Burnout, 2018

Being sick and rendered completely incapacitated for over a week has been a blessing. I’ve had the opportunity to do some serious soul-searching, to dig way down deep and own the truth of this breakdown.

Determination to find external validation over the past 3-years has led me to say yes to many things that didn’t serve me, such as working 7-days/week with no time-off, stepping in to cover classes at the last minute, cancelling plans with friends to accommodate work, taking on projects that were outside of my responsibilities, doing volumes of unpaid work and answering calls/texts in the middle of the night. In spite of the mountain of stress I was carrying, I kept taking on more and more because I wanted to make myself indispensable. This is how I processed my grief. This is how I avoided my grief.

Proud of my stamina and ability to go above and beyond, I disregarded all signs of burnout. Instead, I learned to endure. I felt a sharp shot of adrenaline whenever I worked harder, longer or more. There was no pause button; I couldn’t relax because I had to prove myself. I needed to prove my worth, my value and my right to exist in this space. My perfectionism kicked into overdrive; I micro-checked every single detail, I became frantic over things that were beyond my control and I felt like an extreme failure if I couldn’t deliver what I believed was an impeccable product. Being good wasn’t good enough and mistakes were intolerable. I created an illusion of super-functionality, but inside, I was suffocating.

What if I gave myself the permission to soften? To let my self-imposed push to shift softly back to 90%. Perhaps, that would leave some space for the contribution of the extra 10% to come from the forces of nature, to come from friends and colleagues that are eager to help. This doesn’t mean that I need to stop striving or lower my standards, just open myself up to trusting the notion that I’ll be okay no matter what. Trusting that it’s okay to process my grief, to go through it and feel every single emotion, no matter how painful.

Our bodies are always trying to tell us when things are not quite right. It may bubble up as feelings of anxiety or in other physical manifestations. When we go at 100%, we leave no room to breathe, for growth, for recovery, for space. Time to make some important changes — to make the decision to say no more often and to put myself first, for the very first time.

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