In this series of Authentic Conversations around burn-out , my clients share their recovery journey openly with the world.
The intention with this blog series is to create awareness and understanding around burn-out and chronic stress. The stories invite to inspire others to be brave, challenge their beliefs and speak up on their needs to avoid burnout and other stress related outcomes.
Below you can read the story from Fabiola.
How did you find out that you were suffering in a burn-out or chronic stress?
For 7 years I worked for a fashion brand as a Visual Merchandiser. The work was very physical, and that in combination with a lot of traveling it was for sure one of the reasons why my body already started to give the first signals which I sadly ignored at the time.
My neck and lower back started to become a problem, with the effect I was not able to sit or stand for long hours anymore. I was out of breath and wasn’t able to talk with people without feeling hyperventilation. Even in my sleep my body did not relax, and I often woke up with panic attacks and with pain in my arms and legs from muscle tension. So without being aware, I was suffering from chronic stress.
Luckily that was the beginning of the turning point, since I came in contact with Eva, who already made clear to me that there was a possibility I was in a chronic stress situation. This was a huge shock, and at the beginning I could not believe that this was actually my situation.
Unfortunately the re-integration situation at work did not go as hoped, with the effect that my body and mind came in a state of a real burn-out which eventually led to a chronic muscle pain, which was diagnosed as Fibromyalgia.
What did it mean for you to be burned out?
For me it was very difficult to accept that I was really ‘in’ it. I never could have expected this would happen to me. Because , I saw myself as a super hero that could overcome it all - The passing away from my dad, heartbreak, loneliness, dealing with adoption- I felt so strong, I was convinced I would never fall apart. And ‘falling apart’ was for me the same as failing, and being weak. And that was something I would never allow myself to be.
But someway somehow my body did not stop giving me signals that I could take seriously. So I had to learn over and over again. Listening and taking my body serious was the first step to ‘give in’ and ‘surrender’ in to the burn-out situation. At a later stage I saw that being and overcoming this burn-out was the best that could have happened to me. Because in a certain way this has been the start of the life of the real, authentic me.
Suffering from the burn-out made me see how far I was from my own true self. I was only behaving to please other people. That is why I felt exhausted, behaving not fluently but adjusted took all the energy I had. So I found out it wasn’t strange to not keep the fake behavior going on. And with today’s knowledge and all learnings, this is easy to understand, but at the time it is very hard to find out what those patterns are and how to change them.
What worked for you to heal yourself from the burn-out?
Learning to feel with Eva and with my meditation teacher Kimberly Poppe was my first step in the healing process. After a few months of recovering in Amsterdam, I decided to go away, and meditate with the monks in Thailand. This is where I translated all the knowledge and skills I learned from Eva and Kimberly into a daily practice.
There in Thailand, away from the stress, my body was able to reset itself. The warmth of the climate helped my muscles to relax, my food was digested again, I could stand the sounds in Bangkok, and slowly I could enjoy life again. In the ‘ Vipassana’ meditation retreat, I learned how to ‘de-attach’ from emotions and just be with all there is without judgement. Meditating and being in full silence for 5 days gave me space to ‘hear’ and see my own thoughts even more clear than I ever could have imagined.
I remember that I recognized I was not in control of my own mind or emotions. To ‘de-attach’ from it, I could ‘see’ them as clouds that go by. So those emotions and thoughts do not influence my behavior or mindset that intense anymore. When I got back home, I got pregnant with my baby girl. This was my second upper to come out of my dark shadows and feel and see there where new perspectives in life.
How did you know you were recovered from burn-out? How did you feel?
The revalidation process from my Fibromyalgia taught me how to deal with my new way of ‘spending energy’. So I felt already that there was more energy to spend than before, but still was exhausted after doing one thing a day.
It took me a few months before I was able to do more than one thing a day and still feel good afterwards. This made me feel grateful, because I could still remember those days being in a burn-out and longing for that day I could do ‘normal’ stuff again. Like normal people, without being exhausted going to the supermarket. This was that day. Amazing!
But still: Searching for balance was and is a continuous challenge . When you are aware of your own pitfalls you are capable to see your old habits and then there is that new door opening, so you can create your new patterns, which brings you more joy in life.
In what way does your burn out effect your life in a positive way these days? What did the burn-out experience teach you?
Well I have to say; it effects everything. My whole perspective in life did totally change. The burn-out teaches me to see and feel what patterns I had to survive in life. That my new challenges are to live life differently in a way that serves me.
I lived life for other persons, did things for those persons so that ‘they’ would be happy with me. I lived for them, not for myself. I saw that and I am still working on this. Patterns cannot change in one blink of a eye; it takes time. Some patterns will always be a lesson. Seeing and accepting that it is a huge thing. It took me a while because I was still hoping there was a button for it, but no. Some of these patterns, I have to give attention my whole life.
Which skills have you learned, and which of those are necessary to create an authentic lifestyle?
Most important insights were/ are to see people and ask what they need. Asking for help, learning to set boundaries, and to tell people ‘no’. “ No I cannot be social, work 24/7, cook lovely dinners, look like Gisele Bundchen and be a lovely happy wife. “No”, No more painful choices. I am really aware of choosing of what brings me more joy, love, fulfillment that makes my hart sing; that is how I live my authentic life.
In what way did Eva help you with the healing?
Eva said to me I was in chronic stress,- what!? No! I could not believe it. I remember that she asked during our first session what I needed- sorry? What? Nobody asked me this question, ever. She gave me my confidence in treating me as an adult, taking me seriously. She really saw and listened to me. She opened my eyes for all of that ’stuff’ I had put away under a thick layer of concrete somewhere in my body.
We went through my adaptation patterns, and she learned me tools how to transform them and build new ones which were more true and authentic for me. I learned to set boundaries and saying no. I learned to share my voice proud and clear. I learned to connect and feel my body and emotions. I could continue with all the learnings as the list is endless.
I want to thank Fabiola for her bravery to share her recovery story. I hope this story inspires the reader to become real about their lives. To be brave, to start reflect on beliefs and life style.
Maybe reading these stories can give you a push to connect with your needs. To start to listen to that voice in side of you that knows what you need to live life more in alignment. It all starts with taking a moment to pause and reflect. This awareness will help you to transform your life for the better.
In case you have any questions about burn-out, or you feel you need support in your recovery, please contact me. I also would love to hear from you if you are already recovered and you feel the courage to share your recovery story on our blog. You can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Together we can change the narrative around burn-out by being comfortable in the uncomfortable.