“Have a good weekend! I will still do some work before going home. These e-mails cannot wait!”. I said it with a smile, but I could feel how the tension in my back got worse. It was as if someone was tightening a screw there. I had done overtime every day that week. It was close to 18:00 hours Friday night and I still wasn’t done. How often had this happened to me? Too often…
I had always expected a lot of myself. My self esteem was proportionally related to the number of hours I worked, to the level of satisfaction of my customers and to the respect I received from my colleagues. On the outside, everything was fine. Inside, I was deeply frustrated. I had no idea of what to do! “Just keep on going. It will be OK”, I thought. The pain in my lower back kept getting worse and at the end of the day I often had headaches. At work, people started to avoid me because I got easily impatient and angry. At home I became sullen and withdrawn.
During a conversation with a good friend I realised that it had already come too far. I was in a burnout and I took 3 months off to recover. “Start with that”, my friend said, “but perhaps you will need more time”. In the beginning I felt like a failure. I had always been a tower of strength!
My own inability to share myself with other people was the first issue I needed to address. I had never wanted to need anyone and I was proud of it! For me to learn to accept my feelings and discover my needs I needed help. Someone who could understand me and help me integrate all that was happening. When I found that person to work with it felt very good. With his support I started to unravel and process everything I had pushed away.
My burnout changed a lot in my life and I can now look back on it and be grateful. It helped me to re-look at who I wanted to be. I changed many dysfunctional habits in my way of thinking and doing. I embraced new ways relating to both myself and others. I started to feel more at home in my body and could breathe freely again. I was in touch with my real self instead of pleasing and fulfilling expectations.
Eventually I did not go back to my old job. I was done with it. The crisis turned out to be an opportunity to make a new start. To the people I am now working with I can truly say: “I understand how you feel. This is what you can do…”