Why so much struggle?

I haven’t written this blog for a while, mainly because I have been through a confusing period lately. My health is strong but I’m not that happy. It may be triggered by a few things but for sure, it was trying something new and not entirely succeeding. I held a workshop on one of the principles in my book, Avoiding Burnout: The Seven Principles of Self-Preservation. It was such a struggle to market it and I had very few participants.

Struggle

It felt embarrassing to me that I couldn’t attract a solid audience. I know that it was probably a good thing because it gave me a chance to sample my material on a smaller group and to test the timing and other components. The participants seemed to enjoy it, and to benefit, which is what I wanted. I just felt like a failure that it was so small. It didn’t bring in the money that I hoped to bring in.

And perhaps my motivation for running workshops was more about bringing in income and less about sharing my concepts. I love writing and I enjoy public speaking too. I reach a state of flow in preparing for speeches and of course, I have a strong passion for writing. If I had to choose one calling, it would be to write. It’s tricky to earn a living as a writer and it takes time to build up enough credibility as a speaker to charge large sums of money per speech and to land the big audiences.

I’m passionate about aligning your strengths and talents with the work that you do. I believe in guiding people towards a happier life. But it’s hard to get paid when you’re selling inspiration. Or maybe that’s just a limiting belief. Maybe it’s me who believes that no-one wants to buy my inspiration. If I can’t convince myself that my message has value, how can I sell it to others?

I’ve grappled with a few issues lately. Am I valuable? Does my message justify client expenditure? Do I really want to be talking and writing about this horrible experience I’ve endured? I’ve always been a solution-focused person and I’m not sure I’m happy dwelling on the burnout period of my life, especially now that I’m functioning normally. Maybe it’s time to shift the focus towards joy. How do I do that and still promote my book?

Everything has just been so hard lately. Things going wrong like a flat tyre, a vomiting child and a power failure the day before my workshop. As if I needed any more stress as I approached my poorly-attended foray into something new. My website is still not perfect after months of struggle and my brand is in jeopardy. I have felt quite powerless to move forwards towards selling my book online and promoting my brand.

I’ve recently started writing my second book which will cover the recovery period. I’ve been reading my journals and going back through my calendar to see what was happening for me in the various phases of my recovery journey. It’s pretty depressing reading what I felt and thought. I thought I would take about a year to recover. It has been three. I thought all my relationship issues and lifestyle adjustments would be resolved by now. They are not. Maybe I haven’t been that successful in effecting a change in my life that I’m telling people about.

I’m reading about how painful it felt that my father didn’t support me. I read about how alone I felt and how hard I tried to keep everyone happy and to make a success of the business. I thought back to my corporate days and how much struggle I felt in doing my best to deliver among some really nasty people. I thought about how I felt about a year before my health collapsed. I thought I could turn the business around. I had this list of things we were going to buy when we had ‘made it.’ After the workshop I realized that I have the same feeling now. I have this mental list of the things I want to do when I am earning an income that matches my expenses. And I feel the same sense of hopelessness that I’ll never get there.

Struggle

I felt like a failure again. I’m the idealistic fool who thinks you can actually make money following your passion. I’m the Pollyanna trying to make my suffering mean something. To tell you the truth, it’s so hard sometimes. I feel alone again. I feel that it would be so great to have a job with a salary and to be able to come home at night and complain about my idiot manager. That would be luxurious. This struggle of trying to figure everything out by myself and to know what step to take next, is so tough. Sometimes I get tired of it.

I try to find new opportunities to promote my book and to reach as many people as possible. In this process, however, I face rejection occasionally and it’s tough. It’s a struggle to pick myself up from that rejection and to do it again. As an introvert, I prefer to email people, I don’t like phone calls and the few I make result in rejection. At times, I just feel like hiding from the world.

In the workshop we looked at our top character strengths. In my book I talk about the top five identified when I was sick. I did the test again to prepare for the workshop and ‘Perseverance’ came up as my top strength. Yes, the perseverance that drove me beyond reason to a state of complete collapse. Great strength, thanks. I try hard to acknowledge my good points but that one is a sore point for me. I’m not sure I trust myself anymore. What if I’m persevering down the wrong path again? Who’s going to tell me?

