Keep calm…

… do yoga, follow a mindfulness class, meditate, relax, ….

As I have a year of blogging behind me, I want to go back to the basics, to that thing that pushed me towards blogging, my burnout.
I suffered from the symptoms long before my doctor ordered me to stay home, told me I was sick.
There were the crying parts, the shouting to anyone and no one in particular as long as they “caught” me in the wrong moment, there was the tiredness, the hyperventilation, the fears, the panic attacks, the “what am I doing” phenomenon, the mistakes, the angriness about these mistakes… you name it, I got it!

It was high time somebody called an end to that.
But it’s much easier said than done, as a matter of fact it’s huge, it’s difficult, it’s suffering, Burnout and mental problems are challenging their victim over and over again. Not in the least because the world around you doesn’t “see” there’s something “wrong” with you…  A mental health problem doesn’t show like, let’s say, a broken arm…  Especially also because people having such problems, most of the time put great effort in not showing…  It’s a vicious circle.

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I’m almost 2 years later now, and time has a healing power of its own.  The memories of the job I wasn’t up to anymore that had caused the melt down, have faded in the meantime. Burnout, meltdown… they go well together don’t you think?
I guess minds are made that way: what’s been horrible, they tend to push away or hang on to, or a mixture of both…
The hatred (I don’t use that word often or lightly) towards the people who did that to me  – for sure I wasn’t the sole responsible – faded too, a bit anyway.
But I will never be the same again.  Not only because I couldn’t anymore, but because I don’t want to go down that hectic, workaholic, manic road again.
When I look at myself back then, I’m looking at “somebody that I used to know”.

Does this mean I’m totally cured now? Not by far.
Things got better, other things came in its place.  The diagnosis Fibromyalgia for instance in November last year.
After a long and winding road, from one doctor to the next, there finally was a name for all my aches and pains.  Did it change much? No, not really because there isn’t a “one cure fits all”.  There isn’t a pill you can take that makes it magically go away.
It’s a learning process and I’m right in the middle of it.  Searching my new me, a new rhythm, peace and quiet.  Getting to terms with the fact that I can’t do anymore what I used to, that everything has to be done in small doses, and that sometimes – many times – there is a huge difference between what I planned and what I can accomplish.

I’ve never been the one who can keep her calm in every moment.  Gosh how I admire people who can.
But, I  have to learn to accept that I have my own temperament, my own dynamics.  I’m a terrible, terrible perfectionist (in case you wonder where the title of this blog comes from…), a control person, and hyper sensitive.
So, in order to cope with the fibro problem in combination with my personality, I have to learn… learn hard and work hard.
Sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t.  And when fears or worries hit me once again, they hit hard.

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It’s rather funny actually, as nowadays you can’t open a magazine, put on your tv or someone – preferably a psychiatrist – is telling you that mindfulness is the solution to all problems, that you have to create “me” time, that you have to “let go”, relax, go with the flow, meditate, do some yoga in order to be happy…
Did you notice too that we have to be happy like alllllll the time, that we have forgotten how to be sad, that we aren’t even allowed anymore to be sad….  That we get unhappier because we are not able to feel happy all the time…  All that happiness is making us crazy!

Well I think I’ve tried all those things, learned a lot, bought and read tons of books and picked something up here and there that lasted.  There’s the Morning Pages (Julia Cameron) I try to do as much as possible (except when life interferes), there’s the much slower pace for everything (from cleaning to driving), there’s the not trying to panic when work didn’t get done…
And then there’s yoga, that I picked up since December last year.  It helps.  It helps me in a way no other relaxation program did before.  All other stuff started with: you feel heavy, you feel relaxed, you feel your muscles let loose, think of nothing, don’t let thoughts interfere….
My gosh, I felt more insecure, incomplete and a total failure after every exercise.  I didn’t feel any of those things, not really anyway.  My thoughts didn’t just halt, they just kept coming, no matter how many boats I fantasized to float away with them on that river of tranquility…
And when the exercise was “done” and my therapist asked me “And? did you feel the warmth? Did you feel how your arms got heavy?…” I had to say “no, not really”…  Again, I failed….

But yoga made me realize that I don’t ‘have to’ feel anything, that my thoughts won’t stop and – what’s important – that thoughts are normal, they’re o.k., I’m o.k….
What a difference!  I finally feel normal again, people’s minds don’t come with a “thoughts on/off button”, I have thoughts and am allowed to have them, as long as I acknowledge it, and can refocus… even if it takes a hundred retakes, it’s still fine.  Isn’t that great?

