This is probably the longest I have ever gone without writing. Most of June has been a blur thus far following the first dose of the vaccine. The first 12 hours after the injection I didn’t experience any reactions, allergic or otherwise. The next day, however, oh boy, that was a whole different story. I spiralled into an abyss of insomnia and drowsiness, wherein I lost all sense of time, structure, and direction. Concentration was impossible, and the world was dulled out by aches in my joints, anxiety attacks, slight fever, sore tonsils, watery eyes, loss of appetite, and the ubiquitous fever. It felt like a nasty cocktail of a flu that had copulated with depression, leaving my defenceless body at the mercy of this biological assault. Had I not been of stronger mental health and been completely aware of my past triggers, I would have simply assumed I had crashed into another barrel, but I have been assured by a doctor that I am not alone in these symptoms, and others who have had the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine experienced similar side effects, women in particular. I suppose it is a hormonal thing, and depending on your age, also a matter of whether you are menopausal or post-menopausal. It’s only been during the last 48 hours that I have re-surfaced from this twilight zone, stumbling my way through the day.
In the meantime, while going through this bizarre Sisyphus cycle of insomnia and drowsiness it was the perfect opportunity to practice what I preach. Based on what I wrote in my last entry on Unplugging I decided to take myself offline, especially from the creative side. I begrudgingly had to admit to my inner diva that I was indeed running on empty, with so many things taking a toll, and began exhibiting the telltale signs of burnout. The strange side effects of the first vaccine were a perfect excuse to enter a parallel universe via books, and float in a timeless vortex. I had absolutely no sense of structure or rhythm, and all I wanted to focus on was my iPad, get hopelessly stuck in the 18th century or be enraptured by countless tragic heroes.
These past three months have been very educational in terms of slowing down my pace and seeking alternative avenues of motivation and inspiration, but I found myself yearning for something beyond movies and documentaries, and nothing really appealed to me in terms of photography either.
For someone intensely and passionately creative like me, this is unchartered territory, and quite frankly scary as hell. Divorce or moving to another country on my own didn’t scare me, not even all the other problems that I’ve had dished onto my plate. But creative emptiness is paralysing, as it negates the very tools that got me through the worst times of my life.
In the past, times like these would have seen me running for the hills for a silent spiritual retreat and I truly miss this. I have been fortunate these past weeks to have enjoyed so much silence and down time to simply float. Ironically, my need to do so occurs precisely during the time when Berlin is opening up, people are socialising again, and there is semblance of normalcy again. The sound of children playing happily in the courtyard below, or groups of people paddling by along the river laughing joyously is both painful and soothing at the same time. It’s like skydiving. That moment before jumping out of the plane is terrifying but the first few minutes of free falling is cathartic. Two days ago I pulled on the creative parachute and am beginning to glide under a familiar canopy again, and here is the proof:
The freedom and ability to simply let go is not for the faint-hearted. We are so programmed to be doing something, catering to someone’s expectations, demands and needs, that we often have no clue how to unwind in the purest sense of the word.
The takeaway from this experience? Well, aside from the need for soul cleansing and creative decluttering from time to time, I think it is important to be able to undergo a digital detox and creative overhaul, especially after being entangled in a universe of deadlines, schedules, requirements, expectations, and the like.