Why Do Women Even Think They Should Earn As Much as Men?

Anti-feminism, society, and their suicidal consequences

How to raise emotionally intelligent and sensitive kids in a performance-oriented society? How to make girls feel strong and empowered in a world that is still mostly driven by men? How to do better than me as a brother and save your sister’s life? How to gradually change the world?

By sharing my experiences, I hope to open the eyes of fathers that still think their sons are worth more than their daughters and of mothers that think they aren’t entitled to speak up. Ultimately I hope to contribute — be it by triggering some discussions or thoughts — to the change of a society, that is solely performance-driven.

How the ideal world looked like for her

A story about loneliness

July 13th, 2008 — The day that changed our lives

We were enjoying a family lunch at my parents’ place. Enjoying in that context is relative, but lunch was ok. We had leftovers of a typical Flemish dish that tends to taste even better the day after, all flavors absorbed.

In the background, we could hear a lot of sirens fading in and out. We speculated a bit on the seriousness of the event that must have taken place, checked if we could see anything further down the street, and went back to our dishes and wine.

After lunch, we moved to the couch for dessert and a bit more comfort, as my ex-partner was eight months pregnant with our oldest kid (the boy is fourteen now, still as cute as they come). Then our worlds changed for good.

The doorbell rang. Two police officers — one junior male and a more seasoned female, wearing glasses on a face that is burned into my retina — came up asking my mom to take a seat. Blood drained from her face and while collapsing into her chair, she realized. We all realized.

Where it all started

31 years earlier, a girl was born. Blonde, beautiful blue eyes, and a catchy laugh (hearsay of course, as I wasn’t around at the time just yet). Very soon it became clear that her gray cells were operating at a rate far beyond average. I can confirm that from the moment I started building up memories.

Like most siblings, we had regular fights. I was a football player, using the gate of the house as my goal, making the building shake with every goal or miss. She was a bookworm and musician, not a massive fan of those continuous earthquakes. But mostly we had fun together, building He-Man caves out of Pampers boxes (number three came a couple of years later, just at the time we needed the boxes), or stuffing shoes with hay from our hamsters — normal kids’ stuff.

As a little girl, she was already very opinionated. She had a strong sense of justice, she knew how the world could become a better place (her drawing gives an idea — equality, nature, and harmony were so important to her), and she was strong in defending those views against my dad (who as you will soon find out, had and has other strong opinions).

I was just a simple boy playing football in a man’s world. Watching my dad get upset every time my sister had a different opinion became normal. She would end up crying in her room, my dad would end up stating she was crazy. She was alone. She was lonely. Not crazy. I didn’t realize it back then.

The anti-feminist and racist home of a feminist idealistic girl

My mom was a nurse. She loved her job, but the moment she gave birth to my sister, she became a housewife. My dad convinced her by saying there was no financial benefit in having a job while having to raise kids. She also gave up her car back then and never drove one ever since. She became fully dependent on my father.

We are all products of our upbringing. Some choose to learn from mistakes, while others follow blindly and pass on that same upbringing. My mom is in category two. Humble (leaning strongly towards submissive), trying to be good and kind to anyone and everyone, but not to herself. Always avoiding conflict, even when it is needed for the ones she cares about.

My dad grew up in a farmer’s family. Very much male-centered and very much afraid of anything and everything looking different than the typical local farmer. He is also category two (although there are many additional complexities and funny — at least for outsiders — contradictions, that might deserve a book eventually). Dominant, always right, and underdeveloped EQ (close to the one of the average kitchen table — just a literary reference to my previous post — I could have picked any other object without emotions).

The average kitchen table at the time — source Unsplash

Both at our kitchen table and dining table, we got fed, fed with ideologies about people from other religious backgrounds, about women. “Why should women even think they need to earn as much as men in sports? They don’t have the physique and posture. Why do they want our jobs? They should be taking care of their kids.” Mom just nodded.

After being fed, my dad used to just state: “a cup of coffee would do me good”. Mom would get up, make coffee and serve. I think she got upset twice in their now almost 45 years of marriage. She already knew the answer waiting for her, as she heard it more often than twice: dad was the one paying the bills.

Maybe it’s not a valid excuse. Even simple boys playing football in a man’s world should see these things. But I was a boy. I didn’t feel it, because I was in the privileged group.

