Focus on the Present

The last few weeks have been rough and in my previous post I wrote about how I’m looking for a job. One of the big realisations I had is that I’m not feeling happy. I’ve spent years researching what makes us happy and sharing those lessons with the people I encounter. I’m a guide towards living a happier life. Your best possible life. And yet, I wasn’t feeling the joy.

Present

I think every business owner has a lot of doubts at first. The first few years are tough and it’s normal to feel like what you’re trying isn’t working. It takes a long time to establish a brand and to gain interest in what you’re trying to achieve. I’m selling inspiration which is a difficult thing to quantify in terms of value.

I enjoy healing in many forms and I’ve experienced a lot of alternative healing in the past few years. Many people have told me that I’ll be enormously successful in my book sales and my endeavour. I keep getting the confirmation that I’m on the right path and that I’ve found my calling. It just feels like it’s taking so long and sometimes, it’s tricky to know what the next step is.

I think one of the reasons I  haven’t been feeling the joy lately is that I’m too focused on the future. I keep thinking about what life will be like in ten years time and I’m so excited to see my goals being achieved. However, I haven’t been focused on the present, on what’s happening now in my life.

Looking back a few years, I was so miserable. I was desperately ill from burnout, with no visible signs and not many people could empathise. I couldn’t do what everyone else completely takes for granted. I couldn’t go out twice in one day. I couldn’t manage to attend a children’s party with my kids. I even struggled to cook dinner at night. I felt so frustrated that it would take me years to be able to function normally. I just wanted to wish the time away.

And now, I’m able to do all of those things. I’m able to exercise and work a full day. I have energy to be with my kids and to care for my family. And yet, I’m still looking into the future for my happiness. I’ve been taking for granted what I longed for in the past. And this is why I haven’t been feeling happy. It’s one of the most obvious teachings of positive psychology: mindfulness.

Present

Research resoundingly shows that mindfulness increases happiness. I have been meditating but it has felt like a grudge activity. One that gets in the way of the other stuff I have to do. I haven’t been focused on enjoying the work I’ve been doing and the freedom that comes with working at home. I haven’t been grateful for the energy that I have and how well my body has recovered.

I’m doing my best to find a job. In the meantime, I’ve committed to myself to enjoy what I’m doing. Since I might be working full time soon, I’ve realised that I need to get everything done as quickly as I can. Just having this pressure has been such a positive thing for me and I’m accomplishing a lot more. That also builds my confidence and makes me feel good. Sometimes, a small mindset shift is all we need to galvanize our efforts towards what is needed in our lives.

Even if I take a few months to get a job, or if I simply can’t find one, I’m going to make the most of the next few months and try to achieve many things that will help me move towards my future goals. I’m not ready to let go of my long-term goals and I still dream of making a big difference in the world. I just can’t let my focus only be on the future because I’m losing out on enjoying what’s happening in my life right now.

Needing to be Valuable

I’ve had a tough few weeks. I got flu in May and then again last week. But I’m talking so nasty that you struggle to get out of bed and function at all. My two children were sick at the same time and needed a lot of care. I took them both to the doctor and had to administer medication every few hours for a week. My nanny also developed the flu and I was on my own with the kids for a few days.

valuable

I got so angry once I had enough energy. I am tired of being sick and I want to move forward with my career and my life. I know that our lives are exactly the way we created them so I began worrying about whether I’m making myself sick in order to avoid something. Perhaps it’s success, receiving opportunities or something else.

I recently had a meeting with a fellow networker who, on finding out what I have to offer, said “Is that it?” That didn’t do me a lot of good. I started to wonder, is that all I have to offer? What else do I have that’s useful and valuable for the world? I felt small and sad and I doubted this journey I’m on, my purpose and what I’m doing with my life.

Suffering from burnout had a big impact on me. When I got sick, I struggled with my self-concept. All my life, I defined myself by my work. I was a business analyst, a manager, a leader or a business owner. Once I resigned and could not work, I had a crisis of identity. If I could not work, and provide value to the world with my work, was I even valuable? I thought I’d dealt with these issues and found a way to feel valuable without a job title and a label. But I don’t think I have resolved this.

When this guy asked whether I had anything else to offer, I doubted even the things I do know I have.How come it’s so easy to shake me from my foundation when I’ve worked so hard on my new life? And I know I should work on this and have coaching or healing or something to feel more solid in my own value, but I’m tired of it. I’ve worked on myself so much that I actually just want to get on with living.

