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Balance After Burnout

Saying No to get to YES!

Photo courtesy of La Di Da Lane Photography in Lethbridge Alberta Canada.
Photo courtesy of La Di Da Lane Photography in Lethbridge Alberta Canada.

It’s taken me awhile to muster up the courage to write about my experience in 2018 of sadness, fragility and failure. Not because my story is that complex, not because people don’t know about it, not because I was already vulnerable once plastering my mug on #instastories but because as a self perceived, self aware person, I am and was humiliated that I lied to myself and said I didn’t see or feel it coming. Lots of travelling for work, no energy to read bedtime stories, an ill father in law, forgetting it was pizza lunch at school, eating junk, not exercising, a short fuse, no date nights with my hubby, skipping teeth brushing, the need to take OTC sleep meds to turn my brain off and feeling sick to my stomach with guilt because I knew exactly what I was doing and I got a thrill out of testing my limits and the limits of those I love. Not good.  I am sure most humans around me probably had bets on when/what/if my energy towards my work would stop, my passion would dim or my gas lit candle burning at both ends, midnight madness would fade. Ironically enough none of it faded, it all just blacked out, like eating the tequila worm see ya later, bad mom black out.

I got a thrill out of trying to be all things to all people. I was obsessed with the word yes and following through on it. I was determined to boil the ocean, sprint the marathon, and solve all the things in the shortest amount of time possible. I LOVE problem solving.

I loved math as a kid and have always been very strong in it, why? Because I love figuring out solutions to the biggest problems possible. I was the kid no one wanted to be against during around the world (flash card game) in math in school, I was always the first one done the math mad minutes, and I was ALWAYS looking to be challenged more. Give me more. I wanted to do it ALL.

First of all, What the hell is “all”? And who the hell actually cares if you do it? NO. ONE. CARES. Except, as Ariana Huffington puts it “the roommate in your head”  your own damn ego.

Unfortunately and ultimately my greatest strengths (moving fast, being all things to all peeps, killing the working mom game) also turned into my most significant weakness, a mega downturn in my physical, mental, and spiritual health.

3 young kids including a 6 year old, and 3 year old twin boys, very active in my community, a career driven husband, a major family health scare, a team of extremely high performers, and unknowingly shifting from high performer to overachiever myself in work that I am, and was so incredibly passionate about.

Shifting back to the sunny spring morning my burnout stared me in the face and to the day I finally accepted it was true.

It was the weekend of my oldest sons hockey wind up and the morning after an evening spent listening to, and being inspired by the incredible Michelle Obama, live in Calgary. I woke up with a headache and a kink in my neck and a pain behind my ear. I looked in the mirror and something about my prized possession, the thing from a materialistic perspective that I cared about the most, something about my face didn’t look quite right but I couldn’t put my finger on it. My spidey senses were firing like crazy and I was doing my best to ignore them. I decided to “kind of” listen to myself vs. my normal “ignore it and it will go away” and called my chiropractor to see if he could see me quick, his receptionist told me to come down so off I went. When I arrived I only anxiously waited a few minutes while of course Dr. Googling my symptoms like crazy, before going in. He sat me down stared me in the face and said stick out your tongue, so I did. Very scarily my tongue didn’t go out, it went directly to the left and I could not move it to the center of my mouth, I was scared shitless. He told me to go to the emergency room at the hospital right away, so off I went.

I got to the emergency room, and the mobility reception wasn’t working great, so I tried to keep myself preoccupied by reading the newspaper. After my initial assessment I got in quite quickly as they needed to ensure I was not having a STROKE. A stroke? I just turned 36, how could it be possible? They took me back to triage and a doc came in quite quickly. He did all sorts of tests on me and ruled out a stroke, the tears started streaming down my face. I was so scared. He sent me home and told me to come back if my symptoms got worse,  and unfortunately they did. I went home and the pain in and behind my ear got worse, and there was a ringing in my ear, severe headache and exhaustion, half of my tongue was numb, vertigo, nausea, and I noticed my one eye wasn’t blinking that great. We went to my son’s hockey wind up and some of the other hockey moms whom are also nurses could tell right away something wasn’t right. They advised me to go back to emerge to make sure. I, in denial as per usual went home and tried to “sleep it off” – yes it’s true.

A solid 12 hours should make anything better right? Not this time, this was serious and my body was telling me to wake the F&[email protected] up and start taking it more seriously. After a solid sleep, I woke up and I went straight to the mirror and I couldn’t blink, smile, taste, or smell on the left side of my body, the entire left side of my face was paralyzed on top of the paralysis, all the symptoms mentioned earlier had gotten worse including incredibly painful sores in my ear. I rushed back to emerge to be very quickly diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome (a more severe version of Bell’s Palsy) and, was sent home with prednisone and antivirals and told to rest, like really rest.

I laid in my bed “resting” and devastated as a replayed everything in my head over and over and over again. How did this happen to me? I love what I do. I have incredible support in my family and friends, this wasn’t burnout, this was “just a virus”. I told myself lie after lie after lie to make myself feel better, and in case you are wondering it didn’t work :).

Time, support, and rest were my true healers, supported by modern medicine, acupuncture, self care, and being kind to myself. But now what, what if this happens again? I love pouring myself into everything I do, it’s what lights my soul on fire. My deepest fears resonated and found a loud home in my head: How will I find balance? How will I prevent this from happening again? How come I chose to ignore it and pretend I didn’t see it coming? How will I help solve the world’s problems if I can pour myself into it? After all these questions I was on the hunt for balance, balance was the answer, I just knew it!

For the last 7 months I have been seeking balance in my life, that 50/50 feeling that makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. As I was still searching,  another major health scare erupted, with almost losing my father to complications after an emergency quintuple bypass (yes its a real thing). This put my search into high gear, I needed answers.

I have come to some conclusions over the past 7 months of exploration. I want to YELL from the rooftops, that balance does not exist, and balance=bullsh!t. Striving for balance will burn you out faster than anything else. We live in a world where there are so many moving parts, so many variables, and so many unknowns that the search for balance is like looking for happiness in material things, a needle in a haystack, Waldo in candy cane land. IT DOESN’T EXIST. I have come to accept the give and take that my life requires for me to be able to fuel my fire and pursue all people and scenarios that I love. I have learned that I don’t need to feel guilty about it, explain myself to anyone, or glorify the chaos. I am NOT Wonder Woman, although I do wonder :). I am a passionate human who loves solving many problems, being a wife and mother, and giving back to my community whenever I can. I give, and I take, sometimes I give more than I take and vice versa, and that’s ok with me. If there is any lessons I’d love to share, it would be stop striving for balance, stop feeling guilty, your family, home, work won’t crumble if you take a rest or slow down, pursue your passions, accept the give and take, and most importantly learn to say NO! No gets me to yes for all the things that are important to me and this is a lesson I will hold with me for eternity. Balance = Bullsh!t, and no one wants to strive for Bull.

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