At the right side of that very same dining table, a young girl was being fed with the same ideologies. Every single one of these statements, every implicit command to my mother, and every comment about women felt like a personal attack, a dagger slowly piercing her young, strong female heart. She asked my mom to stand up. She fought my dad when he said what he said. But she was alone. For years. Until she left home… probably even until she left life.

Perform well and all is good

I’m drowning
No one sees me

Captured in brains
Marks are good
I am small
I am drowning

Where are the people
Who sees me
I am drowning

And I don’t know how it feels
to feel
How it feels to be

Marks are good
but who cares about me
I am small
I am drowning

A poem by my sister

Society is performance-driven. Power and performance are what matter out there. Achievements at school, a university degree, a nice job title, your next salary increase or promotion, the size of your car, or the pool in your garden… that’s how society measures people. All people.

On the other hand, the spectrum of people is enormous. All of us are different. All with different qualities, different colors, different interests, and emotions. And yet we are all still measured by our society in the same way.

My sister had great marks. Everything was just fine for the outside world, her teachers at school and music school. No reason to worry, on the contrary. To some extent even for my parents, these marks were creating the feeling that they were doing a good job. Yet she wasn’t recognized and accepted as the person she was.

My sister tried to be different but was pushed to fit in. Then again she felt she was different and tried but failed to fit in. The constant loneliness, the struggle to be recognized as a girl, a woman in her own family, in this world… the pressure to be normal she felt from all directions, all together drained her. It drained her to the extent she lost faith in her ideals. She lost faith in society, she lost faith in life.

I hope I will have the courage to jump off. Or in front. But rather off. I’ve always been afraid of trains.

She had always been afraid of trains. Yet that day, the day everything changed, she found the courage. She walked there, put her clothes in a container for the poor, left her ID card in a little light blue Holly Hobbie purse (she had kept that from the days we were making He-Man caves and we were putting hamster-hay all over the house), and jumped. In front.

How to change?

It is so sad to conclude that it took a life to change mine. It changed the hard way. But through the years after, I came to understand my sister better. I came to understand myself. Day by day. Where I used to be part of the performance society, I now started seeing things from a different perspective. One that is irreversible, one that is right, one that is me.

What makes us people different is our souls. The potential to feel, to have emotions, and connections with each other to a level no other animal can. Sure we’re also smart and we perform and evolve at an incredible pace (although it is questionable whether our paradoxical society is good for us), but next to this performance there is the magic of our souls we can’t explain.

Yet there is no(t enough) place for sentiment, for emotions in the nerve center of our society. Companies, governments, and institutions select sharks. People who eat other people if needed, to perform. To please their boss, to climb a ladder. All for money. All for power.

I am convinced we need genuine and authentic leaders, we need people, and we need a people society instead of a performance society (or at least more balance, because in the end, we all enjoy modern comfort — things are not black and white). Perhaps we will evolve a bit slower. Maybe Elon’s commercial space flights would be out of the question in this century. Maybe streaming Netflix in your self-driving car won’t be for the coming decades… but so what? We would have a better world.

Where to start?

Of course by understanding the purpose of life (I didn’t put a smiley because of thousands of content-less articles on Medium  stating this is not a good writing practice, but it was meant in a not-so-serious way 🙂 — oops).

More seriously, be it also more cliché: we can and should start by changing ourselves. I chose to change. It took me part of my adult life, strong other people with other views, and some serious events to really evolve and escape from my racist, anti-feminist, and conservative nest.

I chose to focus on the emotional development of my kids rather than emphasizing their more measurable performance. What does your heart tell you? How do you feel? Did you consider the impact on others when you did/said so?

Emotionally intelligent kids are our future. They can bend evolution in a way that can and will make this place a better place to live. Understanding what they feel, sharing and understanding what they feel, and acting on it, instead of blocking every sentiment will eventually be a game-changer for all of us.

Kids and adults that are emotionally educated (leaving aside if they are emotionally intelligent), will always consider the impact of what they do on other human beings. Of course, it is naive and idealistic to believe that we will evolve to a world that doesn’t need feminism, that is inclusive -regardless of skin tone- and where every life is worth as much as another.

But we can change. We can revolve.

Every one of us has a voice, an opinion. However, most people (even in the most democratic and liberal regimes) are looking left and right before expressing it. It will take balls (meant as figuratively as can be — as I hope you understood from the above), but people need to speak up in all layers of society. We need changes at many levels. Time for the next chapter — this might become too much of a prophecy…

Is it possible to change the world? A short rational intermezzo.