I’m afraid. I’m afraid that it’s going to take ten or twenty years for my books to sell to a decent amount of people and the slog along the way is so hard. I don’t know whether I should work with a distributor who eats up all my income and leaves me with a scrap but gets my books into all mainstream bookstores in the country. Is that even important anymore? I can’t do any public relations in a big way until my book is widely available. So what do I do now?

Working for yourself is a struggle. There’s no one to tell you what to do next and that can be really scary. I know that I remain hard on myself and I expect a lot, despite having worked on self-compassion. I know that I just have to focus on the next steps and hopefully the path will become clear in time. I am grateful to have three speaking events in May so that will be my focus for now. I’m going on holiday at the end of the month and perhaps the distance from everyday life will help me to gain some perspective.

Sometimes I don’t write this blog when I’m feeling down or negative but it is a truly cathartic process and it helps me to find the way forward. Not every post will be full of sunshine and rainbows but that’s life.

Functioning Normally

I had blood tests and went to my endocrinologist this week for a check up. Last time I went I was under a lot of stress and my health dipped significantly. The stress caused an increased attack on my thyroid by my immune system, creating fatigue and the symptoms of an under-active thyroid.

normally

For three years, I’ve struggled to recover from burnout and to manage my resultant autoimmune thyroid disease. I’ve been striving to keep my thyroid functioning normally and trying to keep my immune system from destroying thyroid tissue. I’ve worked hard on my lifestyle and dietary changes to address stress and to avoid being on thyroid hormone. To date I’ve done well and the check up this week went great. My thyroid is working well, the immune attack is diminishing and my adrenal function is greatly improved. My doctor encouraged me to continue what I’m doing as it’s having a great effect. “Ten gold stars,” he said.

This translates to me feeling great and being able to do what most people take for granted. I can exercise, work a full day and still enjoy being with my family. For the past few years, that has not been possible. I still can’t run but I’m doing yoga a few times a week and I’m able to chase my dreams and still be a present mother.

This is the life I’ve been working towards for years and it feels great to be functioning normally. I guess there will never be a ‘normal’ me again as my life has changed so much that I can never go back to how life was before my illness. I think we often try to restore order to how things were before they broke, but maybe they were meant to break for us to reach a new, improved normal.

I’m different from how I was before burnout. I have perspective. I am more patient and I have created a life that’s much happier than before. Without that experience, I would still be working in a job that made me unhappy. My relationships would be unhealthy and I would still feel angry and resentful for how people are treating me. Now, my life is so much healthier and happier.

I source income from multiple places and I spend a lot of time networking and connecting with people who can help me to spread my message. I want to share my lessons with the world, to help others not to get as sick as I did and to reduce the suffering in the world in this way. I believe this to be my quest and I am passionate about it.

I’ve connected with some really interesting people lately and I’m excited about the talks I’m doing in the months to come. These engagements help me to spread my message and to promote my book. In the past few weeks, I’ve corrected a few glitches in the process of receiving funds from Amazon, my website is almost complete and I’ve corrected some formatting issues in my ebook. It feels great to be moving closer to a place where the logistics are in place and I’m ready to expand my reach.

normally

I’m launching something new this week: workshops aligned to the principles in my book, Avoiding Burnout. It has been scary to do this because I’ve been afraid that no-one will show up. The numbers are small but it is a new beginning for me and it takes time to build a brand and to make a name for oneself. I have so enjoyed putting the material together and I can’t wait to see how it is received.

I’m excited to start working on my next book, Healing Burnout. I want to share the lessons I’ve learnt on this journey of recovery from burnout. People keep asking me about a follow up book and I’ve been hesitant to write it until I feel I’m at the point that I can say I’ve recovered. And of course, with a journey of recovery as long as several years, I’ve been concerned that I’m never going to get there. However with the results I received this week and the way I feel and operate now, I deem myself recovered. No-one else will be able to tell me that since I’m the only one who can feel what I feel.

