31 In Lifestyle

I Completely Burned Out: A Raw & Honest Look Into My Period of Self-Discovery

burned-out-self-discovery

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve been away for a little while.

It’s not just SPT Blog I disappeared from. For the first time in my life, around three months ago, I truly lost myself.

I broke off my engagement, moved out of the home I had built with my partner of 4 years, business started booming (usually a good problem to have but when combined with a breakup, it just wasn’t easy), my health was a mess and I fell into a total black hole and didn’t want to climb out.

I had pushed myself too hard this time. I started experiencing the symptoms of burnout in late 2015 but I ignored the signs and pushed through. I managed to keep the wheels turning for a while, but when my personal life came crashing down I fell in a heap.

I once knew somebody who would talk about the importance of having our “life anchors” firmly secured. “Life anchors” being things like health, family, friends, romantic relationship, career, home and routine.

There is no magic number for how many need to be secured at any one time, but ideally we aim to have all of them “anchored” down as much as possible. Having a solid foundation for these important areas of our lives help us to feel grounded.

Occasionally life throws you a curve ball and one of our “life anchors” may break free. But when it does, we feel more capable of managing and improving that area of our life that “broke free” when the rest of our “life anchors” are firmly secured.

Over the last 3 months, the following anchors of mine broke free:

  • Relationship
  • Home
  • Routine
  • Health
  • Business (this was a good crazy – but still crazy)

Having five of them break loose at the same time made me realise just how important it is to take time, ask for support and look after yourself when this happens.

The last 3 months I’ve been working hard to pick up the pieces and start a new life.

After much deliberation I decided I wanted to share my story and change Small Paper Things Blog to show a little more of the real me. The me that you would know if you ever met me. The me that wears her heart on her sleeve and is the poster girl for vulnerability. The me that wants to let the rest of the world know that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes. That none of us are alone and that we can weather this crazy storm called life together.

So while it starts sad, this story is ultimately a happy one.

Falling in a heap forced me to dig deep and pick up the pieces one by one.

Practice gratitude and make plans for what my future would look like – and now it gleams.

So with that in mind, I decided I would outline just what burnout rock bottom felt like for me. The signs I ignored when I shouldn’t have, the causes, and what I’m doing to come out the other side.

For anyone who feels as though they are stuck spinning in a downward spiral and who is looking for some strategies to pull themselves out of it, or even just to know that you’re not alone – this post is for you.

The Signs & What Burnout Felt Like for Me:

I really should have taken note of the signs long ago. If I’m to be honest with myself, it probably started a good 10 months ago.

I started to lose some of my passion and enthusiasm for my side hustle (that included my blog). I mustered up all of the energy I had left into my day to day but as time went on, I would start to feel less enthusiastic about the things that I used to love to do in my spare time to “light me up” (like blogging on SPT Blog).

I forced myself to push through instead of taking a break. I should have taken a break 10 months ago.

It slowly but surely crept up on me. I managed to keep all of the plates spinning as long as most of my anchors remained secure.

Then my relationship started to break down and once you know it’s not right – you can’t “un-know”. You just can’t go on pretending. So it ended.

I could not have prepared myself for how much that break up affected me.

I don’t even mean the grieving of the relationship itself (which anyone who has ever been in love can certainly relate to) but more that my life was completely uprooted overnight. With the loss of that relationship came the loss of my home, my routine, my local coffee shop, someone to cuddle etc.

My whole life changed.

Not that I was so naive to think that it wouldn’t have – I just had no way of preparing myself for how it would take its toll on me.

I first realised that I needed a complete “life makeover” a few weeks after I arrived at my new apartment.

One of the reasons for the breakup was that I had always wanted to live on my own, in my very own apartment in the city. I felt like it was something that I just couldn’t give up.

So I did. I moved into my dream apartment. I furnished it with my dream furniture.

Then one day I looked around and couldn’t understand why it didn’t feel as good as I thought it would.

I mean here I was, standing in my dream apartment – I was living the life I had always wanted.

A blog and community of readers – check!

Dream apartment – check!

A thriving business – check!

Incredible friends – check!

Healthy and happy family members – check!

