Facing the Fear of Fruition

A while ago I wrote about how I was so frustrated with the waiting for my book to be finished. I know that patience is a virtue but I wasn’t blessed with a lot of patience. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease caused by stress two and a half years ago. It has taken me that long to recover. I have been without income and the confidence that comes with it for a long time. Finally, I want my hard work to come to fruition. I want my suffering to be worth something.

On the other hand, I do like things to be right and it’s important to me to honour my own qualities. I have perfectionistic tendencies that I regularly grapple with. I notice my children getting upset with themselves for making mistakes and I know exactly where that comes from.

fruition

I found two mistakes in the printer’s proof, the rough draft of my book. I wrestled with what to do about it. If I did the printer’s proof again, I needed to pay for it and wait another few weeks. I have an impending trip overseas that makes me feel that everything needs to be resolved beforehand. In the end, I decided to proceed with the two errors and just to be content with the book anyway.

Maybe I was trying to send myself a message that mistakes are okay. Or to let my readers know that I am indeed human and fallible but still worth something anyway. My oldest daughter was horrified that I sent the book out into the world with two known errors. I told her that I’m only human and that I make mistakes. It doesn’t make the book bad.

To be honest with myself, I went ahead with the print because I just couldn’t wait for my new life any longer. Now I’m regretting the decision, feeling uncomfortable about the end product’s feel of quality. I’m also wondering how authentic I’ve been in fighting my perfectionism. I’m all about authenticity and I went ahead and published something with mistakes in it. Is that really me?

My publisher is going ahead with creating the eBook and the release is imminent. And all of a sudden, I feel like finding excuses to halt the book going out into the world. Why would that be after all this frustration? I’ve also noticed my hip flexor muscles (iliopsoas) being really tight and shaky during yoga. In looking up their connection with emotions, it relates to a fear of the future. Why would I fear this future that I’ve been so eager to welcome?

Along with my book being released into the world, my personal stories come along for the ride. My childhood experiences, my relationships with my parents, siblings and husband are now being examined by strangers. It’s a scary feeling although I know it’s a necessary part of telling my story. I know that being honest and vulnerable is part of my brand. I feel naked and exposed now that my personal life is about to become public. My worst parenting moments, my failures and mistakes will be read by many, some strangers, some not. I’m not sure which is worse.

fruition

But, I do need to make peace with this part of the process. I need to trust that this is the first step in my life as a writer. My genre is non-fiction and I like to share my stories in the hope that they help other people. I can’t be someone I’m not. I can’t pretend to like writing fiction because it’s not true.

Before I had a chance to take a breath, I feel like my destiny is unfolding like a tsunami. There’s no stopping it now. Warts and all, errors or no errors, it’s happening. I have mixed feelings of sheer excitement one moment, and paralyzing fear the next. Perhaps it’s a good thing I’m going on holiday for three weeks. Whatever happens in my absence must simply happen and I’ll be relaxing with my family and waiting to see how the world receives my work.

Addressing the Underlying Cause

This week I had a meeting with my eight-year-old’s teacher. My child is doing well, understanding all the work which is reflected in the results of her tests. However, her teacher said that she’s lethargic and her pace is slow. She asked for a neurological assessment. What’s she’s really saying is that she wants me to drug my child.

underlying

To be honest, I’m appalled. I’m horrified that she didn’t ask if there’s something emotional happening that might be distracting her. I’m amazed that she didn’t ask about her overall health, how much sleep she’s getting or her diet. Her first call for action is to seek mind altering drugs. Is there anyone else who feels that’s unacceptable?

Two years ago, another teacher said the same thing. I asked for my child to see the school counselor because I suspected something emotional. Our family was in distress from my burnout and the resultant illness. It turns out that my daughter thought she had caused my illness by her noisy playing. She was carrying an enormous amount of guilt that was leading her to be distracted. She spent a few hours with the counselor and it was resolved. Her concentration was back and she could continue learning.

I knew my child well enough to know that something was not right. I know my child well enough to know that there’s nothing wrong with her or her brain. I remember how she was doing 100 piece puzzles at four years old. We marveled at how she sat through a ninety minute movie at age two. This is not a child with a brain injury or any dysfunction that would require mind altering chemicals. Last year’s teacher could not stop complementing us on our parenting and this wonderful child of ours.

