Personal Development

I am a big fan of personal development. I read many books on self improvement and I am passionate about building a better life for myself. I like to learn things and the top thing I like to learn is how to be better. This doesn’t mean that I’m particularly  unhappy with who I am but there is always room to grow and learn.

Development

This week I went to Cape Town for six days for a course in personal development. It cost more than I would usually spend and I was apprehensive about whether I’ll get my money’s worth. My cousin recommended the course and said he thought it would make a big difference in my life. It was complicated logistically because it’s school time and it’s a little tricky to enlist my husband to do all the homework, lunches and laundry. Of course, I’ve done all of the childcare when he has been away but he’s only a guy, after all.

I worried a lot about whether the family would cope without me and whether my health was strong enough to manage the long days in a room with other participants. When we travel, my husband usually handles the car hire and the accommodation. It was a challenge for me to sort out the logistics and I was very nervous about the whole trip and the course itself.

I figured out how to get around and navigated my way between the hotel and the training venue. I managed to drive a strange little car with manual transmission for a few days. The content of the course was good and I gained a lot but I also gained an insight from the mere trip. I realized that my health is strong enough to do what other people do and I handled the logistics and the long days of the course without issue. I’ve been feeling handicapped, or broken in some way. I spent three years recovering from burnout and I see that I became fearful, holding myself back in case my health deteriorates. That’s getting in the way of doing the things I need to do to move forward in my life and career.

I did a yoga class while in Cape Town and for the first time, I didn’t put any medical issues on the signup form. I actually feel that I can live life like a ‘normal’ person, not that there’s such a thing. I realized that I can accomplish much more than I have been allowing myself to imagine. Feeling as empowered as I do after the course, I created a list of things, all starting with ‘I can’ and I got to twenty one before I ran out of paper.

I spent two days in Cape Town after the training, enjoying the city. I went to the beach and spent time with the sand between my toes. I had fun on my own without the responsibility of getting people to dancing on time, getting homework done and feeding a bunch of other people. I had two days fully to myself which felt like an unbridled indulgence. I bought myself delicious meals like sushi and enjoyed the break from cooking. I slept late, I did whatever I felt like and I felt completely entitled to it. I can’t tell you a time in my life when I’ve felt more free.

I know I have to return to reality but it was such an important experience and I want to hold onto it. In the course, I learnt about reconnecting with relationships that I’ve let become distant and damaged. I realized that I’ve hardened my heart to many people who are close to me because I want to protect myself from hurt. But when we do that, we stop ourselves from letting the love in and I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to risk being hurt because it’s worth it.

On the course, I spent time with people of a variety of cultures, backgrounds and ages. I saw prejudice and grace. I laughed along with my fellow countrymen and women, enjoying the unique aspects of our people. I was touched by the stories people told of their traumas and experiences. I was moved and inspired to make my life better and to stop whining about my problems when I saw such potential in others who live with larger constraints.

I spent many years in recovery from burnout. I became isolated and disconnected from the world and the everyday people of my country. I feel part of humanity now and I have recognized that I need to connect with those I love and care about. Research shows that social relationships are the biggest contributor to our happiness. I need to implement what I’ve learnt and deeply invest in the relationships in my life.

It made me realize that I want to be back in the world again. I don’t want to sit on the outskirts, wondering if I’m well enough to participate in life. I am ready to dive in and be the person I am meant to be. I am ready to bring my gifts into the world and I can’t wait to get started. I am ready to live fully again.

Development

We become absorbed in our lives with all our routines and problems like they are insurmountable. I’ve gained a new perspective. It’s so good for us to get out of our environment and typical company now and then. It’s so valuable to challenge ourselves. We might find out that we can achieve more than we ever realized, or even wanted to achieve. The training material brought me closer to my calling and I’m more inspired than ever to bring my message to the world.

Surrender to the Silence

This month has been confusing. I thought it would be so busy considering it contains National Women’s Day and I love to talk on self-care. I only had one speech early in the month and no opportunities since. I expected a bumper month with at least three speeches. It has been my second highest month in book sales, second only to my launch month. But I’m surprised about the silence.

silence

When you earn income for yourself, a quiet month is not a good thing. My inbox is empty, my phone doesn’t ring and there are no prospects in the near future. It can be alarming and I did panic at first. I started to worry about what I’ve done wrong, what I haven’t done or even if this is the right path for me.

I used the time to meditate and to get admin done. I like to draw cards daily to see what messages might be available. I consistently get the message to just let life unfold as it should without trying to force it. If you operate without faith, you tend to be dominated by your mind and you can get yourself into a downward spiral of worry and doubt. You try to fix and force your way but this doesn’t work, in the long run anyway. There are times to just surrender and to go with the flow.

