December Reflections – Day 6 I was challenged by………..

My biggest challenge of 2017 was my health!

 

 

 

This  photo was taken in July 2016 at a meet-up of friends in London. I had been on school holidays for about 3 weeks and was still completely exhausted. I was also 50 pounds overweight, drinking like a fish and feeling dreadful.

 

 

 

   This photo was taken exactly one year later.

When school went back in August 2016 I tried very hard to keep going. Despite all the signs, I was in complete denial about burning out. 3 weeks later, I was back in bed,  3 months later I had to admit to myself I was not going back to school.

Someone asked me today what I did to recover from my burnout.

I did the obvious things like sleep (20 hours a day for a while) and when I had a tiny bit of energy followed a pacing schedule. I sorted out my diet with the help of a fabulous naturopath and started to do some very gentle 5 minute yoga practices.

There were 2 extremely challenging parts :

1. The rigour of the pacing schedule. I had to accept how little I could do in the beginning , 5 minutes activity in an hour, followed by 55 minutes rest. Any more than this caused a worsening of my symptoms. Activity is defined as ANYTHING other than lying in a darkened room with my eyes shut. It was incredibly difficult, mainly because I couldn’t see any improvements at first and thought I was never going to get out of bed.

2. Analysing all the reasons I had got into this state. I had to look at my perfectionist, Type A, high achiever, people pleasing tendencies. I had to be honest with myself and it was very, very uncomfortable. I had to admit that I had done this to myself, I knew it was happening, I had burned out before in the 90s and I knew the signs and I ignored them. I thought I could push my way out of it, but my body was having none of it. In the end , I had to forgive myself and begin treating myself with self-compassion and kindness.

It has been the most challenging year of life and I have learned so much. I have been to the abyss of everything seemingly going wrong and yet, now, sitting here, writing this, I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing.

I have no regrets, now. I am grateful for the experience and I want to use that to support other women who are experiencing some of the signs of burnout. If I can help even one woman avoid that abyss, the experience will not be wasted.

10 signs you may be heading for burnout

Do you relate to this?

Leave me a comment below and let’s connect to see how I can support you.

 

 

 

 

 

I am here

Last year, I lost my career to the much misunderstood illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I was unable to get out of bed for 3 months. It took another 6 months to leave the house. While there was no shortage of well-meaning advice, I still felt alone and misunderstood, longing for someone to say something truly helpful. Finally, during Martha Beck’s writing course, Write into Light, I wrote the words I wish I had heard. Maybe, in the end, all we really need is for someone to be with us exactly as we are.

I AM HERE

I know you cannot believe what has happened. You didn’t deserve this.
Some people will tell you bad things happen to good people, that no-one escapes the suffering. Others will tell you it is all an illusion, some Cosmic game designed to wake you up and enlighten you. Right now, you feel that both perspectives are a crock of shit. Neither helps you in this moment, when the pain is so bad it affects your breathing, when you feel that you can’t go on.

I’ll be honest, I wanted to tell you that there is nothing wrong, that at some soul level, everything is unfolding as it must, that some part of you chose this. That is what I was going to say to you today, but the words stuck in my throat.

So, instead, I will hold your hand. I will make you tea. I will stroke your hair as you cry. I will listen to you as you tell me how life is for you right now. I will not make you wrong for feeling as you feel. I will not try to impose my view of reality onto what I cannot know to be true for you.

I will not leave you alone in your pain. I will not present myself to you as someone who knows anything better than you. You are the authority on your own life. I am done with platitudes and promises of future bliss.

This is where life is happening, here amid the pain, the snot and the disappointments. The broken heart is real, the pain in the body hurts, the grief of losing what you love tears you in two. I will not minimise this in my stories of Fierce Grace and nothing wrong.

Can I just sit with you? Can I just love you exactly as you are?
That is all I have to offer you today.

I cannot fix anything for you, it is not mine to fix. All my words are meaningless now. Perhaps, in your own time, you will find your own words, your own path. Perhaps, not. How could I know?

Today, this is my path: to be with you as you face this unexpected horror that has left you bereft. The only thing I know for sure is that I will no longer reject this moment, no matter what is arising. I will not reject your experience or mine. I will not overlay this present reality with words of encouragement, no matter how well intentioned. I will not tell you how to feel, how to live, how to heal.

I looked into my heart today, for the wisest words I could give to you.

All I found was “I am here”.

 

 

 

 

 

On recovery, being present and hope

The process of recovery has led me to living in the present moment. I have slowed down the planning, scheming monkey mind and wonder what place hope has now.

When my life was spiralling out of control, I had two choices: either sink under the anger and depression that threatened to engulf me or surrender to the reality of my situation.

When I was unable to get out of bed, I wrote this:

“She believed the lie she had been told for most of her life. Be a good girl, work hard, put others first, do your best. Her whole life was built around this lie. She had tried hard to secure her place in the world, to secure their love.

She hid her sadness, her aloneness, her sense of being different and tried to fit in. She presented her happy, helpful, perfectly made-up face to the world as she had been taught to do.

But, one day, a cold wind of change blew through and uprooted her carefully constructed life.

She raged against this injustice “Why me?” she cried. “I don’t deserve this!”, “I always tried so hard”.

Day after day, she tried to rebuild her life. She had all the tools: yoga, meditation, counsellors and advisors, the latest spiritual books. Her constant mantra: “I must try harder”.

But try as she might, she could not go on. Every time she smiled and said, “I am fine, thanks” was another lie. Every downward dog she pushed herself into an affront to her fragile soul.

On the very day she gave up striving, she thought she heard a song. At first, she caught only the softest grace note, but as she began to slow down and listen, she heard the tantalising snippets of an ancient, long-forgotten melody.

“You are loved, just as you are.”

“Nothing to do, nothing to strive for.”

And finally, the one that made the ears of her soul prick up: “Relax and enjoy”.

She took to her bed, unwilling to get up until she had understood. She thought she was going mad, hearing voices in the wind. She decided even madness would be preferable to the constant striving. She wanted to know the truth.

She noticed the light streaming through her bedroom window, the breeze causing the branches on the trees to dance. She saw the birds gliding effortlessly through the sky, the buds on the cherry blossom tree that always appear at Easter. She watched it happening, without effort.

She breathed in and out, and as tears poured down her cheeks, she realised she was being breathed. Each breath was a gift she did nothing to earn.

For the first time, in a lifetime spent trying to achieve, she notices it is enough to lie on her back and watch herself being breathed, watch the trees being blown, the birds being flown, the buds being born.

It is all there is.

It is enough.”

As time passed I was able to get up and slowly, slowly, slowly by listening to my body and the whispers of my soul rebuild my life.

Poet Ntozake Shante wrote:

” I found god in myself

And I loved her

I loved her fiercely”

So, what now, of hope?

A year ago, all my hopes were to be well, to have energy, to get back to my teaching career. All hopes involving pushing myself toward a future imagined by my mind.

I no longer have such hopes. This morning, I am unable to locate any feeling of hope for anything that is not already here.

I cannot control anything in myself or in the world. Everything happens without my consent!

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13

“These three remain

Faith, hope and love

The greatest of these is love”

Perhaps this is the spiritual journey. First, faith in an external God who will save the day, changing us and our world, sorting out the mess we have made.

Then hope, that situations will improve, that we will somehow become the ones we know we could be. And, finally, love, for all of it, for the world in all its beauty and horror, for ourselves and others, in all our messy perfect imperfection.