

Okay, soldiering on.

The last few days I’ve been wondering, while kind of standing beside myself and looking at me, why I’m so uncontrollable scared for this operation. I am not scared of hospitals, I don’t mind having an injection, I don’t even mind having to have some skin cut out under local anesthetic, having to get stitches, none of that.

The rational explanation, or at least the logical one, is that I am dealing with some unresolved trauma. (Is trauma ever not unresolved?) – As a young boy I was in and out the hospital a lot with ear infections. At that time they had a simple solution: prick a hole in the eardrum and let the muck come out.

As a child with, at that time, undiagnosed Aperger’s Syndrome, I didn’t deal well with the whole forcing me down on an operating table, forcefully putting the mask with the anesthesia on me, doing something to my head, well, inside my head, and then having to wake up confused, looking for my parents. These are still vivid memories. (Maybe I’ll explore this some more in a future post, but right now it’s a bit too much for me to further go into all of that.)

Furthermore, the anesthesia they used back then, gave me terrible nightmares. Not that I made that particular connection back then, but later on wondering about it and doing some research, I managed to figure it one out by myself. To this day I remember the horrible dreams I was having.

That’s the logic, the rationale, for my current state of mental disarray.

But it doesn’t help me.

Because this fear, this gut-wrenching terror does not subside by knowing all this. And right now, I think that has to do with it not being about being realistic about it at all.

Realistically I know, I have to have this operation, I’ll be under completely (I made sure I’ll get a general anesthetic), the operation itself is so simple and short, it is being performed so often, it’s routine for the surgeon and everyone involved. I know all this. I know, that my wife is coming with me. I trust her completely and I love her dearly. I so appreciate her support in all of this. I want nothing more right now than for her to be with me for this. And I want to be strong for her.

And yet.

I have no control over this feeling (emotion?). I am just really terribly upset and scared. Nothing to do with knowledge. And me really wanting to be strong does not even put a dent in it.

Pfff…. At least I managed to write this down.

I just need to get through this week.