I decided to do just that, to let go and to trust the messages. I’ve spent more time meditating, I’ve had fun with my kids on the trampoline and swings and I’ve indulged in creativity. This holiday we have made candles, slime, mosaic and mandalas. I’ve worked on a crochet blanket for my oldest daughter and it’s close to completion. We have baked, laughed and connected with each other. Earning money is important but I think these experiences have been even more important.

Silence

Tomorrow it is back to school and I feel mixed emotions. Usually I can’t wait for the kids to be out of my hair and for me to be released of the guilt of working when they want to be with me. I usually feel relieved that I’m no longer torn between my girls wanting to spend time with me, and getting work done. This time, with no work to be done, I feel a little sad as I’ll miss the time spent together.

While they have been on holiday, I’ve enjoyed reading in place of homework. From all the books I’ve read, I’ve collected so many ideas on what to include in my next book. It feels like something is shifting in me, the calm before the storm. I’ve had afternoon naps and I’ve taken care of myself. Instead of punishing myself for some unknown failure that has led to the silence, I’m enjoying it. I surrender to the path my soul is taking me on. I’m grateful for all that has led me here and I’m excited about what’s next.

I’ve done a lot of networking in the past year and it has been rewarding. However, I’ve reached a point where I need more challenge in my work. I want to be making a bigger impact in the world. A while ago, I thought perhaps I need to go back into the corporate world and earn good income again. Selling books and doing speeches is something that can happen in the background. Writing my next book is probably also something I can do in my spare time if I get sufficiently organised. So, being ready to return to the working world, I applied for many jobs and nothing came of it. More silence.

I’m going on a training course in two weeks’ time in another city. This course is designed to bring out the best in the participants so it feels like the right thing for me now. I’m hoping this course opens up ideas, opportunities or contacts that lead to something new and exciting for me. I’m eager to see if this is something that will challenge me sufficiently to be a meaningful contributor to society. Even a change of scenery is often enough to spur ideas and to find creative solutions to problems.

Sometimes when things are not going the way we expect them to, or want them to, we panic. That creates a desperate energy that isn’t very useful and is not the place from which good decisions are made. Instead, I’m feeling calm. I’m not rushing into anything just to fill the silence. I’m not blaming myself or others. I’m just accepting that this is what is, right now. There is probably a reason for it. I didn’t get to this place of calm suddenly or easily, of course. Being the person I am, I tried so many things: job applications, contacting a speaker bureau, letting my network know I’m looking for work. And at the end of it all, the silence persists.

So, I’ve surrendered into it. This must be a time of quiet, perhaps a time of contraction before expansion. And maybe this is just what I need to give me the strength and enthusiasm for what’s coming. We are in the last week of winter so I should probably align myself with the seasons. Just relax until spring arrives with all its enthusiasm, optimism and energy. This feels a lot less stressful than trying to make things happen when it’s just not working. I’ve tried the A-type struggle and it led me towards stress and unhappiness. For the first time, I have enjoyed the silence instead of fighting it. Let’s see where this takes me…

Does Burnout mean Mental Breakdown?

I used to judge those with a ‘mental breakdown’ as being weak, as someone very different from me. It took me almost a year to insert the label of burnout onto what happened to me. My health collapsed, I got chronic fatigue and I developed an autoimmune disease that I will have for life. I have been very irritated when people I interact with say that I’ve had a mental breakdown. I’m not a mental case. But perhaps this is the thinking that’s been holding me back.

I got quite stressed recently about a few things. I had a speech for a client recently, and a case of fraud with a telecoms provider that I’m still trying to resolve. I let myself get so stressed about these things, worrying about whether my speech will land well, be worthwhile for the audience and whether it was worth spending the time and energy on it.

mental

I sold my book at a book fair last weekend and someone called me ‘the burnout lady.’ I’m not too thrilled about that label but that’s how my brand is evolving. I did feel compelled to call my book Avoiding Burnout. I’m not sure why, but I had to follow that instinct and I know that my next book has to be Healing Burnout. It’s not progressing very well, if you’re wondering.

The next book I write after Healing Burnout has to be about joy. I really want to show people that it’s possible to live a better life. But I have to get my act together first. I can’t spend weeks stressing about a speech that is just one part of my job. I can’t let myself get so stressed about normal events in life, that it affects my health. I need to find a way to do this work that I want to do, enjoy it and lead others towards joy at the same time.

I don’t want to be the burnout lady. I don’t want every speech to be about burnout. I know that my message is not as powerful unless I speak about how my life collapsed. In my speeches, I explain what happened to my health, and my life, as a result of becoming sick from stress. I know that many people don’t understand burnout and I must confess that before I got sick, neither did I.

mental

Like many people, I thought it was a mental breakdown. I imagined a sufferer of burnout in a straight jacket or maybe sedated in an asylum. The option of being hospitalized was offered to me. My psychologist said that I could check into a hospital and the minimum stay would be three weeks. For the first three days, I would be sedated to the point where I wasn’t conscious and I wouldn’t be able to see my family. Just to let my brain calm down from the extreme stress I was under.