I prefer to find the underlying cause of a problem so that I can address that instead of putting a band-aid on something I don’t understand. It feels to me that schools have become drug pushers. Some parents take the teacher’s opinion as gospel and follow instruction as if from an authority figure. I am my child’s primary advocate and I know what she needs better than anyone else. My daughter needs me on her side to make sure her best interests are met. She’s counting on me to make decisions that affect her career, health and well-being for decades into the future. The best way I can do that is by getting to the underlying cause of what’s troubling her.

I know this is a heated debate and there are many parents who have seen great improvement in their child’s behavior since medicating them. I understand that everyone must make the right decisions for their families. I just hope that every parent takes the time and effort to understand the underlying cause before making such a radical decision. We live in busy times where we want instant gratification but instant solutions are rarely the right ones.

It’s so clear to me from my experience of illness that conventional medicine only knows how to medicate. Doctors are merely trained to match the illness with the drugs. In the same way, if you visit a surgeon, they recommend surgery. If you visit a psychiatrist, they recommend drugs and if you visit a psychologist, they recommend therapy.

I see it as a great blessing that I found a specialist who advocates lifestyle change as the main treatment for my auto immune disease. I also feel blessed that I have experienced this major health collapse and through it found the gift of functional medicine. It focuses on finding the underlying cause of illness and addressing that. In so doing, the body can return to its natural, healthy state. I’m so lucky that I found it before the teachers convinced me to drug my child.

My daughter has a range of minor issues in her body that are easy to fix with natural medicines. It will take approximately four to six weeks until her body is restored to full health. That will allow her to function properly and to concentrate. Even in the past 24 hours, her energy levels are up and she is so much more buoyant. If I had not found functional medicine, I might have been convinced to put my child on medication that would affect her brain function, her personality and that she might never be able to stop without serious consequences.

I’ve also taken her for an independent assessment with a psychometrist who can advise whether she requires occupational therapy or any other remedies in the emotional sphere in order to support her. I really feel that the schools are far too quick to push drugs on parents as a suitable solution before investigating further.

I know parents are only able to do the best for their child as per their knowledge at the time. Five years ago I might also have taken the teacher’s advice as the right thing to do. It’s my experiences that have enabled me to fight for my child better. It was a combination of my own health collapsing, conventional medicine failing me and finding functional medicine that helped me be a better parent. I am her biggest champion and I’m doing the best I can, as we all are, to help her to thrive.

underlying

Until she is a parent, my daughter won’t know how difficult it is to make these decisions or how much we worry about her. I hope in ten or twenty years time that she understands that everything I’ve done for her is to support her health and to give her the chance to be the best person possible.

It’s okay that other parents think I’m flaky or weird for my approach that is non-conventional. My child will thank me in future when her peers aren’t thriving. My child will have her personality, her health and her passions in tact. And that is worth all the resistance from school, teachers and parents. My daughters have put their lives and well-being in my hands and I won’t let them down.

The Frustration of Waiting and Waiting

I’m waiting for my book to arrive from the printer so that I can check for any mistakes or issues before we print. It is an excruciating wait. I so enjoyed the writing part, but there is an enormous amount of frustration in the remaining processes of writing a book. There is a lot of waiting.

Waiting

Waiting for the editor, back and forth many times, waiting for layout, waiting for proof reading, waiting for the printer. As a major source of income I am so anxious to get this book out into the world. With all this waiting, it feels as if my life is on hold.

I know it’s not optimal to spend time thinking about the future instead of enjoying the present. I know this intellectually but I really want this book to be finished. I am a big fan of efficiency so for me, unnecessary waiting is really painful. I want to hold my book in my hands, and feel the reality of my new life in the 212 pages. I want to show people and to be able to sell it. I want to feel legitimate about calling myself a writer. I want to move forward.

This is an important milestone for me. It’s a symbol of the fact that I am no longer who I was before I got sick. This is the ‘after’. This is Kathy post-burnout. It is something real that makes the suffering worth it. And I can’t wait anymore. I just want it to happen so that I can move into my new life and career with enthusiasm and joy.

I don’t want to be the burnt-out business owner anymore. I don’t want to be the sick person who is too tired to do anything. I want to be the energetic writer who rose from the ashes of burnout. The phoenix who overcame. I want to live this new life I’ve created for myself instead of waiting for it to happen.

