Bas stayed in a burnout clinic for 6 weeks
he took these lessons home with him.
Bas van Teylingen suffered from severe burnout. Both physically and mentally, he felt utterly exhausted. Staying at home and doing as little as possible did not alleviate his complaints. In fact, he was only sinking further into the quicksand. When he heard about a burnout clinic in Spain where you are put in a ‘pressure cooker’ for six weeks to recover, Bas knew he had to go. In those six weeks, he learned valuable lessons that transformed who he is today and made him into a new person. In this article, Bas takes you through his recovery process.
Bas: ‘I wake up, tired. As if I got hit by a truck night. My wife and children are already in turmoil. I get out of bed last, like every other day. Pain in my body, headache, no sense of direction to get me through the day because I am tired. I skip breakfast, I’m grumpy, say hello to everyone in a hurry and quickly get into the car, because I am already late. At the petrol station, I stop for my breakfast: half a litre of Red Bull. I’m busy all day, but I’m in survival mode. I am often hard, short and have no patience. I laugh, but behind my mask is the restlessness.
This has been going on for years. What will it be? Five years? Ten? I don’t remember. I can’t remember what it’s like to have a good night’s sleep and wake up rested. By the way, I’ve been taking medication to sleep for about twenty years, because all that time I’ve been suffering from Restless Legs Syndrome. Nerve pain in my legs as soon as I lie down. A complaint that has gotten worse over the years and for which I started taking more and more pills. Pills usually prescribed for people with Parkinson’s disease. The tablets are also a survival. Without my ‘sleeping pills’ I panic, I know I’m lying awake one night in pain. But the pills only numb me and make sure I don’t rest at all. I’m in a downward spiral. The doctor has no solution and prescribes other medicines. I don’t trust them anymore.
A WALKING TIME BOMB
During a weekend with my wife and a befriended couple, we decide to go for a walk. I sputter because I would rather stay in bed the entire weekend. My wife insists. I choose to go anyway. I feel tension and irritation. Within myself and between my wife and me. I feel worthless and wonder where we are going. Then I make an unfriendly remark to my wife, and we start arguing. So far for the quality time during our weekend off. Moments later, I collapse. Like jelly. My body just stops. I lose control and lie motionless on the floor. Tears start flowing, and suddenly everything turns black.
When I’m at the doctor’s a few days later, I’m diagnosed with burnout. I just have to take it easy; she says. I’m indifferent. The doctor urges me to talk to a psychologist. One week later at the psychologist, I get the same the cut & paste approach: burnout. And they hand me over a schedule. I’m no longer allowed to work, have to eat healthy food, walk a lot and rest. Arrived back home and I look at the schedule. Just looking at the program tires me out and I panic. Everything is too much. I don’t trust this ‘approach’: One-hour walks every day. I put my coat on, walk ten minutes to the supermarket, buy myself two jars of Ben & Jerry’s and walk back home again for ten minutes. Daily walk: check!
After three months, I am still at home, eat poorly, move as little as possible and again feel tired. My anger and irritation are growing. Too many stimuli. Every effort is too much. The tension at home becomes unbearable. I feel like a walking time bomb. The people who know about my condition, come over and all have well-intentioned tips that I have no trouble ignoring. Just leave me alone. Don’t call me, don’t app me. It seems like few people understand what it’s like to have a burnout. Every day I browse the internet for stories of fellow sufferers, but I find no support and no peace. And especially no solution. I want to leave, but where should I go? On holiday? And then what? I really have no clue.
One afternoon I scroll through my Facebook wall and see a message about a clinic in Spain set up by the Belgian doctor Dr Peter Aelbrecht. I click on the link and start reading: “You’re suffering from burnout. After more than twenty years of experience in treating burnout patients in an outpatient setting, Dr Peter Aelbrecht came to the conclusion that sometimes the true needs of a burnout patient cannot be sufficiently met through outpatient treatment. Residential therapy in a centre specially set up for this target group is the best guarantee to obtain sustainable recovery in the shortest time possible. With that philosophy in mind, the Marnes resort was created. The Marnes treatment plan starts with a thorough intake and laboratory diagnosis, which takes place in Belgium beforehand’.
I decide to send a mail and a day later I get a call from Dr Peter Aelbrecht himself. He asks me if I feel like coming over to Belgium for an intake. Two days, my wife and I decide to travel to Belgium for a first encounter. During the drive of almost three hours, we barely talk to each other. When we arrive, we take our seat in the waiting room. I some books are written by Dr Aelbrecht. I read that one of his books, Homo Energeticus, a bestseller in Belgium, has sold over 100,000 copies. I try to learn a bit, but immediately get a headache and decide to close the book. After ten minutes he invites us int his practice, and we start talking. A warm, charismatic and committed man. I instantly feel calm, peaceful and at ease.