I want to guide people towards more joy and if it’s one person at a time, that will do. I’m hoping my books, my talks and my workshops help people to bring more happiness into their lives. The quality of my life now is so much better than it was before I got sick. I actively worked on improving it and I believe that I can show others how to do this, without them having to become ill. My new normal is joy. I want that to be true for others too.

How doubt sabotages us

I’ve struggled in the past few weeks to understand a few things. I’ve had some new challenges with my health which are confusing. I am frustrated that I’ve spent the last three years trying to stabilize my thyroid function and now I have new challenges to deal with. I suppose nothing is static, and most definitely not our hormones or bodies.

Doubt

Three years ago my health collapsed and it took me some time to put the label of burnout on top of my diagnosis. I developed an autoimmune disease of the thyroid and my adrenal function was pitiful. For years I’ve worked so hard to stop my immune system attacking my thyroid. I’ve changed my diet, I’ve taken up meditation and mindfulness, I’ve changed my work, I’ve rested ad nauseam and I was hoping for some reward at the end of this hard work.

I suppose I should know better. Neither God nor my body are going to reward me for eating well. It’s just the way life is for me now. I have forever altered the way my body works and I have to let go of trying to fix it to be how it was before. I suppose many people are grappling with the same issues but they just do it with more grace.

I became frustrated with all this restriction of diet and lifestyle and I wondered if I’m being foolish. I rebelled by eating a slab of chocolate (I usually avoid sugar and dairy as much as possible). I began to doubt whether the career path I’m on is actually the right one. I felt that maybe I’m being given some sort of message that I’m doing something wrong.

I asked for advice from very helpful people and the message I received was that I’m doing all the right things but the self-doubt is not helpful. To be honest, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that I can’t make enough money off being a writer. I’m afraid I’ll choke when given a big opportunity to speak. I’m afraid this path won’t work and I’ll need to recant everything I’ve been preaching for years. In short, I’m afraid of failing.

Doubt

Working for myself offers so many benefits. I love the freedom and the chance to decide what to tackle next. I love having flexible hours and working in alignment with my strengths. I love writing and speaking and I love engaging with people who have also had challenges with their health and stress. I’ve received so much positive feedback and yet I tend to ignore it in times of doubt.

Recently, I received fantastic feedback on my book from a reader. My friends, who have read the book, sometimes send me evidence that they are following my tips in building a happy life. For me, that’s the best and most rewarding part of what I do. I just love making a difference in someone’s life and knowing that I might have helped someone to avoid suffering.

Since gaining this advice from trusted friends and healers, I’m looking more for evidence of success than failure. I’m focusing on all the good things that people say and trying very hard not to discount them. I’m glowing in the positive feedback and accepting their compliments with grace. I’m so grateful to the people who have praised my book and for those who act as ambassadors for my message.

I am truly blessed to do the work that I do. Of course I will have many moments of doubt in the future but I’m not going to let it stop me. I have work to do and I’m not letting fear take the driver’s seat.

If you can’t learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you’ll never be able to go anywhere interesting or do anything interesting. ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

Facing the Judgment

Lately I’ve encountered a lot of judgment. I wrote a non-fiction book about my personal journey towards burnout. It includes stories from my childhood which reveal behavior of my relatives that is less-than-favorable. The story is not about them, however, it’s about me and how I became so sick. The background was a necessary part of the story but it’s not the whole story.

Judgment

I’m amazed at what people take from my book. Some people object to an arbitrary paragraph, failing to see the big picture. One person seems to think I wrote the book to attack people. Some people think I made things up. It’s my story, my experience, my memories and my journey. It’s a story where I’m vulnerable and admit my own failings and mistakes along the way. It’s honest, vulnerable and it took a lot of courage to write and publish it.

I find these judgments puzzling because the purpose of the book is to help people. It’s to show people what it looks like to get that sick, how it happens and I also provide strategies for others not to get there. I’m on a quest to show people what stress can do and to help people avoid the depth of illness that I experienced.

