I’m sorry if any of you worried for me, you had some merit in your concerns, but I am ok again – and I managed to make it through a rough period without hating myself, which is huge progress.
It’s been a while.
Why I disappeared…
To be honest, I am not sure exactly why or how it happened when it was happening. I just woke up one day and realised how much my life was packed for every waking moment. On top of the sense of unease as someone with social anxiety (which started when I started to get a decent following), I needed to take a break, but it was far more than that in the end.
For those who don’t know, things got pretty heavy in my life around December last year. I lost my dog of over a decade – Leela, and we ended up with a new puppy which was planned but came earlier than expected – Simba. We had a family health scare.
Along side that, for the first time since the pandemic began, New Zealand began a let it spread approach with Omicron (which hasn’t immediately come to break things, but isn’t great). I became a hermit, I have been out in public less than a handful of times since the change in policy. Being isolated in the country was already part of my life, it’s just become more extreme.
This was hard to deal with as I have a large Twitter network with people from New Zealand, and the shared anxiety made me want to limit my time.
The emotional and time toll this took on my life started a mini chain reaction.
I was doing a lot at the end of last year, and at the start of this one – the kryptonite of not being able to see when I am burning the candle at both ends struck again. This time I managed to pull back before I completely bottomed out. I have at least become far more compassionate to myself. However, this was an emergency stop, rather than easing back.
My to do list each day was nearly a page, with nearly every second from waking to falling asleep dedicated to some form of productivity. I thought I could do it forever, but all it took was a few days of feeling run down for the pin to drop. I was doing paid and pro-bono coaching, trying to advocate for neurodiversity, all the cooking/cleaning, trying a new way of dieting involving low-histamine, blogging, writing a book, researching, and reviewing nearly a book a week, walking my dog two times a day.
The amount of hours I was working, writing, researching, or doing non-fiction reading was roughly one hundred. It reduced to the minimum level I could while I still saw the clients I needed to, but I still at times cursed myself for not meeting my own unachievable expectations.
Scared about letting people down created an anxiety spiral – having published an ambitious schedule for myself and my blog at the start of this year – never considering that I needed a break – missing a single self set deadline for a blog started a complete withdrawal from social activities. I told myself – I had to get a blog done, I had to catch up… then I could re-engage – otherwise everyone would see me fail – but if I disappeared, maybe they wouldn’t notice.
Finding an escape in old comforts
I’d love to say I’d spent my time doing something truly noble, still working toward life goals, and doing something “productive”. The truth is that I took a vacation in the one place I have been escaping to since I was a young child – video games.
I picked up Final Fantasy XIV (the MMORPG). There were finally Oceanic servers, and the last few expansions for the game had incredible reviews. I had tried to play it early on but found that the pacing and speed of the game were too slow for my interests at the time (roughly a decade ago).
Now it became something to hide from the world, inside another one where everything was also going to hell… The main difference being, I felt like I had agency to help with the issues of this virtual world.
This ended up being the vacuum into which all my life got drawn into – in roughly two months I finished the Main Story Quest campaign. For people who don’t know, this takes roughly five hundred real life hours of effort, you can do the math to work out how much my life had been consumed.
Maybe at some stage I will talk about this game – as it’s impact on me, and the story it tells are perhaps the most significant I’ve ever had from a video game, and it contained a lot of thematic content that had messages I needed to hear in order to start withdrawing from the game when my time inside it started coming to an end.
Plans for the future
Look if the Musk deal goes through – I will leave Twitter. I don’t really want to see what happens when a billionaire edge-lord with the social maturity of a toddler takes over the platform. I am hoping the deal fails. In the mean time I am going to casually start using the platform – and trying to catch up with a lot of people I have been meaning to without knowing how to – there’s no perfect way and I will just get to it.
The near future
I am trying to get back into healthier habits, I am dedicating more time each day to returning to the work I want to do, but I am also trying to learn to identify my limits before I start to exceed them. As someone who spent their life just living according to other’s expectations, learning to set my own takes a lot of work.
My goals are as follows:
- Blog more
- Tweet occasionally
- Re-engage with science reading
- Finish my book
- Grow my coaching business
- Work on a project with my wife
Thanks for reading if you have, I am looking forward to contributing more – I just need to make sure I realise that I too have limits, and those limits need to be respected.