This year, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve distributed my books countrywide, I’m doing PR for my book and I’ve done several speeches. I’m spreading my message in a way that I thought was valuable. I’m working on other projects such as an audio book, and my deck of cards. I’ve done quite a few things and taken action to move my career forward.

However, I’m still not earning anywhere near enough money to cover my costs. And it will take years to build up to the point where I can cover them comfortably. I don’t want to spend another few years in debt and worrying about how much I spend on my tyres and my kids’ clothes.  Knowing you’re valuable is one thing, but paying the bills is another.

Last week I got so angry. I’m doing everything I can to further my calling. I can’t wait around any longer to sell more books and find more speaking opportunities. I’m just done. I’m so done with all this hope and belief. And I feel like a fraud to you, my readers. I feel like I can’t build the happy, successful life I’ve been talking about for years. Sure, I’ve had moments of pure unadulterated joy but it’s moments. That doesn’t feed my family.

So, I’m looking for a job. I’m hoping to do some consulting and to enter the workforce again. At first, I felt sad and disappointed that I could not make my dream work. I felt like a fraud, that I’ve misled my followers. And a fool for hoping to make money off writing and speaking.

But, after some thought, I’ve realized that it can take years to establish my own brand, and maybe I can earn some money in the meantime. Perhaps I can influence others in the workplace to find more happiness in their lives. Perhaps working is a way to reach more people with my message. Perhaps it will also make me feel more valuable which is better for me, and my family.

valuable

Following my passion and getting a job might not be mutually exclusive. Maybe, this is what the next step looks like towards living my best life possible. I can still write and I”ll probably be able to sell more books because I’ll be interacting with more people. I’ve put together my resume and I”m applying for jobs. I know it will be scary to re-enter the workplace after a few years off, but I’ll probably enjoy the work and the people. Hold thumbs for me.

Some things are Hard to Accept

I went to a talk this week about the adrenal glands: how to test for, and treat dysfunction. I suffered a burnout which began with my adrenal glands. Colloquially, this is called adrenal fatigue but the more correct medical diagnosis is HPA Axis Dysregulation. The most noteworthy symptom is chronic fatigue which was my biggest hurdle. The malfunction in my adrenals, which I didn’t address in time, led to the development of an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland which I will carry for life.

adrenal

The talk was delivered by a doctor who has a masters of functional medicine. He has intensive knowledge into how the body works, not only one system as a conventional specialist will have, but all systems. Functional medicine is a field that aims to restore balance to the body. It aims to treat the root cause and to address a holistic view of the person, including lifestyle.

Conventional medicine seems to treat the adrenals like a unicorn. The glands, which reside on the top of the kidneys, are largely igored by most practitioners, even some endocrinologists who specialize in the endocrine system. I’m so confused about this and I find it intensely frustrating that in modern lifestyles, plagued with stress and stress-related illnesses, that conventional medicine is ignoring the very organ releasing the stress hormone, cortisol. It makes no sense at all to me.

I have been treated by a homeopath for many years. My homeopath knew that something was not right with my adrenals and she offered me supplements to assist me. She was the one who took blood tests which indicated my thyroid malfunction, and initiated my diagnosis and treatment. My general practitioner, or physician, sent me to a surgeon when she saw the blood test results. The surgeon, having no place to treat an imbalance of hormones in the first place, completely ignored the adrenal function, as if it were totally irrelevant. Not only did he do me a great disservice, but so did the physician who referred me to him.

The doctor doing the talk said, multiple times, that it’s imperative not to treat the thyroid malfunction before addressing the adrenals. That’s exactly what the surgeon did and it took me a year to find the correct practitioner: my endocrinologist. A year after my burnout, I began treatment on the adrenal glands. The speaker also said that the typical recovery period is one to two years, depending on the severity. I took three years to recover. My adrenal function was on the lowest possible reading of the blood tests, after a year of rest at home with  no work and minimal exertion. That told me that the first year of treatment, with the surgeon was ineffective. He may have slowed down my thyroid but he messed up treatment of the larger issue.

I’m not an overly emotional person, but at that talk tears were rolling down my cheeks. I felt heartbroken. I felt cheated and robbed out of a year of my life. And all because of the uninformed actions of medical doctors I put my faith in. If only they knew how incorrect their actions were. If only they knew how they impacted my life, my family and my ability to earn income. My recovery was delayed a year because of the actions of these two people, who simply carry on with their lives in ignorance.