This week I also encountered a lot of prejudice towards spiritual beliefs that may be different from one’s own. Just because someone’s beliefs are different, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong, or evil. I find it fascinating how much we hate being judged and yet how we all do it to others so freely. And so often it’s the people who have been judged the most who are so eager to judge others. Maybe it’s such a habit that we don’t realize what we are doing.

Perhaps this is just one aspect of becoming a non-fiction writer of something so personal. It takes courage to write in the way I do but it is my style and I have no choice. I can’t begin writing fiction because it doesn’t appeal to me and it wouldn’t feel right. Maybe it’s just part of the package of my new career. It also provides great insight into those who judge me so willingly and it guides me in knowing where I stand in my relationships. It’s a gift, in a sense.

I am not deterred and I continue to write what I write. I’m very happy to be a contributor to an online publication called Talent Talks now. It’s an exciting addition to my portfolio and I’m thrilled to be part of it. I’m focusing my efforts on my public speaking in the first half of this year. It requires a lot of preparation and it does stretch me in ways that are uncomfortable at times.

Judgment

But growth is never simple or easy. Many people don’t understand my career change, my change in beliefs or my lifestyle but that’s okay. I understand it and I accept that this is the path to where I’m going. I’m busier than I have ever been and that is outstanding news for someone who has a relatively new career. I have also received some fantastic reviews in person, on Amazon and Goodreads. I’m choosing to focus on those from real readers who are in my target market.

I’m enjoying networking, I’m working on my speeches, writing articles and pursuing interesting side projects that bring me great joy and learning. Life is very good if I focus on all the good and turn away from the judgment. I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt, to offer them encouragement and to respect their beliefs. My time and energy are better spent on those who love me and build me up. After all, we get more of what we focus on, so let it be on love.

So much Stronger now

I am passionate about personal growth. I constantly look for opportunities to learn and to move forward as a person. I read a lot of books in the self-help, or personal development genre. It is my belief that we are on this planet to learn, to fulfill life lessons and to gain greater understanding in the areas pertinent to our lives.

Over the holidays I have been thinking about how much I’ve changed. I thought about Christmas 2015. I had been recovering from my burnout for a year already but was struggling with energy. I was feeling so down about being sick and facing years of recovery ahead of me. I felt lonely and misunderstood in that the social circles I moved in didn’t get it at all.

stronger

They didn’t understand how a late night caused me days of recovery. They didn’t understand that I couldn’t drink alcohol because it makes my adrenals weaker and that meant I couldn’t even take care of my children properly. Nobody understood how it felt to be saddled with this illness and poor health for several years. Just the emotional burden of that realization was heavy, let alone the physiological failure of my body to support me.

At that time I was trying to find my voice.  I was speaking up about things that were wrong and that were not working for me. And because it was unusual and not in my normal patterns, those around me reacted badly. They didn’t like this outspoken person – where was the doormat from the past who was quiet and compliant?

I had also just received my first rejection from a traditional publisher. I knew it was coming and I expected it but it rejection still stings. I was so afraid to make the wrong decision in publishing my book. I was scared that I might proceed with a self-publishing organisation who cheated me. It was a large investment and a totally unknown area for me, at a time when I couldn’t earn any income. It was a scary period and I felt completely unsupported.

I had an epiphany during December 2015 that my people-pleasing behavior was harming me. I spent a lot of time bending over backwards for others who didn’t appreciate the effort. And at the same time I was harming myself because I had such limited energy that I should have been spending it on important people, like my children.

I stopped trying to earn approval and to be the glue that holds other relationships together. I just focused on getting well and on my own relationships. I became much more aware of relationships that were not to my benefit and I put in measures to protect myself and to distance myself from those who were harming me.

This year, I’ve maintained those boundaries so well. I’ve kept up the self-care and made sure that I get what I need out of each day and each interaction. I maintain my energy and I only expend it in areas and with people who have earned it: those who love and support me.

