The long winter continues, and in doing so it has strangely matched my post burnout recovery trajectory by offering small glimpses of spring followed by periods of snow and ice. Conversely, the cold snaps have offered the perfect excuse and conditions in which to continue hibernating, recovering and gaining strength. So perhaps the universe has been looking after me after all.
My fitness routine has started to pay dividends and I have experienced that joyful moment when you realise all the hard work might be worth it! As well as emotional and mental symptoms I have previously opened up about, experiencing burnout also brought with it a load of horrible physical symptoms. These included bad skin, dark circles, weight gain, bloating, physical anxiety attacks, stomach pain, migraines and, of course, tiredness through lack of sleep and stress. None were particularly nice and all served to add to my feelings of general rubbishness.
Thank goodness my fighting spirit wasn’t completely killed off, and I somehow managed to squeeze on the old lycra and start doing training, albeit incredibly gradually at first (and ALWAYS in the privacy of my own home – I am so done with testosteroney men hogging the gym equipment and making me feel self-conscious)!
As I described before, the routine of integral self care became a habit and a comforting moment for myself each day. And finally, I have started noticing that horrible list of physical symptoms disappearing one by one. My skin actually looks alright, and someone commented the other day which was very nice. I have also lost quite a bit of weight which is also always good for the self-esteem especially when my favourite old jeans button up easier! And most surprisingly, SLEEP!! What a wonderful thing it is to sleep through the night! WHO KNEW?!
There is nothing like noticing results to make you feel good. But the number one result has to be in terms of my feelings about myself. Through my mediation work I have started to realise how little I valued myself before this happened. By prioritising work and other people’s needs ALL the time, I was unconsciously saying to myself that I did not matter. I was letting myself know that all other things were more important than me.
One of the techniques that has helped me turn a corner was in meditation when I tried visualising my child self (or my ‘inner child’ in therapy speak). I have used this exercise before to process aspects of my upbringing and knew it could be powerful. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea but works for me. The first time I visualised ‘her’ (about a year ago) was really impactful. It was so strange as I didn’t consciously try to draw a picture of her but she arrived in my imagination fully formed, aged about 5. She was almost a shell, a crying, shaking little child who had never had love or affection. Looking at her through the eyes of an adult (and a qualified teacher) was suddenly shocking and incredibly, painfully sad. I wanted to cuddle her and protect her. It really hit home, the reality of how my upbringing would so obviously have affected my development. She was told her feelings did not matter, and she ended up believing this – hence my learned behaviour – it was all I knew. It was like a “Eureka!” moment. This experience helped me begin the journey of self-acceptance.
Anyway, these days my inner child just sort of appears in my mind’s eye when I’m meditating without me consciously trying to imagine her. It’s funny but she seems a lot happier now and often just snuggles into my lap. If this sounds too ‘airy fairy’ for some people I completely get it. I am not religious, I don’t believe in ghosts, or tarot, or horoscopes even, and I am a rationalist! But this exercise has really supported me to distance myself from “myself now”, and look with objectivity at my life and behaviours. This time round, when I visualised my inner child, I realised quite clearly that I owed it to ‘her’ to look after myself better – I realised that she was owed this. If you like, I have a responsibility to my child self, to myself now to do all I can to be the healthiest and most loving I can be.