The surgeon was very arrogant. He treated me with disdain when I asked questions about diet. He belittled me for researching possible diagnoses online when my whole life was collapsing and I had to wait for an appointment for six weeks. Frankly, I want to work with a doctor who wants me to be empowered. I’m the one living with my body and health. I’m the only one who knows how bad I’m feeling. I’m so glad I found a doctor who works in collaboration with me, making suggestions and sharing research with me to help me to be healthier.

adrenal

In trying to process this information, I kept telling myself that I needed that extra year. I wrote my book, I researched how to recover and I learnt a great deal. I changed my life in the process and perhaps I needed the full three years for that. But I still found it very hard to accept.I wanted to lash out and tell them what they had done and ask them why they took a year from us. I still feel angry and frustrated at the broken medical profession in this regard. I get so upset to think about the many people currently being bounced around or treated incorrectly, not knowing that there’s a better way.

If you have a serious medical condition, please make sure you are seeing the right kind of specialist. Also ensure that they have the attitude of supporting and empowering you to be well by a variety of interventions: medication, lifestyle, diet, exercise and supplements. If you have doubts or questions, getting a second opinion is always a good idea.

The Journey is Important Too

I haven’t written this blog in almost a month and I’m sorry to let you down. Sometimes I worry about what to write as life is so ‘normal’ now. I exercise regularly, I work a full day and I have enough energy to look after my family. I don’t ever want to take it for granted and I want to celebrate just how amazing it is that I can live a normal life.

journey

I’ve been thinking back to how things were when I first withdrew from work to recover from my burnout. I didn’t know what was happening at the time and if I’d known, I would have been devastated that it would take three years to recover. Something that I’ve realized is that the journey wasn’t all bad.

It’s not great to be unable to earn income for three years. It was hard not to be the kind of wife and mother I wanted to be. There was a lot of grappling with who I am and what I’m supposed to do with my life. There was suffering and struggle and I wouldn’t wish the process on anyone. But it was an important period in my life.

In this time I fell in love with positive psychology. Not being able to do much, I was able to read and I read about 30 books on the science of happiness and related concepts. I learnt how to convert my life from an unhappy one into one filled with joy. I read the theory and I practiced each concept in my own life. I kept the ones that resonated and abandoned the ones that didn’t. But I emerged a much happier and more fulfilled person.

I also wrote my book, Avoiding Burnout, during this time. In knowing that I had to align my work with flow, I discovered the joy that writing brought me. I immersed myself into writing this blog and the book. I delivered something I can be proud of. It was only the beginning and now I am working on my next book, Healing Burnout.

I worked on my public speaking and I joined Toastmasters to improve my speaking skills. I met some amazing people and was able to grow as a speaker in such a supportive environment. This week I’m achieving my advanced (bronze) status as a Toastmaster and I’m so pleased to reach this milestone. I didn’t expect for my speaking to feed my writing and my writing to feed my speaking. I’ve spoken at many events in the past few months and I’m so enjoying spreading my message and meeting interesting people.

I now write for an online human capital publication, called Talent Talks. I write regularly and I enjoy having the deadline and producing work on a regular basis. I have made a roster for myself to deliver articles for LinkedIn and social media posts to promote my book and my speaking.

I now have a publicist who should start promoting my book very soon. I have a distributor who is busy spreading my book to all local book stores. I have ensured my eBook is available on Amazon and other online retailers. My paperback is also available on Amazon in many countries.

I am now printing a second edition of my book since I’m running very low on stock. I’ve worked hard to get my website to a place where it is functioning and to facilitate the purchase of my book for local readers. I’ve received wonderful reviews on my book and I’m making difference in people’s lives. I’ve inspired people to work on their happiness, to follow their dreams and to live a better life.

Promoting myself and my book is hard work. I enjoy it and I love targeting new audiences and expanding my reach. I’m doing a lot of networking and that is highly rewarding. After spending years recovering on my own at home, it’s such a treat to be able to connect with others and to be well enough to attend meetings.

Recently, I’ve registered a company so that I can invoice as a business and formalize my offerings. I’ve worked on my brand and I have beautiful branded bags and aromadough to offer with my gorgeous logo (the phoenix, of course) on the front. I’ve had such fun putting these things together and I’m so geared up for exposure and sales that the publicity should bring.

Sometimes I get despondent that I’m working so hard and the revenue is not following. It takes a tremendous amount of perseverance and hard work to make a new business and brand successful. It’s a good thing that my top signature strength is perseverance! I know that I’m effectively a start up. I’m now transforming from an author into a business owner. A few years ago I didn’t think I’d ever be a business owner again after the bad experience I had previously. But here I am, ready to take the world by storm.

