To help you uncover your story, let me share mine.
Occupation: Self Employed Acupuncturist
Hours Worked Per Week: 32
Patients Seen Per Week: 60-70
Status: Burned Out
Let’s put ourselves back in the year 2012. Gotye and Kimbra were blasting out of your speakers “… somebody that I used to know” and the amount of meme’s about Carly Rae Jasper’s “Call Me Maybe” was out of control. Me? I had just turned 30, I was super successful, my pants were too small, and I was starting to resent my patients.
My private practice was in this amazing apartment with french double doors that lead from the hall to the waiting area. There was giant IKEA couch that was directly across from a (working!) fireplace. Patients had 2 treatment rooms to choose from, and the office was an just 18-minute bike ride from my apartment.
From the outside, everything was perfect. I had everything I ever wanted. A happy marriage, a full practice, the ability to splurge when I wanted to. I was on time with my student loan payments and could even afford to have a stylist clean out my closet and help me shop. Morning shows were inviting me to be a guest (I even did acupuncture live on television) and I was featured in magazines for my coaching business. The best part: I was working only 4 days a week! The trick?
I hated it. I was overwhelmed, super tired, and really irritable.
I remember in January walking into an H&M with my niece and seeing these super cool pants, they were wide leg in a flashy pattern, I needed to have them. I grabbed my size and snuck into the dressing room. It took me about to my knees to realize there was no way these pants were getting over my hips, never mind getting buttoned. So I tried a size up, thinking “ach, whatever, sizes are garbage anyway”… that size didn’t slip on too easily either. After a bit of jumping around in the dressing room, I grabbed another size up. I slid them on with ease (thank god!), buttoned them and then started holding my breath. WTF?!?! How are these SO TIGHT!??!
I decided that the pants were broken, and I left the store huffing and puffing.
I hadn’t really noticed any weight gain and I wasn’t weighing myself very often, so I decided to ignore this for a while because the pants in my closet still fit me and I was going to stick to that. Besides, I was so tired from working that I wasn’t about to add exercise back into my routine. The 15 or so patients a day were wearing me out more than I wanted to admit.
My office was rocking and I had a 3-month waiting list, much to the chagrin of new patients that wanted to get in to see me. I had no receptionist and online scheduling wasn’t a thing yet, so I did it on my own. My phone would ring, I’d notice it was a number I didn’t recognize and I’d break out in a sweat thinking because this might be another new patient that I didn’t have the time or energy for.
It started out as fear and turned into resentment because the local population likes to push push push until they get their way. I held my ground and put people on a waiting list, but each time I did it (pretty much every day), I ended up sweating and frustrated by the conversation. I’d hear: “Are you SURE you don’t have any space? Why don’t you come in early? You could take me during your lunch hour! Well, I’ll come at the end of the day and you can take me then. I’ll pay double.” And on and on and on it went, because of this …
It wasn’t too hard to push me over the edge in those days.
I was so close to it all the time anyway, that a patient being 5 minutes late would send me into a tirade. So, like I said, I was exhausted, angry, AND gaining weight – I now know that’s the Burnout Combo Special.
I didn’t know at the time that my body was attacking my thyroid. This was my first Burnout. I pushed through being tired, angry, and chubby for almost 2 years and moved to a new country before I really broke down. When I went in for an annual breast ultrasound to keep an eye on a fibroid, the doctor said that he was old school and was taught to always do the breast and thyroid at the same time. So he did. And he didn’t like what he saw. So I did the blood work and I didn’t like what I saw.
But at least I knew, right? Sometimes having a diagnosis makes things easier. At least I wasn’t crazy and now, I could do something about it. I didn’t want to start a lifetime of thyroid meds if I could avoid it, so I did all the things. I cut out gluten and dairy, I took supplements, I started exercising again. I had acupuncture and drank Chinese herbs. And it worked. I was back down to a normal weight, my legs didn’t feel like cement blocks on my walk uphill from the tram stop and I had a better attitude.
I’d love to tell you that this was the end of the story and offer you some thyroid fixing solution, but that was never the whole story I was meant to tell, so I’ll continue.
It’s 2014 and I am in a new office in a new country, building up a practice from the ground again. It’s working, but I know better this time. I’ve cut my hours and given myself more time with each patient. I was proud of respecting my body and her boundaries. (Insert High Horse here).
Then it happened AGAIN. I’m not even kidding. I thought I’d jump off a bridge. I wasn’t so angry this time, but I was SO TIRED. I was only working 20 hours a week seeing about 40 patients. I had plenty of free time and NOTHING to complain about. Those cement legs came back and I felt like I needed a strap to help lift them from step to step when I was going up the stairs.
It’s embarrassing to get sick as a healthcare professional. I feel I should know better! So, when my body broke down, I threw the ingredients of guilt and shame on top of the breakdown just to be sure that the result was as bitter as possible. For dessert, I added the extra pressure that entrepreneurs like to place on themselves to be successful.
It wasn’t my best meal. It was missing all the ingredients that make recovering from burnout possible: self-compassion, lack of self-judgment, the ability to slow down, the acute listening necessary to hear the cries of body, mind, and soul. I agreed with myself to do it differently this time, to use the best, freshest ingredients – even if they were the ones I wasn’t used to having in my kitchen.
If I’m honest, I’m still slowly wandering away from burnout, but I know what direction I’m going in and I’ve gotten damn good at guiding other people through it. This business erupted from a very deep need that I had for some hand-holding during this process, for some realness in a world where “just put a smile on!” and “your thoughts create your life!” quotes can drive you mad. I couldn’t even read them when I was in the thick of it and if I knew then what I knew now, I would have ignored them completely.
When you’re burnt out and exhausted, the average internet-ready advice is fucking useless.
My job now is not to pull you out of the muck that you’re in, but to sit in it with you until you’re ready to stand. You don’t have to go through this alone, and you really shouldn’t. Here’s what I promise for when you decide to work with me: Handholding. No Bullshit Quotes. The Word Fuck – sometimes as a complete sentence. Slow Forward Movement. A Clearer Head. A Happier Body. Less Embarrassment about your emotional outbursts. Better Business Boundaries. A Space For 100% Truth-Telling. Relief. Energy. No Cheesy Advice.
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