99% Of the population wants a better world. Better meaning more human-being-focused. 1% or less is focused on performance, revenue streams, and power. That 1% owns roughly half of the money. Add the middle class to this and it becomes clear that 85% of the capital is (still unevenly) distributed over 12% of the world’s population.

Wikipedia — Distribution of wealth

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of London tried to answer the question of how many people on earth are needed to ‘revolve’ society. The outcome hints toward 25 percent of the population (the full article can be found here).

I tend to disagree with that bold statement and would like to add a sauce of relativity on top: if that 25% of the population is not equally distributed in the different layers of society and let’s say all of them come from the “miserable” red group (with all respect for the red people— I didn’t pick the labels), they are screaming in the desert.

On the other hand, this could also be good news: if we want to change the performance-driven society, it might only take 25% of the mid-class and millionaires to move the needle. Relatively good news: fewer people in absolute value, but the hardest ones to convince to speak up, as they ‘benefit’ from the society they might even dislike.

If we want an inclusive world, we probably also need a decent mix of 25% (don’t pin me on that number — I expect some error bars on that percentage) people that dare to speak up when they see things going wrong, and don’t just look the other way. And this is where we come in… people that raise their voices, parents who focus on a healthy balance between brain and heart, and who are not shy to see a psychologist with their kids when it’s needed. Emotional intelligence has the potential to change the world.

Hippies and suchlike

I’m not a hippie or suchlike. I am not a preacher, not a naive person who thinks we can turn back time and trade carrots for beans again. I like watching Netflix, I enjoy taking pictures on a computer the size of my hand. During the day I am a senior director in a micro-electronics company (and I don’t say this to brag — impostor syndrome: check).

But I lost my sister.

We/I can’t get her back. I can talk to her — which I often do — but she doesn’t talk back. Nevertheless, when I ask her something, she’s right most of the time.

Losing someone hurts. It is a never-ending journey on the curves drawn by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. In the end, you come to accept, but the hurt is still there. Trying to extend her life by understanding, embracing, and sharing her philosophy seems to help. Trying to raise my kids in a way they will never feel lonely while being with their parents helps. Being conscious about the feelings of my kids, as well as the feelings of any other human being — including my own — brings me a bit closer to my sister.

She was beautifully vulnerably naive. She saw a world that would make me feel better. A slower pace, time for each other. Time to sit down and watch a shy butterfly land on a flower in the late afternoon. A world that by itself is mindfulness therapy. But the people didn’t get her. Neighbors laughed at her ideas. I didn’t get her. I told her she needed to find a job, focusing on our pregnancy, not realizing how weak she had become. The old me sometimes thought things would be easier if she would just fit in.

On that day the same neighbors that mocked her, came by to say how beautiful her ideas were.

On that day, I found a bed full of tissues with dried tears. A table with at least fifty personalized application letters she wrote, together with as many rejections. She tried to fit into a world that wasn’t worthy of her, till the very last moment.

Sorry for not understanding you. For not seeing your attempts. For not being there to back you up when it was needed. Sorry for being black or white, when you needed gray.


Thanks for changing my life, for letting me see things in a completely different way, for letting me raise my kids in a way that would have made you happy, and would have saved you. Thanks for letting me be me. Thanks for having been you till the very last moment.

Thank you for changing my world!

You’ve been hit by, you’ve been struck by… 

Stress — a smooth criminal

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash


/strɛs/ — noun

– pressure or tension exerted on a material object.
– a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.

This weekend I was driving to Germany for a well-needed (one can debate on it being well-deserved since I’m still taking things easy at work, but hell yeah, having three kids and a lot of stuff going on, I tend to claim it is well-deserved too) holiday. 

I was looking forward to the drive, as Germany doesn’t have any speed limits on most highways. As usual, the hope for a speedy drive was soon replaced by mild disappointment, realizing that I had again suppressed the memories of never-ending roadworks in that same country. 

Nevertheless, we got over it and were enjoying a relatively nice drive at moderate speed, when all of a sudden the panoramic sunroof scattered in thousands of pieces. There was no impact, perhaps a minor bump in the road, and no rock falling on the roof. It just scattered, even though it looked perfectly ok when I last washed the car — some months ago admittedly.