Starting something new and reinventing yourself takes time and it takes courage. I’m completely sure that this is the right path for me and that I’m doing all the right things. It’s sometimes hard to retain this strong conviction in the face of the naysayers but I’m forging ahead and I’m confident that I’ve done all that I can do towards living my best life possible.

journey

We are often in such a hurry to get to the destination. To be an expert speaker. To be a best selling author. But there are such gems along the way that it’s a shame to miss them. Today I’m celebrating the special journey of recovery and how many wonderful experiences I had and the opportunities for learning along the way.

I know it sounds like a big cliché but the journey is so important. It’s vital for us to remember that the destination is an illusion. There are goals to strive for, but as soon as we get there, we make bigger and scarier goals. This is of course a great thing to do and we gain much hope and happiness from intrinsic goals. However, the growth along the way, the journey, is where the magic happens.

The Power of Now

I’m reading Eckhardt Tolle’s The Power of Now and it has created a greater awareness in me of how little I am mindful in my day. I try hard to meditate regularly but meditation is one of the first things to fall away when I’m busy. It’s a shame because the days when I meditate tend to go much smoother than other days.

Now

I’m on holiday at the moment and I haven’t been well. I ate something questionable last week and my digestive system is not coming right. I know what steps to follow in normal circumstances but being away has made that impossible. I keep feeling terribly sorry for myself. It is a huge struggle to travel to small towns and to maintain a gluten free diet. I make the best choices possible but it’s not easy. And now I have spent over a week barely eating anything for fear of making myself sicker. It’s so frustrating watching others enjoy delicious meals. I suppose there’s a silver lining in there somewhere in that I won’t eat any gluten by mistake if I’m not eating anything!

I went into analysis mode, trying to figure out why this is happening. Is this a punishment? No, that’s stupid. Is there a lesson here? If so, I just can’t see it. I thought about the metaphysical side of a digestive disturbance: what can’t I stomach or let go of? No idea. I went to the chakras: the stomach is the source of power. How am I feeling powerless or giving away my power? On holiday, I know I can’t control my time much and I’m at the mercy of my kids and their relentless demands on me but that’s every holiday, why should this be different?

On holiday I miss the solitude of my sanctuary and the peace I feel there. I miss the silence and the chance to organize my thoughts. It occurred to me how ridiculous it is to read a book on mindfulness surrounded by the mayhem of young children. They talk constantly, they fight and they ask for things (especially from me). As soon as they see me, they all of a sudden feel hungry. They still seem to need so much help and monitoring. We’re in a water-scarce area so I keep reminding them to save water, to share a cubicle for a single flush and to wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Things like that seem to take up so much of my energy and it makes me wonder if this is how I lose my power.

How do I solve it? I have no idea. It’s important to have a well-functioning digestive system as it is the heart of the immune system. Having an autoimmune disease means that my immune system is already taking strain and now it has been fighting bacteria for over a week. I’m taking probiotics (intensive rescue) now that we are in semi-civilized society again. Beyond that I’m at a loss of how to recover from this and it has seriously affected my enjoyment of the holiday. It’s hard to relish experiences when you haven’t eaten for a week. I feel weak and I’m missing food.

In the Power of Now, Tolle constantly talks about the fact that there is no problem. Problems come from worry about the future or ruminating on the past. In the present moment, you simply handle what’s coming up. You always have and you always will. I’ve found this difficult to cope with in my present condition. I’m worrying about how this crisis affects my thyroid and I can already see that my eyes are puffy, often a sign that my thyroid is suffering. I’m wondering how long it will take for my system to recover. If I’m not on top form, how will I be able to work? Will I struggle with fatigue and battle to meet the commitments I’ve made for the coming weeks?

These worries are pretty normal and it’s difficult to set them aside but I do agree that they don’t help anything and they probably contribute to more stress which is not good for me. I’m trying hard to enjoy each moment and to make the most of the time away. It’s very frustrating that this holiday was not so enjoyable for me, however. I looked forward to it a lot since the past few months have been very busy.

On the positive side, I have now registered a business so that I can transform from an author into a business owner. I have also just secured a publicist and distributor so that I can ensure my book is in all book stores country wide and that I build awareness to a greater audience. These three actions will hopefully have a big impact on my quest to spread my message about avoiding burnout to as many people as possible. They are significant as part of my calling and I feel like it would have been a great time to have a rest and celebrate solid actions towards my future.