LEAVING FOR SPAIN
Dr Aelbrecht asks a great bunch of questions and ticks off everything on a form. He takes my blood sample and for a urine sample so he can send everything to the lab so they can perform the most detailed diagnostic tests. Dr Aelbrecht explains very clearly and understandably that he and his Marnes team in Spain provide tailor-made treatments based on the laboratory tests that are explicitly performed to screen for burnout. “You are suffering from a severe burnout Bas, and I think you will need at least six weeks of treatment to help you improve. If you want, we can start next Sunday.” What follows next is a long silence. It’s almost Christmas, my youngest son’s birthday is coming up, and there is New Year’s Eve. Leave for Spain next Sunday? My wife and I are both frightened, but also realize that we really have no other option. This current situation has no perspective, and this is my only chance of breaking through this cycle. Doctor Aelbrecht asks us if we’d like some time to think it over, but when my wife and I look at each other, we know there is no alternative.
The following days are crazy. I’m going to a clinic in Spain for six weeks and have no idea what to expect. I miss my family already, and I haven’t even left yet. I’ve been emailed a list of what to bring and pack. On the day of departure, everyone feels emotional. My father picks me up and quietly takes me to Schiphol Airport. When I arrive at the airport, my daughter (19) is waiting for me to say goodbye as well. We remain silent, hold each other and just cry. When I walk to the customs, I look back one more time and wave while I wipe the tears from my cheeks. The journey has begun.
WELKOM TO MARNES
When I arrive in Spain, I am welcomed at the airport by a person with a sign wearing my name. It is dark outside. I can’t see much of the scenery during the transfer. I notice that we are driving higher and higher, into the mountains. We drive through the gate of the clinic, I am in Marnes. Dr Peter Aelbrecht and his wife Ann are already waiting for me. It’s a touching and warm welcome, and they’ve prepared a warm dinner for me! They talk me through some practical matters and take me to my room. This is the place where I will sleep for the next six weeks. It’s beautiful, decorated with care and attention as if I’m in a 5-star resort. But I will soon learn that this isn’t going to be a holiday. On my desk lies my personalized program for the next day. 8.00 am yoga, 9.00 am breakfast, 10.00 am a walk, and then the therapeutic sessions start. Therapy, an IV drip, personal training, Shiatsu treatments, massages and we end the day with yoga. I unpack my suitcase and try to get some sleep.
The next day I walk in my leisure clothing to the ‘yoga hut’. When leaving the residence for the first time, I realize where we are. Marnes is situated in the middle of the impressive mountains. Nature as far as you can see. There is nothing else there. Dr Aelbrecht already told me during the intake. No cellular reach. No WiFi code either. I’m really entirely offline. The stimuli are reduced to an absolute minimum to enable the fastest recovery possible. I’ll need some getting used to that. Social media is what usually determines my entire schedule. I literally ‘thrive’ on social media.
The first week is dense and intense. I miss my wife and children. I drag myself through the day. Luckily, I was allowed to take my sleeping medication with me, and I can knock myself out in the evening. However, Dr Aelbrecht tells me that I will have to phase out two drugs during the next week. Looking forward to that it. Not! I also have to get used to the food. We’re on an anti-toxic diet. No sugar, no dairy and no gluten. As a sugar addict, this takes some getting used to, but the food is excellent. We start the day with fresh organic fruit, oatmeal, various cooked vegetables, salad, meat and eggs every other day. For lunch, we get a starter and main course and at dinner as well. On Saturday there is a dessert. Saturday is definitely my favourite day.
The first week is when ‘hell’ starts: no more medication. Seven nights, without almost any sleep. I lie awake and look at the ceiling. Frustrating. But after the seventh night, I can catch hours of sleep. Then five and a few days later six hours. Without medication or complaints! By the way, I’m the only one here There are more guests. Other people with burnout, but also people who have had extensive surgery or another energy-related complaint. These people come from everywhere: Belgium, Holland, France, Spain and the USA. It’s not group therapy, everyone has their own program and challenges, but we do yoga together, walk together in silence in the beautiful mountains and eat together every day. And after a while, that feels good. Of course, you tend to build closer relationships with some individuals in the group. I seem to hit it off with a Belgian man who also in Marnes for six weeks due to a burnout.
Being completely offline is starting to feel more and more comfortable and natural. It’s great that my world has become so small here. I’m starting to feel better since week three. In the Netherlands, I went to a psychologist on average once every two months and once every six months, I went for a massage. It’s a lot more intense here, and believe me, that’s no small understatement. Here, you’re literally put in a pressure cooker. A pleasurable pressure cooker that is. Because there are no stimuli from the outside world, where one can entirely focus on one’s own process and fully commit to your recovery.
There is something magical about this place. It’s hard to explain, but there is specific energy here. It’s intense. Everywhere in the mountains, for example, pieces of gemstone stick out of the ground. The air is so pure. I’m starting to enjoy walking more and more. If I have some free time once in a while, I go for an extra hike. Sometimes alone, sometimes with someone. Soon I start to know the mountains and I find my way around. I set myself goals. I want to reach the top of a specific mountain peak and ask Joey, the personal trainer if we can walk there together. We came a long way on our attempt, but we did not make it to the top. I need to be patient. That’s hard for me. It seems like I am constantly confronted with my limitations. But that’s good. Time seems to stand still here in Marnes. The holidays here do not differ from any other day. There’s no Christmas tree, no fireworks. There are only peace and quiet.