I didn’t choose that option. I chose to carry on with life, doing my best to make changes in my own way. I didn’t want to have a psychiatric stay on my record because people judge it and perhaps I wasn’t ready to accept what was happening. I probably prolonged my recovery by making that choice and I wonder if it was the right one. Because people judge anyway. They judge me for having burnout. I keep wanting to call it something else, like ‘stress-induced illness’ so that people can see beyond the mental illness into the real issue: a lifelong autoimmune disease and the chronic fatigue.

It has become my quest to share with people what can happen to our lives if we let it. I want to educate people that they can develop a lifelong chronic illness as a result of too much stress. I want to help people to avoid the suffering that came with my illness. The effect on my life from the chronic fatigue. The effect on my children, my husband and my relationships. The effect on our lifestyle and financial situation. I want to help the world know this. But I think some people can’t get past the mental illness component.

Or maybe it’s me that can’t get past it. Maybe I’m judging myself for letting this happen, for not managing my stress well and for not seeing it coming. Maybe I’m the one I need to convince that there’s more to burnout than the failure. It’s possible that there are people who suffered burnout without the lifelong illness. Perhaps there are people who took the hospital stay and that helped them enough.

Maybe it’s okay to talk about depression and to admit that my brain wasn’t functioning that well when I was diagnosed. I know that I was very irritable, especially with my family but also at work. I know that my decision-making was compromised by the level of stress I was under. I know that I wasn’t leading my business and staff well at that time.

Perhaps what is needed is for me to acknowledge that and to forgive myself for all of it. The depression, the irritability, the shouting at my children, and the bad choices at work. I’ve been working on self-love and it isn’t an easy thing to get right for me. But perhaps this is part of it and if I can embrace it all, maybe that will lead me to a path of peace.

I might be able to be a more-encompassing representative for people who want to talk about burnout and what it did to their lives. Perhaps if I stop judging myself for the mental aspects, I’ll be at ease in talking about this topic and being the burnout lady others want to engage with.

Lonely in a Crowd

Yesterday, I had a busy day. I went to a celebration of women at my children’s school. At our previous school, the culture and the people didn’t feel right to me and I always felt that I didn’t fit in. Even though, it was my school and I should have felt at home there. I thought I’d fit in better with the mothers at the new school but I still feel so different and I realized yesterday that I’ll never fit in, anywhere.

lonely

In the afternoon, I did some painting with a lovely group of ladies. I got the chance to be creative and I got to escape a few more hours of childcare. I love my children and I love being with them, but I do need a break sometimes from the relentless demands of being a mother.

On the way home, I felt this overwhelming sense of loneliness. I felt that feeling of being lonely in a crowd. I had been out all day with people and yet I felt so lonely. I couldn’t wait to get home to see my children and to be around people who love me, who need me and who understand me. I felt the opposite of needing a break from them. I really needed them.

When I got home, I went into the TV room where my girls were playing and I told them I felt lonely. They hugged me and invited me into their game and to sit with them. It was a great feeling and I am so very grateful to have these beautiful people in my life. I don’t always do the right thing and I often mess up but they love me anyway. They think I’m legendary despite all my faults and it feels so amazing to be loved and accepted this way.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the grief of a lifelong illness. There is so much loss and I’m still figuring out how to process it. I lost the ability to run ultra marathons which was a significant part of my life. It’s sad to know that I’ll never feel that excitement and the great energy of the crowd at the start of a race. I’ll never feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with crossing the line after a grueling few  hours of struggle. I’ll never be able to share stories and time with my running friends as we work towards common goals and achievements.

I’ve also lost the ability to simply eat and drink whatever I want. I had to give up gluten on my doctor’s advice since it has a harmful effect on my thyroid. I have to plan when going to functions, I stock my handbag with snacks or I eat before I go. I often have to put the host in a difficult situation in that I can’t eat so many things. I feel awful being the person who rearranges the menu around their needs. I feel like I’m the fussy and difficult one. I used to be the person who was willing to try anything – the fearless adventurous one. Now, I come from this place of fear, worried that I’ll make myself sicker by eating the wrong thing.

I miss being able to drink alcohol. It affects my adrenal glands in a negative way and it affects my sleep which is critical for someone who suffered with chronic fatigue for years. I can’t just enjoy a beautiful glass of red wine at a party or a dinner out. I’m always the designated driver, the wet fish, the sober one. I wish I could have a glass of port while watching the fire in our lounge in winter. I wish I could join in with everyone and feel part of every function. I wish I could just be like everyone else. But I’m not.