In terms of my career and writing, I have self-published my book with pride. I’m happy with how things turned out and with the quality of the book. I’m enjoying positive reviews and gaining great confidence in the positive feedback from readers. I’m planning a range of offerings connected to my book which should be a real adventure this year.

stronger

I feel so much stronger. I have much more energy than I did two years ago and I protect it fiercely. I honor my own needs and I make sure I spend time the way I want to in my day. I’ve stopped trying to rescue people and I’m just letting go and letting them get on with what they need to do. I’m less concerned about what people think or might say about me. I’m very clear that it’s not my role to make people happy. I’m focusing on my happiness and striving for becoming the best version of me instead.

So often we berate ourselves for things we haven’t done or new year’s resolutions not met. I’m working on acknowledging myself for areas of real progress. I’m not the soft target I used to be. I’m able to stand up for myself, I fight for what I need and my life is a lot better for it. I’m a much happier person and that leaves me free to write, to care for my children with a smile and to feel authentic joy.

Reflect on the lessons and growth during 2017

In the past few days, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the past year to remind myself that I’ve made progress. I’m not a very patient person and I often get frustrated that I’m not moving fast enough towards my goals and to set up my new life post-burnout. So I thought I’d spend this time in the last few days of the year to assess what progress I’ve made and to celebrate it with purpose.

I went through my calendar to see what life looked like this year and it was so interesting. If you’ve read my book, Avoiding Burnout, you’ll know that a few years ago I struggled to even manage a few outings per week. This year looked dramatically different. My calendar was full of activities.

reflect

I looked after my health and kept up with my blood tests, checkups for my autoimmune disease caused by the stress. I checked on my skin, my eyes, my teeth and screened for breast cancer. I did yoga more than I have ever done before. I tried for about three classes per week and managed very well until the last quarter of the year where life got a bit stressful and I had to cut back. I also kept up the healing practices that work for me and I tried new ones.

I took care of my children. I took them for all their medical checkups like the dentist and optometrist. I fetched and carried them to occupational therapy, physio, dancing (including a competition and an exam). I facilitated homework and fun activities like sports and piano lessons. I found them a new school and learnt that the old one was not a match for our family. That was a difficult move but well worth it for the long term happiness of our family and the well being of my children.

I took care of my personal growth through workshops, books, creativity. I attended painting classes and I tried new things like making a dream catcher. I kept up with friends by having coffees, breakfasts and making phone calls and sending emails.

I worked on my speaking skills by finishing my foundation speeches at Toastmasters and starting my advanced series. I even competed in a competition which was a great learning experience for me. I attended a workshop and read a book on how speaker bureaux work. I did a few speeches to audiences on what I’ve learnt from my experience of burnout. I asked for testimonials to use for marketing purposes.

I worked on my branding. I got head shots done by a professional photographer, I got videos made by a lady so passionate about video that it inspired me. I initiated my new website which should go live soon. I worked on marketing and crystallized my message. I did a lot of networking, meeting new people and taking the opportunity to share my message with them. I started collaborating with someone on an app which is great fun and an unexpected opportunity.

I finally published my book and launched it to celebrate. I made money for the first time in three years. I actually started earning income from my dream job which is miraculous. And I’ve even secured a monthly slot to write for an online publication.

Relfect

In looking at my life now: I have a wonderful family and home. I love being at home so much that I can’t wait to get home after a holiday. I also can’t wait to return to this work of mine that feels more like fun than work does. I have some wonderful friends, I have a great support structure and opportunities that seem to be emerging faster than I can deliver. I truly love my life and this year has been amazing.

This year, 2017, has been a foundation year. A year where I created the first tangible piece of my new career: my book. I’m so very grateful that it’s out into the world and that I have this chance to do all the things that I have planned. I finally have enough energy to tackle what comes next. The year 2018 should be an incredible chance for me to build on my foundation. I have so many exciting plans to release a range of offerings and I simply can’t wait to get started!

Have you reflected on 2017 to see how far you’ve come? Take the time to really look at what you’ve achieved and what you’ve learnt.

