Post-Travel Blues (A.K.A. Pretty Vacant)

The author reflects on the zombie-like state he tends to be in after a whirlwind trip, and the not-so-smart way he used to handle it.

Mood music for this post: “Pretty Vacant” by the Sex Pistols:

So here I sit in my favorite chair by the living room window. The sun shines through. A thick cup of coffee is on the table beside me. I’ve gotten some rest.

But there’s still a lot of white noise going off in my head, kind of like a TV that’s turned all the way up when the cable goes out and the sound of static fills the room. And if you stare me in the eye, all you’ll see are a couple of vacant holes.

This is typically what happens when I return from a security conference. I sink into a depression of sorts. I come home on a mental high after a successful trip, then the day after, as I come down from that feeling, the mood sinks downward. Call it a coming-down-from-the-mountain feeling.

But I handle this sort of thing in a much healthier manner than I used to, though. Let’s take a look at the before and after…

2005:

This is a good place to rewind to because it was my first trip to the RSA security conference. I was edgy as hell, having been warned a hundred times that this was a grueling conference, with vendor briefings from dawn to dusk, and the need for lightening-quick keynote write-ups.

I had only recently started treatment for OCD . My mind was raw and bloodied as the therapist led me back into my past to figure out how I got to be such a freak.

My boss and office mom, Ann Saita, did her best to make me feel at ease but I was in Hell anyway.

At the time, I was terrified of flying. I walked into the hotel and started to assess the sturdiness of the building in the event of an earthquake. I woke up the first morning of the show — the busiest day at that — with a 102 fever. This was a classic case of mental illness causing physical sickness.

I wrote about seven stories that week: The quick, crappy kind. At night I went hopping to the various parties, sucking down all the free wine and gorging on whatever food was there. I got home and spent the next week sick in the  body and soul.

Before we fast-forward to the present, it’s important to note that at the time one of my problems was that I was a people pleaser. Specifically, this meant pleasing the bosses and showing them that I was indeed the golden boy they had been hearing about. The thought of coming up short was simply too much to take. But somehow I got through it, and each trip back to San Francisco has been better than the last.

2010

So it’s five years later and I’ve gone through years of mental rehabilitation. I wrote seven stories this time, just like I did five years ago, plus two podcasts.

I still woke up today with the post-travel blues.

But the comparisons end there.

Here’s what’s changed:

— Part of recovery for me has been accepting that you can’t let your life hinge on pleasing others, whether it’s your boss or your mother. Free of that burden, a conference like this becomes a lot more fun.

— I wrote as much as I did simply because I was interested in the content and thought the readers would be interested, too. In fact, I had a blast doing it.

— I kept my eating strict and stayed sober at the evening events, though, truth be told, I’m still trying to figure out how to talk to people without a glass of wine in my hand. I’m pretty sure I did fine.

— Like last year, I enjoyed the company of others like I never used to before. I ran into a lot of people I collaborate with online, and it sure was great to see their faces.

— Instead of dreading the airplanes, I enjoy flying. I love looking out the window with the blue sky above and the clouds below. When the clouds go away on a cross-country flight, you can see the snow-covered Rocky Mountains and the desert canyons, and you realize just how vast, varied and spectacular this country is.

— When I come home I embrace Erin, Sean and Duncan with more zeal than I used to. I loved them just as much back then, but the mental haze kept me from showing it very well.

Come to think of it, I was like that without the travel. Now I allow myself to feel the joy of being back under the same roof as them.

I got the kids to school this morning, got my snuggles in with them and got some time with just me and Erin.

Life is grand.

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One thought on “Post-Travel Blues (A.K.A. Pretty Vacant)

  1. Pingback: Pieces of Mind « THE OCD DIARIES

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