Alexander Fufaev
My name is Alexander FufaeV and here I write about:

2019: Bachelor's Degree and Panic Attacks

2019. My bachelor's studies were coming to an end. With no more mandatory courses and the ability to choose all my modules myself, physics became enjoyable again. After conducting an internship on the Quantum Hall Effect, which I took with Jule, I was so fascinated by the experiment's results that I decided to write a bachelor's thesis about it. It was an experimental work in the field of solid-state physics. I had to conduct measurements at high magnetic fields and very cold temperatures.

Meanwhile, Jule embarked on the path of quantum optics, which involves cooling individual atoms using lasers and magnetic traps to pave the way for quantum computers. She had long surpassed me in studies and had already completed her bachelor's thesis by the time I started mine.

The Submission of the Bachelor's Thesis

August 2019. On the penultimate day of the bachelor's thesis, I had to hurry to finalize the literature references. I worked late into the night under great stress. However, for inexplicable reasons, I lost connection to the university VPN. It wasn't until I tried to access a paper and was suddenly confronted with a payment request for forty-nine euros that I realized this. These scientific papers, hidden behind an annoying paywall, drove me to despair in the late hours of the night. Nevertheless, around two o'clock in the morning, I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. I hastily transferred my bachelor's thesis to a USB stick so that I could print it at the university's copy shop tomorrow before finally going to sleep.


A knock on my room door woke me up. With sleepy eyes, I saw Lauri at the door.

"Jule is trying to reach you urgently!"

"What, why? What time is it?" I mumbled tiredly as I reached for my phone under my bed.

"Oh, damn!" I immediately woke up when I saw the time. It was already 8:40 a.m. My bus, which I had to take to catch the train to Hannover, was already gone. It was no longer possible to submit the bachelor's thesis by ten o'clock, especially since I still had to print it.

I turned off airplane mode and saw the thousand messages and calls from Jule. I called her back.

"Jule, I overslept. You have to help me," I asked her, as an idea came to mind.

"I thought so. Send me your work, and I'll go to the university to print it," Jule read my thoughts already.

"And I'll order a taxi!"

I immediately ordered a taxi, hurriedly stuffed my laptop into my bag, half-heartedly brushed my teeth, slipped into a white shirt and black jeans, and even managed to eat a slice of toast before the taxi finally arrived. I rushed out of the house and collapsed onto the back seat of the taxi.

"Where to?" the taxi driver said as he watched me in the rearview mirror, pulling out my laptop to send my bachelor's thesis to Jule.

"To Hannover, directly to Leibniz University," I replied, opening the email program.

"That would be about ninety euros," the taxi driver said. It wasn't until I heard that that I realized I hadn't thought about whether I had enough cash for the ride. I quickly pulled out my wallet from my pocket and checked what was inside. There lay a whole hundred-euro bill - the money I had received from Galja a week ago to complete the bachelor's thesis.

"No problem, but please drive as fast as possible. I have to be there by quarter to ten," I requested the taxi driver.

Once I had sent the bachelor's thesis to Jule, I felt very relieved, closed the laptop, and leaned back. But shortly after, my phone rang. It was Jule.

"Sascha, the page numbers are missing in the file, you need to adjust it and send me the file again," she said on the phone, while my stress level reached a maximum. The page numbers were there yesterday. And I had no clue how to set the page number in LaTeX. We were almost in Hannover. I hurried. I probably looked like a busy businessman. My finger fumbled around the phone, and my eyes searched for an answer. When I found the solution to my problem and was thankfully able to fix it, I sent the work to Jule again. Throughout the entire journey, I was tense because I was afraid that something else might go wrong.

"Please drive directly to the entrance of the university," I instructed the taxi driver as we arrived at the university parking lot.

"Keep the change," I handed him the hundred euro bill and sprinted to the university's copy shop.

Jule had already printed out the bachelor's thesis. There were still ten minutes left. That was just enough time to jog to the Institute of Solid-State Physics. Upon arrival, Jule was waiting outside for me while I went to Professor Haug's office on the first floor. When I knocked on his door, I briefly glanced at the clock. It showed 9:59. I was on time.

As I left the building after submitting the thesis, I saw Jule sitting on a staircase, basking in the sunshine. In that moment, I forgot all the stress from before. A smile spread across my entire face as I breathed a sigh of relief and briefly pondered: There you are, my dearest, my savior. I never thought I would find you only when I stopped desperately searching for you.

"Come on, my love, let's go get some coffee," I said to Jule, reaching out my hand to her.

"Saschi, please start writing the master's thesis a bit earlier," she said.

"Don't worry, I've got eeeverything under control," I replied, grinning mischievously.

"You goofball," she responded to my irony with a smile, taking my hand before we went to Café Kopi together.