My Quest is lost on those closest to me

I am on a quest. A quest to help people to see that their lives and jobs don’t have to be miserable. It is possible to build a happy life, on purpose, with effort. I know because I did it myself. I suffered a burnout, from which I’ve been recovering for three years.

I didn’t just take the drugs and carry on doing all the same things, in the same relationships, eating the same foods and expecting miracles. I also didn’t just resign myself to being sick for the rest of my life. I analysed my life in all the areas that contributed towards my stress. Burnout didn’t happen just from one event or person, it took years to develop and the stress came from multiple sources.

I fixed my life actively. It wasn’t a mistake or luck. I worked at it and I still do, every day. I connected with the work that brings me flow and I turned it into a career. I ended relationships that were toxic. I altered those that weren’t working for me. I strengthened the relationships that I wanted to keep. This work was probably the hardest part but made a significant difference.

quest

I changed my diet, I sought out help from a variety of doctors and spiritual healers. I worked on my mind, my body and my soul. And it wasn’t in a perfect sequence or structured manner, but the benefits have been amazing. I was able to recover in a relatively short time and I could start functioning in society again. This year I’ve published my book, Avoiding Burnout. I launched my book and I’ve sold a respectable amount by the end of the year.

The book is not the end, it’s the beginning. It’s the foundation of everything to come. I am launching workshops, talks, a deck of cards and a variety of other initiatives next year. I’m excited about this work that doesn’t feel like work. I love how I spend my days and I am so eager to spread my message to the world. I want others to learn what I have learnt: that it’s possible to live your best life. This is my quest.

And yet it seems that those closest to me are so removed from my quest and my message. My family members are so miserable that I’m convinced they are seriously depressed. It’s so obvious to me that we create our lives. Our lives are exactly as they are because that’s what we made. We can’t blame our spouse, the economy or our parents for ruining our lives. Why would we give others so much control over our lives? That leaves us feeling powerless which is never a good thing.

Sometimes it’s subconscious and we have limiting beliefs that result in recurring behaviors. I noticed the patterns in my life and I took accountability for them. I realized that I was creating situations from my own beliefs and behaviors. And then I did some work on myself to address these beliefs and behaviors. I sought out the right people with the gifts to support me in my growth and healing but it was still up to me.

quest

In many ways it breaks my heart that my family haven’t learnt from my mistakes. It makes me doubt my effectiveness as a guide towards a better life, that I can’t influence those closest to me. I hate to see those I love going down such unproductive and unhappy paths. But personal growth can only be achieved if one is open to it. I cannot be of service to them if they are not ready and open to it.

How open are you to personal growth, to altering unproductive patterns in your life and to building a life you love?

Opportunities aplenty

At some point during my recovery from burnout, I figured out that I needed a different job. I needed to find flow and to align my work with my strengths and talents. It’s so easy to put the words together but so hard to implement. It’s not easy to figure out what it is that you’re passionate about, especially when your brain is buckling with stress.

I knew that I could not return to the work that contributed to the burnout. It’s also hard to know what to do next when you’ve been a business owner and managing director. It’s hard to go backwards ten years into corporate middle management or to your original trade. I always try to go forwards but I can tell you that it was very hard to figure out the road ahead after burnout.

I spent a long time just letting myself recover and dabbling with things that brought me joy. I did a lot of creative things initially. I drew, I did mosaic and decoupage, knitting and crochet. I tried to ignite a passion that could point me in the right direction. I did a lot of journaling to understand what had happened to me and to express the emotions at the time: confusion, fear, anger.

I started this blog to express my feelings and to share with others what it’s like to be on this recovery journey from burnout. It didn’t take long for me to realise that I gained energy from writing at a time when I was desperately depleted by everything else. I finally found flow in something that could lead me towards a new career.