I know it sounds like I’m feeling sorry for myself. I am. Often, I just get on with it and find my way around it. But it is a loss. My life will never be the same and I mourn the old, carefree me. I used to taste all the food to tell my husband if it contains vegetables. Now, I can’t even have crisps for fear of the seasoning containing gluten. No one can understand my journey and how much life changed for me in the past few years. No one has felt my exact struggle. No one understands fully.

I have moments where I acknowledge that my life is better after my burnout than before. I know that I had to get very sick to get this message fully. I know that I’m now able to live the kind of life others envy. I’m nor aligned to my calling, I love my work and I am happy. But I also miss all the things that I’ve lost. I mourn my old life in many ways, even though it wasn’t healthy or sustainable.

lonely

I had a spiritual awakening as part of my life collapsing. My beliefs shifted fundamentally and in a way that feels very positive for me. I am very happy with my new beliefs and gifts that burnout offered me but it hasn’t been easy. It’s difficult to live this life and to make choices that make you feel so different from others. Fitting in is no longer an option. I feel far too different in my thoughts, views, beliefs and behaviors to fit in anywhere. I find that hard.

But there’s no going back now, and I won’t ever be able to unsee what I’ve seen and unlearn what I’ve learnt. The burnout I experienced was the catalyst to changing my life and to becoming a guide to others towards their best life possible. That is my path and I accept and celebrate it. I have to live in my truth and to be my authentic self. There is no alternative, but it’s still lonely.

Giving yourself permission to receive

Last week was a crazy week. I have been doing a lot of public relations to promote my book and I did four interviews in one week. Three radio and one television. It was a completely new experience for me and it felt like a whirlwind. At the end of the week, I was pretty tired so this week has been a quiet one.

For most of my life, I’ve been someone who shies away from the limelight. As a child I took on the belief that I wasn’t important enough to be center stage. I remember at my wedding being very uncomfortable about being so visible and I have had to do some internal work to be comfortable being seen. It’s important for me as a public speaker and a writer that I’m willing to be in the public eye as it will be impossible to spread my message otherwise.

receiving

I think this is quite a common feeling for many people. We struggle with things that might not be obvious. Things like receiving: love, money, opportunities, attention. There are many of us who like to give and that brings a certain feeling of control. We give to charity, we give our time and we give love freely to many people we come into contact with.

However, receiving feels different. Receiving is much more vulnerable and it’s often quite challenging for people to receive gracefully. Have you noticed sometimes how people can’t even accept something as simple as a compliment? I have friends who are such kind people that even when you give them a thank you gift, they share it with others immediately. How easy is it for you to sit back and enjoy something someone has given you? Are you able to receive with grace?

Before I got sick, I had a lot of trouble receiving. Even if someone took my children out for the day, I’d spend it cleaning, tidying or doing something unpleasant. I didn’t even give myself the permission to enjoy the afternoon off and to just relax and indulge in some TV time. When we dig down deeper, we see that at the heart of this behavior is a difficulty in receiving, and a low level of self-compassion.

Last Tuesday a cold front hit and the temperatures plummeted. I’ve been working hard looking for opportunities and also in getting a lot done in case I need to work full time. I’ve been stretching myself and I realized on Tuesday that what I really wanted was to be warm and a little more rest. After my family left for school, I got back into bed for another ninety minutes. I then had a long, luxurious bath and emerged mid-morning. In the past, I would never have given myself permission to do that,  mostly for fear of what people will think or say.

As children we long for the opportunity to do whatever we want. We think that as adults, we will have that freedom. The truth is, we do have more freedom than we think. It is sometimes difficult to see, however, that we are the source of the bars we put around our time and our lives. We have the keys, we just need to give ourselves permission to unlock.

In getting so sick from stress, I had to rebuild my life. In many respects, I set new rules for myself. I had to learn self-compassion and I continue build it as a skill, knowing that it has an impact on my stress levels. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m in charge of my life and if I want a few hours of rest and indulgence, I’m entitled to  it. I work really hard and I put in a lot of effort to build this new career as a writer and to keep our household running smoothly. I really deserve some rest occasionally.

The fact that I allowed myself to get back into bed and to have that lovely bath, shows me how far I’ve come. Three years ago, I would never have accommodated that. And who else is going to give me permission to care for myself if it’s not coming from me? How many of us are waiting for someone else to give us the things we want?

I have always been very hard on myself and I expect a lot. I expect to be further along my path of personal growth, healing and professional accomplishment than last week. I get so frustrated at set-backs like colds and flu because it knocks me off my pattern of progress. This kind of thinking is what led me to burnout in the first place so I need to keep checking myself and making sure that what I’m doing is bringing me joy and is what I really want out of life. For so long, I did things out of obligation and things I didn’t gain any joy from.