So what was the problem?

My headspace. That was the problem. I was already behind the eight ball since I had been running on almost empty for the last 10 months. Then when my life turned upside down, I was forced to burn through what was left of my energy into grieving through the emotional changes I was experiencing and managing the anxiety that comes with moving house.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to do it all, do it perfectly and without breaking a sweat. I have very high expectations of myself and was so busy focusing on the “day to day” that I had a momentary lapse of self-awareness and didn’t check in with myself.

I know now that I just needed to ask myself the question: “Kate, is it reasonable to achieve all of this and do it perfectly? Or can you cut yourself some slack for managing a life that is a bit of a broken puzzle at the moment?”

I should have known that it isn’t a sign of weakness to lean on others for support.

In the end, after weeks of crying it out and wondering if I would ever be “myself” again, I started to dig deep and try to pull out the life lessons that existed within this mess – so that I could see this dark time as a positive, practice gratitude for being faced with these challenges knowing that it would lead to becoming a stronger, more successful, happier “Kate” in the future.

So I did. I dug deep and found the lessons that I am bringing into my new life.

Here they are: Lessons Learned In My Period of Self-Discovery:

Sometimes We Have to Let Go of People We Love:

Isn’t it funny how the universe works? It appears that the timing of absolutely everything that had the potential to tear me apart happened within the space of a few months. Then again perhaps I wouldn’t be here sharing the lessons learned if I hadn’t have had to pull myself out of this dark abyss.

Over the past few months, just after my big breakup, I gained and lost a new friend. A friendship that can only be described as a very beautiful, very painful disaster at a time in my life when I could have used a bit of a “break” from the emotional turmoil I was experiencing.

According to Elizabeth Gilbert’s definition, I would say we were soul mates.

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.

A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.

A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life.”

I’ll be honest and say that I’m not crazy about the term “soul mates” – but I have been “lucky” enough to have experienced this twice in my life.

It is so exquisitely painful to know someone so intimately, connect with someone so deeply, only to be a mirror for one another showing each other your deep flaws while holding an expectation that you will both face those flaws and change.

It is exquisite in that; it is just such a beautiful thing to have known someone who can put you on a new life path. A journey of self-discovery as they hold up a mirror to you and scream “Look! You can’t hide from these! What are you going to do about it?”.

Yet still, it is so painful and so exhausting to be with this person since they challenge your very existence and leave you asking yourself the oh-so-difficult questions:

  • Who am I really right now? How is that different from how I see myself? How is that different from who I want to be?
  • Can I be happy with myself as I am, accept myself as I am and understand that growing to get where I want to be is a beautiful thing, but a journey with no timeline?
  • Can I accept myself now and know that I am enough while still longing to be the person I want to be in the future?

It is beautiful to have known people who could be my mirror but it is just as important to know when it’s probably time to let them go. Take the lessons, thank them for being in your life, then let them leave so you can move on stronger and happier.

Who knows. Maybe when you have both worked through the pieces you pulled apart you will be able to be in one another’s lives again. It’s a beautiful thing to know someone who can help change you for the better.

Keep Your Expectations in Check:

I placed very high expectations on myself and chose to surround myself with people who did the same. Not just people who had high expectations of themselves, but people who had high expectations of me.

The trouble with expectations is that it often sets us up for disappointment. I took a good look at my expectations and the expectations that others in my life had for me.

It was in understanding those expectations and seeing a friend who would so often express his disappointment and contempt for the universe when it fell short of his expectations, that I realised that expectations can set us up for being miserable.

It was right then and there that I decided how I want to choose to live my life.

Knowing just how rare it is to get everything that we want and expect in this world, I want to believe that when our expectations are actually met or exceeded, we are blessed.

When that happens in my life, I want to choose to practice gratitude for being so damn lucky.

Courage > Comfort:

Staying true to yourself when you’re facing someone who doesn’t value (or even questions) what you offer is a super rough deal of cards. It can be tough to stand tall and stick up for what you believe in when you’re faced with someone who challenges your very existence.

It took gaining a new friend and losing them to remind me of a value I once held so dear to my heart.

I want to choose courage over comfort in every aspect of my life.