I went on a writing course to polish my writing skills and I think to earn the right to call myself a writer. I learnt on this course that it’s pretty much hopeless to expect to make a living from writing. Many writers get 8 – 10% of the retail price of their books and the chances of selling millions of copies are very low. Even knowing all of this, I felt that writing could lead me towards a better future and I did not know what else to do.

opportunities

I attend many personal growth seminars and workshops. I seek guidance from spiritual healers and teachers. All of them confirmed that I’m on the right path and that writing is an important part of my future. I felt it in my gut that this is the thing I should be doing. So I persisted. I wrote the book and published it. My book launch about two weeks ago felt like a great milestone, a foundation on which I can build my future.

Many skeptics since have told me not to bank on becoming rich from my books or my writing. And that’s okay. I have my own inner knowing that I’m on the right path for me. I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t know where I’ll be in five years’ time. All I focus on is the next step. For me right now, my next step is the deck of cards aligned to my book. I don’t know how I’m going to get it mass produced and into the world but I have every confidence that I can figure it out.

I also joined Toastmasters and polished my speaking skills in the past year. I’ve spoken at a few events and enjoyed it tremendously. It’s a chance for me to spread my message about living a full and happy life and not letting stress get in the way. I’ve received so much advice about what to do next, what not to do and I remain focused on my inner compass. Just doing the next thing.

In the past few months, I’ve met so many interesting people who have helped me to spread my message. Many have connected me with others who help me to find speaking engagements or more readers for my book. I’ve joined a networking organisation that has been so welcoming. November was a bumper month for book sales and I’m constantly amazed by the sources of these customers.

I’ve put together some great speeches about living your best life possible, workshops on my seven principles of self-preservation. Next year I want to do podcasts, webinars, an audio book and so much more. I’m so excited about all the great things in store for me. Work doesn’t feel like work. I don’t need a holiday because I love what I do so much. Some days I struggle to believe that this is really my life now and how incredibly lucky I am to do the work I do.

opportunites

People have approached me with opportunities that have come completely out of the blue. I keep thinking about the skeptics and those who insist I create a five year vision. The path I’m on is something very hard to explain to others. I’m listening to my inner voice. I’m open to receiving opportunities from unknown sources. And I’m constantly surprised and excited about where this adventure is leading me.

If you are too scared to follow your dreams because you cannot understand how it’s going to happen, I want you to think about what I’ve written in this post. We cannot know the how, all we are in control of is being open to what comes next and to trust in your own wisdom. You know what you are good at, passionate about and interested in. It’s entirely possible to make money out of your passion in ways that you haven’t begun to imagine.

Learning to receive love and support

This week I had my book launch for my first book: Avoiding Burnout. Writing a book has been a dream for most of my life and it felt surreal to be standing in front of a group of people talking about my book. It has been a long and difficult path to get to this point. Of course I’m not talking about the writing because that’s the fun part. I’m talking about the experience of burnout and understanding how I got sick and how to recover.

Receive

I attend many personal growth workshops and I read a lot about happiness and resilience. On many occasions I’ve received the feedback that I struggle to receive. Receiving love, money, help and support. I spent most of my life feeling unsupported. And I stood there on Thursday night looking at all these faces of people who had come to support me and to celebrate the launch of this new book and along with it, my new life and career. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude.

It still feels a little like a dream that I’ve actually been allowed (by myself) to pursue this passion and to embark on this new career. Before I got sick I was so hard on myself and I would  never have allowed myself to indulge in this creative nonsense. Not when there are bills to pay and responsibilities to fulfill. Life can feel really heavy with thinking like that. I feel so much lighter in the knowledge that following my passion is what I’m supposed to be doing. And in so doing, I provide an example to others to do the same. I also act as a role model for my children, showing them that doing what makes you happy is not only allowed, it is essential.

The days leading up to my launch were difficult. We had the largest water outage in our area in history and we had no water supply to our home for several days. The dishes and laundry were piling up which makes me edgy and we were not able to shower or bath. The kids thought it was great fun to swim instead of bathing but I was not comfortable. Coupled with the preparation for the launch, I was feeling stressed.

