Pete Burgess

Clearing the Fog

April 8, 2020

The following is a post that I have been meaning to write for a while. Before I get into it, I want to stress that I am not a doctor. I do not profess at all to be a mental specialist or someone who should be looked to for help treating mental health. The below comments are meant to be a personal perspective that I would like to share and are not intended to be taken in place of any form of proper therapy or professional help. I hope this post could be comforting to those who read it but please, if you find yourself in need of help, stop reading and contact your doctor or a specialist.

Have you ever been lost in a fog? A thick fog where you can barely see anything in front of you. A fog so dense, that there doesn’t seem to be a beginning or an end to your surroundings. Have you experienced a fog where if you take only a few steps in any direction, you lose where you are and even where you’ve been? Have you been in a fog that feels like it is closing in on you, and you have no idea where to turn to get out of it? A fog that is disorienting, confusing, and leaves you debilitated. You try making your way to safety, but you bump into things––objects in your way no matter which direction you travel. You become frantic, and after hitting enough objects, you stop. You’re bruised and helpless; you can’t go any further. You’re stuck. You’re hopeless. Have you experienced a fog like that? I have been in a fog-like that.

The fog I am referring to isn’t a physical fog, though, but a mental one. For me, the mental fog I experienced was brought on by a variety of circumstances over time. As I tried to navigate through that fog, these stressful circumstances were like objects that I would bump into, and they would weaken me. I would have moments of despair, little panic attacks, but I would continue walking in the fog bumping into things. Finally, I got to the point where I couldn’t go any further. I broke down and hit a wall. I was lost, and it felt devastating.

Many many people experience this fog of anxiety and depression. Countless find themselves every day in a state of hopelessness. Their mental health is best illustrated as chaos, and they are just frantically pushing themselves until they finally hit a wall and can go no further. It is a horrible situation to find yourself. The good news, though, is there is a way to make things better.

When you are traveling through a literal fog, and it becomes too dangerous to go any further, you have to stop. You need to wait for the fog to lift so that you can see your path and be on your way. Deciding to stop can be tough, especially when you’re bent on reaching your destination quickly. Hopefully, you are calmly able to assess the situation and stop; you know it’s safer than pushing on. But if you are past that moment of thinking clearly or feel it’s your responsibility to push on, it could take an accident or a close call to make that decision. When traveling through a mental fog, having a breakdown is your mind’s way of making the decision to stop for you. It’s like having an automatic emergency brake that kicks in when you mentally and physically can’t go any further. When that happens, you should get the message and stop, don’t move any further until the fog has lifted.

It is essential to stop. Take an extended break and reset. The fog will lift, but it could take some time. It should take some time because for a mental fog to lift, it requires healing. You do not want to rush healing, but there are things that you can do to aid it.

The first thing you should do is get help. Talk to your family, friends you trust, your doctor, and I highly recommend a therapist (your doctor will too). Honestly, I feel very strongly that going to a therapist is crucial. To me, there is a benefit to talking it out with someone who has no or limited preconceptions of who you are. No judgment, just help. A therapist’s goal is to get you to a place of balance. Set you on the right track to not only get through your current situation but to also teach you how to better manage your life going forward; how to identify and address the signs before the fog of stress and anxiety consume you again. With that help, the fog will begin breaking down.

The second thing you can do is get rest. Get a lot of rest. You need it. Most likely, as your stress and anxiety had built up, you didn’t sleep well at all. After breaking down, you realize how exhausted you are. For me, I was spent. It wasn’t a conscious decision to sleep, I just slept and slept. Sleep will become mandatory; your body and mind will demand it. Give in and get some much-needed rest. A few days of catching up on sleep will do wonders to help lift the fog. You will feel more in the moment, things will start getting clearer.

As things finally start feeling more manageable, you might think you are good-to-go, ready to take on anything. I can guarantee you’re not ready if you haven’t prepared yourself to manage your stress and anxiety going forward. The fog might have lifted enough for you to begin moving again, but if you are not ready for any difficulties ahead, the fog will drop, and you will find yourself stuck again, and possibly in worse shape than before.

