How Blogging cured my burnout

made by f burnout blogging cure

It’s something I’ve never talked about openly but a few years ago I suffered from a burnout. It’s not a big secret as such as obviously my close ones are aware of it and when someone questions me about my career change, I have never any issues speaking the truth. Yet, writing about my burnout was a complete different story. I need to take a step back and some time to find the right words. I also needed energy and strength to talk about what happened in a more thoughtful way, my feelings being still highly strung as you can guess.

I decided to talk about it today because after three years of blogging, I eventually feel that I have the distance required to express what happened to you clearly and also, I realise that I’ve been meaning to open a bit more to you without great success in the last years. I’m a blogger and I’m addicted to social media but somehow it remains hard for me to talk to you about my feelings. This post is an open letter to you, a big step for me.

I now realise that this life experience, as intense as it was, deeply changed me and allowed me to become the blooming person I am today. When I say “blooming”, I do not mean it as my life being perfect. As for everybody else, my life is made of good and bad moments and it’s all but perfect but I can say now that I feel eventually radiant because I know who I am, what I want in life, what makes me feel good, and above all, I succeeded in finding a meaning to my life.

With my personal story, I want to show you how the worst moments in our live can reveal the best things that may happen to us. These are moments that define us and help us going forward. These moments are good for us, even if they are hard to accept or take on. Nobody is unbreakable, nobody is perfect and there is absolutely no shame to let go or fall. So, here it is, the story of a business lawyer finding herself becoming one day a fashion and lifestyle blogger.

Before my burnout…

As far as I can recall, I’ve always dreamed to be a lawyer. Already at the age of 9, while my school friends wanted to become teacher or a nurse, I had ruled that my destiny was to put on the famous black and white gown. There was something about that profession that captivated me, this idea to defend others, act for causes. Years would go by and still, I wouldn’t change my mind. Easy. No questions arising from my mind. I would be a lawyer one day.

If at the fateful moment of starting my university studies, I had a few light doubts – lawyer, stylist, home decorator? – I decided nonetheless to jump head first in my law degree. Everything pointed out that I was made for that, or at least that’s what I had convinced myself to believe. My grades also proved this point since I would completed every year of my law school with magna cum laude and even with summa cum laude for the last year of my master. With my pretty nice grades, needless to say that law firms were queuing up to hire me. I was starting my career under the best auspices, in one of the best international law firms.

Again, years would go by without lots of questions being raised. My perfect existence, at least from to the eyes of others, was going on. I had a stable love relationship. I was living in a pretty villa and I had a super interesting, challenging and financial attractive career. What more could I want from life?

One day, I discovered the world of blogging and Youtube. I would spend all my free time reading posts and watching videos, dreaming one day to do the same but not daring to by fear of what people may think of it, or the incompatibility with my job, etc. In my life, there was a space for my couple and my work and no other time nor space to imagine creating something that’d only belong to me. I hadn’t realise yet how this discovery was going to deeply change my “perfect” life.

Everything was going perfectly well in my career and I got sent in secondment to London to the main office if I may say so. It was a good sign for my career and I was thrilled to spend 6 months over there. What I didn’t know yet is that within a few weeks, all the ingredients from the “burnout cocktail” were going to meet so perfectly and bring me in non-reversible chain of events.

Slowy and steady, the burnout wins the race…

That year in my career was very important. I want to be promoted senior associate and I wanted to prove to myself and others and that I deserved this promotion. So I decided to throw myself into my secondment and I was glad I managed to work on a big file. It’s not easy when you’re seconded somewhere to get the interesting jobs since you’re here for a short and determined period of time. During a secondment, it’s typical to be put a bit on the side and I wanted to avoid that by all means. I therefore ended to work with a very demanding partner, who was a real puzzle for me to understand, on a super duper important file and with a difficult client to manage. Though I was used to handle pressure at work – it had been years I was working under constant pressure – I didn’t manage to handle the stress from this situation. I put myself under a huge pressure for months, having the feeling that I was constantly doing a bad job.