My last blog post was about my eight-year-old daughter and her difficulties at school. She has been desperately unhappy and oppressed in the classroom, her creativity squashed and her spirit dampened. We were hoping she could hang in there for a few weeks before the school year is up, but just before the launch things deteriorated. Worrying about her kept me up at night and I was feeling really fragile on the day of the launch.

I felt stressed pushing to get the launch done while worrying about how to best help my child. We have decided to abandon the last two weeks of school which is quite uncharacteristic of our family. We don’t give up, we suffer through. But this experience of burnout has taught me some major lessons and it feeds into our family culture. No longer will we suffer and be bullied. We are fighting for our happiness and we stand by each other. This family has endured a great deal in the past few years with my illness. Now is our time to stand in the sun.

Receive

I had my moment at the launch, to receive love and support from so many people. I was completely overwhelmed with all the messages before and after the event. It really feels incredible to let yourself receive and I’m going to open myself up to more of it. My children and husband also deserve to experience some joy and fun after several years of struggle and suffering. It makes a family very strong to endure difficulties. On the other side of burnout we hold hands and proceed towards a happy future together.

Just how much should you help your children?

My eight-year-old daughter is very unhappy at her school and she has been experiencing high levels of stress in the past few months. We have managed to get her into a new school from next year and she’s excited to move. She is dealing with a lot of feelings at the moment in this struggle: anxiety and sadness about leaving her school and friends, coupled with the disappointment that her school didn’t meet her needs.

struggle

I am doing my best to provide her with methods of reducing stress and increasing happiness. I learnt a great deal during my experience of burnout, so much that I wrote a book about it. I’ve realized through this period in our lives that I need to share my lessons with my family. I’m teaching both my girls a regular gratitude practice that we do on the way home from school every day. I have taught my eldest breathing exercises to do when she’s feeling overwhelmed in the classroom.

There’s not much more I can do for her in these last few weeks of the school year. I don’t like the concept of crossing days off the calendar because it seems like we are wishing time away and I like to promote being in the moment. However, I’ve started crossing off the calendar to provide her with a visual cue of just how little time is left. I’m hoping it offers her hope that the end of her struggle is near.

I’ve also spoken to her about how struggle makes us stronger. I’ve talked to her about the concept of God giving her this struggle as a way to prepare for bigger struggles later in life. It is my belief that our children choose us and that we are all here to learn lessons. I believe that she chose us as her parents for a reason. When I saw how stress was affecting her health, I immediately began to help her every way I know how. This is what I can offer her.

But how much must I help her and how much is she meant to struggle through on her own? As a parent we want to remove pain and suffering. I’ve felt tempted to pull her out of school altogether. But perhaps she is learning how to persevere through hardships and I don’t want to take that away from her. The trouble is that she is really unhappy and it shows even in her body language. All weekend she is happy and bouncy and on Monday morning her shoulders slump and she’s tearful at the drop off.

It’s one of the hardest things to do as a parent to watch your child suffer. I really feel for parents who are enduring such difficulties as drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, depression and self-harm. We want our children to make their own decisions and to learn how to cope with life’s challenges. But we also want to save them from pain. Sometimes we can take away the lessons in taking away the suffering.

struggle

I’m finding it very hard to help her because I’m not in the classroom and I can’t be there to comfort her and reassure her when she’s drowning. The frustrating part is that she is doing so well academically and doesn’t seem to realize it. How do I get across to her that this too shall pass and that being perfect is an illusion? I have an inkling of where this perfectionism comes from and I know that children don’t do what you say but rather what you do. I thought I’ve come a long way in the past few years as I changed my life for the better. But perhaps she’s still seeing my desire to achieve and my frustration of how stress affects my output.

Parenting becomes so much more complex the older a child gets. It pushes us to evolve and to find better ways to model good behaviors. I don’t have the answers about how much we intervene to  mitigate the pain and how much we wait to see how they grow from struggle. It’s a fine balance to provide enough support and encouragement and to allow them to grow as people. I’m not sure I’m getting it right but I’m doing everything I can do to help her through this difficult patch.