Often I am asked how I went from being a Corporate Executive to someone who lives a stress free life helping people get their lives back on track. The simple answer is burnout. Interestingly enough I never found it a remarkable story, I guess because I was living it. However recently a few people have asked me to help with research on workshop and programs that they are putting together, and they have been amazed by my story, or part thereof. So I have decided to share.
Burnout, yes it is common, and yes it can happen to anyone. It happened to me. I was working anywhere up to of 80 hours per week at my corporate job. I had about half a dozen high level, high stress, highly confidential projects that I was managing. A team that I was not able to discuss several of these projects with causing massive conflict at work. A staff member who was moved to my area as they couldn’t hold a confidence, this only added to the challenges at work.
At the time I felt I was coping well. And maybe on the surface I was. I loved a challenge and anything given to me was completed on time and met the expectations of the executive. As one senior executive said to me, we never have to worry about what we give you Deb, we know it will get done.
But at what cost? Well the cost was me. I realised that I had become someone I didn’t like, someone who was so focused on work that I really had no time for anything else. A relationship, what was that? Friends, well sadly they were people that when I had the time and we caught up, I can honestly say I barely remember the experience as all I did was drink myself into oblivion.
I left for work around 6:00/6:30 am, got home when it was dark and then continued working. My exercise regime was non-existent, meditation – um what is that? Time out to relax I don’t think so. I skipped breakfast, had takeaway for lunch, and dinner was generally two bottles of wine accompanied by cheese and crackers. So not what one would call healthy. In fact there were mornings when I left for work and on the way out the door if there was wine still sitting in a glass, I would down it before going to work. I had P block scheduled into my diary for meetings, that was code for ‘pub’ so I could have a drink. I was a disaster waiting to happen, burnout was around the corner.
Someone asked me what my self-talk was like.
Well, during the day there was no head space, no time. Of an evening if I was cognizant, coherent enough to recall, it went something like: What the fuck am I doing? This wasn’t how my life was supposed to be. When was the last time I had fun? I don’t like the person I have become. Blah Blah Blah.
Burnout came with a phone call. I have no idea why that was the trigger, but I cracked, I broke down in tears, you know the really pretty crying, snot bubbles the whole shebang. I realised something was seriously wrong and took myself off to the doctors. I reluctantly agreed to take some time off work to get myself sorted and to get my blood pressure down, as it was dangerously high.
What I realised during that time off, was: I no longer wanted to be anyone’s slave, I didn’t like the person I had become, I wanted to see sunrise and sunset, I wanted to find me again and then learn to love that person again, I wanted to get healthy, I wanted to have fun without numbing myself with alcohol – I wanted everything that I didn’t have.
So I hatched a plan, not necessarily a good one, but one that nonetheless worked. We were going through a restructure at work and I simply didn’t apply for my job. I wound down and made a plan that took several years to come to fruition and then I quit. I had no idea what I was going to do, but had realised during my forced time off, that I had been in full time employment for 30 years, and the longest break I had had was six weeks. I didn’t know how to relax, how to sit and do nothing – I am now an expert.
The process of healing and coming back to me, was not complete by the time I quit, but I was well on the way. I found myself in a position where I was naturally able to help others going through similar things. So the transition to working in the health and wellness area was simple. Today I love what I do, it is not work. It is a passion.
It does not matter where you are in life, or how old you are. If you are not happy with your circumstances. If you are suffering burnout. With some dedication and hard work you can turn your life around. It is a choice. You can start to live again, and can I tell you…life on the other side is amazing.