That means that more often than not, I will fall, but like Theodore Roosevelt said “In the end he will know the triumph of high achievement and at worst when he falls, he does so daring greatly.”

Writing this post is one of those times.

Many people in my life choose to practice a particular brand of emotional detachment. They protect themselves so that they never feel true pain or heartache, yet knowing that we cannot “selectively numb” I know that even if I fall more often, it is they who lose in the game of life for they will never experience the beauty that is joy, true creativity and connection.

I decided that I want to choose to live my life courageously. I don’t want my tough experiences to build up my wall. I never want to lose that part of me that wears her heart on her sleeve. Not only do I now know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that but I realise now how much courage it takes – and I want to be a person who chooses courage over comfort.

Protecting yourself from the world might seem easier, but in protecting yourself from the pain you block any ability to experience true love and happiness. It’s much harder to act courageously, dare greatly and tell the true story of who you are. To let yourself be seen (thank you for the lessons Brene and thank you “universe” for throwing me experiences that forced me to put them into practice).

Making Concessions Breeds Resentment:

I’ve spent too much of my life people pleasing with an expectation that others would see and understand the concessions I was making for them and appreciate them.

I have learned now that making concessions breeds resentment.

By giving up what you need to give someone else what they need, without making a compromise or communicating that you are in fact, making a concession, it is easy to feel underappreciated and undervalued. Feeling this way without communicating it to others can leave you feeling resentful and resentment can be ugly. It can manifest itself in your everyday interactions without you even knowing it. Communication is key.

Don’t Let Anyone Invalidate Your Emotions:

It is absolutely more than okay to feel what you feel and to communicate that with who you feel you need to. If they invalidate your emotions and leave you feeling “crazy” or like you “shouldn’t feel that way”, know that it is not up to them to tell you how you should and should not feel. Your feelings are totally and completely valid and so is feeling the need to communicate them.

Anyone who invalidates your emotional response is likely wrestling with their own inner demon around the subject – so know that it’s not you, it’s them.

You Don’t Need to Change Your Life Overnight:

We are faced with so many micro decisions every single day. When you reframe your mind to look for the positive, practice gratitude, and celebrate the small wins you will be surprised at how quickly you can change your situation in a way that feels real, sustainable and not at all overwhelming.

My Micro Decisions:

  • Routine: One of my good friends Paul suggested making some mindful changes to my routine and celebrating how it feels to accomplish that one small thing.
    • Lighting a scented candle when you get home
    • Finding a new favourite local coffee shop
    • Having a “Movie & Pamper” night (nails, fake fan, shave legs, clean sheets – feel fantastic!)
    • Mastering a new recipe
  • I started a new bullet journal
    • Those of you who have been following me for a while would know that I’m a big fan of bullet journaling due to the level of flexibility that exists with it. I decided that I wanted to start it up again, even to keep track of these new additions to my routine and day to day. It’s a fantastic creative outlet for me and gives me some much needed “down time” away from a screen. I also find it particularly theraputic to write down all of the things that are worrying me so I can stop them from swimming around in circles in my mind.
  • Take time out
    • I would so often feel guilty for taking time out to recharge instead of working or being productive. I realise now that I simply cannot be productive to my full potential unless I do recharge.
      • Reading
      • Bullet Journaling
      • Taking yourself to a movie
      • Enjoying a cuppa tea
    • Invest in your friendships
      • It’s not really until we need them that we realise how important our friendships are to us. I will be the first to admit that I should have invested more in my friendships before my life turned upside down. I focused a lot on work and didn’t really realise how much I had neglected them until I started to feel guilty for calling on them to talk when I needed support. In particular my amazing mother and beautiful friends Erin, Emma, Paul, Marnie and Margarita who stayed on the phone with me while I cried for no reason – thank you for being such beautiful people and amazing friends. While I hope that you don’t ever suffer through tough times, I hope that I can be there for you whenever you need me <3
    • Set a vision
      • I needed something to believe in. A vision for what my life would be. A set of values to live my life by.
        What is it that you’re working towards? What might your life look like 5, 10, 20 years from now? What opportunities could you capitalise on? Where could your life take you?
    • Set small goals
      • It’s one thing to have a vision but to make sure it doesn’t overwhelm you, it’s just as important to set small, achievable goals to get there. Breaking it down into what you want to achieve today, this week, this year will help to keep you on track without feeling overwhelmed.