For me, the completed book, available for people to purchase is the proof that you can live the life you want. You can change your life for the better, even late in life. You can find and connect with a passion that has lain dormant in you your entire life. You can shake off all the expectations and obligations that other people place on your shoulders. You can break free of people and situations that break you down and hold you back. You can soar like the eagle you are. It is possible for all of us and I want to demonstrate that to the world.

Waiting

But instead I wait. I wait again and again for the symbol of this new life to be finished and ready. Perhaps I’m being ridiculous and should just be content focusing on what I’m doing now. I’m working on marketing and branding for me and my book. I’m working on the cards that are an accompaniment for the book and also a product in their own right. I’m knocking off everything possible on my personal to do list in the meantime. But it’s boring.

I’m going on holiday in a few weeks time and it looks like my book will not be ready by the time I go. So perhaps the 300 copies will arrive at my house while I’m away and I’ll have to wait a few more weeks for that moment of holding my completed book in my hands for the first time. What lessons am I learning from all this waiting? I’m really irritated and frustrated at a time when I thought I’d be thrilled that the work is done and the book is on its way.

Of course I’m also terrified that the rough copy arrives with mistakes and it takes me back a few stages to correct them. That will add a few weeks to the process and I’ll be devastated. I’m really hoping with everything I have that the book is perfect and that I can just give the go-ahead to print.

Perhaps this frustration is a sign that I’m ready for my new life and career. Maybe this shows just how far I’ve come in terms of energy. I’m no longer content with afternoon naps and hanging around waiting to get better. To be honest, I was never content with that, but this has reached a new level of frustration.

I’ve read that the level of happiness we experience for something we have anticipated for a long time tends to be high. Hopefully, the happiness I feel holding my book for the first time will make all this waiting worthwhile.

Relish the Quiet Times

I’ve entered a very strange and quiet period in my life. I’d say my recovery from burnout is more or less complete. I have figured out my calling and selected a path that is aligned with my strengths and talents. I’ve become a writer and I’ve written a book. My rough draft, which is referred to as a printers proof, is with the printer and on its way. I have one last chance to check for errors and then we are ready for print.

It seems like time is going so slowly, however, in this time while I wait for printing. I’d prefer to arrange speaking engagements when I have the book on hand to sell as to maximise the opportunity to sell the book. So this period of waiting is very strange. After years of recovery, I’m finally well enough to be working but I’m not very busy.

Quiet

In the few years it took for me to recover, I often felt that I really wanted to clean out the cupboards in my house but I lacked the energy. Now, I’m tackling a room or a cupboard every few days. It is a rewarding experience. I bought a few clear plastic containers to aid in this process and I must say I feel a great sense of accomplishment when the cupboards are clean, free of clutter and organised. I’m telling myself that this is the time to do it because life might become very busy once my book is published.

Occasionally I have this feeling of panic and guilt. Why is my inbox so empty? Why is no-one calling me? Why are the opportunities drying up? I have this voice in my head telling me that I should be working. In talking myself out of the panic, I realise that I have not been actively chasing many opportunities lately because I’ve been focussing on the final stages my book. Also, I have to keep reminding myself that what I’m doing is work. Sometimes I feel guilty that I’m enjoying what I do in the day so much that it cannot be work.

I wrote recently about my idea for a deck of cards that accompany the book and I am having great fun working on them. It’s a chance to be creative every day and it’s actually work, which is awesome. My brain starts to get lost in the worries about the next steps. Who will help me with the box and the graphics? How much will it cost to print? How will I get it to look professional and not home made?

It’s really hard to stay in the moment and to appreciate what is happening right now. For years before my burnout I was so unhappy. For years of recovery, I was so frustrated about not being able to do the things I longed to do. And now, here I am, with enough energy to do many things in a day, including a hard yoga class. I’m clear on my life purpose, I love my family and home and I’m doing the work I love. I’m also weeks away from achieving a lifelong dream.

I have to keep reminding myself to slow down and to appreciate the moment. I need to remember to celebrate small things like the fact that I can clean out a cupboard without feeling exhausted. In the wait for printing, I’m spending more time meditating and trying to truly appreciate this time of quiet. I have no doubt that at some point in the future, I’ll look back and wish for days as quiet as I have now.