Early this week, I felt quite miserable. Maybe last week was quite heavy and I needed some rest and some fun after all the expectations and commitments. I kept asking myself what brings me joy and I realized that what I really want to be doing is creating things. I love drawing mandalas, I love crochet and making blankets for charity, and I love writing of course. I have just finished making some blankets and I didn’t have a new crochet project. Yesterday, I went to the wool store and bought myself a bunch of new colors. I can feel the excitement in my body of the possibilities, what new stitches I’m going to practice and learn as well as the joy of creating something.

Receiving

It is so important to connect with what brings us joy. We spend so much time chasing obligations, paying the bills and looking after everyone else. How about receiving something and doing it graciously? Give yourself permission to have some fun, to enjoy life and to connect with what brings you joy.

Focus on the Present

The last few weeks have been rough and in my previous post I wrote about how I’m looking for a job. One of the big realisations I had is that I’m not feeling happy. I’ve spent years researching what makes us happy and sharing those lessons with the people I encounter. I’m a guide towards living a happier life. Your best possible life. And yet, I wasn’t feeling the joy.

Present

I think every business owner has a lot of doubts at first. The first few years are tough and it’s normal to feel like what you’re trying isn’t working. It takes a long time to establish a brand and to gain interest in what you’re trying to achieve. I’m selling inspiration which is a difficult thing to quantify in terms of value.

I enjoy healing in many forms and I’ve experienced a lot of alternative healing in the past few years. Many people have told me that I’ll be enormously successful in my book sales and my endeavour. I keep getting the confirmation that I’m on the right path and that I’ve found my calling. It just feels like it’s taking so long and sometimes, it’s tricky to know what the next step is.

I think one of the reasons I  haven’t been feeling the joy lately is that I’m too focused on the future. I keep thinking about what life will be like in ten years time and I’m so excited to see my goals being achieved. However, I haven’t been focused on the present, on what’s happening now in my life.

Looking back a few years, I was so miserable. I was desperately ill from burnout, with no visible signs and not many people could empathise. I couldn’t do what everyone else completely takes for granted. I couldn’t go out twice in one day. I couldn’t manage to attend a children’s party with my kids. I even struggled to cook dinner at night. I felt so frustrated that it would take me years to be able to function normally. I just wanted to wish the time away.

And now, I’m able to do all of those things. I’m able to exercise and work a full day. I have energy to be with my kids and to care for my family. And yet, I’m still looking into the future for my happiness. I’ve been taking for granted what I longed for in the past. And this is why I haven’t been feeling happy. It’s one of the most obvious teachings of positive psychology: mindfulness.

Present

Research resoundingly shows that mindfulness increases happiness. I have been meditating but it has felt like a grudge activity. One that gets in the way of the other stuff I have to do. I haven’t been focused on enjoying the work I’ve been doing and the freedom that comes with working at home. I haven’t been grateful for the energy that I have and how well my body has recovered.

I’m doing my best to find a job. In the meantime, I’ve committed to myself to enjoy what I’m doing. Since I might be working full time soon, I’ve realised that I need to get everything done as quickly as I can. Just having this pressure has been such a positive thing for me and I’m accomplishing a lot more. That also builds my confidence and makes me feel good. Sometimes, a small mindset shift is all we need to galvanize our efforts towards what is needed in our lives.

Even if I take a few months to get a job, or if I simply can’t find one, I’m going to make the most of the next few months and try to achieve many things that will help me move towards my future goals. I’m not ready to let go of my long-term goals and I still dream of making a big difference in the world. I just can’t let my focus only be on the future because I’m losing out on enjoying what’s happening in my life right now.

Needing to be Valuable

I’ve had a tough few weeks. I got flu in May and then again last week. But I’m talking so nasty that you struggle to get out of bed and function at all. My two children were sick at the same time and needed a lot of care. I took them both to the doctor and had to administer medication every few hours for a week. My nanny also developed the flu and I was on my own with the kids for a few days.

valuable

I got so angry once I had enough energy. I am tired of being sick and I want to move forward with my career and my life. I know that our lives are exactly the way we created them so I began worrying about whether I’m making myself sick in order to avoid something. Perhaps it’s success, receiving opportunities or something else.

I recently had a meeting with a fellow networker who, on finding out what I have to offer, said “Is that it?” That didn’t do me a lot of good. I started to wonder, is that all I have to offer? What else do I have that’s useful and valuable for the world? I felt small and sad and I doubted this journey I’m on, my purpose and what I’m doing with my life.

Suffering from burnout had a big impact on me. When I got sick, I struggled with my self-concept. All my life, I defined myself by my work. I was a business analyst, a manager, a leader or a business owner. Once I resigned and could not work, I had a crisis of identity. If I could not work, and provide value to the world with my work, was I even valuable? I thought I’d dealt with these issues and found a way to feel valuable without a job title and a label. But I don’t think I have resolved this.