Now

Last night it occurred to me while reading the book that I have spent much of the past three years waiting to recover from burnout. Waiting is not a great state to be in and it detracts from the moment we are currently in. I have healed in chunks over time and all the interventions I’ve tried have made a great difference. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the current moment when feeling so fatigued that I could not work or function like everyone else can. But I’m now (barring my food poisoning stint) at a stage of health and function that I can enjoy the moment. I need to remind myself to stop striving for some future state of success. It’s important to have goals but it’s equally important to savour now.

Perhaps in time I’ll understand why I’ve spent the entire holiday running to the bathroom and missing out on meals with my family. For now, I simply have to make the most of each moment and remember that I am moving forward towards my dreams. That is enough to make me happy.

Why so much struggle?

I haven’t written this blog for a while, mainly because I have been through a confusing period lately. My health is strong but I’m not that happy. It may be triggered by a few things but for sure, it was trying something new and not entirely succeeding. I held a workshop on one of the principles in my book, Avoiding Burnout: The Seven Principles of Self-Preservation. It was such a struggle to market it and I had very few participants.

Struggle

It felt embarrassing to me that I couldn’t attract a solid audience. I know that it was probably a good thing because it gave me a chance to sample my material on a smaller group and to test the timing and other components. The participants seemed to enjoy it, and to benefit, which is what I wanted. I just felt like a failure that it was so small. It didn’t bring in the money that I hoped to bring in.

And perhaps my motivation for running workshops was more about bringing in income and less about sharing my concepts. I love writing and I enjoy public speaking too. I reach a state of flow in preparing for speeches and of course, I have a strong passion for writing. If I had to choose one calling, it would be to write. It’s tricky to earn a living as a writer and it takes time to build up enough credibility as a speaker to charge large sums of money per speech and to land the big audiences.

I’m passionate about aligning your strengths and talents with the work that you do. I believe in guiding people towards a happier life. But it’s hard to get paid when you’re selling inspiration. Or maybe that’s just a limiting belief. Maybe it’s me who believes that no-one wants to buy my inspiration. If I can’t convince myself that my message has value, how can I sell it to others?

I’ve grappled with a few issues lately. Am I valuable? Does my message justify client expenditure? Do I really want to be talking and writing about this horrible experience I’ve endured? I’ve always been a solution-focused person and I’m not sure I’m happy dwelling on the burnout period of my life, especially now that I’m functioning normally. Maybe it’s time to shift the focus towards joy. How do I do that and still promote my book?

Everything has just been so hard lately. Things going wrong like a flat tyre, a vomiting child and a power failure the day before my workshop. As if I needed any more stress as I approached my poorly-attended foray into something new. My website is still not perfect after months of struggle and my brand is in jeopardy. I have felt quite powerless to move forwards towards selling my book online and promoting my brand.

I’ve recently started writing my second book which will cover the recovery period. I’ve been reading my journals and going back through my calendar to see what was happening for me in the various phases of my recovery journey. It’s pretty depressing reading what I felt and thought. I thought I would take about a year to recover. It has been three. I thought all my relationship issues and lifestyle adjustments would be resolved by now. They are not. Maybe I haven’t been that successful in effecting a change in my life that I’m telling people about.

I’m reading about how painful it felt that my father didn’t support me. I read about how alone I felt and how hard I tried to keep everyone happy and to make a success of the business. I thought back to my corporate days and how much struggle I felt in doing my best to deliver among some really nasty people. I thought about how I felt about a year before my health collapsed. I thought I could turn the business around. I had this list of things we were going to buy when we had ‘made it.’ After the workshop I realized that I have the same feeling now. I have this mental list of the things I want to do when I am earning an income that matches my expenses. And I feel the same sense of hopelessness that I’ll never get there.

Struggle

I felt like a failure again. I’m the idealistic fool who thinks you can actually make money following your passion. I’m the Pollyanna trying to make my suffering mean something. To tell you the truth, it’s so hard sometimes. I feel alone again. I feel that it would be so great to have a job with a salary and to be able to come home at night and complain about my idiot manager. That would be luxurious. This struggle of trying to figure everything out by myself and to know what step to take next, is so tough. Sometimes I get tired of it.