To add to this tricky situation, I was alone in London. Irfan was visiting me a lot but there were always times where I felt alone. It was not my first time alone abroad but it was the first time it was for work. It’s easy to feel surrounded by love and friendship in the context of an Erasmus or a master abroad because they are plenty of students in the same situation, looking to create some sort of family/friends network in their new environment. When it comes to work, it’s completely different. Your new colleagues go back to their live after work and English people – no offense there of course – are not the easiest to communicate with. I had never realised that the cultural gap was so big between my country and theirs.

As I was living a difficult situation at work with no proper support from my relatives due to distance, I decided I just had to tough my way through it. After all, it was just a question of months. Everything was going well in Brussels. I loved my job and had nice colleagues over there. I just had to be patient and take it on the chin. It ended out to be the worst strategy since it completely failed!

By dint of keeping it everything to myself, I literally burnt from the inside. The never-ending stressing coupled with my loneliness over there knocked me slowly but surely down, leaving me with a real exhaustion at work. When I think about it, there were so many signs that I didn’t manage to understand. Aside from the daily pressure, I was starting to develop very odd behaviours and strategies. I was there for 6 months, i.d. 182 days and from day 59, I began to count the days I still had to hold on. I had made for myself this special calendar on a little piece of paper, hidden in the first drawer of my desk. Each day, I would strike out with pleasure the day before, or even I would have fun calculating the exact number of days I had to resist, excluding sometimes weekends so this number would seem smaller in my mind. All my life depended on this tiny piece of paper. Just 120 days to go, just 67 days to go, just…

When everything falls apart…

If the act of counting the days can seem rather anecdotal, try to imagine my physical and mental distress as the time was passing by and I’d continue to fall deeper and deeper in uneasiness. While there were just a few weeks to go, the darkest thoughts started to come to mind. I never seriously thought of taking my own life but rather I had this strong desire and even dreamt about situations that would prevent me from going to work. Every day, I used to go to work on foot and during the commute, there were times where I wished that a car or even a bus hits me, bringing me to the ER. What I was going through on a daily basis was so unbearable that to me two broken legs and a few cracked ribs was a better situation. The fatigue was so intense that death seemed like a sweet rest. As I’m writing this to you, tears are dropping because I still don’t understand how I came to get caught in this spiral. There were even days when, feeling so exhausted, I had this strange feeling that my backbone was not supporting me anymore. I don’t know how to express that but as I was walking, I had this sensation that I was going to fall and never stand up again…

Then one day, as there were only 2-3 weeks to go through, I gave in or rather my body did it for me. I had resisted for so many days to end up being completely paralysed in front of my computer screen. I couldn’t think anymore, I couldn’t write an email. I felt like I was dead. My head was empty and my body, well I don’t know exactly, it was like it was not part of my anymore.

In addition to the obvious exhaustion, there was also this feeling of failure and shame. I had become senior associate but at what cost and for what purpose? I never had failed anything in my life. My perfect life as I had designed in my head was gone for good. All my life and the meaning I had given to it were lost on that day.

… and you have to stand up again

As anyone suffering from a burnout, I got exposed to an array of usual treatments. If I may say so, I go to meet a lot of new people, from the psychiatrist, to a relaxation therapist, and of course a lifestyle coach. It was hard for me to accept I had to take a break. I was all but capable of working at that time but I felt nonetheless terribly guilty not to go to work. Again, this feeling of failure I had hard times to accept. I eventually came to a point where I had to accept the truth: I was sick and needed to treat myself. The faster I’d heal myself, the sooner I’ll be back at work.

And that is when I came to meet this extraordinary person: my lifestyle coach. After all that had happened, I needed to put myself back together, regain esteem for myself and most of all understand why I was in burnout. These were difficult months. It’s not easy to call everything into question when you decided of your career at 9… It’s not easy to admit you failed that bad when you never failed before… It’s not a piece of cake to find self-confidence and the meaning to your life again.

One day, I told my coach about my dream of launching a blog, that I’ve had this dream in mind for years – 2 years and a half … – and that I had never dared pursuing this dream. As simple as that, my coach gave me a deadline to launch it. But the true story is, it was not that simple and he had to work hard convincing me.

