As we move into March and I’ve started looking ahead to Spring (despite the awful weather) I have inevitably begun to think about my work. The time has come where I must ‘dip my toe’ back into the water, and what I’ve realised is…I’m scared.
I knew this time would come and have been gently and kindly trying to prepare myself for it. I’ve almost been preparing myself to begin thinking about work even before actually starting the thinking! When I experienced burnout it was like receiving a knockout punch, because my whole body needed recovery. It was also quite a violent event which shocked me and shook me up – I guess that was nature’s way of forcing me to take a rest. But such was the strength of the burnout ‘blow’ that I am inevitably fearful of it happening again. I am fully aware that things MUST be different this time, (and have thought about how I can ensure this) but with this knowledge comes the fear of “what if it isn’t?”.
One of the things I’ve been struggling with is whether this feeling of ‘fear’ is a genuine (and therefore useful) fear, or if it’s just my own nasty old chatterbox at work, scaremongering me that I won’t be able to do it. Usually I can tell the difference but this time it has been harder to recognise what’s actually happening.
Last week I had to go to hospital to have a mammogram because unfortunately I found a lump on my breast. I was okay about it and managed the feelings of fear pretty well on the whole, but of course your mind does start to wander away and think about the different possibilities and outcomes. For example, whilst I was waiting I found my negative thoughts popping up and telling me that if I was sick it would be my own fault thanks to years of not taking care of myself. Nevertheless because I needed to know one way or the other I was able to manage these thoughts, and take myself through the whole process without completely losing it by remembering how fortunate I am in so many ways. Thankfully the results were all good and I had nothing to worry about after all. I count my blessings because I know so many other women are not so lucky.
During the process of hospital I was obviously looking ahead and thinking about my “what next”. It occurs to me now that even though the breast cancer fear is a particularly serious one, that in the end we all have everyday fears about the “what’s next”, whether it’s walking through the hospital doors, into a new job or finding ourselves with a new responsibility.
But the thing is, even the highest mountain can only be climbed step by step. Imagine looking up at the top of that mountain, and maybe you can’t even see the top of it because it’s so high it’s up in the clouds. Doesn’t it make the whole venture seem a daunting prospect?! But if we break the task of climbing the mountain down into smaller steps (e.g. today I’m only going to walk as far as that tree over there, or just for a small amount of time) then suddenly it all suddenly seems more achievable. Also, who knows – if we travel mindfully, then along the way we might decide to take a different pathway and end up not on a mountain but in a forest or on a beautiful beach or something! (Sorry about these geeky nature analogies but hopefully you get the gist)!
Identifying the difference between those helpful fears which may be there to stop me from burning out again, and the limiting and and shaming chatterbox thoughts could be as simple as simply taking that first step. If I do a small bit and suddenly feel absolutely terrible then I can always stop. But hopefully taking it slowly and trying a small step will give me the courage I need.
Wish me luck! X