I feel like I'm getting attacked by a swarm of locusts. Or bats. Except that the locusts aren’t outside my body; but inside.
Its such a terrible sensation.
Like a siren that keeps sounding; crescendos and collapses then crescendos again.
My hands get hot and shaky, buzzing from the anxiety, the panic.
Then they get cold. Proper ice cold.
I feel lost. Alone.
But I also feel like the whole world is watching me. And I'm butt naked.
The worst possible scenarios run through my mind. Its a torrent of thoughts.
The games you design? They are shit.
The new job you are in? You are just dragging everyone down. You are so unqualified, bad with people, your bosses hate you, your subordinates tolerate you.
Your blog is doing terribly. How did you ever think you could be a good writer?
The people around you are only there because they want to take something from you; they are only with you for the mask you wear when you are with them. Take it off, or let them see through the cracks, and they will leave in an instant.
You aren't as nice, as successful, as deserving of the things you have as you’d like to think.
I question whether I'm walking down the right path. Did I make the wrong calls?
Why am I even pushing myself so hard?
Why do I subject myself to all this work?
Why can’t I just relax?
I’m tormented by my own thoughts.
A prisoner of my own perceptions.
This isn't the first time.
I haven’t been counting, but its definitely past the 100 episode mark.
I’ve noticed a pattern, too. This always seems to happen around this time of year. Happens at a much higher frequency.
The Speed of Life
I recently left the submarines for a different department in the Navy; a non-combat role.
It means I’m effectively working standard office hours.
Shouldn’t this change help to improve my work-life balance?
I mean, yes, I now have more time for ‘life’, but in my mind, that ‘extra’ time only exists for me to squeeze as much as I can out of it.
I no longer have the excuse to not do the things I’ve wanted to do:
Go to the gym more often. Lift heavier.
Dance more often, freestyle better, more advanced moves.
Read 1-2 books a week.
Meditate every day.
Launch more games.
Be a better son.
A better friend.
A better lover.
Work on my relationships, my friendships.
Work on myself, my own self-awareness, emotional management, journaling, that sorta thing.
I have to always be filling up the time.
I have to always be working on something: side hustles, habits, learning. Why listen to music when you can be listening to podcasts instead? And not just any podcast - it has to be one that helps me grow, learn new things. And I can’t just consume - I have to write the new things down. If not, I won't be internalizing the lessons and the time would truly be wasted.
I’m trying to be so many things at once. Trying to do everything.
I’m running in so many directions at the same time, that I end up just running on the spot, tiring myself out for no reason.
Then beating myself up for not going anywhere.
When I was ‘busy’ with work, I could always use that as an excuse to hold off on these things: “Oh I’m too tired to do those” or “work is more important, so I need to be well-rested for the next day.”
Now that those limitations are lifted, all hell breaks loose.
“As soon as I slow down, the feeling of anxiety wells up inside, and I look for something to take it away.”
Been reading Four Thousand Weeks, and its resonated a lot with me as I go through this.
As its author, Oliver, might comment:
I am addicted to the speed of life.
“As the world gets faster and faster, we come to believe that our happiness, or our financial survival, depends on our being able to work and move and make things happen at superhuman speed. We grow anxious about not keeping up - so to quell the anxiety, to try to achieve the feeling that our lives are under control, we move faster. But this only generates an addictive spiral. We push ourselves harder to get rid of anxiety, but the result is actually more anxiety, because the faster we go, the clearer it becomes that we’ll never succeed in getting ourselves or the rest of the world to move as fast as we feel is necessary. Yet the only thing that feels feasible, is to move faster still. You know you must stop accelerating, yet it also feels as though you can’t.” - Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks
If you’ve been reading this far, and feel like this could be of value to someone you know, do me a solid and share it with them! It means a lot to know that I’m not alone, and that my words have an impact on you.
Is it weird that I like the feeling of being burnt out?
I crave that feeling of overwhelm. Of being backed into a corner, having my world crumble around me.
It is the one definitive indicator that I am truly pushing myself to my limits, because I am literally at my limit.
It is how I know for certain that I am 'maximizing' or 'optimizing' my life.
Burn out, recover, then start the engine again.
The Eugene Engine. Lol.
Has a certain ring to it.
Some of my best work has come off the back of major burnout sessions in past years.
Rats to Riches was born out of what was probably the lowest phase of my life ever, in my second year of university.
Switching up my investment strategy to one that would 3x my portfolio in a year and allow me to afford a condo unit by myself also came from such an episode.
I have blog drafts for both these events in the pipeline so stay tuned :)
When you think that its all over for you, that’s when things get crystal clear. You enter a primal survival mode - its do or die.
Yet, for all this ‘silver lining’ talk of burn out benefits, it still doesn't take away the fact that it fucking hurts.
Will I emerge from this episode stronger and reaching new heights (iykyk hehe) of success?
I don't know. I definitely don't believe so right now.
Even if it does, is it worth going through the psychological pain?
“Why don't you just relax? Crack open a cold one, watch some Singles Inferno, chill out?"
Man, if only it were that easy.
The problem with relaxing in such a state is it just makes things worse.
I feel terrible when I try to relax - “Why am I slacking off? Those projects aren't going to move by themselves! What will future Eugene think, looking back on this moment?”
“What value are you getting out of watching a show anyway?”
“Do you know much more work you would have to do on your fitness, your sleep, your diet, if you mess up your health with alcohol?”
Its a trap.
Yes, I meditate.
I try to, at least.
But meditation feels like a band-aid, a cure for a sickness that is innate to me.
Meditating only reminds me of how ‘ill’ I am.
And so I find myself back at square one. Paralyzed by thought. Overstimulated till the point where I can't do anything. Its all too much.
I take walks in nature - those are good. Throughout the walk, my thoughts keep going in circles, but somehow, it feels more palatable after awhile.
Sitting alone in my room with the thoughts? Recipe for disaster.
Stressed as shit, and overwhelmed, but tired.
I know the 'right' ways to think, the correct mental model ‘software’ to swap out the faulty ones in my head with.
But it takes already being in a decent state to make that switch, and keep it there. Because my brain just switches it back if I’m not.
The right way to think would be to look at how far I’ve come, and be grateful for all I have been blessed with.
I do that sometimes.
And I am indeed very blessed.
Would I trade lives with anyone else?
Like trade everything - family background, childhood, flaws and all?
I don’t know.
There are always things to be desired, and things I wouldn’t want for myself.
But knowing me, I wouldn’t make the trade.
I’m content with my life.
But also not.
What a mess.
Four Thousand Weeks offers another solution, one which I am still making sense of for my life.
“Cosmic Insignificance Therapy: When things all seem too much, what better solace than a reminder that they are, provided you’re willing to zoom out a bit, indistinguishable from nothing at all? The anxieties that clutter the average life - relationship troubles, status rivalries, money worries - shrink instantly down to irrelevance. So do pandemics and presidencies, for that matter: the cosmos carries on regardless, calm and imperturbable.
To remember how little you matter, on a cosmic timescale, can feel like putting down a heavy burden that most of us didn’t realize we were carrying in the first place.” - Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks
“Then I considered all that my hands had done, and the toil I had spent in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” - Ecclesiastes