As I duly respect my loyal followers, I won’t explain the analogy between the panoramic roof and people breaking down for too long, but none of my colleagues expected me to crack. 

I looked ok, and my performance reviews were fine, but for years, probably decades, there was chronic stress building up, which gradually degraded my — not to be underestimated — resilience. Even though I survived heavy bumps along the road and always bounced back.  

The ignorant manager

Anyway, I didn’t intend to talk about my own experience, nor about my car (a VW Tiguan by the way & also had a colleague with a VW Passat, having experienced the same, rather dangerous problem. I will never learn… now for sure I won’t ever become a key member of the VW affiliate program, making the road to financial independence again a bit harder — but let’s be honest: Volkswagen should by now know their panoramic roof is under tension no?). 

Burnout in general is an energy problem. It is often a result of years and years of ignoring signals your body is screaming out. A result of chronic looting of your own body, unconsciously or knowingly — not caring or not being able to change.

Photo by Carrie Borden on Unsplash

Let’s take a step back. I’m not a doctor (and as you will very soon notice I’m also not an artist), so I use existing information to explain known mechanisms in my way. 

I’m trying to advise people in doubt to take care of themselves, to help people that are currently hitting rock bottom, and finally trying to explain how it all feels before, during, and after to people like my manager who said: “I probably also had a burnout 5 years ago…” and then try to minimize what you’re feeling and say you shouldn’t have stress. 

For the latter group: a sneak preview —  there is no “I probably had” or “I might have had”. You know when you got struck! It hits you like the hammer of Thor. And at the moment you’re giving the advice not to stress, it already became a problem way beyond just the mental stress. 

You’re talking to someone with a body that was conditioned in a very wrong way for a very long time. Don’t get discouraged by the quality of some homemade drawings, but hang in there and continue reading for your colleagues, friends, and family members. You should try to understand to be able to help them.

When Cortisol goes crazy

Known performance-stress curve — avoiding copyright

Apologies for the above. Anyway: theory says a certain amount of stress is ideal to perform and be the best version of yourself. However, every one of these Gaussian curves I’ve seen has a top. The top of this performance graph is a thin cord to balance on and if the top performer is not careful, fatigue is there waiting for him like a sly fox. 

I’m also kicking in open doors, stating that unattended fatigue has a fair chance of leading to exhaustion, panic, anxiety, and anger in later stages. All signs that burnout is in the making.

Behind the scenes of this stress versus performance curve, the stress hormone Cortisol is having a party. I’ll leave the technical details for the specialists, but in short: acute stress situations cause the adrenal glands to produce the steroid hormone cortisol, which in subtle interaction with adrenaline causes some response in the body:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Faster breathing
  • Sweat production goes up
  • and a lot of internal things, you might prefer to look up 

Promised to keep it short, so this is as far as I go on the metabolic mechanism. The biggest problems start surfacing when a second partner steps into the dance: time. 

Having heavy stress for too long, causes your cortisol levels to be up all the time, whereas in ideal circumstances they’re only up at the beginning of the day (when our ancestors needed to be chary and wary of predators during their hunts). 

Anything seems to trigger high heart rates, and all the other party parameters, eventually exhausting your body. It can be a long and weary process before your resistance breaks (you could compare it with an elastic band that is constantly stretched and overstretched too many times and snaps… if you want to forget about sunroof debacles as much as I do). 

Chronic stress symptoms — source: McKinsey&Co (link to full article)

Avoid breaking at all costs— recognize & act

The best cure for burnout is avoidance and getting back to productive stress levels while you still can. This requires both awareness of all the signals listed in the McKinsey article linked above (or on one of the thousands of other sites repeating the same) and swift action. 

Reading the alarm signs on a slide makes it all look really simple, but when it comes to your own body, a lot of other factors come into play: pride, guilt, stubbornness, underestimation of the red flags(“it’ll pass” or “not me”), ignorance, society-/job-/financial pressure, fear, etc. It takes a lot to be proactive. 

You need a healthy cocktail of gut, self-knowledge, and perspective to take health-related decisions before your body takes them for you.

Acknowledging chronic stress is a strength, not a weakness

When it comes down to your health, there is no employer in the world worth making sacrifices for. No revenue target, no paycheck, no CEO, no manager, customer, or deadline is worthy of jeopardizing your health. No matter how important they all might seem at the time (here the perspective-ingredient needs to be added to the cocktail). 

