My answer to the question ‘How are you?’ was always ‘stressed and busy’! The disease of busyness was so much part of my identity
I didn’t know that it was causing me so much harm.
I am no stranger to burnout, stress or chronic stress and have experienced all three across my career. According to the World Health Organisation, burnout is what happens when chronic stress in the workplace is not managed, we are causing burnout and the first time I was in that space I had no idea what I was experiencing.
Which might explain why after the first time I burnt out I did not make any real changes. Instead, I changed jobs, but I did nothing about changing me. My inability to change my true habits and behaviours contributed to me developing a long-term health condition. Even when I got the diagnosis, my instinct was to fight against it and decide it was not the boss of me and I will do whatever I wanted. At the time I had a toddler, two new businesses and a PhD on the go!
It took another five years after my diagnosis of fibromyalgia for me to truly make real change. Fibromyalgia is a condition which causes widespread pain, fatigue and affects cognition along with a range of other side effects. I have experienced many of the side effects including problems with memory, constant fatigue, muscle pain and problems with standing and walking.
The turning point
Lying in a hospital bed recovering from a lumbar puncture I didn’t need was when I knew that I truly had to change. I had a lot of thinking time during the month it took me to recover. I knew I could not do this anymore, the constant pain, the never-ending fatigue and hospital visits that always ended with me being discharged with the words ‘fibromyalgia ’written as the cause. On that occasion, I had spent 15 hours in A&E waiting for a bed as they decided whether I had a blood clot on my lung or viral meningitis. I had neither and ended up having a painful procedure.
All my life I pushed my body and eventually, it pushed back. I worked in high pressured environments and thought I thrived on the busyness and the long hours. Stress and exhaustion were worn like badges of honour. Even though there were warning signs, I ignored them and gave excuses presuming that short breaks or occasional nights in would turn everything around.
I could no longer give any more excuses, and now in my 40s, a mother and business owner I was not thriving and physically and mentally I could no longer carry on as I have been doing the previous 20- something years. I had to change.
Changing gave me more than I bargained for!
I walked away from things that didn’t serve me, I reconnected with myself and had transformational work done on me which enabled me to truly address issues that I’ve been carrying and behaviours that hurt rather than helped me. I felt so light, calm and at peace for the first time in my adult life.
It is an ongoing journey and one I’m very proud that I started. I set out to change my relationship with stress and learn tools to support my business. Instead, I got an unexpected result – I have spent a year completely pain-free and have no fibromyalgia symptoms. I have the energy to play with my child and work from a place of flow and constant gratitude. I have a completely different relationship with stress and overwhelm – life will still make things interesting, however, how I interact with stress has changed.
Now, I maintain my well-being with self-care and have no qualms about putting my needs at the centre and loving and caring for me.