Now I'm a Physicist

September 6, 2019. I completed my bachelor's studies with a grade of 1.8 and needed twice as many semesters as the standard period of study prescribed. I was very glad that I took my time. Because if I had rushed through the studies as quickly as possible, there probably wouldn't have been any time left to build a passive income on the side. Instead, I would now be exchanging my time for money in some company.

Learnings from this phase of life:

  1. It's okay to exceed the standard period of study.
  2. I will never again write a thesis at the last minute. (Me from the future: Are you sure?)

The Emptiness Inside

Autumn 2019. During this time, my relationship with Jule was a rollercoaster. In low phases, we didn't spend much time together. Like in September 2019. I spent most of my time in my room, trying to reach the "Diamond" rank in League of Legends ranked games. Winning a game triggered feelings of happiness. A loss, on the other hand, drove me to stay up late into the night, chasing the next victory. I was often home alone. Laura was never there or in her room, and my mother was regularly with her boyfriend Jochen. I didn't mind at all - on the contrary, it allowed me to play games at home undisturbed.

But this time, I seemed to push myself to the limit of loneliness. My mom and Laura were on vacation in Crete with Jochen, and I spent the entire week completely alone in the four walls. I never went out, not even for a short walk. I rarely showered and only ate toast in the morning, vegetarian pizzas from the freezer, and drank coffee all day long. The first three days alone went well. But on the fourth day, I woke up in the middle of the night. Drenched in sweat. My heart was racing, and I was terrified. Tightness in the chest. No matter how I lay down, I felt my neck vein pulsating. I felt like I was having a heart attack. I was on the verge of calling an emergency number. I got up, got a glass of water from the kitchen, and went to the balcony to get some fresh air. Half an hour later, I managed to calm down and fall back asleep. At that moment, I didn't know it was just the beginning of the worst month of my life.

The next morning, I woke up feeling empty inside. Somehow lethargic. I got up, brushed my teeth, made myself some toast, brewed coffee, and sat down at my desk to watch League of Legends pros play on YouTube while eating. This time I lost many games and therefore took a break to get out of this losing streak. I closed the game and continued watching YouTube videos while eating a vegetarian pizza that I had ordered from the kebab shop in Borsum.

After eating, I felt tired and lay down briefly on the bed. The sun was shining outside, and the sunbeams shone directly on my face. Staring into the blanket, I heard nothing but my breath. It was very quiet. Out of nowhere, my heart started racing. I put my hand on my chest and felt it beat faster, then slower again. I felt tightness in my chest again, and it was hard to breathe. I thought I was about to die. This time, the balcony and the water didn't help. I grabbed my phone, lay down on the living room floor because I felt hot and dizzy. I hesitated to call for help. My mind told me it wasn't serious enough. It was just my imagination. I had already experienced the milder form a few years ago. Instead, I called the medical emergency service. After that, I managed to calm down a bit. But my heart kept beating fast. I lay on the floor until after thirty minutes the doorbell rang. It was the doctor with a medical assistant. I invited him into the apartment. I explained my current health condition to him. I had calmed down, but I still felt the rapid heartbeat in my chest without touching it. In the living room, sitting on the sofa, he measured my blood pressure and pulse.

"You have a pulse rate of 190, you need to go to the hospital immediately," the doctor said to me.

I became somewhat worried. He ordered a taxi for me and gave me a voucher with which I could go to the emergency room for free. He stayed with me for a while, asking me about my life until the taxi arrived. I packed a few clothes in my backpack in case I had to stay longer in the emergency room, and the taxi driver took me to the emergency room. There, after registering, I was x-rayed, and then lying on a bed, connected to various devices, the purpose of which I didn't know. After the examination, I lay there alone in a room, waiting for hours until I received my results. I felt calm in that security. Eventually, a medical assistant came to tell me that there was nothing abnormal. So I took a taxi back home.

Jule was writing her master's thesis at this time, and I didn't want to disturb her. Therefore, I spent this last night before mom came back alone. I was afraid to go to sleep because I knew what awaited me. I stayed up late into the night playing games until I eventually became so tired that I almost fell asleep on the keyboard while dozing off.

With my eyes wide open, I woke up sweating on my back. My arms were stretched out to the sides. One arm hung over the edge of the bed. It felt like in this position I had opened a gateway to my soul, and anyone could penetrate it. Quickly, I pulled my arms and legs together, turned to face the wall, and covered myself with the blanket up to my head. I felt the pulse at my wrist under the pillow. I took my hand out and placed it between my legs. Here, I felt the pulse even more. The pounding seemed to remain the same, but my heart was racing. I felt it again without touching it. Fear of death overwhelmed me. I tried to think of a beautiful beach, but this image was replaced by the massacred face of Regan. "God, please help me," I prayed, "please, I don't want to anymore," I said almost crying. It worked. Shortly after, I became tired again and fell asleep.

