Burn Out Forces You to Stop
Sometimes when I tell people about my experience of burn or I relate someone else's story, I notice some listeners' discomfort and desire to distance themselves from the topic. Their comments suggest 'how could someone let that happen' or 'this couldn't happen to me'. And yet, people continue to fall into this trap of burn out, a state of complete physical and emotional exhaustion from too much stress or over-working, not minding 'self' or not addressing some trauma or need.
The fact is, many people do not recognise the signs that they are heading for burn out. Even if they do know the signs, they fail to register that the worst case scenario might happen to them.
From my own experience, burn out was a very distressing and humbling experience. I thought I was getting ahead by over-working myself but instead my depleted health forced me to stop and put me at the bottom of the ladder metaphorically.
My Terrifying Moment of Burn-Out
The year was 1999, I didn’t heed the signs that all was not well. I knew nothing about self-care or mindfulness back then. Mental health was a taboo topic. I worked day and night to keep up with my work as a teacher.
That particular year, I happened to have been time-tabled in a way that that meant every class I was given was doing end of year exams. The 'mock' exams were coming and all papers were elected to be corrected by teachers in the school, in our own time.
We all experience the demands and pressures of work from time to time but when aspects of our health and wellbeing are not being addressed, stress takes its toll. Truth is, I had been experiencing cycles of mild depression and anxiety for years. I had accepted these states as if they were part of my personality, that’s how misguided I was.
Finally, a wave of despair took hold. I was catapulted into a chaos of unrestrained emotions, it was both tremendous and frightening. I wept continuously for a week. Prior to that moment I had been supressing a deep sadness, afraid that if I cried, I might not be able to stop. I did eventually stop and that was when things started to change for the better.
For the first time in my life, I dared to consider what I really wanted for myself. I left my teaching career (of Science and Maths) behind and moved to the city. Taking temporary office work meant I could use my evenings to explore other options such as finding ways to improve my health and wellbeing, while exploring the creative practices that intrigued me.
One morning, when I had the house to myself. I did something I hadn’t done since my teens. I got some art material ready and asked myself this question: 'Who is the person inside, who wants to be seen and heard? A blank canvas starred back at me. After some loose sketches and determination, I started to paint. I was amazed at what emerged.
Break True boldly stated her intentions through the blue and menacing swirls. She appeared fearless and strong. I felt her power as I painted her. It was just a glimpse. I was reminded of a quote by Mahatma Gandhi:
"All that appear and happens about and around us is uncertain, transient. But there is a supreme being hidden therein as a certainty and one would be blessed if one could catch a glimpse of that certainty and hitch one’s wagon to it. The quest for that Truth is the summum bonum of life."Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi, An Autobiography Page 250
The Importance of Seeking Authenticity
Break True had given me a glimpse of what I was to become. My transformation took time, as it does for anything lasting and worthwhile. Years later my refined version of Break True painting found its perfect owner, an inspiring woman who had also transformed herself and who continues to inspire others.
Break True is a reminder of the importance of seeking authenticity. By being more true to ourselves we make it easier for others to be themselves, eventuality we see the transformation in society.
Break True is currently available as a limited edition print. It is presented with a certificate of authenticity and can be shipped worldwide. It’s a popular art print with clients who have initiated the process of transformation in their own lives and it has been purchased as a gift to provide inspiration to people starting out on that journey.
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