Choose Happy:

Being happy isn’t one big overwhelming life decision. It’s a state of mind that can be guided by making a series of micro decisions. We make hundreds of tiny choices every day. When you put yourself in headspace where you want to choose to live a happy life, you can choose “happy”.

Self-care. Gratitude. Connection.

I’m so looking forward to what the universe has waiting for me.

It has been such a tough couple of months, but I’m excited to have taken some key lessons away from it that will guide me into the future.

 

Thank you for sticking by me and being supportive while I took my little “blogging break” to look after myself.

I’m excited to share with you what will be the “new” Small Paper Things Blog.

After going through this journey of self-discovery I have realised that one of my true passions is having deep conversations with open minded people.

 

A photo posted by Linda BA (@lindabeyea) on

 

So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

I’ll be interviewing people who inspire me, sharing my journey of self-care, discovery and personal development and creating a community and a space where we can all support one another and help each other achieve our goals (but don’t worry – I’ll still share my digital marketing knowledge with you all too)!

Looking forward to the future.

K

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31 Comments

  • Reply
    Tania
    September 9, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    This is beautiful. Thank you for such a raw and emotional piece. I’m sure you’ve made so many people feel better just by sharing your experiences :)

    • Reply
      Kate
      September 9, 2016 at 10:40 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words Tania! x

  • Reply
    Matt and Nat
    September 12, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    Wow this is an incredibly powerful story Kate.

    It’s amazing what happens when we tune into the messages that our body and mind are sending us. We’re really glad you’ve gained so much self-awareness and shared this with everyone :)

    • Reply
      Kate
      September 16, 2016 at 7:47 am

      Thank you so much Matt & Nat! It was so lovely to meet you at ProBlogger this year. Don’t hesitate to shout if you have any digital marketing questions in the future :) xx

  • Reply
    Joel
    September 15, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    Thank-you for sharing this Kate. It is rare to find someone who feels a connection to their community in a way that they can share such a deep introspective piece. I admire you for being able to share your story in this way, as I am not sure that in a similar situation I could share so openly.

    I had the pleasure of attending one of your sessions last weekend, and never would have imagined this. You portrayed a confidence in speaking on stage that a number of other presenters did not. It would have been great to meet you.

    Joel

    • Reply
      Kate
      September 16, 2016 at 7:52 am

      Thank you so much for this comment Joel. It has truly made my day :)

      Would have loved to of met you at ProBlogger! Was it your first event? I’m already eagerly awaiting the details of next year’s event!

      Just checking out your blog now and absolutely LOVING it! I think I will just live vicariously through you from now on… :)

      Kate

      • Reply
        Joel
        September 16, 2016 at 8:32 am

        I will have to go and find some exciting things to share through my blog for this vicarious living. Any specific requests?

        P.S. Any good coffee shop recommendations for Brisbane, I am trying to visit a new coffee shop every day :)

        • Reply
          Kate
          September 17, 2016 at 8:33 pm

          Hey Joel!

          Well I’m a totally hopeless workaholic who hasn’t travelled at all (yet – hoping to go on my first overseas trip this year) so pretty much anything will serve as some inspiration for me :)

          I know plenty of great Brisbane coffee places!! My current favourite is “Bell Bros Coffee House”. They have 3 coffee blends to choose from and their coffee cups support local QLD artists which I just love!

          Are you based in Brisbane?

  • Reply
    Puja
    September 28, 2016 at 9:08 am

    Such an honest article. Thank you for sharing your experience. It sure made me feel better.

    • Reply
      Kate
      September 29, 2016 at 7:08 am

      Thank you Puja <3

  • Reply
    Stacey
    September 28, 2016 at 9:20 am

    What a wonderful and raw piece you’ve written here. Thank you for sharing it with us all.

