“I first had to switch off for a while before I could start again”
Chaam Tjikhoeri (45) went to the gym six times a week. After he ended up in hospital with a COVID-19 infection, walking around his house became a challenge. Thanks to the training and conversations with Biocheck psychologists, he climbed out of his slump.
If Chaam is honest afterwards, he was already close to burnout before his corona infection. He worked at a TBS clinic for thirteen years. Full of enthusiasm and always by the book. But in the last months of 2021, he noticed that the workload was increasing. Sports helped keep him going. Chaam could be found in the gym six times a week. He was in great shape. And so he was very shocked when he became infected with the COVID-2022 virus in January 19 and suddenly could no longer do anything. He, that fit guy in the prime of his life, even ended up in the hospital for a week.
Then his rehabilitation began. Chaam didn’t know what he was experiencing. Even a simple walk around his house exhausted him. He moved forward very slowly. But it no longer worked at work. “Normally I saw through everything in the dining room. I knew exactly whether every client had put their cutlery back and I felt whether there were tensions,” says Chaam. “But I could no longer concentrate and became overstimulated very quickly. Driving quickly became too much and I was no longer a nice person in my relationship. I wanted and could hardly do anything physically and mentally anymore. Due to the corona infection, but perhaps those complaints were amplified by the burnout complaints that were already occurring.”
Chaam decided to resign from the TBS clinic and start working as a reintegration officer at the municipality of The Hague. He came across Biocheck via the municipality’s intranet. “The text I read was about hitting ceilings mentally and physically,” says Chaam. “I recognized myself in that. I reached out. When I told the Biocheck employee about my Long COVID complaints, he said that they had already helped several people with those complaints. When I read the interviews with those people, it struck me even more.”
Chaam started following the Recovery Program. He trained three times a week at our location in Rijswijk. “I had tried everything before that. Training with the physio, doing things in the gym on your own. But like I said: I hit ceilings. I realized that I had to approach things differently to really get better. I had to go in first off position to again On to go.”
The man who worked hard at the gym six times a week suddenly had to train within his capacity at BioCheck. “That took some getting used to, but after a few weeks I already noticed the effects. My condition improved and I felt better and better,” said Chaam. Also mentally. And that was necessary too. “I increasingly realized that I had also suffered a serious blow mentally. Because I could no longer exercise with the same intensity as before and because I had to say goodbye to my job. But also because I wanted to prove myself to my new employer and work on my recovery. That made me keep questioning myself.”
Chaam: “Certainly in the first weeks of the Recovery Program, we talked a lot during the group sessions. Content, about the program. I also went into depth with psychologist Fabienne. My experience in the TBS clinic has given me a good understanding of psychological complaints and cognitive behavioral therapy. But when it comes to yourself, you have a kind of blind spot. Thanks to the conversations with Fabienne, I have gained more insight into myself and my behavioral patterns. From those insights I could continue working on myself.”
Chaam successfully completed the Recovery Program. A month later he was ‘physically and mentally at about eighty percent’. A wild idea to climb Kilimanjaro with a group, especially with the aim of finally leaving the bad period behind, was not recommended. Chaam, with a grin: “Fabienne said that I could probably handle it with willpower, but physically the effort would be too risky. In retrospect she was right about that.”
Will he ever get back to the level he was before his corona infection? “I doubt that, but I think that is less important than before,” he says. “I have learned to listen to my body better. Now when I’m tired, I just do a short cardio workout. I still train within my endurance and heart rate zones, as I learned at Biocheck. I no longer feel like a hamster constantly running around on a wheel. And that is very nice.”
Also read: ICU doctor Julien is back to work fully after a burnout
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