I write about my burn out, because I was desperately looking for real life reports back then. I desire to reach people in similar situations and give them a feeling of being understood and not alone. If you have questions or feel like sharing your story with me, reach out! Enjoy reading my journey.
I am exhausted. I don’t want to get up. Every second is a fight against myself. I can’t go on any longer. Tears run down my face spontaneously, without me noticing it. I hope that everyone leaves me alone and in peace. I have been wanting to prioritize some me-time for a long time, but I don’t. I am proud when I manage to do my laundry.
What’s wrong with me? I start running from doctor to doctor. A blood test here, a blood test there – everything seems to be good on a physical level.
What is happening with me? Why am I so exhausted? I am tired even after 10 hours of sleep and can literally not keep my eyes open. On a random Sunday in October, I collapse. Endless tears run down my face, without feeling an emotion. The decision to not go to the office but a doctor the next day, is my mum’s. I am unable to take a decision and too weak to resist.
The doctor tells me I have a burn-out. What the hell is a burn-out? She recommends staying at home for 8 weeks and then take a new decision.
8 weeks? What should I do in 8 weeks? “Eat, drink, breath – that is all you need to focus on the coming weeks.”
„OK, wait a second. I cannot be missing in the office that long… I am needed there, and I have so many things to do. And I want to do all these things and it will not work like that…“
I kindly ask her to give me a sick note for one week and am convinced, if I just get some rest and sleep, I am fit again. To sleep for one week was no problem. I actually don’t do anything else than sleeping. 20 hours a day. Everything else is impossible. I am exhausted. Sleeping is all I can do. Fair enough, now I have a week to sleep, so I make use of it. By the end of the week, I am pretty nervous, as I notice that nothing changes, I experience little panic attacks and am anxious in ordinary situations.
There is no way that I can go back to the office. I am simply not able to do anything else than sleeping. My body is in survival mode and uses all its energy to rejuvenate.
I write an email to the team, that due to psychological reasons, I don’t now how long I will be off and if I will ever be back.
Now I have time for myself. The hardest admission: 200% performance ability turned out as 2%. I remember an afternoon at my parents place where I wanted to empty the dishwasher to show participation after weeks of lethargy. My parents were out for a walk and I went to the kitchen. There I stood – glued to the spot in front of the open dishwasher, questioning how to do that. Do you usually start with the upper level or the lower level? With the cutlery or the cups? How would it be best to empty the dishwasher? After 10 minutes without touching a single piece, I give up. There was simply no resource within myself. All the energy was used to recover.
What should I do now? Still sleeping a lot. That is important. All this rest and stillness, brings up a lot of emotions. Especially anger and sadness. I am angry at the world and especially myself. How could I act so drastically against myself? How could I forget and loose myself like that?
What follows is the long journey to my forgotten Self. 8 weeks turn into 7 months.
I start therapy (after a lot of resistance) and learn new and old things about me. I understand, where the overwhelm steams from, where the anger and the sadness come from, how to tackle it and how to treat the old wounds to create a life that suits me better. Many dark nights, tears, angst, hopelessness, anger and sadness follow. That desperate feeling to be unable to manage the everyday and focus on the basics for months drives me crazy.
I meditate, do yoga, sleep without limits, do my therapy, go for walks, eat healthy – that is all I can focus on and that is still a lot. Every day is exhausting and I still feel a lot of pressure and anxiety, where the journey will lead.
I become aware: It is not about getting back on track to get back to my old environment and perform again. My burnout reminds me to relearn to feel myself. Do I want to go back? What do I want from life? What am I good at? What am I afraid of and why? When is fear healthy and when can I use it as a motivation? Eventually, it just clicks. Eventually, I see the greater purpose. That everything is right and belongs to me and my path. I gain my trust in life back and allow myself to go one step after the other, to feel my boundaries and needs again and to remember my self-confidence, that I know best, what is good and bad for me.
The cold water
On thing I am sure about: There is no way I will go back. That place was not for me and is even less for me today. I was not sure how to have a life that is not 9-5 in an office, but I know I cannot do that any longer. I decide to resign. After many tears while considering it back and forth, I communicate my decision to my boss, who is amazingly understanding and supporting my personal decision. I considered 1000 scenarios how he would react, scenario 1001 happened.
I cry for a couple of days after resigning. I feel like I just broke up with the love of my life. I gave up a part of my identity. A part of my identity that was surprisingly a wrong identity. Far away from my true self.
„Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine it’s not the end.“ – OSCAR WILDE
Driven by what I did not want any longer, it felt easier to trust that there was something that I do want. I decide to finally chase my dream and work with people and coach people. I shall do – with little detour I found facebookcoaching.de and teach people how to be in charge of their online marketing. A good idea to transit. First I need to gain a foothold again and learn how to create a working day. I need to feel what is good for me and establish my coaching idea as a side project. I neglected that side project being distracted from success and into doing-mode. The little detour ended being a longer one with one diagnose more – but that is another story. (Spoiler: It turned out well in the end.)
The most important lesson
Pride, being skilled and reasonable often controls us. Today I am convinced that our heart knows, where the journey leads.
That may not be the most obvious path for the mind, but the most amazing one. It is the little things that make us happy and gives us a feeling that everything will be fine. I had many lows. I only wanted to be alone and could not be bothered to do something for myself. I was irritated by the slow progress. I did not want to talk to anyone and especially not get advice. But I always dive up again and that is how we grow. Something simple makes me dive up: a long walk in nature, a flower, a gaze to the sky, a hug or a loving conversation. Always something else – but every low ends in a high and contains a gift.
The most important message of my burnout: Listen to yourself. End this “bigger, better, more”-mentality – especially to make someone else happy. No matter if mum, dad, brother, sister, boss, society – it may sound banal, but it is true. The attachment to appreciation from outside ourself is the most unhealthy drive to choose.
There is a path for you. Only for you.
There is something that creates pure bliss within you and you can live that. I encourage you to follow your heart, use your mind wisely (it is a gift that we have a mind) and listen to your body. That combination is the best teacher.
I know how hard it can be to accept stillness and calm. By now, I enjoy the fact that stillness and calm is permanently within ourself. The journey is worth it. I accepted and keep on accepting that I am on a quest – that is life. And when I remember to use my heart, mind and body equally, I do enjoy the quest.
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