This post was posted as a Patreon update but it turned into a deeper reflection, so I am posting cross-posting here to share:
Without really knowing it, months have passed since my last update. It seemed like yesterday that 2018 had just begun. I apologise for not having done more updates. Since the last time I had written here I haven’t been well. My migraines kept recurring, and I had another relapse of my depression. I am hesitant to call it a relapse, because I am not sure if I was ever out of it.
I paused all work that involved code, because looking at lines of code trying to obsessively solve coding problems is one of the quickest ways to trigger a migraine. At that point, I wasn’t sure if I was working on my experiments because I really wanted to, or is there some deeper complex behind it, like was I trying to prove my self-worth?
I lost all spirit to engage the world. I couldn’t find it in myself to deal with it, or write something here, because I really don’t know what to write when I don’t even know what is going on myself. One of my favourite morning routines is to make myself a cup of coffee and sit in front of my computer, looking forward to see what the internet can bring me on each day. I lost that too. I found it hard to get out of bed, I stopped meeting my friends, I stopped replying to texts.
I can only say this with hindsight, but this period was necessary. I left full-time paid work to learn how to stop hurting myself, but I continued to do so in other guises: pro-bonno work, volunteering with civic causes, providing emotional labour, working on my experiments, writing complex essays, etc.
I think I managed to do something very few people have done. I managed to burn out on my supposed sabbatical, except this was not a physical/mental/creative burnout, but only now I know, it was an emotional burnout.
I was simply repeating my unhealthy patterns despite not having a job. I didn’t know how to regulate myself, whether it was time, boundaries, emotions, cognitive processing, being on twitter/facebook, exercise, etc. My body was tired that I keep putting myself through the same loop over and over again. I kept being triggered and my emotions were frequently on a rollercoaster. This time, unlike previous years, I became aware of my pulse getting quicker, my skin getting tighter, my chest feeling constricted — all the responses when the body is getting ready for a flight or fight response. I even managed to observe it with amusement when it cascaded while I partially thought it was funny and yet I was not able to control my meltdown.
It started to dawn upon me after reading a ton of books that I am fundamentally wired to respond the same way and it doesn’t really matter whether I am working or on a sabbatical. I am still susceptible to the same stress response whether it is a work deadline or someone is asking a seemingly innocuous question. I live with chronic body ache for years and it never occurred to me that it could be because my muscles are perpetually tense due to constant vigilance. My body does not know how to feel safe.
I started myself on regular therapy and now I am hoping to do more work on myself in hope that I can change the way my body responds to stress triggers. I am not sure when I can resume my experiments. I lost all interest in them or anything that remotely resembles the computer during my period of despair, but recently I am starting to feel that familiar spark of curiosity and desire to tinker again. But I am not going to rush back into them because I am not in control of my body’s health yet.
If you would like to withdraw your support, please do so. If there is another creator that you feel is more deserving, please feel free to transfer your pledge. Not being able to meet expectations is inherently stressful, and I would like to maintain a lighthearted connection with everyone here.
I will continue to publish every week, and it is my hope that through my voracious reading I can distill what I’ve learned externally and personally in order to share it with the world.
There is something fleeting that is coming out of the entire process: a framework for well-being. We tend to talk about well-being in silos and I hope to integrate what I’ve learned reading philosophy, neuroscience, psychotherapy, etc into an accessible interactive framework. Another one of my experiments I guess. We’ll see how we unfold.