    • Reply
      Kate
      September 29, 2016 at 7:08 am

      You’re so welcome. Thanks Stacey <3

  • Reply
    Angela J.
    September 28, 2016 at 9:31 am

    Wow, what an amazing story and thanks for being so honest and raw. I’m encouraged with what you’ve gone through because it means you can hit rock bottom and find your way to the top, stronger. I look forward to hearing more from you!

    • Reply
      Kate
      September 29, 2016 at 7:08 am

      Thank you Angela! It’s definitely not easy to share such personal experiences but I decided to put it out there so that others who were going through something similar would know that they’re not alone. We’re all bound to go through some tough times – it’s getting back up that is the tough part but it truly can make us stronger if we take the lessons and practice gratitude for them. Thank you for your comment <3

  • Reply
    Glamor Hippie
    September 28, 2016 at 9:59 am

    Such an amazing post! Every word resonated with me. I have also subscribed!! Great work. X

    • Reply
      Kate
      September 29, 2016 at 7:07 am

      Thank you so much <3

  • Reply
    Meg
    September 28, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Wow, this is a hugely powerful piece with so many different elements to think about! Perhaps all five of your life anchors coming adrift at the same time gives you an opportunity to cast off, wipe the slate clean and sail off to new hozizons. Sure, you found deep comfort in your old life but many elements obviously were slightly amiss for the fractures to build. This opportunity is one you can use to make a fresh start with many aspects; but remember the one constant is you – so take care of yourself!

    • Reply
      Kate
      September 29, 2016 at 7:06 am

      Thank you so much for this beautiful comment Meg. I absolutely love the idea of turning that into a positive by looking at it from the perspective of “sailing off to new horizons”.

      You are completely right and this beautiful comment is going in my journal <3 xx

  • Reply
    Nanou
    September 28, 2016 at 10:48 am

    Wow! What a powerful story and a great post!
    Sometimes we have to hit rock bottom so that we can grow again with a clearer vision or being more aligned with ourselves, our Truth. As you know, everything happens for a reason and you have learnt a lot from your experience.
    I loved the micro decisions too: we need to start small and enjoy them :) Yours are fabulous!
    Thank you so much for sharing your story!
    I wish you all the best and know that you’re aiming for the stars :)

    • Reply
      Kate
      September 29, 2016 at 7:05 am

      Thank you so much Nanou. That really means a lot.

      I couldn’t agree more re: hitting rock bottom so that we can grow again. It is completely necessary sometimes to break open our hearts so that new light can get in :) xx

  • Reply
    Melanie
    September 28, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing. I try my best to be open and raw too but it is never easy. You did a beautiful job.

    • Reply
      Kate
      September 29, 2016 at 7:04 am

      Thank you so much Melanie <3

  • Reply
    mike
    September 29, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Wow some deep stuff. Very good points. You’re back with a bang thats for sure.

    • Reply
      Kate
      October 3, 2016 at 8:59 am

      Thanks Mike!

  • Reply
    Valerie
    September 30, 2016 at 5:11 am

    What a wonderfully honest post! Sometimes it takes the hard or difficult times to truly find yourself and find out who you are.

    • Reply
      Kate
      October 3, 2016 at 8:59 am

      Thank you so much Valerie. It really does take difficult times to show us who we truly are, I agree completely xo

  • Reply
    Sarah
    October 1, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    What a beautiful post :)

    • Reply
      Kate
      October 3, 2016 at 8:56 am

      Thank you so much Sarah xo

  • Reply
    Margaret
    October 2, 2016 at 8:11 am

    I’m sorry you’ve been hurting, but am glad you’re finding your feet again. I went through something very similar when I was your age. I particularly relate to having lived my life according to others’ expectations. I recommend a book called Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson, Margaret Mitchell’s daughter. You must build a life as a composer creates a symphony; write your own melodies and harmonies. Good luck to you.

    • Reply
      Kate
      October 3, 2016 at 8:56 am

      Thank you so much for the book recommendation Margaret and for the kind words. I suppose it’s something we all go through at some point. Will definitely add this recommendation to my booklist :) xo

  • Reply
    Kate
    September 10, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Thank you so much Erin. Really appreciate your kind words of support! <3 x

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