When this guy asked whether I had anything else to offer, I doubted even the things I do know I have.How come it’s so easy to shake me from my foundation when I’ve worked so hard on my new life? And I know I should work on this and have coaching or healing or something to feel more solid in my own value, but I’m tired of it. I’ve worked on myself so much that I actually just want to get on with living.

This year, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve distributed my books countrywide, I’m doing PR for my book and I’ve done several speeches. I’m spreading my message in a way that I thought was valuable. I’m working on other projects such as an audio book, and my deck of cards. I’ve done quite a few things and taken action to move my career forward.

However, I’m still not earning anywhere near enough money to cover my costs. And it will take years to build up to the point where I can cover them comfortably. I don’t want to spend another few years in debt and worrying about how much I spend on my tyres and my kids’ clothes.  Knowing you’re valuable is one thing, but paying the bills is another.

Last week I got so angry. I’m doing everything I can to further my calling. I can’t wait around any longer to sell more books and find more speaking opportunities. I’m just done. I’m so done with all this hope and belief. And I feel like a fraud to you, my readers. I feel like I can’t build the happy, successful life I’ve been talking about for years. Sure, I’ve had moments of pure unadulterated joy but it’s moments. That doesn’t feed my family.

So, I’m looking for a job. I’m hoping to do some consulting and to enter the workforce again. At first, I felt sad and disappointed that I could not make my dream work. I felt like a fraud, that I’ve misled my followers. And a fool for hoping to make money off writing and speaking.

But, after some thought, I’ve realized that it can take years to establish my own brand, and maybe I can earn some money in the meantime. Perhaps I can influence others in the workplace to find more happiness in their lives. Perhaps working is a way to reach more people with my message. Perhaps it will also make me feel more valuable which is better for me, and my family.

valuable

Following my passion and getting a job might not be mutually exclusive. Maybe, this is what the next step looks like towards living my best life possible. I can still write and I”ll probably be able to sell more books because I’ll be interacting with more people. I’ve put together my resume and I”m applying for jobs. I know it will be scary to re-enter the workplace after a few years off, but I’ll probably enjoy the work and the people. Hold thumbs for me.

Some things are Hard to Accept

I went to a talk this week about the adrenal glands: how to test for, and treat dysfunction. I suffered a burnout which began with my adrenal glands. Colloquially, this is called adrenal fatigue but the more correct medical diagnosis is HPA Axis Dysregulation. The most noteworthy symptom is chronic fatigue which was my biggest hurdle. The malfunction in my adrenals, which I didn’t address in time, led to the development of an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland which I will carry for life.

adrenal

The talk was delivered by a doctor who has a masters of functional medicine. He has intensive knowledge into how the body works, not only one system as a conventional specialist will have, but all systems. Functional medicine is a field that aims to restore balance to the body. It aims to treat the root cause and to address a holistic view of the person, including lifestyle.

Conventional medicine seems to treat the adrenals like a unicorn. The glands, which reside on the top of the kidneys, are largely igored by most practitioners, even some endocrinologists who specialize in the endocrine system. I’m so confused about this and I find it intensely frustrating that in modern lifestyles, plagued with stress and stress-related illnesses, that conventional medicine is ignoring the very organ releasing the stress hormone, cortisol. It makes no sense at all to me.

I have been treated by a homeopath for many years. My homeopath knew that something was not right with my adrenals and she offered me supplements to assist me. She was the one who took blood tests which indicated my thyroid malfunction, and initiated my diagnosis and treatment. My general practitioner, or physician, sent me to a surgeon when she saw the blood test results. The surgeon, having no place to treat an imbalance of hormones in the first place, completely ignored the adrenal function, as if it were totally irrelevant. Not only did he do me a great disservice, but so did the physician who referred me to him.

The doctor doing the talk said, multiple times, that it’s imperative not to treat the thyroid malfunction before addressing the adrenals. That’s exactly what the surgeon did and it took me a year to find the correct practitioner: my endocrinologist. A year after my burnout, I began treatment on the adrenal glands. The speaker also said that the typical recovery period is one to two years, depending on the severity. I took three years to recover. My adrenal function was on the lowest possible reading of the blood tests, after a year of rest at home with  no work and minimal exertion. That told me that the first year of treatment, with the surgeon was ineffective. He may have slowed down my thyroid but he messed up treatment of the larger issue.

I’m not an overly emotional person, but at that talk tears were rolling down my cheeks. I felt heartbroken. I felt cheated and robbed out of a year of my life. And all because of the uninformed actions of medical doctors I put my faith in. If only they knew how incorrect their actions were. If only they knew how they impacted my life, my family and my ability to earn income. My recovery was delayed a year because of the actions of these two people, who simply carry on with their lives in ignorance.