There is only one (1) you. You have one life. Let’s assume our lives are finite and there is no after-life (leaving religious and philosophical discussions aside here — but I can only recommend the series: A subtle mix of dark humor and emotions), it makes a lot of sense to act on it when our body is screaming for help. 

Avoid/reduce stressors, reduce workload, don’t push yourself to physical limits, and take some time off. Pull the handbrake before hitting the wall. 

Try to share how you’re feeling with people you trust. Talk to your general practitioner about anxiety, panic attacks, and/or sleepless nights, about your body reacting to things it shouldn’t react to. Your doctor might first check your physical condition, and examine your heart and blood… 

But when these tests are all negative, you might get some different insights on your mental health state (and the physical power hereof) and potentially the extra push you needed to look after yourself. 

I’m saying so because everybody is worth it and as long as you didn’t break, the way back is easier to find and, the path is so much shorter and clearer. Maybe one or two weeks off can do the job in this phase. I’m also saying so because I didn’t for a long time. And I regret it. 

No more bouncing back 

So it happened. Your bungee snapped and people don’t recognize you anymore (those with vivid imagination could compare it with a true bungee accident, but somewhat less fatal and with less obvious damage). Your energy is gone, but you’re still at the very right -hence wrong- side of the stress curve shown above. 

Your body is empty, but still anxiety is there, sleepless nights are the new standard, and hormonal imbalance kicks in (members of your LGBTQ target group excite you as much as the average kitchen table. That is disregarding people with a fetish for kitchen tables, no pun intended). 

Your physical energy level is that low you are more or less limited to lying down, even though you would like to do more. Your mental energy level is the same. 

Now the question is: how to bounce back from this one? The answer is simple: you don’t. There is no sudden bounce. It took you years to arrive here and there’s a good chance it will take an equally decent amount of time to reach your new potential “no-worry”-level, which is very likely to be lower than what you were used to and also more hypothetical, as your life-phase changed and “no worries”-zone perhaps doesn’t exist anymore. 

Home Made Energy vs. Time graph pre-during-post burnout — feel free to reach out to contact@waba48.com for feedback on graphic skills, or questions on the contents.

The cure

There is no bouncing back, but for sure you can and will get out if you decide to invest in yourself. You lost yourself along the way, so it’ll require some of the Kübler-Ross phases to accept your condition first. 

The same feelings that perhaps withheld you from pacing down in the chronic-stress phase will for sure still be there when you’re at home recovering. At first, you will feel worse. 

Acceptance is the first step. As written in “The post-burnout balance”, you need to feel your body, listen to it, and don’t try to go faster than your body allows. 

Building up after burnout is delicate. Your mind and body need to become partners… truly best friends. And sometimes best friends clash, but they will always find each other again. 

Try to always listen to your body. Don’t let anyone or anything convince you to go faster than your body allows you to, or the balance is lost. Don’t allow any pressure.

Once accepted and once decided you are going to invest in yourself, you’ll review your lifestyle, sleeping and eating patterns, and perhaps take supplements. All are needed, but they cannot replace the signals your body is giving you. They complement and help to answer those signals. 

If you don’t yet feel all the signals, you might consider buying one of the many watches out there that measure heart rate, heart rate variance, and stress. They are quite accurate and could help you to understand what you’re feeling. 

One of the most positive things about going through all this is that you go next level in understanding what your body is trying to tell you. You become the best health monitor you could wish for.

You got used to overreacting to the smallest triggers. Now it’s time to recondition. Build in active rest moments after a walk or eventually jog-session, to tell your body you weren’t fleeing. Learn how to do nothing, just breathe and get distracted by a book or series. 

Show your new best friend it is ok to do nothing and there is no need to raise its heart rate and breathing rhythm. Find things that empty your head and give a safe feeling (for me at some point, the only thing that worked was being underwater, cooling down my body, hearing nothing… everything slowed down).

Only by a hard reset, you can start climbing the energy curve again from the “easy” side. Low performance, low stress. Not eliminating stressors and trying to run up that hill will put you eye to eye with anxiety and sleepless nights again (guess I’m also writing this note to myself, as a reminder).

Always remember: there’s only 1 you. Only 1 life. And you’re worth it.