I try to find new opportunities to promote my book and to reach as many people as possible. In this process, however, I face rejection occasionally and it’s tough. It’s a struggle to pick myself up from that rejection and to do it again. As an introvert, I prefer to email people, I don’t like phone calls and the few I make result in rejection. At times, I just feel like hiding from the world.

In the workshop we looked at our top character strengths. In my book I talk about the top five identified when I was sick. I did the test again to prepare for the workshop and ‘Perseverance’ came up as my top strength. Yes, the perseverance that drove me beyond reason to a state of complete collapse. Great strength, thanks. I try hard to acknowledge my good points but that one is a sore point for me. I’m not sure I trust myself anymore. What if I’m persevering down the wrong path again? Who’s going to tell me?

I’m afraid. I’m afraid that it’s going to take ten or twenty years for my books to sell to a decent amount of people and the slog along the way is so hard. I don’t know whether I should work with a distributor who eats up all my income and leaves me with a scrap but gets my books into all mainstream bookstores in the country. Is that even important anymore? I can’t do any public relations in a big way until my book is widely available. So what do I do now?

Working for yourself is a struggle. There’s no one to tell you what to do next and that can be really scary. I know that I remain hard on myself and I expect a lot, despite having worked on self-compassion. I know that I just have to focus on the next steps and hopefully the path will become clear in time. I am grateful to have three speaking events in May so that will be my focus for now. I’m going on holiday at the end of the month and perhaps the distance from everyday life will help me to gain some perspective.

Sometimes I don’t write this blog when I’m feeling down or negative but it is a truly cathartic process and it helps me to find the way forward. Not every post will be full of sunshine and rainbows but that’s life.

Functioning Normally

I had blood tests and went to my endocrinologist this week for a check up. Last time I went I was under a lot of stress and my health dipped significantly. The stress caused an increased attack on my thyroid by my immune system, creating fatigue and the symptoms of an under-active thyroid.

normally

For three years, I’ve struggled to recover from burnout and to manage my resultant autoimmune thyroid disease. I’ve been striving to keep my thyroid functioning normally and trying to keep my immune system from destroying thyroid tissue. I’ve worked hard on my lifestyle and dietary changes to address stress and to avoid being on thyroid hormone. To date I’ve done well and the check up this week went great. My thyroid is working well, the immune attack is diminishing and my adrenal function is greatly improved. My doctor encouraged me to continue what I’m doing as it’s having a great effect. “Ten gold stars,” he said.

This translates to me feeling great and being able to do what most people take for granted. I can exercise, work a full day and still enjoy being with my family. For the past few years, that has not been possible. I still can’t run but I’m doing yoga a few times a week and I’m able to chase my dreams and still be a present mother.

This is the life I’ve been working towards for years and it feels great to be functioning normally. I guess there will never be a ‘normal’ me again as my life has changed so much that I can never go back to how life was before my illness. I think we often try to restore order to how things were before they broke, but maybe they were meant to break for us to reach a new, improved normal.

I’m different from how I was before burnout. I have perspective. I am more patient and I have created a life that’s much happier than before. Without that experience, I would still be working in a job that made me unhappy. My relationships would be unhealthy and I would still feel angry and resentful for how people are treating me. Now, my life is so much healthier and happier.

I source income from multiple places and I spend a lot of time networking and connecting with people who can help me to spread my message. I want to share my lessons with the world, to help others not to get as sick as I did and to reduce the suffering in the world in this way. I believe this to be my quest and I am passionate about it.

I’ve connected with some really interesting people lately and I’m excited about the talks I’m doing in the months to come. These engagements help me to spread my message and to promote my book. In the past few weeks, I’ve corrected a few glitches in the process of receiving funds from Amazon, my website is almost complete and I’ve corrected some formatting issues in my ebook. It feels great to be moving closer to a place where the logistics are in place and I’m ready to expand my reach.

normally

I’m launching something new this week: workshops aligned to the principles in my book, Avoiding Burnout. It has been scary to do this because I’ve been afraid that no-one will show up. The numbers are small but it is a new beginning for me and it takes time to build a brand and to make a name for oneself. I have so enjoyed putting the material together and I can’t wait to see how it is received.

I’m excited to start working on my next book, Healing Burnout. I want to share the lessons I’ve learnt on this journey of recovery from burnout. People keep asking me about a follow up book and I’ve been hesitant to write it until I feel I’m at the point that I can say I’ve recovered. And of course, with a journey of recovery as long as several years, I’ve been concerned that I’m never going to get there. However with the results I received this week and the way I feel and operate now, I deem myself recovered. No-one else will be able to tell me that since I’m the only one who can feel what I feel.

