How To Work Through Feeling Weird After Burning Man

Hi, Burners. If you’re anything like me, this has been a rough week. Re-entry after Burning Man is always strange, and I think it gets stranger every time.

Fortunately, my friend Hannah is getting pretty practiced at dealing with decompression, and she wrote up a list of suggestions she’s shared with us for the Burning Blog. Read on!

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by Hannah “Meow” Masius

 

Today is what I call my “Out of Place” day. I’ve come back from spending over a week at Burning Man, and even while I’m approaching my veteran status with a 4th year completed (and building a camp for others to enjoy to boot), I still have to mentally prepare myself every year for coming “home” to feeling out of place in the default world.

Today, I experienced all of the steps for dealing with the strange feelings after Burning Man, and I came out the other side in a few hours. Here’s how I did it. I hope this list can help people work through their weirdness, continue to be open and honest, and find emotional healing.

1. Let Yourself Feel

If emotions are kept buried, they turn into distorted versions of who you truly are and can expand until they are all-consuming. Let it out in any way you can (and what feels comfortable for you). It’s the best way to start the process. Cry, scream, laugh, whatever feels natural to you will help the most.

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2. Write It Out

Go be an absurd pony eating Sadness Pecan and Rage Butter I Scream and write whatever the hell is sticking to your mind, because when it is out, even if it means writing the same thing one thousand times over, it is a release that can help immensely.

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3. Go Outside

Coming back to the world outside of the playa can be rough. So many of us are going from constantly being outside and engaged physically (riding bikes and walking) to usually sedentary states inside with various forms of work. We are human beans, such wonderful organic creatures that require sunlight, fresh air and physical engagement in order to function properly. When feeling overwhelmed by being back, give yourself (at least) a five-minute break to go outside to breathe, walk, and decompress. Even if it is raining or snowing, the change of scenery can make everything much calmer.

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4. Do Something Wonderfully Absurd

Today, I walked to a store, bought myself a salad, and went to a local park to continue to enjoy the sunshine. I started feeling frustrated at myself because I forgot a fork. Then, I stopped the irritation by remembering that I could eat this salad sloppy style with my bare hands. Digging my hands into kale, beans, salad dressing and avocado to mash it into my face put me into a space of loving myself for doing something slightly out of place with normal behavior.

If you stick by the rigidity of others expectations, it will pull you down. So, whether you wear a unicorn horn for sport or dance through the streets without a care, do something like you are the only person watching, and allow yourself to feel the freedom within your soul.

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5. Spend Time With Friends and Loved Ones

In the middle of my hand-to-mouth salad experience, I heard my name called in the distance. All of a sudden, I spotted three friends whom I hadn’t seen since December running towards me with open arms. We descended into a puddle of hugs, cuddles and deep talks that made me remember that close, real people are part of what make life — on and off playa — so special.

Try not to close yourself off from those who care about you. It’s very easy to descend into a mental loop that no one else will understand, but everyone has their issues they are working through, even if they are saving face while doing so. If someone you feel close to ends up dismissing your feelings, that is more indicative of their issues than yours. That can be a way to understand the true value of their closeness (or lack thereof) in your life.

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6. Give Yourself Some Love

As my friends were getting ready to leave, they asked if I wanted to join them on their next adventure. I declined, instead choosing to write this article. My version of self-love is continuing to develop my writing practice. Your version of self-love could be singing, dancing, eating good food, seeing a movie, or taking a Long. Hot. Bath. With. Chocolate. It really doesn’t matter what the practice looks like, so long as it comes in the form of savoring your delicious self.

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You are not alone, we are here to make the world a better place, and I love you just the way you are. This is what communities are about, my friends. Stay Dusty!

All photos by the incomparable Scott London.

About the author: Jon Mitchell

I'm the managing editor at Burning Man. I wrote this book and this record. I co-wrote a big story about spending 24 hours at the Temple of Juno in 2012, which lives at templestories.com. I've been a Burner since 2008.

61 thoughts on “How To Work Through Feeling Weird After Burning Man

  • my re-entry to mundane life has been much more about physical challenges than emotional and spiritual…. last year, I had planned surgery 15 hours after pulling into our driveway post-playa… I build a large camp……. my dusty stuff took too long to clean….. this year, I was back at my desk 15 hours post-playa…… with all that gear to clean, and a new house to prep for moving into, and I always have annual reports due on 9/15.