Sometimes, even if we are enjoying ourselves, we let our worries interfere with the moment. I’m letting my worries about waiting for the book, being idle and the logistics of the cards get in the way of the great progress I have made. I keep reminding myself that this is good and that all I need to do is to focus on the next step. Once the book is printed, I can get going on promoting it. Once the cards are finished, I will be able to find the help I need to take it forward.

quiet

Mindfulness is about focussing on the current moment and not worrying about the past or future. It’s something I have to work on at this time of quiet as I prepare to embark on this great new career I’ve created. All the pieces are falling into place and I have faith that the path ahead will be filled with excitement, fun and a challenge or two.

Are you celebrating the progress you’ve made or focussing on your current frustrations? Are you so worried about the future that you’re not enjoying the present? Are you able to enjoy the quiet moments without panic and guilt?

The Fight for Happiness is Real

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m passionate about living a life you love, about following your passion and being authentic. After my burnout, I took a long time to figure out what my passion was, even though the clues were there all along.

With some recovery and reflection I became a writer. I didn’t wait for my book to be published for me to call myself a writer. My new profession became clear and I didn’t need to wait for external validation to change my job title. In fact, it’s much more than a job title, it’s a calling. I felt compelled to write the book and I’m clear that there are people who can benefit from my message.

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I wrote about the unadulterated joy that I’ve started to experience as I get closer to fulfilling a lifelong dream of publishing a book. This joy has been marred by last-minute obstacles as I reach the end of this journey of getting my message into the world. It is a reality that there is a lot of struggle and suffering along the way to success. Living your passion can be rewarding but it’s not all plain sailing. There are challenges and circumstances that get in the way of your dreams and it is imperative that you fight to keep your dreams alive.

It’s possible that people will try to cling to your dreams as their own, or even worse, to sabotage them. When you start to be successful, people may attribute it to luck or their part in the process. In these final challenges I was reminded of Paulo Coelho’s words in The Alchemist:

“The closer he got to the realization of his dream, the more difficult things became.”

There is no-one who truly knows the difficulties I have faced on my way to launching this book. At times it has felt impossible to get my dreams off the ground. But I held the belief and I kept moving towards them. Now I am within weeks of my dreams coming true and I couldn’t be happier.

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I’m not going to let anything or anyone stand in my way. This book is happening and it’s going to feel fantastic for me to launch my work into the world. I truly believe that it will help people not to get as sick as I did, to improve their lives and to identify what’s dragging them down. I hope to help people avoid the depth of illness that I reached and I am certain that the book will have this impact on at least a few people in the world. To help people is a key value of mine and it’s so exciting for me to know that I can have an impact in this way.

I don’t know exactly what opportunities lie ahead but this book is a big part of my future. It is the foundation of my new career and of my dreams becoming reality. One thing I have learnt along the way is that it’s very important to focus on the next step. Don’t obsess about how a new career will unfold – just do the next step. And for me the next step is the final proof before printing. How thrilling to know that my work will be out in the world soon and I’m so ready to fight for it if I have to. My dreams are calling me forward and I’m doing my part to make them real.

Are you letting obstacles in the way of living the life you want? Are you fighting for your dreams? Are you focusing on the next step?

Where did the Pure, Unadulterated Joy come from?

In the past week or so I’ve felt such powerful joy, more pronounced than at any other time of my life. It’s hard to say what has triggered this emotion but one thing is for sure, I want more of it!

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I think much of it has to do with my book nearing completion and releasing the need for final tweaks. I have also had an idea to make cards as an accompaniment to the book, and another method to reach my audience. The cards give me complete license to be creative and to call it work, which is just glorious in itself. I have designed a few of the cards and am completely thrilled with the way they are taking shape.

My advanced Toastmasters manuals arrived in the post this weekend, allowing me the opportunity to refine my public speaking. I will get the chance to practice story telling and professional speaking in the supportive environment of my club. I’m excited to get going and it is thrilling to know I’ll have the chance to grow my skills and my offering further.

Friends have also encouraged me to resurrect my workshops that I started designing last year. They even offered to be a rent-a-crowd if I have to face the embarrassment of no-one signing up. I must say I am truly blessed to have met the people I have met in the past few years on this recovery journey.

