About a year ago, I shared with you about hitting a wall and realizing it had a name: burnout. You can read my description of it here.
Honestly, I felt pretty stupid. I thought it couldn't happen to me. After all, I'm a nice person, I try to live right. I have an interesting portfolio and am a hard worker with ethics and integrity. I'm a Christ-follower, minister, wife and a host of other things... and a work in progress.
Then, a wake-up call.
It did happen. It hurt in ways I can't describe. I'm still in recovery, but seeing the light again and for that I'm so grateful.
Writing about my journey is not only cathartic, but also in hopes that I may help someone out there who is also grappling with the same burden. I've absorbed a lot in the past several years, and I hope to share some of that insight with you through a series of blog posts. If this is you, hold on. It will get better. If this is not you right now, perhaps you could pass these on to someone who needs it- or rather- who may need you.
In my previous post, Burnout is Real, I attempted to describe what is was like to have it finally dawn on me what was happening. In this post, I'd like to take it a step further and from my experience, share with you what you might expect at the start of your recovery.
1. You Will Wonder How you Got Here
There's typically not one single element that brought you here, but a series of possible events, decisions, circumstances, betrayals, losses and more. Burnout doesn't happen overnight, nor does it happen without your consent. With help, you will be able to identify what contributed to your burnout and in time, take steps to avoid those things in the future.
2. You Will Wonder if You'll Ever Come Out of It
Burnout is scary. It is lonely. You may feel like it will never end, and wonder if you'll ever experience joy again. In the beginning, everything seems pretty hopeless and desperate. This is normal. But know this: you will recover! The important thing right now is to get help, get honest and give yourself time.
3. You Will Need to Get Help
This is not an option, it's an absolute necessity. Seek out professional help right away, along with a few trusted and empathetic friends who will walk this journey with you. You will need to be brutally honest with yourself and others in order to begin the process of recovery. You will need to make changes and do the hard work of healing. It takes courage to get help and admit your limits. Take the leap so you can live again.
4. Realize Not All Friends or Family Will Understand
Notice I said to find "trusted and empathetic friends." Not all friends or family are suited to handle the level of honesty and support that you will need over time. Choose wisely. Be sure the people you trust with your recovery have iron-clad integrity, will love you and be honest with you no matter what, and will keep whatever is shared only unto themselves.
Accept the fact that you have to do what you can to recover, and that means making healthy changes that not everyone around you will understand or even approve of. You will need to say no and create healthy boundaries. Gently stand firm even if they don't understand why. True friends will stick around.
5. There is No Deadline
My professional life revolved around deadlines, so this one was hard for me to swallow. The truth is, every process is unique just as every person is unique. Generally speaking, people tend to want you to feel better quickly (so they can feel good about you feeling better) and may not understand it takes years to fully recover. Resist focusing on the timeline, instead focus on the healthy strides you are making. Don't feel pressured to say everything is fine when it's not and perform to other people's expectations. Your journey is your journey alone. It will take time, but you will make it.
6. Embrace God's Presence, Even When You Can't Feel Him
When you walk "the dark road of the soul" it is, well...dark. For me, there were many times I wondered where God was. I didn't blame Him for my troubles, but I did wonder if He left me on my own to flounder, if He would show up to rescue me or if He even still cared. We know in our heads that God promises He will never leave us or forsake us. His heart is for us and for our good, even when that good doesn't feel so good. But it's hard to convince our breaking hearts of that truth when we don't feel Him.
One thing I've learned through my journey is this: when you have those moments when you wonder where He is, know that He is working on your behalf in the dark. He does some of His best work behind the scenes. This requires faith in believing what you can't necessarily see or feel. Cling to the truth friend. In time, He will reveal Himself to you.
Take heart my friend. You can do this.