I want to guide people towards more joy and if it’s one person at a time, that will do. I’m hoping my books, my talks and my workshops help people to bring more happiness into their lives. The quality of my life now is so much better than it was before I got sick. I actively worked on improving it and I believe that I can show others how to do this, without them having to become ill. My new normal is joy. I want that to be true for others too.

How doubt sabotages us

I’ve struggled in the past few weeks to understand a few things. I’ve had some new challenges with my health which are confusing. I am frustrated that I’ve spent the last three years trying to stabilize my thyroid function and now I have new challenges to deal with. I suppose nothing is static, and most definitely not our hormones or bodies.

Doubt

Three years ago my health collapsed and it took me some time to put the label of burnout on top of my diagnosis. I developed an autoimmune disease of the thyroid and my adrenal function was pitiful. For years I’ve worked so hard to stop my immune system attacking my thyroid. I’ve changed my diet, I’ve taken up meditation and mindfulness, I’ve changed my work, I’ve rested ad nauseam and I was hoping for some reward at the end of this hard work.

I suppose I should know better. Neither God nor my body are going to reward me for eating well. It’s just the way life is for me now. I have forever altered the way my body works and I have to let go of trying to fix it to be how it was before. I suppose many people are grappling with the same issues but they just do it with more grace.

I became frustrated with all this restriction of diet and lifestyle and I wondered if I’m being foolish. I rebelled by eating a slab of chocolate (I usually avoid sugar and dairy as much as possible). I began to doubt whether the career path I’m on is actually the right one. I felt that maybe I’m being given some sort of message that I’m doing something wrong.

I asked for advice from very helpful people and the message I received was that I’m doing all the right things but the self-doubt is not helpful. To be honest, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that I can’t make enough money off being a writer. I’m afraid I’ll choke when given a big opportunity to speak. I’m afraid this path won’t work and I’ll need to recant everything I’ve been preaching for years. In short, I’m afraid of failing.

Doubt

Working for myself offers so many benefits. I love the freedom and the chance to decide what to tackle next. I love having flexible hours and working in alignment with my strengths. I love writing and speaking and I love engaging with people who have also had challenges with their health and stress. I’ve received so much positive feedback and yet I tend to ignore it in times of doubt.

Recently, I received fantastic feedback on my book from a reader. My friends, who have read the book, sometimes send me evidence that they are following my tips in building a happy life. For me, that’s the best and most rewarding part of what I do. I just love making a difference in someone’s life and knowing that I might have helped someone to avoid suffering.

Since gaining this advice from trusted friends and healers, I’m looking more for evidence of success than failure. I’m focusing on all the good things that people say and trying very hard not to discount them. I’m glowing in the positive feedback and accepting their compliments with grace. I’m so grateful to the people who have praised my book and for those who act as ambassadors for my message.

I am truly blessed to do the work that I do. Of course I will have many moments of doubt in the future but I’m not going to let it stop me. I have work to do and I’m not letting fear take the driver’s seat.

If you can’t learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you’ll never be able to go anywhere interesting or do anything interesting. ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

Facing the Judgment

Lately I’ve encountered a lot of judgment. I wrote a non-fiction book about my personal journey towards burnout. It includes stories from my childhood which reveal behavior of my relatives that is less-than-favorable. The story is not about them, however, it’s about me and how I became so sick. The background was a necessary part of the story but it’s not the whole story.

Judgment

I’m amazed at what people take from my book. Some people object to an arbitrary paragraph, failing to see the big picture. One person seems to think I wrote the book to attack people. Some people think I made things up. It’s my story, my experience, my memories and my journey. It’s a story where I’m vulnerable and admit my own failings and mistakes along the way. It’s honest, vulnerable and it took a lot of courage to write and publish it.

I find these judgments puzzling because the purpose of the book is to help people. It’s to show people what it looks like to get that sick, how it happens and I also provide strategies for others not to get there. I’m on a quest to show people what stress can do and to help people avoid the depth of illness that I experienced.

This week I also encountered a lot of prejudice towards spiritual beliefs that may be different from one’s own. Just because someone’s beliefs are different, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong, or evil. I find it fascinating how much we hate being judged and yet how we all do it to others so freely. And so often it’s the people who have been judged the most who are so eager to judge others. Maybe it’s such a habit that we don’t realize what we are doing.