It feels like the floodgates of opportunities and ideas have opened and I am now spoilt for choice as to what to work on in a day. I am the kind of person who truly likes to finish what she starts so I know I wont get myself off track or depleted. I know that this work I do doesn’t deplete me, it energises me. This is the way I can tell that I’m on the right path, doing the right work for my personality.

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The way I feel now is that nothing can ruin my day or that nothing can take away my happiness. I have this inner knowing about my career path and the things that I occupy my time with. I don’t need anyone’s approval or for anyone to believe or acknowledge me or my ideas. I know that this is right and that feeling is like hitting the jackpot for me.

This joy overflows onto my family and anyone I encounter in my day. I have so much energy at the moment which is a big deal for me as I recover from burnout. I’m able to tackle things that I didn’t have the energy for, even a few months ago. I am exercising about five days a week, I’m able to look after my children, I am proactively cleaning out cupboards at home, baking and sorting out a lot of undone admin that has been bothering me for a while.

I’m also learning what depletes me and what energises me. I’m more aware of people and situations that I find tiring and I’m scheduling rest afterwards. I’m also steering myself as much as possible towards the things and people that do energise me, so that I can maintain these high levels of energy. I might in fact be operating just like everyone else for the first time in many years. It just feels like I’m on rocket fuel because of the utter collapse of my energy during my illness.

I’m sorry that I can’t offer a recipe for joy to others as the process of getting here has been complicated and convoluted. Perhaps this is a subject of a book or another blog post once I have had some time to digest and to unpack this joy. For now, I’m just reveling in it and doing all the things I know to be right for me at this time.

The Excitement of a New Idea

I haven’t written this blog for a while, and I wish I could say that it’s because I’m so busy working. The truth is that I’ve been quite worried and stuck about my career lately. My book is getting close to completion and it’s in the final layout stages. The lifelong dream I have had about writing a book is very close to being realised.

So why have I felt so stuck? I haven’t managed to secure any speaking opportunities lately. There are many opportunities to speak but very few are paid opportunities. I have felt despondent and that perhaps there are some subconscious blocks to earning income. Am I sabotaging myself? I do know that I’ve been holding back a bit since I’d prefer to have the book complete when I perform speeches. It’s far better to have the book ready and to use the opportunity to promote it. But this waiting is excruciating.

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I have also perhaps been a bit scared about what life looks like with a lot of opportunities. Will I jump in head first and forget to care for myself? Will I set my recovery  backwards if I take on too much? How will I say no after all this time of not earning income?

I caught a nasty case of the flu last week from my children. The three of us were sick and it was so difficult to care for them, while I was feeling awful. It reminded me of how far I’ve come with my recovery from burnout. And what things were like when I had no energy to look after them properly.

I love routine. I’ve created a few rituals before I start my day, in order to promote creativity and to help me to feel calm. I love my life and my family and I wouldn’t want things to change much (just the income part). So when I got sick, I just threw the routine out of the window. I abandoned everything and just looked after myself and the kids. I made recovery a priority, much like the past few years.

I actually found it quite liberating. I felt a little more free and I’ve been shaking things up ever since. This idea of making a deck of cards to accompany my book, has emerged from a few sources and I had abandoned it previously. I recently got advice to resurrect the cards. It has given me something to work on while I wait for my book to be ready. It is an opportunity to be creative and to make something that I can sell to earn income.

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It’s so great to have direction and to feel excited about something. This morning, I simply could not wait to get to work in my sanctuary. I could not wait to put my ideas down and to figure out how I’m going to bring them to the world. This is how I think work should feel. I didn’t want to come inside last night and cook dinner – I just wanted to keep working on the cards.

As nasty as that flu was, it helped me in a way. I am completely relishing being back at yoga and am super grateful for the ability to exercise. I really missed that when I was very ill. The routine shake up probably created a shift for me and helped me to find direction towards something greatly rewarding.

What could you do to shake things up in your life and break thorugh blocks? Are there ways you could bring more joy into your life that you are not acting on?

Surrender and Acceptance

The concept of acceptance keeps coming up for me. I’m reading Byron Katie’s Loving What Is to learn about greater acceptance and the unhappiness that comes from wishing for things and people to be different.