The surgeon was very arrogant. He treated me with disdain when I asked questions about diet. He belittled me for researching possible diagnoses online when my whole life was collapsing and I had to wait for an appointment for six weeks. Frankly, I want to work with a doctor who wants me to be empowered. I’m the one living with my body and health. I’m the only one who knows how bad I’m feeling. I’m so glad I found a doctor who works in collaboration with me, making suggestions and sharing research with me to help me to be healthier.

adrenal

In trying to process this information, I kept telling myself that I needed that extra year. I wrote my book, I researched how to recover and I learnt a great deal. I changed my life in the process and perhaps I needed the full three years for that. But I still found it very hard to accept.I wanted to lash out and tell them what they had done and ask them why they took a year from us. I still feel angry and frustrated at the broken medical profession in this regard. I get so upset to think about the many people currently being bounced around or treated incorrectly, not knowing that there’s a better way.

If you have a serious medical condition, please make sure you are seeing the right kind of specialist. Also ensure that they have the attitude of supporting and empowering you to be well by a variety of interventions: medication, lifestyle, diet, exercise and supplements. If you have doubts or questions, getting a second opinion is always a good idea.

The Journey is Important Too

I haven’t written this blog in almost a month and I’m sorry to let you down. Sometimes I worry about what to write as life is so ‘normal’ now. I exercise regularly, I work a full day and I have enough energy to look after my family. I don’t ever want to take it for granted and I want to celebrate just how amazing it is that I can live a normal life.

journey

I’ve been thinking back to how things were when I first withdrew from work to recover from my burnout. I didn’t know what was happening at the time and if I’d known, I would have been devastated that it would take three years to recover. Something that I’ve realized is that the journey wasn’t all bad.

It’s not great to be unable to earn income for three years. It was hard not to be the kind of wife and mother I wanted to be. There was a lot of grappling with who I am and what I’m supposed to do with my life. There was suffering and struggle and I wouldn’t wish the process on anyone. But it was an important period in my life.

In this time I fell in love with positive psychology. Not being able to do much, I was able to read and I read about 30 books on the science of happiness and related concepts. I learnt how to convert my life from an unhappy one into one filled with joy. I read the theory and I practiced each concept in my own life. I kept the ones that resonated and abandoned the ones that didn’t. But I emerged a much happier and more fulfilled person.

I also wrote my book, Avoiding Burnout, during this time. In knowing that I had to align my work with flow, I discovered the joy that writing brought me. I immersed myself into writing this blog and the book. I delivered something I can be proud of. It was only the beginning and now I am working on my next book, Healing Burnout.

I worked on my public speaking and I joined Toastmasters to improve my speaking skills. I met some amazing people and was able to grow as a speaker in such a supportive environment. This week I’m achieving my advanced (bronze) status as a Toastmaster and I’m so pleased to reach this milestone. I didn’t expect for my speaking to feed my writing and my writing to feed my speaking. I’ve spoken at many events in the past few months and I’m so enjoying spreading my message and meeting interesting people.

I now write for an online human capital publication, called Talent Talks. I write regularly and I enjoy having the deadline and producing work on a regular basis. I have made a roster for myself to deliver articles for LinkedIn and social media posts to promote my book and my speaking.

I now have a publicist who should start promoting my book very soon. I have a distributor who is busy spreading my book to all local book stores. I have ensured my eBook is available on Amazon and other online retailers. My paperback is also available on Amazon in many countries.

I am now printing a second edition of my book since I’m running very low on stock. I’ve worked hard to get my website to a place where it is functioning and to facilitate the purchase of my book for local readers. I’ve received wonderful reviews on my book and I’m making difference in people’s lives. I’ve inspired people to work on their happiness, to follow their dreams and to live a better life.

Promoting myself and my book is hard work. I enjoy it and I love targeting new audiences and expanding my reach. I’m doing a lot of networking and that is highly rewarding. After spending years recovering on my own at home, it’s such a treat to be able to connect with others and to be well enough to attend meetings.

Recently, I’ve registered a company so that I can invoice as a business and formalize my offerings. I’ve worked on my brand and I have beautiful branded bags and aromadough to offer with my gorgeous logo (the phoenix, of course) on the front. I’ve had such fun putting these things together and I’m so geared up for exposure and sales that the publicity should bring.

Sometimes I get despondent that I’m working so hard and the revenue is not following. It takes a tremendous amount of perseverance and hard work to make a new business and brand successful. It’s a good thing that my top signature strength is perseverance! I know that I’m effectively a start up. I’m now transforming from an author into a business owner. A few years ago I didn’t think I’d ever be a business owner again after the bad experience I had previously. But here I am, ready to take the world by storm.

Starting something new and reinventing yourself takes time and it takes courage. I’m completely sure that this is the right path for me and that I’m doing all the right things. It’s sometimes hard to retain this strong conviction in the face of the naysayers but I’m forging ahead and I’m confident that I’ve done all that I can do towards living my best life possible.

journey

We are often in such a hurry to get to the destination. To be an expert speaker. To be a best selling author. But there are such gems along the way that it’s a shame to miss them. Today I’m celebrating the special journey of recovery and how many wonderful experiences I had and the opportunities for learning along the way.

