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Chaam climbed back out of the doldrums physically and mentally after Long COVID

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“I first had to go into off mode for a while to be able to go án to it again.”

Chaam Tjikhoeri (45) used to go to the gym six times a week. After he was hospitalized with a COVID 19 infection, even walking around his house became a challenge. Thanks to workouts and conversations with Biocheck psychologists, he climbed out of his slump.

The challenge

If Chaam is honest in hindsight, he was already a little close to burnout before his corona infection. For thirteen years he worked at a tbs clinic. Full of enthusiasm and always by the book. But in the final months of 2021, he noticed that the workload was getting higher and higher. Sports helped keep him going. Six times a week Chaam could be found in the gym. Top fit he was. And so he was shocked when in January 2022 he was infected with the COVID-19 virus and suddenly couldn’t do anything anymore. He, that top 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 going through. Even a simple walk around his house exhausted him. Very slowly he progressed. But at work, he was no longer succeeding. “Normally I saw through everything in the dining room. I knew exactly if each client had put back his cutlery and I could feel if there were any tensions,” Chaam says. “But I couldn’t concentrate anymore, was overstimulated extremely quickly. Driving a car was soon too much, in my relationship I was no longer a nice guy. I wanted and could physically and mentally do almost nothing anymore. Because of the corona infection, but perhaps those symptoms were amplified by the burnout symptoms that were already acting up.”

The solution

Chaam decided to resign from the tbs clinic and work as a reintegration officer at the municipality of The Hague. Through the municipality’s intranet, he came across Biocheck. “In the text I read, it was about running into ceilings mentally and physically,” says Chaam. “I recognized myself in that. I contacted them. When I told the Biocheck employee about my Long COVID symptoms, he said they had already helped several people with those symptoms. When I read the interviews with those people, I latched onto it even more.”

Chaam started following the Recovery Program. Three times a week he trained at our location in Rijswijk. “I had tried all kinds of things before that. Training with the physio, doing things on my own in the gym. But what I said: I ran into ceilings in doing so. I realized I had to do things differently to really get better again. I first had to be in the off mode for a while to get back on.”

The results

The man who used to work out six times a week at the gym 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 was getting more and more comfortable in my skin,” Chaam said. Mentally, too. And that was necessary, too. “I realized more and more that I had also taken a big hit mentally. Because I could no longer exercise with the same intensity as before and because I had had to say goodbye to my job. But also because I wanted to prove myself to my new employer and work on my recovery. As a result, I kept overcharging myself.”

Chaam: “Especially in the first weeks of the Recovery Program, we talked a lot during the group sessions. Content-wise, about the program. With psychologist Fabienne I also went into depth. Because of my experience in the tbs clinic, I know quite a bit about psychological complaints and cognitive behavioral therapy. But when it comes to yourself, you still have a kind of blind spot. Thanks to the conversations with Fabienne I gained more insight into myself and my behavioral patterns. From those insights, I was able to continue working on myself.”

The sequel

Chaam successfully completed the Recovery Program. A month later, he was “physically and mentally at about eighty percent. A wild idea to start climbing Kilimanjaro with a group, especially with the intention of leaving the unpleasant period behind him for good, was discouraged. Chaam, with a grin, “Fabienne said I could probably handle it on willpower, but physically the effort would be too risky. She was right about that in hindsight.”

Will he ever get back to the level he was at before his corona infection? “I doubt it, but I don’t think that’s as important as before,” he says. “I’ve learned to listen to my body better. Now when I’m tired, I just do a short cardio workout. In which I still train within my load capacity and heart rate zones, as I learned at Biocheck. I don’t feel like a hamster running around in a wheel all the time now. And that’s very nice.”

Read also: ICU doctor Julien is back to work fully after burnout

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