Fighting Dementor's Kiss

Dementor's Kiss, (from Harry Potter movie)
There are times in life when we feel not alright, feel down. Stress, heavy work load, and depression are like the Dementor's Kiss that would suck out body's soul, the life energy, and makes you feel pretty miserable. 

On the surface I am doing great. Even fantastic. I would even say the best I've ever done in my life. I live "ideal" life I imagined in May 2017. I travel for work to many countries in Asia and the Middle East, develop business internationally. I work with some of the best business partners, bringing innovative rehabilitation technology to patients that need it and can benefit from it. 

with Chyromed team at 18th Asian Spinal Cord Network (ASCoN) Conference and 11th Annual Malaysian Rehabilitation Medicine Conference, which was held from 13 - 15 Sept 2019 at Menara Selatan, University Malaya Medical Centre

One week in September went like this: on Monday I was in Kuwait meeting Mohammed and his team from ATC, confirming the plan to do a workshop in the end of Oct; on Tuesday I met Abdul in Dubai, who made a decision to represent EGZOTech and was comfortable to sign agreement and invest into a demo unit; on Wednesday, in Hong Kong, I was doing a demo of medical device at one elderly home (slept one hour on the airplane the night before), on Thursday I arrived to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), where spinal cord injury congress and exhibition was due to begin on Fri morning and continue on Sat and Sunday. A friend shared with me a list of the most polluted cities on the planet. I've been to top 5 of them out of top 6 (South East Asia has been through hazy times due to burning forests in Indonesia).

There are decent results and outcomes from my work. At the same time it has been extremely tiring, demanding both physically and mentally. Almost every day I will meet people in hospitals, exhibitions, in different countries, being on the road. Piece by piece it is not difficult to do. But once combined and almost non-stop - it becomes quite a heavy load. I no longer feel it is worthwhile for me to continue carry on with the work that I do. 

I feel profound sadness to the point that I just want to cry at times without obvious reason. It's either stress or clinical depression caused by the stress. Maybe need to consult with a therapist. Or as my friend Karen said: "After so many travels you have changed and still changing. But people whom you knew before have not. And your environment hasn't. That's why you experience this feeling of disconnection while transitioning". 

Sun is setting in Hong Kong, Oct 2019, Lamma Island
I feel quite lonely. It gets a bit better when I am with friends, but still not quite right. Deep down I look and feel sad. My eyes on pictures - "the mirror of a soul" - they are sad, even with genuine smile.

Is it a price for "freedom"? Or is it the dark Eastern European side of me? (In Eastern Europe even the birthday songs are sad: "It's so unfortunate that your birthday only once a year"). Or is it a human nature? Or is it the next cycle of change (every seven years of our life, the theory goes, we experience transformational changes - at the age of 7 we go to school, at 14 transition to an adult, at 21 graduate from university, etc)?

I can experience anger and angry feelings at times for silly reasons or when the reality does not match my expectations. For example, I was complaining recently to receptionist why gym sauna closes at 11 pm, and not 11:30 pm as the rest of the gym. I got very much upset about that and went on and on to that poor receptionist demanding email and contact number of gym manager, so she had to call his personal mobile after 11 pm. But in retrospective that does not really matter. 
Indeed as formula goes "Happiness = Reality - Expectations". And when I am not happy these days, you don't want to be around me. With zero expectations, the one should be happy. But how to achieve this "zero level" of expectations? Can we truly live life without expecting anything? That's rather nonsense. Capitalism, the core of world economy, is build entirely on the expectation that there will be a better tomorrow.

One night while trying to fall asleep, I was analysing past five years of my life in Hong Kong, and came to a conclusion that I've failed pretty much with personal relationship and friendships. When I travel, my WhatsApp is quiet and the messages I get are for work or from group chats where I have zero engagement. Since I embarked on this heavy duty travel around Asia and the Middle East to develop EGZOTech business, many people disappeared from my life. Maybe we never meant to become close anyway. I am still "fortunate" that some of my friends remember and find time to meet me for lunch or dinner, but quality and deep conversations are more rare. It's nice to receive an occasional message from a friend who asks you how doing, isn't it?
With Karen, one of the most amazing woman I ever met in my life. (Oct 2019, Lamma Island)

I used to be excited to meet new people, attending networking events, conferences, go out for a drink, dance once in a while, go out for a hike, an symphony orchestra music concert, an art gallery, museum. But now I just feel nothing when I do one of those things. Profound sense of emptiness. Nothing really truly deeply excites or touches me. Am I dead inside? Or am I having too unrealistic expectations about the "right feelings"? 

I still can produce enthusiasm at times, especially when I am with people, but this enthusiasm is short-lived. Look at the pictures above, hardly can say I am going through emotional turbulence. But when I am back to my hotel room, Airbnb or the room which I rent in Hong Kong, it's the sadness, loneliness, disconnection that I feel the most. 

Perhaps it is a depression that I got myself into. A single man without a family and stable social circle and lots of work to do who don't remember when he was on a proper holiday last time, without a sense of a weekday or a weekend - what can you expect? You would eventually burn out. I can entertain myself with social media, news and art - but that does not address the root cause of that sadness and loneliness. 

"Lasting happiness comes only from serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin" (Sapiens, Yuval Harari)

It's all too easy to surrender to ‎Dementor's Kiss and let myself to feel down. Someone said: "Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm". I still have mental stamina to carry on and keep it professional, even it is very hard. I must admit that my experiment had failed. The ideal perfect life I was seeking two years ago came with the cost, which I find very painful to pay.

What bothers me the most in current situation, is that loneliness and absence of regular lasting romantic relationship and intimate connection with someone. That deep sense of love or attachment. Even when I go out for a date, I know that is pointless, because in three days I will leave Hong Kong and come back after three weeks, maybe, or even later. Our chat would go cold. By then the person I was seeing would just move on. That's how things are in this fast-paced city. For new relationship to last, it needs continuous connection and touch, like newborn baby needs feeding and care from parents. It's next to impossible for me to ensure such while being constantly on the move and most of my time away. So I quit dating the apps because it's a waste of time, and even when I meet someone - I feel it is like a waste of time (and oxygen, that we consume while having a dinner and talking).

But there is a plan. Starting from December I will cut on to my travel time and just be around for longer. With that I can meet more regularly and try to improve my personal life situation, and hopefully don't feel so sad in the end, even when time would come to travel. Because I would know, back there is someone who is waiting for me and looking forward to meet me when I am back. And I will have a reason to be back and look forward to it. 

Fighting Dementors, scene from harry Potter movie


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