Perhaps this is just one aspect of becoming a non-fiction writer of something so personal. It takes courage to write in the way I do but it is my style and I have no choice. I can’t begin writing fiction because it doesn’t appeal to me and it wouldn’t feel right. Maybe it’s just part of the package of my new career. It also provides great insight into those who judge me so willingly and it guides me in knowing where I stand in my relationships. It’s a gift, in a sense.

I am not deterred and I continue to write what I write. I’m very happy to be a contributor to an online publication called Talent Talks now. It’s an exciting addition to my portfolio and I’m thrilled to be part of it. I’m focusing my efforts on my public speaking in the first half of this year. It requires a lot of preparation and it does stretch me in ways that are uncomfortable at times.

Judgment

But growth is never simple or easy. Many people don’t understand my career change, my change in beliefs or my lifestyle but that’s okay. I understand it and I accept that this is the path to where I’m going. I’m busier than I have ever been and that is outstanding news for someone who has a relatively new career. I have also received some fantastic reviews in person, on Amazon and Goodreads. I’m choosing to focus on those from real readers who are in my target market.

I’m enjoying networking, I’m working on my speeches, writing articles and pursuing interesting side projects that bring me great joy and learning. Life is very good if I focus on all the good and turn away from the judgment. I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt, to offer them encouragement and to respect their beliefs. My time and energy are better spent on those who love me and build me up. After all, we get more of what we focus on, so let it be on love.

So much Stronger now

I am passionate about personal growth. I constantly look for opportunities to learn and to move forward as a person. I read a lot of books in the self-help, or personal development genre. It is my belief that we are on this planet to learn, to fulfill life lessons and to gain greater understanding in the areas pertinent to our lives.

Over the holidays I have been thinking about how much I’ve changed. I thought about Christmas 2015. I had been recovering from my burnout for a year already but was struggling with energy. I was feeling so down about being sick and facing years of recovery ahead of me. I felt lonely and misunderstood in that the social circles I moved in didn’t get it at all.

stronger

They didn’t understand how a late night caused me days of recovery. They didn’t understand that I couldn’t drink alcohol because it makes my adrenals weaker and that meant I couldn’t even take care of my children properly. Nobody understood how it felt to be saddled with this illness and poor health for several years. Just the emotional burden of that realization was heavy, let alone the physiological failure of my body to support me.

At that time I was trying to find my voice.  I was speaking up about things that were wrong and that were not working for me. And because it was unusual and not in my normal patterns, those around me reacted badly. They didn’t like this outspoken person – where was the doormat from the past who was quiet and compliant?

I had also just received my first rejection from a traditional publisher. I knew it was coming and I expected it but it rejection still stings. I was so afraid to make the wrong decision in publishing my book. I was scared that I might proceed with a self-publishing organisation who cheated me. It was a large investment and a totally unknown area for me, at a time when I couldn’t earn any income. It was a scary period and I felt completely unsupported.

I had an epiphany during December 2015 that my people-pleasing behavior was harming me. I spent a lot of time bending over backwards for others who didn’t appreciate the effort. And at the same time I was harming myself because I had such limited energy that I should have been spending it on important people, like my children.

I stopped trying to earn approval and to be the glue that holds other relationships together. I just focused on getting well and on my own relationships. I became much more aware of relationships that were not to my benefit and I put in measures to protect myself and to distance myself from those who were harming me.

This year, I’ve maintained those boundaries so well. I’ve kept up the self-care and made sure that I get what I need out of each day and each interaction. I maintain my energy and I only expend it in areas and with people who have earned it: those who love and support me.

In terms of my career and writing, I have self-published my book with pride. I’m happy with how things turned out and with the quality of the book. I’m enjoying positive reviews and gaining great confidence in the positive feedback from readers. I’m planning a range of offerings connected to my book which should be a real adventure this year.

stronger

I feel so much stronger. I have much more energy than I did two years ago and I protect it fiercely. I honor my own needs and I make sure I spend time the way I want to in my day. I’ve stopped trying to rescue people and I’m just letting go and letting them get on with what they need to do. I’m less concerned about what people think or might say about me. I’m very clear that it’s not my role to make people happy. I’m focusing on my happiness and striving for becoming the best version of me instead.

So often we berate ourselves for things we haven’t done or new year’s resolutions not met. I’m working on acknowledging myself for areas of real progress. I’m not the soft target I used to be. I’m able to stand up for myself, I fight for what I need and my life is a lot better for it. I’m a much happier person and that leaves me free to write, to care for my children with a smile and to feel authentic joy.