I know it sounds like a big cliché but the journey is so important. It’s vital for us to remember that the destination is an illusion. There are goals to strive for, but as soon as we get there, we make bigger and scarier goals. This is of course a great thing to do and we gain much hope and happiness from intrinsic goals. However, the growth along the way, the journey, is where the magic happens.

The Power of Now

I’m reading Eckhardt Tolle’s The Power of Now and it has created a greater awareness in me of how little I am mindful in my day. I try hard to meditate regularly but meditation is one of the first things to fall away when I’m busy. It’s a shame because the days when I meditate tend to go much smoother than other days.

Now

I’m on holiday at the moment and I haven’t been well. I ate something questionable last week and my digestive system is not coming right. I know what steps to follow in normal circumstances but being away has made that impossible. I keep feeling terribly sorry for myself. It is a huge struggle to travel to small towns and to maintain a gluten free diet. I make the best choices possible but it’s not easy. And now I have spent over a week barely eating anything for fear of making myself sicker. It’s so frustrating watching others enjoy delicious meals. I suppose there’s a silver lining in there somewhere in that I won’t eat any gluten by mistake if I’m not eating anything!

I went into analysis mode, trying to figure out why this is happening. Is this a punishment? No, that’s stupid. Is there a lesson here? If so, I just can’t see it. I thought about the metaphysical side of a digestive disturbance: what can’t I stomach or let go of? No idea. I went to the chakras: the stomach is the source of power. How am I feeling powerless or giving away my power? On holiday, I know I can’t control my time much and I’m at the mercy of my kids and their relentless demands on me but that’s every holiday, why should this be different?

On holiday I miss the solitude of my sanctuary and the peace I feel there. I miss the silence and the chance to organize my thoughts. It occurred to me how ridiculous it is to read a book on mindfulness surrounded by the mayhem of young children. They talk constantly, they fight and they ask for things (especially from me). As soon as they see me, they all of a sudden feel hungry. They still seem to need so much help and monitoring. We’re in a water-scarce area so I keep reminding them to save water, to share a cubicle for a single flush and to wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Things like that seem to take up so much of my energy and it makes me wonder if this is how I lose my power.

How do I solve it? I have no idea. It’s important to have a well-functioning digestive system as it is the heart of the immune system. Having an autoimmune disease means that my immune system is already taking strain and now it has been fighting bacteria for over a week. I’m taking probiotics (intensive rescue) now that we are in semi-civilized society again. Beyond that I’m at a loss of how to recover from this and it has seriously affected my enjoyment of the holiday. It’s hard to relish experiences when you haven’t eaten for a week. I feel weak and I’m missing food.

In the Power of Now, Tolle constantly talks about the fact that there is no problem. Problems come from worry about the future or ruminating on the past. In the present moment, you simply handle what’s coming up. You always have and you always will. I’ve found this difficult to cope with in my present condition. I’m worrying about how this crisis affects my thyroid and I can already see that my eyes are puffy, often a sign that my thyroid is suffering. I’m wondering how long it will take for my system to recover. If I’m not on top form, how will I be able to work? Will I struggle with fatigue and battle to meet the commitments I’ve made for the coming weeks?

These worries are pretty normal and it’s difficult to set them aside but I do agree that they don’t help anything and they probably contribute to more stress which is not good for me. I’m trying hard to enjoy each moment and to make the most of the time away. It’s very frustrating that this holiday was not so enjoyable for me, however. I looked forward to it a lot since the past few months have been very busy.

On the positive side, I have now registered a business so that I can transform from an author into a business owner. I have also just secured a publicist and distributor so that I can ensure my book is in all book stores country wide and that I build awareness to a greater audience. These three actions will hopefully have a big impact on my quest to spread my message about avoiding burnout to as many people as possible. They are significant as part of my calling and I feel like it would have been a great time to have a rest and celebrate solid actions towards my future.

Now

Last night it occurred to me while reading the book that I have spent much of the past three years waiting to recover from burnout. Waiting is not a great state to be in and it detracts from the moment we are currently in. I have healed in chunks over time and all the interventions I’ve tried have made a great difference. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the current moment when feeling so fatigued that I could not work or function like everyone else can. But I’m now (barring my food poisoning stint) at a stage of health and function that I can enjoy the moment. I need to remind myself to stop striving for some future state of success. It’s important to have goals but it’s equally important to savour now.

Perhaps in time I’ll understand why I’ve spent the entire holiday running to the bathroom and missing out on meals with my family. For now, I simply have to make the most of each moment and remember that I am moving forward towards my dreams. That is enough to make me happy.