The last step I’m going to focus on that can help aid in lifting the fog is to maintain clarity. Do your best to get a clear understanding of what you want but also what is expected of you. Have clear communication. Continue to rely on your family, your friends, and for as long as you need to your therapist. Stay on the same page with your boss and coworkers. Please don’t hold it in. Annoy people if you have to and get it out. Clear your head, breathe and exercise, track your progress, take breaks, and vacations. Organize it all but not to the point you become overwhelmed, that will defeat the purpose. Pace yourself and just do whatever you need to do to maintain clarity.

One last takeaway that I feel is extremely important is to not minimize your feelings, don’t compare yourself to others. If you feel like what you are going through is nothing compared to what others are going through, you might be inclined to deal with it. Please don’t do that. We are all different, and if you are experiencing things that concern you, that is more than enough reason to do something about it. Help yourself by getting help. Talk to your family, friends you trust, and by all means, do not hesitate to seek advice from your doctor or a specialist.

When you find yourself in a haze, it is a terrifying place to be. It’s more unnerving because the fog exists within. Even after the fog has lifted, it might still follow you everywhere and feel impossible to escape. Honestly, it probably is impossible to completely escape. You may never really escape it, but that’s ok. You just need to stay ahead of it. Depression and anxiety may leave you feeling hopeless, but I can promise you that is not the case. With help, you can stay ahead of the fog, and as long as the fog remains behind you, the path is clear.

Resources

Below are a few links that I have found incredibly helpful. A special thank you goes to the friends and colleagues that forwarded me some of these resources. I hope my post will offer the same positive effect these links helped provide to me.

  • Cameron Moll - Performant Mental Health, The Series - Cameron and friends have put together a fantastic amount of content that addresses mental health identification and management. I highly recommend checking it out. Like me, Cameron is not a health professional and doesn’t claim to be, but he has definitely done his research and has done a great job confirming and noting his sources.
  • Kevin Love - Everyone Is Going Through Something - I love everything about this honest article from Kevin Love. He does a great job at self-reflection and explaining how mental health can be a struggle for anyone, no matter their social status,
  • Breathing exercises - 4-7-8 technique - Honestly, something so simple as this can make a huge difference. If you feel it is not helping, don’t stop because, in a short time, it will. Also, you do not need to be overwhelmed to benefit from breathing exercises like this. Try them when you might typically feel stressed, even if you don’t feel overly stressed. Make sure to pace yourself, though, and only do a few to start. If you feel light-headed, stop, and scale back your repetitions. If you have any conditions that could be negatively affected by any breathing exercise, make sure to consult your doctor first.
  • Calm Clinic (no affiliation) - 10 Ways to Stop and Calm Anxiety Quickly - A few great tips to keep in mind when anxiety catches you off guard, but please do not consider it a replacement for getting needed help. The thing I like about articles like these is not that they offer anything new but instead provide reinforcement of things that work. There are key things that have been clinically identified to help manage anxiety, stress, and depression. I love this comment from their closing boilerplate “When your anxiety is interfering with daily living it is a problem. Learning to recognize your symptoms, as well as your triggers, and working to manage them is a good first step.”

I will add more links to this list as I come across anything I find useful. Please feel free to reach out and share with me anything you have found helpful as well!

This article "Clearing the Fog" was also published on Medium.

Tinkering

February 10, 2020

Every time I start working on my site, I get lost in the process of building it. It's not a negative thing. Nothing is depending on me getting the site built except the ultimate goal of just getting it done. And for me, the process is most of the fun. I love to tinker, and when building a website with no deadline, there is very much opportunity to tinker. Researching various tools or processes and then testing them out is so exciting and enjoyable. With every effort to build my site, I go down a path of exploration—experimenting with different technologies and frameworks. As time went on, I would tinker for a while, and then scrap what I had done, and try something else.

As I mentioned, it's fun tinkering, and the research is beneficial for my line of work, but I've gotten to the point where I need to do something more with my site. I need my website to promote me better. It must come together in a way that tells my story, shares what I know and what I capable of doing. So my goal is to get that done, but I also would like to continue my tinkering, it's important to me that I do. To make sure those things can work in parallel, I've come up with a plan.

I plan to build a personal site that I can frequently update with various types of content; notes, journal posts, photos, work I've done, etc. There are billions of sites like this on the internet. So in that respect, I'm not inventing anything new. The unique element I hope to deliver, though, is the documentation of my process, use the tinkering that I enjoy doing as a source of content that can hopefully benefit anyone visiting my site.