GETTING BETTER AT BEING BORED
Every Sunday, I call home. A moment I look forward to. In the first weeks, I couldn’t really process the information the people at home shared with me. I was stuck in my bubble and felt like I was on a different planet, in a different time zone. At week three, this changed: I was halfway there, and that made it possible for me to anticipate leaving the centre. But I wasn’t there yet. By living in a different, healthier rhythm and eating, walking a lot, yoga, meditation and working on myself, I noticed that I started to feel better and better. A total transformation for body and mind. And my clothes started feeling more and more comfortable, I was losing weight! That was a good thing. During the psychotherapy sessions, I could also let go of issues from the past and experience more peace. It felt cleansing, like tidying up. And relaxing, or as Dr Aelbrecht says, ‘bored’, also worked out very well. In the past, I felt like there was always something I had to do. Now I have no problem “wasting” time without feeling guilty. Chilling out in the jacuzzi, the sauna or doing my laps in the resort’s swimming pool. Nothing is mandatory, everything is ok.
Dr Aelbrecht, whom I can now call Peter, taught us a lot about nutrition. We discussed things like the glycemic index of food (that is the speed with which carbs are assimilated in the intestines and absorbed as glucose in the blood), our digestive system, the adrenal glands and so much more. Not only did we eat healthier, but we also knew what we were eating and why. A beautiful combination of awareness for body and mind. Peter was also very frank about his own burnout, which he experienced back in 1999 and which eventually, after his recovery, had been the inspiration to set up Marnes. This gave me confidence at times when I was struggling. The proof of real recovery was embodied here in person. With limitless energy.
BACK HOME IN 7 DAYS
My last week: the countdown has started. I am ready to go back home in seven days. I am so looking forward to seeing my wife and children again but a little wary of the ‘big, angry world’. I spent over six weeks here, but the transformation process felt like months. In the beginning, time seemed to stand still, but now all of a sudden it is rushing by so fast. I’ve lost almost ten kilos, I sleep well, I have stopped my medication (after twenty years) and feel calm in my head and heart again. This is why I decided to do this. This was the reason why my wife and I drove to Belgium almost seven weeks ago for that first interview.
EVERYTHING IN SIZE XL CAN GO OUT THE DOOR
I’ve been home a couple of weeks now. The reunion with my wife and children was beautiful, and I manage wonderfully well to respect my own boundaries and limitations. My sleep is better than it has ever been and am able to keep up my healthy eating habits (no sugar, no gluten and no dairy). But how I miss the Spanish mountains and my daily walks. But in spite of that I keep hiking every day. From one hour to sometimes three hours a day. I enjoy the silence and the slowness. On the last day at Marnes they installed a unique Aftercare app on my phone. This way we stay I can stay touch and every few days I get a few questions to see how I am doing and to track my progress. So even away from Marnes, the team is still looking out for me. The relationship between my wife and me is better than ever. Waking up together, (anti-toxic) breakfast with the family, doing yoga together, meditation and walking. We feel connected again and full of positive perspectives. I feel good. The peace in the house has returned. And I don’t feel tired anymore.
Hoe voel ik me? Ik voel me in balans. En bewuster dan ooit. Ik luister nu beter naar mijn lichaam en gevoel. Een burn-out wil ik nooit meer en om dat te voorkomen zal ik dus ook meer discipline moeten hebben. Nu heb ik gemerkt en gezien wat het met mijn lichaam en geest doet om zes weken helemaal offline te zijn, om echt gezond te eten en goed voor mijn lijf te zorgen. Het is geen ‘moetje’, want het voelt goed. Ik kan met een glimlach in de spiegel kijken en trots op mezelf zijn. Het enige nadeel is dat ik een compleet nieuwe garderobe nodig heb. Alles in maat XL kan de deur uit!
MORE THAN A COMPETENT PHYSICIAN
Marnes will always remain special to me. What Makes Marnes Special is the unique combination of the place, the warmth of the team and their philosophy that drives everything they do, and the holistic and multidisciplinary approach that looks at the individual in a way that I have never experienced before. All these elements turn this place into something that has become so special to me. Peter is not only a very competent physician but above all, a very committed person with a generous and warm heart. A man who shares his own experiences and has made it his life’s mission to help people’.
ABOUT BAS VAN TEYLINGEN
Bas is a movie, series, television programs director and produces online formats. In 2019 he wrote the book: ‘Help! My child is on YouTube’. An enlightening survival guide for parents who fear their child is obsessed with YouTube and social media and have no idea what this wonderful world is all about. For parents who have lost or are afraid of losing their child’s connection. Bas also works as a trainer-coach with a specialty in Systemic Working, Nonviolent Communication and Creative Therapy. Follow his stories through @basvanteylingen.