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.

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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?