A dangerous place to be. A dangerous place to be for me, for anyone in fact. Having been there and done that to the extent that I have pushed the body and soul to complete exhaustion, I know the signs when they come. I can feel the creative juices stop flowing, the mind becomes fuzzy, I start to get anxious, tired and start doubting myself.
It is a short-term thing for me now. I know that with a good sleep, a good meal and some time by myself (including some moderate exercise) then I will bounce back, get my ‘Mojo’ back (as someone called it recently) and the spring in my step will return. But when the ‘crash of 2005′ happened to me, it was a biggie. It took years to crawl and claw my way back from a state of total burnout. I had run the body, mind and soul into complete overload. The ‘car had stopped running’ so to speak.
It is like the analogy of upon putting a frog into boiling water , it will immediately hop out, it is not stupid. But if you put the frog into cold water and gradually heat the water until it is boiling then the frog gets boiled alive. This analogy is used to sell us the concept (or fear depending on your point of view) about Global Warming. It is a concept that describes how our mind works. It describes ‘Incremental Creep’ a concept that shows us that in small increments we adjust to a situation with ever more demands on us.
In my case it was incremental creep in my workload at work and at home. In adding incrementally to my life, I had incrementally ‘lost me’. The essence of me had become evermore lost under the day-to-day detritus of keeping up with an enormous workload that took 4 people to take on when I finally collapsed into a heap. Only collapsed into a heap because my doctor ordered me to do so. I kept fighting common sense, kept hiding in the bathroom when I needed to, with pains in my chest that I told myself were nothing. Kept believing that the endless headaches would go away, that the sore throat that I was suffering from for weeks to a point that I could barely talk in my teaching role was just a little virus. I told myself that I couldn’t stop, because if I did all the balls that I were juggling as a Mother of three young children, a wife of 22 years, an employee in two management roles, a business owner and partner, a student, a committee and panel member, a teacher and mentor, a daughter, a sister and a friend would all come tumbling down.
When the time came that I went over the edge, then the balls didn’t just come tumbling down, they came crashing down causing havoc in their path. My health was shot, my marriage ended, as I said four people had to be placed in my job roles. With the end of the marriage partnership, the business partnership ended as well. The sore throat revealed several lumps that needed investigation and are still present in my throat today seven years later. Benign, but needing to be monitored. The headaches were the result of poor jaw alignment from years of grinding with stress. Treatment over a period of a year and daily wearing a splint in my mouth (like a clear brace) plus tens treatment on a regular basis on my jaw at a fair financial cost fixed that one. The study I pushed on to complete and the committees and panel memberships were let go.
I was still so completely exhausted after I had used up all my sick leave that I resigned from my job and sought contract work. Even this was above my physical capabilities at the time but I had to work to support myself and my children (when they were with me in the week on week off arrangement). I would go out to my car during my lunch break and have a sleep. I was so completely exhausted and chronically fatigued that I should have slept for months.
But I had no family support to speak of in the regional town that I was living in (other than my children and my ex). I had great friends who helped and guided me through this rough time. I spent a lot of money on health care professionals and treatment as it was crucial. The memory of how bad I was has never left me. I couldn’t find my way around the roads and streets that I had driven many times before. I was lost, confused and pretty much alone. I was the frog that had started in cold water and ended up being ‘boiled alive’. My mother had passed away several years before this time. If she were around it might have been different. I can’t say. She saw it coming and had warned me to ‘slow down’ plenty of times in the past.
A high achiever, no, an over achiever finds it hard to do anything slowly. They are always looking for a way to ‘make it better’, ‘ do it faster’ or whatever. I still have those thoughts and those traits but after my own ‘Global Warming meltdown’ I have learnt how to manage it. I have learnt to recognise the signs when the come. When I get tired, distracted, anxious or doubt my ability then I know it is time to slow down. It is time to take a step back and recharge.
I know that I need to get some exercise, get some sleep, eat well, drink plenty of water, to have some time alone. I know that the next day I will be ok. I know that it is not being selfish to do these things. I know that I don’t have to feel guilty or think that I am letting anyone down. It is selfish not to. There are people relying on me. People that I care for and work for. People , like me, who are just people.
Sometimes when I think about it I wish that I could go back and start over and do things differently and then I realise that God or the Universe has given me that chance. I am starting over. I am doing things differently and I feel incredibly grateful. I feel very happy, no, I feel ecstatic about where I am today. It has made me the person I am, sitting here writing this today, knowing that all is good in my world. As I hope it is in yours. LG