Overstimulation

I came home from my Indonesia journey. After a first good day I got into a bad mood. I was tired and it all felt meaningless and hopeless. A depression-like state.

It is not the first time I experience this sort of thing after travel. The last time I was on a longer trip, to Japan, it also took me a couple of weeks to regain my energy. And even after just a weekend in Berlin or Copenhagen I experience a low.

I love traveling and would make a living of it if – when I find a way. My soul rejoices when I take my body to foreign places, and it loves Asia. Maybe it has to do with a longing to stay there. That is how I felt about Japan – it felt so deeply meaningful, beyond words, to stay in that beautiful country.

indramayu photo session
– Wiralodra University, Indramayu. Surrounded by indonesian students wanting to get their photo taken together with me at the inevitable photo session.

However this Indonesia trip was a very different story. I feel that I haven’t set foot on indonesian ground: I never walked down a street or did anything on my own in any of the towns we passed through. We were accompanied – from car backseat, to hotel, to university lecture halls, to restaurant, back to the car and the hotel. And so forth. Like children. Or rock stars maybe? I didn’t make a deep connection to Indonesia because of this constant being ‘taken care of’.

The first days I longed for contact with the street life, to go out and explore and discover this new country. Then we got really busy and I may have repressed this desire along the way. And then I got filled up with all the activities and constant company so I had no surplus energy to go exploring anymore. On top of this we spent long travel hours and a few nights sleeping in cars, going from one place to the next. Also rather draining.

Being a highly sensitive and introvert person (HSP), I get my energy from time alone, opposite to extroverts and less sensitive people who are able to reload in company with others. I demand quiet time alone to recharge my batteries, in order to be able to keep living my life with an open heart in the external world. I need to rest, regenerate and digest, to be able to feel myself also. I feel like I drown in constant company. I get overstimulated.

This trip’s program challenged me extremely. There was not enough time for me to be alone and recharge. I only drained, and drained myself more. Ended up crying at a few points, and having to shut myself off because I couldn’t take more people and crowds and smiling polite conversation. Sad. I hate having to do that.

Ok so I get a little depressed – we all do that now and then you might say. Then you are probably not a HSP – a Highly Sensitive Person. How sensitive are you, my dear reader? People are different.

My depression resulting from the overstimulation is a low energy where the meaning of things evaporate. Why am I doing this? This leads nowhere. I am no good. Etc.
In that state I loose hope, desire and passion for what I otherwise love and want to do. All the things that I normally am excited to explore, develop and play with get out of sight.

Sometimes it feels like I hardly can do anything because I will end up overstimulated at some point and loose my energy, hit the bottom and then start over again. It is a tough roller coaster trip to move between the low and high energy all the time.
When I arrive on top again, I go from zero to hundred in wanting to do everything I have put off (when I was low) and more, and getting lots of new ideas. Creativity booming, so I have trouble following it – and with the risk of overstimulating myself just through my own flow of inspiration…

indramayu photo session
– Photo session. Aren’t they sweet and funny? Felt like a rock star with all that attention.

I get overstimulated in many ways in my life. Certain people trick it if they talk a lot or if I feel bulldozed by them in some other way. I am sensitive to insensitivity. Making too many appointments don’t work because I won’t have time to digest in between. When I travel on my own and there is so much to discover that I won’t give myself time for proper breaks – I may push myself because I don’t want to miss anything. Group travel always kick it off at some point; I normally break down on day four (it was also day four in Indonesia).

The paradox is that I love and need stimulation; adventure, exploring, discovering – it is just really hard to balance when I also need the introvert regeneration time. I simply want to do more than I am sensitively capable of. I end up hitting the wall again and again. Meanwhile I do my best to see the learning in the process.

I believe this overstimulation is the main reason for the depressed state described.
However there may be more reasons to my home-coming depression. I mentioned Japan: When I returned home from Japan last year I suffered a two week depression. Being back home had no meaning compared to the meaning and joy I experienced being in Japan. I was in love with the country and my soul longed to go back.

Maybe my soul also longed for meeting ‘the real’ Indonesia?

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