Acceptance

My experience of burnout and the years I have spent recovering have taught me a lot. One of the things I have learnt is to surrender. I am an A-type personality who has spent my life people-pleasing, worrying about what others think of me and fighting to affect the changes I’d like to see. And I have been unhappy for most of my working life. Certainly, there were very happy times and I have great memories of the experience and the people from my corporate past.

But the things that made me unhappy were bureaucratic hurdles, lack of support and strong leadership, unkind behaviors in the interest of furthering careers etc. My corporate life and that of a business owner were not that different. Although as an owner, I got to make all the decisions, I still encountered toxic people, resistance, sabotage and poor performance. So much struggle and frustration led to a great deal of unhappiness in those years.

The past two and a half years recovering, however, feel very different. There was still a great deal of frustration with the length of time it takes to recover and the inability to achieve goals. But I also found a lot more joy. I focused my attention on recovery and that meant that I intentionally found flow. I also include things in my day that contribute to happiness such as creative pursuits.

Acceptance

I learnt to surrender into the time it would take for me to be well enough to work. I learnt to accept that it would be years before I could earn income. That was difficult and it took a long time but it was part of my learning. My view is that as long as I’m aligned with my calling (which I’m sure I am), and I’m showing up to do what I can everyday, then I’m doing well.

I also had to learn self-compassion. I had to stop being so hard on myself and to learn to love and accept myself. I cut myself a considerable amount of slack and just tackled what I could each day. Some setbacks meant that I did very little with my day. And other times, I made great strides on my book, speeches or other networking opportunities. As long as I stay on track and I do my best, the rest will fall into place at the right time.

I’ve learnt to trust in a force greater than myself. I’ve learnt that trying to control things all the time is exhausting and is also not possible. I’ve found the joy in surrender and acceptance of what is happening right now and to sink into it fully. I’ve learnt to feel what I’m feeling and to stop avoiding it. I’ve learnt to be gracious about receiving and I’ve learnt to use gratitude to foster happiness.

My life is not perfect and some days I still get angry and grumpy. But overall I’m a far happier person now than I was before I got sick. I think a large part of that has been the ability to surrender and to be present, soaking up what is occurring around me at this very moment. Not wishing for the future, wanting to change the past or feeling bored. Just enjoying the now.

How I Feel like an Alien

I’m recovering from burnout and changing career paths so some weeks are quiet and some are full. When I do a lot or get very stressed, I need to make time to recover so that I don’t get too depleted. This week I’ve taken some steps towards my future. I’ve done a YouTube video interview to be published soon, a few final edits of my book and I attended a networking function. It’s a busy week by my current standards and situation.

alien

I’m struggling with feelings of inadequacy and being unsure of myself at the moment. Someone told me my dreams are not realistic this week and the networking function was disappointing. I so look forward to these opportunities and often I feel deflated afterwards.

At the networking function, I sat at a table with someone who has already rejected me for a speaking opportunity. I felt uncomfortable in her presence and my confidence was really low. Another woman spoke about how she believes that the only person to see her at her worst must be her. She feels she needs to look beautiful and perfect, even for her immediate family! Considering the path I have followed, I felt like an alien in that conversation.

The burnout I experienced shook me to my core. It stripped me of all delusions of grandeur based on qualifications, job title or appearance. I had terrible hair for months that I ended up cutting myself because I was too exhausted to go out. My medication gave me acne. I put on weight from my thyroid gland being medically slowed down. I dealt with many issues around self-worth, self concept and confidence over the past two years.

I had to learn to love and accept myself despite looking ugly, feeling terrible and worthless. I feel like I have walked through a dark tunnel of flames and out the other side to find everything and everyone is different. I suffered for years approaching burnout and not knowing what was about to happen. I suffered for years in recovery and now as I emerge at the other side, why do I still have to struggle so much? Why does it feel so lonely? When will I get my moment, my time to shine when things just go my way?

alien

To survive all of this I had to develop a strong sense of self belief. I had to turn away from that negativity, look myself in the mirror and learn to love the person there no matter how she looks or what she does for a living. I cannot tell you how hard it has been for me to get to where I am now. And still, I’m shaken by a bit of cynicism. It’s hard to change your entire life, to live your dream, to be honest about what it is and to defend it from critics. The critic in my own head is loud enough, why must there be others?