    I ran a fever off and on all week last, but had no chance to stop and rest, so I just sniveled and cried all week…….. The crying was good.

    The sniveling ended up being good too……. I am part of a large burner community, and when I posted on FB my big snivel, this burner community sprang up and smothered me with such love…… that was two days ago. I was better yesterday, today, I am happy dancing…. I have cleaned 13 of the 23 beautiful area rugs that I brought this year, and about half of my tarps, awnings, and structures are clean and packed away…..

    I am a grateful girl again today. I love what was said above about when your burner life and default life become more and more the same…… it’s so true. I opened myself to community years ago, and was almost sad when my split personalities formed up to just be all me……… my loving partner says it’s ok though because life with is never boring……however, my music, yoga, dance, and burner communities have collided, and I am me always now, playa or default.

    Tired, tore-up, bruised, dislocated knuckle…. whatever…. it is and will be. I am happy.

    lovelovelove!

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  • The first comment is right on the money for me… I wake up in some sort of sleepwalking panic, thinking that I am still on the playa, looking out the window and thinking that I am looking at some sort of theme camp and there is a coat of playa dust on everything

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  • I am so thankful I found this article. This was my first Burn and I was impacted by the experience in a big way. I had Playa dreams for a week straight. I felt alone, changed and not wanting to re-integrate into the world I knew before attending Burning Man. Fortunately, I was part of a great theme camp, Sharky’s Bar, and had the opportunity to visit the camp Facebook page, which was a life-line to the Playa World I so longed to return to.
    It is comforting to know that Playa dreams and a sort of dis-orientation is a reaction that many who have posted here experienced. I have a renewed confidence in my own self-expression now and an urge to be friendlier to all those I encounter in daily living. We are all lucky that Burning Man is not a one time event. I look forward to returning to our new “home” next year. Thanks to everyone who shared their experience here. Thanks to everyone for being a part of 2013. Accentuate the Positive!

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  • any major gathering is like this. you spend the year looking forward to an event that is a key part of your identity, and works like a massive family reunion (even with folks you just met). You drop into the flow, and the energy streams and eddies around and thru you for several days, and you feel alive and at home. Then, it ends, and it’s like the circus packs up to hit the road, or as I call it, “last kid in the dorm at christmas break” feeling. and the rush does take awhile to wear off. Just have to grind it out, and keep your eyes open to potential for fun, rather than just closing yourself off in a cocoon until the next time you see the flyers for the circus coming back

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  • Burner since ’99. Each year the numbers increase. More to see but something is gone. But I come back each year. I’ve only made the trip with another person once so I’m always alone and for the most part, experience the burn quite alone. I’ll come back until I can’t. In 2012 I didn’t win the lottery. I’m a ‘grown man’ but I cried like a little girl who just lost her Mother. It was that intense. Most everybody’s nice and friendly but if you’re not ‘one of them’, you’re still an outsider. But it’s OK. I am alone in the world and depend entirely on myself year ’round so why do I need someone for that week. If I didn’t feel something intense, why would I ever come back. Over and over. I am a Burner Voyeur. But even then I’m part of something that is absolutely and completely inexplicable to the unwashed. When I come home, that week is one of strong emotions of utter loneliness. But then I say, “Next Year, Burning Man” And I’m good.

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  • September is almost gone and i’m still decompressing! It was my first burn and now i really don’t know how to go back to the everyday regular. i try to explain to people what is it and they don’t get it! this upsets me! i try to hug and gift and kinda like carry on some of playa life but its not well received so i bottle it up for next year. But i am so grateful for the mind opening it has definitely changed my life and now i know why they say welcome home! because that is now my true home! Burner for life! all the way from the Bahamas!

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  • This is another fantastic article that really helped me last year with my first year burn withdrawals :-) I have found that one of the best ways to assuage the overwhelming emotions that can be associated with coming back into the day-to-day life,(as some others have suggested) is to actively try to make every day life more and more like the life we experience together at Black rock city. Hope you enjoy! )'(

    http://burnerlove.com/2012/09/14/5-ways-to-make-life-more-like-burning-man/

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  • Thanks for the post! I definitely tried these suggestions and it helped. Literally, it took 3 months to sink back into reality again after coming back from the Playa. It’s now 6 months after BM 13′ and I still feel like I’m dreaming. Sometimes, out of randomness I get a rush of “missing the playa”. I can’t wait to roll into the playa dust again and love everyone and everything around me.

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