The paradoxical society

We’re all part of the “fast forward”

Five years ago, I was part of a meeting where future electronics-applications were being discussed. Sitting there with all these enthusiastic managers, tech-geeks and nerds with an enormous ego, I truly got scared (to some extent of the size of their ego’s, but mostly of how they want the future to look like).

Our intelligent fridges would be equipped with camera’s and gas-sensors, perfectly able to tell just how much inventory you still have, if something is about to go bad (and of course sending you recipes for dinner with those ingredients), sending shopping-lists to the grocery-store to auto-fill itself. We were discussing self-driving cars (so people can work while commuting) that would be able to analyse our emotions by face recognition, so they could already adapt the music at home to the way we feel or inform our spouses trouble is on its way.

Artificial intelligence will become part of our lives, whether we want it or not… all in order to increase the productivity of us, the working ants (See We Are But Ants).

All of us are part of it. The constant urge for more. Fast needs to become faster at an exponentially increasing and scary pace. Enough doesn’t exist.

It’s only sixty years ago people were not used to have a tv at home and they gathered together with their neighbors to watch one of the rare shows that were broadcasted. Till 30 years ago, we had the patience to rewind a VHS tape or our commodore 64 cassette to find the right game (always that magic when typing “load”). Only twenty years ago smart phones started to find their ways into our lives. Today we can’t live without them anymore, they’re part of our lives, extensions of our body. Screens are everywhere. Shows are on demand. We’re reachable any time of day and when we’re not standby, people start to wonder what’s wrong. We get lured into the world of social media, where people show the best of themselves, raising the bar for their ‘friends’ (even the ones you know for a fact are unhappy or depressed, often still manage to make you feel you need to step up just a bit, with their fake online-happiness… :))

We’re victims of the society’s unstoppable need for speed. And yet all of us contribute to it. Of course the above sounds negative. Evolution is nice, gadgets and technology are amazing exponents of what human beings can achieve…

… and yet we all scream for “pause”

Compared to only 20–30 years ago, there’s a tsunami of inputs coming at us every day. It’s amazing how human beings adapted to this threatening avalanche in a couple of decades, however we weren’t taught how to deal with this continuously and rapidly changing world.

People pay money to do some breathing exercises — inhaaaaale, hold, exhaaaaale… — Not ridiculizing meditation, I also did so — but it is just creating time for ourselves and pressing that pause button. We pay hundreds of dollars/euros to be in an offline yurt out of reach of any cellular network. Thousands of euros even to go to to places like this (nope, not an affiliate link, just fyi 🙂 Now that I think about it, not too wise for someone who’s writing about passive income models).

Evolution of burn-out leading to inability to work in one of the smaller EU-countries — https://www.brusselstimes.com/251162/alarming-figures-burnouts-at-work-increased-by-66-in-three-years

We seem to be in a fast forward-pause loop where the balance is disturbingly tilting towards the speedy side. Many people don’t realize this causes a constant energy-drain, until some( )thing(s) goes wrong. There’s an alarming increase of burn-outs worldwide, there’s more anxiety-attacks and depressions. We might just not all be made for this pace. Humanity might not be intended for this (what is in the end the purpose of life? I know, too big of a question for too small of an article). Maybe we evolved too much to be happy?

Commodore 64, joystick and an even older calculator on top

So what to do?

We can’t turn back time. But restoring a healthy balance is what we can have in control. If mowing the lawn makes you relax (I admit — I’m a lawn-guy), take the time to do so and don’t buy one of those fancy robots. Say no to some evolutions, say no to your boss, so no to the fast-forward of the movie called your life. Slow down and enjoy disconnected moments. Dig up that old commodore 64 and take the time to “load”.

The post-burn-out-balance

As I described in “The burn-out clichés”, I went through the dark caverns of burn-out hell. I stayed home for months, after my body refused any further co-operation. I tried to find rest by doing “nothing”, which made me even more restless. I wanted to get energy by trying to sport, but it depleted me even more. And then suddenly, after frustrating months of sliding further down, while expecting to go up, there’s that little spark of energy. A sign that your body is up for something more… and then it happens!

You go and grab that spark. Out for that long awaited run. You feel the oxygen filling your lungs up till the smallest capillaries. You’re alive again… Alive! For fifty f* meters, then realizing your heart rate is abnormally high, you’re feeling even worse than before and you need two days to recover from that poor attempt to run. Another setback. BUT the spark was there and it will come back more frequently. It just needs to be treated with care. It’s a fragile spark, one that will still fade easily if not cherished, one that will need to charge again for some time after every time it went out.