How much more hustle is required to get to a place of success where others can understand what I’m doing? I look into a future where people say ‘Oh, I see what you were doing and I get it now.’ It feels so uncomfortable for me to be so very different from the people I’m interacting with. Where do I find a tribe of people who also believe that it’s possible to live the life you want? Maybe they’re in some forest somewhere dancing around a cauldron or maybe they live among us and are too scared to speak up for fear of being ridiculed.

I know that I’m different. I know that my ideals are not understood and appreciated by many. I know that my Enneagram results show me to be a disruptor, a reformer. I understand that starting a revolution is hard work but does it have to feel so lonely and isolating? Please can someone stand by my side and tell me that I’m not crazy for wanting to enjoy my life and my work? Please help me to feel less like an alien.

Supporting Loved Ones through Loss

There are some disadvantages to a life-changing experience. My burnout and associated autoimmune disease changed me in many ways and opened my eyes to things I didn’t realise or know before. One of these insights is that current relationships no longer work for us. The reaction of friends and loved ones to my illness showed me the health of my life in general and in particular, my relationships.

The people I thought were close friends were not there for me when I needed help. The people we see often and share special occasions with, completely misunderstood my illness and ignored it. Often people don’t know what to say or how to help when a friend or loved one becomes chronically ill. At first they ask questions and seem interested but as the years pass they stop asking and make their own assumptions about recovery and what’s happening.

Loss

I’ve just finished reading Brené Brown’s book I Thought it was Just Me. The book contains outcomes of her research studies into women and shame. She identified twelve categories of shame, which are: appearance and body image, motherhood, family, parenting, money and work, mental and physical health, sex, aging, religion, being stereotyped and labelled, speaking out and surviving trauma.

The most interesting for me was surviving trauma. She found that survivors of rape and assault felt that people treated them differently and it was difficult for them to just have a normal life. The reasons for people moving away were that they didn’t want to accept that bad things happen to people they know or people like them.

“Just by associating with them, we could either end up in the same “other” pile or be forced to acknowledge that bad things happen to people like us.” ~ Brene Brown

I’ve experienced something similar with burnout. I always thought burnout happens to other people, you know, weak people and people who can’t handle stress. Not me. And then it did. I know that I’m not weak. I have run 89km in one day so I can’t be that weak.

Sheryl Sandberg, the author of Lean In lost her husband Dave in 2015. She learnt a lot from the experience of profound grief and shared these lessons in her book Option B.  Many people feel uncomfortable around those suffering from loss and grief. They don’t know what to say or do, and they ask what they can do to help. Sandberg advises us to rather do something instead of putting the burden on the griever.

I think that’s an excellent suggestion and I was at the receiving end of a kindness like that when I was really sick. I have a friend who arrived on a weekend when my husband was away to look after my kids while I slept. That was a really kind thing to do and it helped me a lot at a time when I was really struggling. Some people I saw as an acquaintance were eager to help while those who I thought were close friends just avoided my illness altogether.

It was helpful to see the true value of friendships in this way. Those who supported me and continued to offer help and an ear, are the people I’d like in my life. Those who failed to ask how I’m managing or how I’m coping are not close to me. I understand that they might just not have known what to do or how to help but I can’t help feeling disconnected from them now.

For me, burnout was filled with loss and I had to grieve the life and person I was before. I lost my ability to work and earn income for a few years. My identity was tightly coupled with my work and when I lost that, my self image took a knock too. I lost the ability to run ultra-marathons, a significant part of my life. I lost my health as I will have a disease for the rest of my life. I terminated some relationships in order to survive and I also grieve those, along with all the other things I lost in the process. That’s a lot to deal with and some empathy from those close to me would have gone a long way.

Loss

As we recover, people also expect us to resume life as it once was. But for me, everything has changed. My outlook on life has changed. The way I feel about myself and the people I love has changed. I’m not the Kathy I was three years ago. I’m transformed into a person who has much more knowledge and understanding about illness, compassion and recovery. An experience so profound that it rocks your very identity does not leave you unchanged.

I spend a lot of time public speaking about my burnout experience. It’s difficult for me to know that my audience are potentially seeing me as weak, flawed and not like them. This is my challenge. To connect with them in a way that shows them that I’m not that different and it could happen to anyone. Moving away from people who have suffered won’t protect you from it. Burnout is not contagious, I promise. Showing empathy and listening to what they’re going through while suspending judgment will help in cementing the relationship and bringing you closer.