Over the next few months, I am going to build my new site (honestly, this post is a little behind because I've already started the building process). As I develop my site, I will document each significant step as well as a bunch of minor actions along the way. Each update will explain what I've done and, hopefully, a good reason why I did it. There are some things I already know I'm going to do, but there are many items I am still ironing out. So in a few months, this site will exist in a way I have yet, to visualize fully, and I find that very exciting.

Getting my site to a happier place will be a small journey that takes advantage of my desire to tinker. Once completed, though, my website will be a place to document the things I learn for years to come but also a place to continue refining with bits of tinkering here or there. It should be fun, and I hope that you (the one reading this. You know who you are) will get something out of it as well. So please check back soon, and if you have any thoughts to share or ideas, you think I should consider, please reach out. I am always game to try new and better things, especially if they can help get me where I need to be.

Beat Burgess

December 16, 2018

Like most people, I love listening to music. So much so that it feels like I’m on a never-ending exploration to hear what’s out there and share what I find. I’ve had many hobbies over the years but enjoying music and the search for the best beat of the moment is the hobby that has stuck since my youth starting with either Michael Jackson’s Beat It or Matthew Wilder’s Break My Stride.

Anyways a little over a month ago I started a new Twitter account: @beatburgess to share what I have found. Feel free to check it out and by all means, send over recommendations.

The year I finally saw Radiohead and ...

December 9, 2018

I do not attend many concerts. Up until this year, I had attended only two concerts since I turned thirty and I turn forty-two this month. This year though, I doubled that number and both concerts were wonderful.

Since the nineties, Radiohead has retained a spot on my preferred playlist. I can’t say I was into them from the beginning though. Pablo Honey really didn’t connect with me nor did it’s hit single Creep. But once The Bends came out, I was a fan. Ok Computer with its more electronic influence made me a bigger fan and Kid A with its even more electronics, made Radiohead my favorite group. In 2006, Thom Yorke started his solo career with The Eraser, a full-on electronic record. Since then, Radiohead has released three more LPs with A Moon Shaped Pool being the most recent release in 2017. At that time, Yorke has one more solo LP, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes which was released in 2014. He also released the album Amok with his other band Atoms for Peace, which I highly recommend.

For some reason, I dragged my feet getting tickets to see my favorite band. In the early 2000s, I think it was because I assumed I would see them sooner or later. As time went on though, it was because they didn’t tour as often, they didn’t visit a city near me, or tickets were just so hard to get. That’s how it was for The Moon Shaped Pool tour and when I couldn’t get tickets, I figured it would be years until I had a chance to get tickets again. Fortunately, I was wrong.

This year I was able to get tickets to one of Radiohead’s shows in Boston at the TD Garden. Hands down the best concert I’ve ever attended. They played songs such as Fake Plastic Trees, Street Spirit (Fade Out), Idioteque, Exit Music (for a Film), The National Anthem, and closed with Karma Police. Here is the setlist. Radiohead is a famously great live band, so it came as no surprise that hearing those songs live was as great as I had hoped. What did surprise me came a few weeks later.

Like I mentioned before, Thom Yorke released his last solo album Tomorrow's Modern Boxes in 2014. It seems he never toured the album because a few weeks after I saw Radiohead, Yorke announced he was going on a solo tour to support that album and to my surprise, I was able to get two pre-sale tickets for his Boston show at the Wang Theatre.

When the day arrived, my wife and I put in our earplugs (as everyone who wants to retain their hearing should do) and enjoyed the work of a true artist. Actually three artists. Thom was joined by his long time producer Nigel Godrich but also audiovisual artist Tarik Barri. Barri manipulated the animated stage background in real-time, syncing the colorful forms with the music. The combination of beautiful visuals, great electronic beats, and Yorke’s perfect vocals was mesmerizing. A great show and if you have a chance to see Yorke perform his solo work, you will not be disappointed. Check out the setlist. Along with songs from The Eraser, TMB, and Amok, there were a few yet-to-be-released songs such as The Axe and Two Feet Off the Ground. If they end up on his next album, those songs will be on my repeat for weeks.

So 2018 was the year I finally saw Radiohead. Although I would have loved to have seen them sooner, the wait was definitely worth it. The Thom Yorke concert was a great surprise and if either opportunity arises again, I’ll be there.