Building up after burn-out is delicate. Your mind and body need to become partners… truly best friends. And sometimes best friends clash, but they will always find each other again. I realized that for me the normal working life is never going to work (although still trapped in it 🙂 — Why Work Doesn’t Work) and while gaining energy in the past months, my mind wanted to bypass my body. I felt the urge to execute all the ideas I had to escape from my golden work-cage. My spark, that meanwhile became stronger and brighter, all of a sudden faded again. My balance was off and bam! I fell. Burn-out is ruthless.

For people struggling with the same, I can only recommend to listen to your body. Don’t let anyone or anything convince you to go faster than your body allows you to, or the balance is lost and the spark fades to only light up again when it gained enough confidence. Don’t allow any pressure. There is only 1 you, only 1 life to live (I don’t really believe in re-incarnation or any “after-life” — loved the series by the way :)). Invest in “you”. Make the handshake between mind and body, accept and go as slow as needed… enjoy the sparks, but protect them so they can grow stronger! (Also motivating myself here :)).

People that had a burn-out or depression probably recognize this feeling and the setbacks… I’m curious to see how others deal with it — I’m still struggling to find my balance, but step by step I’m learning more about myself, life, its relativity and the purpose of it all.

Thanks for reading!

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The burn-out clichés

Truth is I didn’t just start writing because Christmas decoration was in the stores even before my birthday… although it gave me the final push 😉

For years I’d been looting my body… first without knowing, then knowing but not caring and finally knowing and caring, but not being able to snap out of it.

I might elaborate on the above sentence if my loyal fanbase expands beyond the single follower I currently have (ok ok… I am that single follower – what can I say? I wanted to try out if wordpress was broken, since I didn’t get an audience. Still now, it makes me happy for a second when I see my blog-statistics. The duration of the disappointment – realizing again it’s me myself and I following myself – also shortens, so the balance is tilting towards happiness). So leaving the elaboration on the how/why for a later time.

I reached the point where I was on holiday with my kids (co-parenting 3 lovely monsters) and I couldn’t move anymore. I could only lie down. I could exceptionally drag myself to the pool (which looked 10 times bigger on picture and was actually an ennobled bathtub that made my son cry at arrival) and wanted to sleep. I was actually so restless I couldn’t sleep properly: my body felt like it was under permanent attack and needed to be on guard 24/7. Cortisol. It f***s up all other hormones by the way – the only focus of your body becomes survival.

Upon return I thought I’d go for a run with my daughter – back then ~11 years old and to put it euphemistically: not the fastest runner around. We barely ran 1km, my sports-watch started making a sound I never heard before and I was about to crash. I had to ask her to stop and face the facts: even a half dead cheetah is able to catch up with a turtle – so I was beyond half-dead. The 1km run resulted in 2 additional recovery days for my heart-rate (not kidding) and despite the fact that all blood- and heart-tests were negative, I had never felt so close to being dead as I did back then. Yup, feelings have the power to conquer your body. Feelings caused by work, divorce, break-ups, kids, covid and kids, losing my sister years ago, some luggage from the past… and the feeling I would always be strong enough to bounce back. In the end, it’s me 🙂 I always did!

So all clichés were there: I never expected to feel like this… not me?! I ignored signals I didn’t know of. I kept on working full-time while my job and fight for the people in the organization were a constant drain for me. Till I didn’t bounce anymore and I sat on my knees in front of my three kids, telling them how sorry I was, I couldn’t be a good dad to them at that moment. It needed change!

For the first time in my life I invested in me. In all possible ways (also financially, because my beloved multinational employer of course didn’t insure mental issues – those are for the weak… and the weak are not the winners… and my company only hires the best :)). I felt guilty doing so at first, but grew out of that. I felt pressured to go back to work, but let go of that eventually (I know I made it sound Ninja-tough and strong, but it took me months to accept). I was going to take as long as was needed.

During the process (lasted a year, still not 100% there), I realized 1 thing: I needed to change my life. I needed freedom. I wanted to do things I like doing. Writing is one of them.

I actually realized more things. You need to be strong to make the decision I took in this over-populated world with its society-rules and -pressure. And you need a person next to you that believes in you, despite cortisol-mess, fears, tears, fatigue and all emotions that come on your path. Thanks love x

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