The struggle is real. I mean: really real. I am an introvert (not a shy person). I actually enjoy talking to people: friends, family and kind strangers, alike...BUT I typically recharge best on my own; and typically feel overwhelmed and drained when constantly around others, with too much back-to-back action without building in alone time--or perhaps more accurately "without building in quietude".
I've discovered through self-observation that enjoying people, wanting so much to help and engage, while also needing to recharge separately and frequently produces a lot of complicated internal dialogue at times...
I have also had a history of struggles with Seasonal Affective Disorder ("SAD") or seasonal depression. Thankfully, I've learned to manage over the years using light therapy, vitamin D supplements and learning to respect that I typically need even more time to recharge in quietude from fall to spring despite the increase in holiday gatherings and invitations that might annually occur.
But, this year, the struggles of managing my time & energy have been extremely challenging as I've worked through focusing on transforming the pain of grief & loss into tribute & service.
As I felt consistently better over the year, taking the helm and leading the charge to help others design "Happily EVEN After Lifestyles" I, somehow, lost track of my own personal obstacles: SAD, managing my time & energy, old workaholic & perfectionistic tendencies as the season transitioned into another fall of full, lively greens disappearing and withering into grays and faded browns.
I seemed to have mistakenly forgot the fundamentals of self-compassion as I headed into autumn and uncharted territory; coming off the high off seeing progress in the lives of others, myself and development of ADJUST--and heading into a first: a friend's wedding on my own after Nelson's death.
As the fall chill and shorter days arrived, the weekly coaching program I was in came to a close; I began working even longer and more intensely on ADJUST's development, research, strategies; and hyper-focused on upping my game a good coach, friend, family member--committing to show up more to more... including a wedding, my Toastmaster's club meeting, a new friend's birthday, an old friend's birthday, a day with my visiting sister-in-law, a workshop, a paint & sip event, an event to support a friend's business, a family weekend trip, lunch with new local friends, and a bunch of other things that escape my recollection. I became obsessed with going all in on all of it "being a better person".
I was pushing the limits all year, making progress with myself and others; and it was great! But I mistook this progress for also being "over" my workaholism, perfectionism and doing things without considering my self-care in my new normal. The truth of the matter is, that each time I gave up my quietude for "just a little more (work) progress" or "just a couple more hours of catching up with friends, family", etc. I traded off my energetic capacity to recharge, engage and to grow in meaningful ways; personally and in familial and social relationships.
I blindly fell into a trap as I obsessed on the betterment, then spiraled into shameful depression as I realized (after the fact) that my need for quietude had increased exponentially with each trade off of self-care.
For about a month, I found myself having difficulty staying consistent with my self-care routines (meditation, intention setting, checking in with myself, gratitude journaling, to name a few) which have been fundamental to all the progress that I've made.
I had needed a break, badly for a while and ignored it--rationalizing that the trade-offs were for a good, positive things. Burnout isn't pretty; and I thought I had learnt my lesson when I left the long, thankless hours and 4 hour daily commute to Manhattan behind. I was wrong.
With each self-care break or practice skipped, and prioritizing my wants to be better over my needs for rest, reflection and recharging, I was burning the candle at the other end again--all on of my own accord.
I found myself headed in a downward spiral of guilt for feeling less present mentally and emotionally for others than I had been for a year. The negative self-talk whispered cutting remarks internally as it cunningly twisted progress into benchmarks of weaponry as I contemplated dialing back on my prior commitments. The internal loop started with a "Way to go... nice model of reliability you are." as I pushed through for the sake of obligation and not wanting to disappoint people I care about. It progressed into "You're such a mess. People need to hold you up all the time." and on and on... each internal cut worse, deepening the emotional wounds. I found myself feeling even more and more drained in every way as it continued.
I had unwittingly fallen into an updated version of an old, familiar ego trap: pride. Blinded, I could no longer see things for the opportunities they were because I had de-prioritized and essentially neglected the basics again. My programmed fears were kicking the crap out of me, which quickly devolved into heaviness, and unexpected emotional out bursts nearing self-loathing at home.
Sleep was a major challenge again. The breakdown in emotional & mental self-care began infecting my physical self-care.
I was breaking down. I could finally see that I needed to go deep inside again--I was undoubtedly out of alignment at the core. I knew what to do, despite now-seeing that I had waited "too long" to address things proactively... I slowed down, chewed and swallowed my pride so I could digest it this time.
I needed to stop. Reflect, then acknowledge my needs, priorities, obstacles; then I needed to forgive myself, communicate, ask for help; then actively give myself permission and space to heal, recharge and start again at whatever pace I need to ADJUST to.
I am perfectly imperfect, just as I am: growing, learning (and sometimes struggling) to be flexible and accept that I might need support, too. I am human. AND, I am enough, just like you.
Humbled, mindfully and with intention, we really have got this.