Juggling Timezones, Part 2— A Burnout Story
The Journey Back from the Brink
(Continued from Part 1 — the burnout origins of our lost anti-hero)
Sure enough, we peeled back some wallpaper at the back of our sleek, modern office to reveal a water leak had covered it in slimy, black mold (Stachybotrys).
Feeling excluded, lost — feeling like dying alone — I slunk back “home”.
My funky, huge, classy retro apartment was beyond cool, complete with jiu-jitsu mats, a full jam room, and — a leaky whirlpool tub with an underside covered in black mold, circulating through the A/C system and my lungs as I slept.
Toxic mold exposure. It was the final straw and tipping point.
Consequence took over the controls, and I crashed hard.
What does that mean?
It was not pretty. You feel like death — losing capacity, sense of space and time, your cognition, your sanity — because you’re being poisoned and starting to die.
I was in full denial as I lost 45lbs in less than 5 weeks.
I could not eat enough.
I could hardly eat.
I was reactive and allergic to everything.
My heart was racing/pounding, then weakly limping. (My blood pressure readings would later hang around 70/40)
Every organ struggled. Every meal, every thought and interaction — was a painful and terrible labor with unknown outcomes.
Inflammation spread through me like the virus it is.
I would stand in the middle of my office like a true zombie, my team asking me a variety of questions, and receiving an auto-responder or unconscious decision:
Ok, cool. Good stuff. (no idea what was asked or even what words were being said)
Yes — do that.
No, uh — ask me tomorrow. I have to lay down.
This is all from reports later retold to me.
I lost all memory of the hours
My marketing and sales instincts — political survival skills — ran deceptive scripts to fool and appease concerns. “Mold-rage” and pain made me into a agitated asshole. My “zombie-time” was expanding, and my overall waking hours were in rapid decline.
A heavy fatigue drove me to sleep. The more I slept, the worse I felt, and the harder it was to wake up.
Scary times indeed.
Everywhere, everything felt unsafe.
It was a direct correlation — identified using a hard-won awareness as I fought through a constant fog and decline to define two realities of my daily time-spaces:
Time in office = Mental Level of a Zombie
Time in cool, oldschool-but-toxic, mancave dwelling = Feeling of death
Further validation and moment-to-moment clarity came from the guidance of Western-trained-yet-functional medicine doctors. I used my few hours on waking consciousness to research.
I drank some Bulletproof kool-aid and used biotoxin detox techniques backed up by science and anecdotes. It became an obsession, a lifeline, an evolving solution — linking me to a new understanding of…life.
I meticulously tested the hacks, drew on old experiences, and took action. I made my biology and health my absolute focus once again, in a new frontier.
Finding a new place, working remotely in purified air, rebuilding a mold-free existence in a humid climate, engaging in deep research and testing/documentation to discover root causes and awareness.
I was forced, mostly alone (or so my damaged brain and foolish pride thought), to fight through the symptoms, champion my own survival and recovery once again (My Bio-hacking Story coming in a future article).
I slowly, meticulously put weight back on.
I confronted old injuries — both of body and mind.
Each day I got a little more back, discovered something new to try.
I had setbacks, learned, was humbled, and pressed on.
I began to connect with and personalize human evolution.
Being forced to strip away the filters, the “adult” mindset — the paradox of narrow mental cannibalism in pursuit of progress — I was vulnerable, like a child again. I even reconnected, genuinely albeit remotely, with my mom. Our relationship, for reasons often unclear and avoided, has been foolishly strained and confrontational.
Again, what a privilege to have her alive, supportive, sharing love for her son in one of his weakest times.
Balance is now the theme, the aspiration.
A paradox looms: when imbalance is masked and hidden from the human by the effects of the imbalance itself.
The more I learn and seek awareness of mental capture, the more the signals of denial can be seen. Recognition and acceptance — as cliche as it sounds — is the first and often only needed step to stop the trend before it starts.
I fully repatriated to the US this summer.
Much of 2016 was spent discovering my own biology and particular physical, mental, and emotional nuances that create a complete human formula. A greater breakthrough about our species emerged:
The formula exists in everyone.
Compassion and understanding has an entirely different meaning now. My faculties are returning — often in new, advancing forms.
I am grateful.
I am fallible.
The stress and adrenal fatigue of the last few years is steadily being replaced by a balanced, informed, open, and adaptive version of me. This Upgraded Self, or rather constantly-vigilant and awareness-seeking self, requires humility. I am privileged to have the freedom to pursue it.
The financial costs, the time spent, the sacrifices for the essential foundation of health are investments in me — and in a market where luck and unrecognized advantages dictate who lives, survives, and dies.
My good fortune lies in somehow finding the ability to push through the brain fog, the illness. I seek compassion for those less fortunate, less privileged, and trapped in the scary paradox of illness-preventing-healthy-decisions.
Yes, I still slip back into old habits of over-work, self-hate, pointless destruction, and imbalance. Every time it happens though, I have a little more awareness of the warning signs and the effects. I learn how to recover.
Human adaptation is our greatest ability as a species.
I’m something of a techno-hippie now. A little more…ok, WAY more open to the woo-woo and fringe, especially when someone takes the time to test, quantify, and prove effects in biomarkers: results even the most stubborn Western doctors struggle to deny. It spills over into my human connections.
It took this journey to realize:
Healthy, balanced sprint-and-rest cycles are actually more productive. You have to work with fellow humans who share the same principles.
Now, travel means something again. I have the space and balance to value it, immerse in the changes of state, scene, and culture.
When I travel:
I look around.
I drop the agenda — the moment is what it is.
I recognize and appreciate other humans.
I genuinely smile at and empathize with the TSA (or equivalent of the country I’m in).
How many people has she asked the same question to?
“Thank you [insert name badge’s name]” *carry a real conversation afterwards, almost always triggered by the recognition, as I remove my shoes and check for any need to help move luggage, resolve confusion as a somewhat-seasoned nomad
Ok, good for me — but Why Share a Burnout Story?
Arianna Huffington issued a call to action. She gave sharing burnout a purpose.
Burnout’s a damn shame — a absurd First World waste and tragedy. If we empathize and relate to distinct, personal stories with the same, ridiculous theme — change becomes possible.
“What? Working more hours doesn’t produce more? Silly nomadic American, I don’t have time to talk — there’s a ton of busy work for me to use to look productive today, tonight, and anytime anyone sends me anything.”