Well, I guess I will never become the calmest person in the world.  To myself I picture this as a football career.  Apart from Cruyff, Ronaldo, Messi and a handful other super talented guys, born with football in their veins, there are players who learned to become great.  They learned techniques, they learned to deal with all kinds of stuff and they became world famous players, but they will never become Cruyff, Ronaldo or Messi no matter how hard they try, or learn, or work.

And that’s my lesson for this year and many to come: learn the techniques, practice yoga, meditate and accept that I’m not perfect, that I’m not born with a natural calm and ease, that my  “go with the flow” will get easily interrupted by other flows…  And when those moments of weakness do come, panic might get the better of me again, hyperventilation probably will strike again…  But I will also realize that I have not totally failed.  That it was just another moment and that this too will pass.
For me that will be pretty awesome goals to reach, especially the acceptance part.

Wow, this was a long one.  For those who are still with me here, thanks for so much attention.
But I guess I just had to write this, from my heart…

Thanks guys! Have a nice weekend!

Marleen

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The opposite of the teacher’s pet…

WordPress’ Daily prompt : Tell us about a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for the better or the worse. How is your life different today because of him or her?

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When I read this daily prompt there was one name that immediately came to my mind, Mrs Verhulst, my elementary school teacher at the age of 10.  And although most of my teachers were the anonymous or inspiring kind, this one, well…
I still see her in front of me.  Beautiful but arrogant woman, impeccable make-up and dress, high heels… get the picture?

I was a “good” student, both behaviour wise as grade wise.  Suddenly, in Mrs Verhulst’s class, my grades dropped like a rock.  Nothing seemed good enough anymore, be it math, language, creative… you name it.
My mom and dad were quite upset about it, especially because, when they asked me if something was wrong, I just shrugged and said “not that I know of, I do my best as I always do, but somehow, it’s not good enough”.
So, next parent’s contact evening, my mom and dad inquired the vain Mrs Verhulst… Without blinking an eye, this would-be-queen-of-Sheba answered: “Well, I just can’t stand her – that’s it – period.  She can do whatever she wants the rest of the year, her grades won’t go up”
Can you imagine how my mom and dad felt?  And there was so little they could do.  If they would talk about it to the head teacher, she would discuss it with Mrs Verhulst, and it probably would have gotten worse.
Changing school was not an option either as the year was already 3 months gone.
So, I stayed, feeling demotivated, disappointed, left down and…. not good enough.   Next year, I left my beloved school and went to a neighboring city.

I’m not saying that this… this… woman… is the sole reason of my terrible perfectionism nor of the fact that I never feel good enough, but I am sure she didn’t help either.

Nowadays there are school councils who would tell that teacher that this is not the way you handle a 10-year old, but we’re talking 45 years ago and the spirit was totally different back then.
Lucky that attitude has changed, although it might well be that the bullying was taken over by some fellow students…

When Helpless meets Fear

“Helplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –- and what did you do about it?”

This is the first time I participate in the Daily Prompt… I guess I feel a little helpless right now…  So here goes…

When did I last feel that? What do I do about it?
The kind of helplessness I’m talking about, is reoccurring.

You know those situations in a hospital or at the doctor’s after you had a check up, or – for the women amongst us – a mammography? And some assistant asks you to wait “a bit”?  And while you are waiting for 5 minutes, 10, 15, half an hour… nobody tells you what’s going on… You ask that same assistant – sitting at her/his desk, or maybe passed you by already a couple of times – what’s taking so long and she/he gives no information whatsoever?

Well, that’s when I feel helpless, totally, terribly helpless.  And there is nothing I can do about it but wait until someone ready to communicate, shows up.
That’s also the time when the most horrid scenario pops into my head, unstop-able and, the longer I have to wait, the more horrid the scenario gets.  That’s when helplessness meets fear!  And those two together get along soooo well! They are best pals. And they laugh at your face!
There’s little I can do about it, except, with getting older and practicing a lot, I try some visualization techniques.  I go to my happy place, hoping that this mind boggling fear and helplessness will calm down.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t…

And afterwards, when the doctor finally turns up, telling that everything is o.k. and that I can go home… that “dull, sick feeling”  shifts shape and turns into fatigue, numbness and I feel as if all energy has been drained from my body.
An odd feeling, but anything is better than that helpless fear or fearless helplessness.

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