I was awakened by the doorbell. The alarm clock showed eleven o'clock. Mom was back from vacation. I told her everything, and she was surprised that I hadn't told her earlier. I didn't want to bother her during her vacation. I knew for sure that if I had told her I was in the emergency room, she would have taken the next flight home. This night, even though I wasn't alone this time, didn't get any better. I woke up in the middle of the night, feeling a sense of impending doom and palpitations so severe that I woke my mother. She couldn't calm me down, and I felt so dizzy that I had to lie down on the floor to avoid falling. My mother called an ambulance. Shortly after, I calmed down a bit. The irregular pounding in my chest was still noticeable. When the doctor arrived, he gave me the beta-blocker medication, which significantly reduced my pulse. After his visit, I was able to fall asleep again. I took this medication in combination with a sleeping pill for the next few days.

The avoidance of nightly fear of death by medication transferred to the day. The joy of life disappeared day by day. I sat on the balcony. The sun warmed my face with its rays. But I just sat there, staring into the distance, feeling empty inside. With effort, I occasionally tried to enjoy watching an insect on a flower, but it didn't work. I saw no purpose in my existence. I couldn't even bring myself to play games. I, who could eat incessantly, had hardly any appetite for anything. "You have to eat," insisted Mom, and I forced myself to take a few bites. I had no motivation for anything. I didn't want to go on living. The days were a painless torture.

When Jule messaged me on WhatsApp that we could meet again, I told her about my emotional state and what had happened. She was somewhat upset with me for not telling her. She came to me on the same day to support me. Mom took time off, and we went together to the cardiologist, who performed a long-term ECG. I had to wear a measuring device on my chest for twenty-four hours, even during karate training. Result of the ECG examination: An average of 90 per minute during the day, frequencies of 100 to 160 per minute during physical activities. An average of 82 per minute at night. No significant incidence of atrial and ventricular extrasystoles. No pauses over 3 seconds.

I was surprised that my heart rate during the long-term ECG at night showed no abnormalities. The doctor recommended that I stop taking the beta-blockers and see if it improved. Despite Jule's presence at night, I woke up and had palpitations with a sense of impending doom again. She came closer to me, hugged me. "Saschi, everything's okay. I'm here for you," she comforted me and placed her hand on my chest. It was easier to calm down with her by my side. This time, we didn't have to make an emergency call.

Over the next few days, we did a lot together with Mom, Jule, and Laura occasionally. Jule took time off to be with me. We were regularly out in the sun, walking in the forest, discovering beetles and beautiful flowers, sometimes eating ice cream, playing badminton or cards on a meadow, and in the evening, when the fear of sleeping became stronger again, we did yoga together in the living room to relax. Before going to bed, I watched "Big Bang Theory" with Jule and took valerian. Dascha and Tobi also came for coffee more regularly.

Everyone was there for me over the next few weeks. Occasionally, I could laugh again. Over the course of these weeks, thanks to Jule's presence, I learned to control my nocturnal panic attacks. During the day, I could eat normally again. Gradually, over several weeks, I recovered. Jule went back to Hanover to write her master's thesis. By now, I could sleep through the night without panic attacks. It was the worst mental state of my life, which I had overcome thanks to my loved one. I had probably not yet reached the event horizon of the black hole.

Future Learning from this Life Phase: In a depressive state, I exacerbated this state with negative thoughts. It is obvious that the situation only gets worse with pessimistic thoughts, even if I didn't realize it at the time. If I want to get out of depression, I should do everything possible to not further promote it, even if it's difficult in the situation.

Most of the time, without knowing that there are effective ways to counteract depression, I fall into the same habitual activities that worsen depression every day: staying up late (usually also sitting in front of the screen and being bombarded with noise), eating late, eating unhealthy food, sleeping late, not exercising, completely isolating myself socially, not cuddling, chasing cheap dopamine kicks through video games, and then not exposing myself to the sun.

I cannot expect to get out of depression with the same lifestyle that led me into depression. I need to completely overhaul my life as quickly as possible. I should consider the body's circadian rhythm, which means specifically: going to bed early enough and not eating anything for a few hours beforehand, exposing myself to direct sunlight daily. It's best to do something sporty outside with family or good friends, never talk about negatives, be in nature, and do yoga. This way, I will quickly get rid of the developing depressive mood.

In the morning upon waking up and before going to bed, negative thoughts are often particularly bad; it helps to wash these thoughts away coldly. Persistence is important. From day to day, the new habits will establish themselves, and the depression will be destroyed as a result.