If you look really closely at my left eye, you’ll notice something, something that’s been happening a lot lately:
Some might say it’s because of a lack of magnesium, but I and my doctor agree: my magnesium levels are just fine.
And we also both agree on something else:
I’m burnt out.
I’m not ashamed to say it. I’m not ashamed to share it. This is life. And I think so many of us (men and women alike) try to hide our breakdowns from each other and the world. Why? Because we are ashamed. We are afraid of what others might think. We have been fed the lie that we are somehow supposed to have it together all the time, and so when we don’t, we don’t feel safe and free to say so.
Which brings me to the truth:
I am afraid to say this. I’m am afraid to share this with you. And try as I might not to feel this way, I feel ashamed. I feel like it’s something that should be left unsaid, a secret I should keep to myself while I smile brightly at you, pretending like I’m not lost and feeling a thousand pounds of judgmental pressure on my chest.
I don’t always feel this way. Lost, that is. Or as my friend helped me to articulate, in a state of conflict with no real reason why. But lately, I feel this way a lot. And I’m working my way through it.
Sharing this with you when I’ve got a cookbook coming out next month makes me feel even more afraid. I keep thinking, “How will anyone trust me? Why would anyone buy my book if they know that I’m feeling lost and burn out? Am I a failure? What am I doing with my life? What is my problem?? Am I crazy for sharing this with anyone outside of my immediate circle of friends and family?”
And it’s not that it’s my inner critic telling me that I’m a failure. No. I’m really good at telling my inner critic to shove it. I’m really good at telling myself that I’m amazing, that I’m beautiful, that I have achieved so much in my life and that I should be proud. And I usually succeed in believing it.
But you know where that rhetoric isn’t reaching?
My soul. My cells. My core. No matter how hard I try, I keep waking up feeling anxious, a sense of dread, having a hard time deciding what to do first, feeling defeated, feeling like every move is like walking through molasses (not physically, but rather, figuratively).
(Granted, it doesn’t help that I’m usually woken up at 6am by the jarring yet somehow also cute sound of my 22 month old knocking on her door because she’s up and wants mommy to get up and play with her.
I really need to start going to bed earlier. And also – I pray that she doesn’t figure out how to open the door anytime soon. Knobs still have her stumped. Thank God.)
But I digress…where was I?
Lost. Burnt out. And apparently, sleep deprived.
I had lunch with my lady friends the other day, and do you know what I found?
All of us are in some kind of break down mode. And yet, all of us are also happy. We are all also grateful. We all also wouldn’t change a thing about our lives (well, not the big things, anyway. We need to change some of the little things that are making us batty). And all of us would tell our story, and then brush it off as if it were nothing, and move quickly onto the next person to see how we could help them instead.
Being in the spotlight made us uncomfortable. And I can’t speak for them, but I can speak for myself in saying that being in the spotlight while sharing that I’m not actually the super hero wonder woman I pretend and want to be every day is very confronting. It makes me feel very vulnerable – worse than being naked in a crowded room (can you imagine?). It makes my cheeks hot, my palms sweat and my stomach flip.
It’s a disease I have noticed that us women in particular are afflicted with. The lack of ability to be able to sit with our truth:
That sometimes, we can’t do it all. That sometimes, we are unhappy. That sometimes, we do breakdown. Sometimes those breakdowns only last a day. Sometimes they last a year. And sometimes, they last many years (with moments of greatness peppered in between).
What I’m here to tell you (and me) is that it doesn’t make you weak. Admitting you are in crisis doesn’t mean you are weaker than your peers. No, my friend, it means you are strong. It makes you more connected to yourself. It liberates you.
And also – to my great surprise and delight – just because you’re feeling burnt out doesn’t mean you are incapable of feeling joy. It doesn’t make you unreliable. It doesn’t make all the rest of your accomplishments and responsibilities somehow insignificant. It’s not an all or nothing game. You can be in burn out mode and feel immense joy and pleasure all at the same time! Just knowing that has lifted the pressure off my chest, has helped my shoulders come down from my ears, and has allowed me to take a breath. A deep one. And though I don’t have it all figured out just yet, I feel good.
Because easily the most surprising thing in admitting that I’m burnt out has been this:
Since I have admitted to myself that I’m close to burn out, I have felt this odd sense of freedom. It’s like I don’t have to pretend anymore. Not to other people, but rather, to myself. I am liberated to see things as they are, to peel back the layers of resentment that have infected my decision making and the way I see the world, right down to my marriage and the way I parent. To notice how I label myself and others (I’m an entrepreneur, whatever that means. I’m a mom. I’m an achiever. Blah blah blah), and how much pressure that creates for me. To notice my habits and see where they keep me in a state of conflict. To notice how by having so many goals for myself, I have effectively been too busy judging myself for not living the life I “should” have been living in order to appreciate and accept the life that I am living.
The awareness alone has been transformative for me, an A-type person (another label) who typically only feels good when there is a plan, when there is a list that I can check off, and when I can categorize every little thing into a pretty little box.
But being the A-type person that I am (there is that label again), I’m always sniffing out the solution, and I usually want to get there fast. So, what is the solution? What am I to do with all this awareness?
My job is just to notice my patterns. Notice how they make me feel, make me act. Notice how they show up in my body (I get sweaty palms, butterflies in my stomach, and shaky hands. Oh, and shoulders in my ears, tightness in my jaw, grinding my teeth, sharp knots in my upper back and shoulders. And I hold my breath big time).
A friend of mine who has been through this before is helping me through the process, and she helped me see something really key:
This will be a lifelong journey. There is no end solution. There is no there. I’m always going to be doing this work. Sometimes I’ll be in breakdown mode. Sometimes I’ll be as high as a kite. My only job is to notice. And it is in noticing that I can begin to change the patterns. Change the destructive voices that always seem to come up and say:
You are not enough because you’re breaking down. You are a failure because you are burnt out. Admitting you are burn out makes you weak, and no one will trust you because of it.
Today, I say, I am enough, whatever “enough” means to me, even though I’m breaking down. And, strangely enough, I actually do believe it.
And if you feel me, if you can relate to what I’m saying, if a part of you deep down is saying, “Me too! Me too!”, then I am here to tell you, my friend, that in time, you will start to feel this way too. In time, your mind will catch up with what your heart knows is already true:
Whether you are burnt out or not, you are enough. You will always be enough.
But until then, give yourself a freakin’ break, get a massage, stop lying to yourself, and begin to notice what thoughts and patterns lift you up, and which ones drag you down. Life is not a zero sum game. It’s time we stopped living our lives as if it were.
The truth shall set you free.
Your less than perfect and not afraid (but sort of afraid) to admit it friend,
*Photo credit: A Love Creative*