So here you have it: how one I eventually started my blog. At that time, it was just a hobby, a project helping me to change my mind and focus on something else that my dark thoughts. I was far to believe that this blog would one day completely change my whole life.

Going back to work and a new failure

After a few months off work, I went back to work, while continuing to publish once and a while on my blog. However, I was not the same person anymore. I mean the one from prior to my burnout. It’s funny how something that may be of so much significance to you one day becomes ridiculous when you take time for yourself and learn to focus on what you want and need in life. During that break, I spent hours reflecting on who I was and what I wanted. I realised and most importantly accepted that this character I had designed was not the real me. I had designed it for others, not me.

I adjusted a lot of things in my life following this. It was about time I started to live for myself and not for the image others had of me. I still had this conviction nonetheless that I could continue my previous job while keeping blogging as a hobby. Again, this turned out to be a big mistake: could I not accept that this profession was not anymore for me? So, of course, I had to be the strong head as usual, toughing my way through it, etc. And a few months later, here I was again at break point. Doctors started to worry seriously about my physical health. When you refuse to listen, your body forces you to and in some cases, burnouts can lead to irreversible body damages. In my case, my back was the issue. I really thought at some point that I would end up in a wheelchair, no kidding. I could feel my backbone was so fragile and sometimes I would fall for no reason. It was not supporting me anymore…

The decision that changed my life

And that is when, after a (long and careful) thought, I decided to drop everything. Gone my business lawyer career, bye bye my generous fees, adios my perfect life. I was starting everything from zero and this time the way I wanted to. It took me a lot of guts to do this and manage the lack of understanding from my close ones. There are times in life where you have to be selfish and only listen to yourself. Of course, I was lucky to be put in this situation before I turned 30 and while I had not kids yet. I can imagine how difficult it must be to take such a decision when you have a family to support and when you are further higher step in your career. I still think though that nothing is impossible and there is always a spot for a solution, as hard as it may be to be taken.

On that day, I decided that I would be a full-time professional blogger and that I would manage somehow to live from it. I don’t know how to express this clearly but for me, it was similar to a vital need. My healing could not go in any other direction than through my blog. So, while being still unwell, I continued my hobby, hoping to live from it one day. Not at a single moment have I considered failing because for me this hobby was my life; it was 100% of me. I thought about this blog more than 10,000 times before I even went through this difficult part of life. This blog saved my life and I think you are from imagining how I am thankful for your presence and support throughout the years.

What I want to tell you

When I think about, it was kind of crazy of me to make such a bet. I never took that many risks in my life but I realise today that this was the best decision I ever took. I created my very own little world, a space where I can express myself as I wish to. So, what I want to tell you today it’s that it’s never ever too late to start everything from zero, that what matters in life is not the illusion of a perfect life and the big financial income appearing each month on your account; it is not either what people think of you.

With all the best efforts in the world, you will never be able to make every single human being on earth happy. When you try to do this, you end up nowhere and soon realise that you will always find someone on your way disagreeing with you, blind to all your efforts. There will also always be someone to deter and discourage you, telling you you’re doing things the wrong way but there will also always be people to support, and believe in, you. My advice: go far away from the first and surrounds yourself around the latter. It’s not easy to take risks, even for projects you so believe in, so you don’t need malicious persons around you! Go for the positive people that want you to succeed. That’s what I did!

Of course, it’s possible you’ll fail and so what? At least, you will have tried and have no regrets. It will please some people? Of course! Again, so what? If some people on earth find happiness in your misery, be sorry for them. Imagine how their life must be full of regrets and sadness. It’s easy to look, judge and criticise while doing nothing yourself. It’s the easiest thing, really. But let me ask you openly, are you going to let these embittered people decide on your life? I know what failure means and I’m still here, standing on my feet. There is no shame to fail and start over.

Looking back, I am more than happy that I came to live this difficult life changing experience. I’m glad I went to London, I’m glad I ended up working with this demanding partner and on such a complex file but above all, I’m super duper glad I failed. My burnout opened my eyes, allowed me to realise who I was and what my life meant to me. With no shame and regrets whatsoever, I can state lound and clear that it is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

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