Lessons From Burn Out: What I Learned from Fatigue

I dissected myself early on in life.

There’s a certain kind of pain that comes with knowing yourself, other people, and things about the world. As a child, I was hyper aware of these things, and therefore the suffering of life—it wasn’t all the love and light I thought I was coming here for.

I witnessed how people discarded their emotions, and in an attempt to restore light, I’d pick them up, hold on and try to transmute them. But that didn’t make anything better for me or for them. So I learnt that disconnecting from my sensitive heart saved me a lot of hurt.

They call it ‘disassociation’. I didn’t know that, I had no idea what I was doing when I floated my soul out into the ethers and moved from my heart to my head to avoid feeling the big emotions when they showed up.

By the time I was a teenager I wouldn’t even listen to sad music, too afraid was I of my own feelings, scared that if I fell over the edge and plunged into the well of my unfelt emotions, I’d drown. So I starved myself instead. First of soul nourishment and then literally. I stopped inhaling artistic sustenance, stopped creating, stopped doing the things that made my heart race, that made me sad and uncomfortable. I swallowed it all down without tasting, like it was encased in a pill shell. If it wasn’t happy and fun, it wasn’t felt or seen. I crafted a strong mind that stood guard at the gates of my psyche and, thinking it was keeping me safe, determined which feelings were allowed into my heart and which had to be exiled to my unseen inner world.

Ironically, I weighed myself down so heavily with ignored, compacted emotion and layers of artificial identity that I drowned anyway. I was fragmented, like the society in which I lived, my soul, mind and body were on separate paths and I was being yanked between them, not knowing where to go.

But starving myself offered a pseudo grounding and brought my attention to my body enough to distract me from my psyche. It felt good to be physically empty in contrast with the emotional fullness. So I took up running as well. Then more exercise, exertion, overthinking; I kept moving to stop my true self from catching up with me. I supposed, years later, that living as a human felt so dense to me, that making myself as light as possible delivered a floaty freedom from reality. I felt simultaneously protected by my new muscles and the familiar ethereality that further untethered my physical self from Earth.

Of course, disbanding from my energetic expression had a time limit.

Years of hauling stagnant emotions I didn’t know what to do with: guilt, pain, shame, fear, other people’s secrets, were so compacted and heavy that they became exhausting to carry, especially when my energy was being channeled into tiring out my body.

When I hit my mid twenties, my body was literally the outward expression of my internal world. I was blocked, overloaded, and completely depleted. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, yet the doctors had nothing to offer me as to the root cause.

I didn’t quite realise it at the time, but from that moment I set off on the journey of piecing myself back together. To reclaiming those parts of me that had been relegated to the depths; the highest parts that I’d treated as inferior.

Spiritual awakenings are reported as magnanimous, spontaneous, exultant affairs. Mine wasn’t so flashy. I awoke slowly, sluggishly, after years of excavating the dark, bringing to light the depths of my inner world. My Saturn Return was approaching and I was being gifted a giant lesson in the power of the soul and our personal responsibility toward nurturing it. So as Saturn made its return to the place of my birth, I began the return to my nature, I replanted myself. I rooted to rise.

These are the lessons I learnt along the way, I think they’re universal to all human suffering, but especially to those who are experiencing soul loss.

You Really Do Have to Feel to Heal

First up: I had to own my feelings, and stop owning other people’s.

I was manifesting the depletion of my physical body through the strength of my own thoughts and the retaliating power of my unfelt emotions. Together, they had gained so much strength they were breaking my physical body down.

Emotions aren’t designed to be still, their very definition is rooted in ‘motion’, holding my feelings hostage was damning the flow of nature. So, I learnt how to feel them. I talk, I tell people how I feel, I write it down, I move it out, and I let it go.

I had to go in and excavate. I sifted through the debris of my repressed self to pick out the parts that meant something. I examined them, let go of the stagnant ones and transmuted the lessons therein into gold to hold aloft as proof that my journey was worth it and that feeling bares treasure.

Identity is a Fluid Belief System

I'll never forget the first time I consciously let an old version of me die. I could feel the tendrils of the story's clutch unfurl, their hold frozen dead; more weight I’d been hauling around.

In a bid to protect myself from my own softness, I created a strong, indestructible me. I believed so much in this armour-clad, runner version of me, I was striving to be a hero, my own strong rescuer with a superpower of impermeability, not realising my real power lay in my sensitivity. That person was protecting me from my own self and trying to be her while I was too full of fatigue to even climb the stairs was debilitating. My legs barely worked because I was tied, through my unprocessed emotions, to past timelines and was trying to drag this ghost version of me into my now. I was resisting the life I was being given and ardently clawing at the life I’d decided I wanted.

I had to let go of the identity I was clinging onto. It was anchoring me in the past and draining my life force. In an act of femininity my hardened self so needed, I had to allow parts of me to die so that the rest of me could live. And so I learnt the meaning of death, the cycles of nature, and the rebirth always ready to happen after destruction.

It was a tough lesson for the ego but I wouldn’t heal until I let go of this idea I had of myself and I accepted myself for who I am, constantly evolving in every present moment. Without the cloak of ego, I felt like I’d finally taken a deep breath.

I cried it out. I didn’t know why I was crying, yet I also knew why right into my bones. Tears that had been hanging onto the caruncles of my eyes for years thawed and fell down my face, heavy with the weight of the emotional debris they pulled out with them. Each time, I shed another coat of bio armour and deflated as a layer of protective water released from under my skin.

My soul was banished by untruth and management of an image that didn’t exist. It was revived through honesty, trust and grace.

Humility and Vulnerability Save Lives

The nature of CFS meant I had to surrender and allow myself to be looked after. I had to resign from trying to do it all and speak up when things got too much. It forced vulnerability on me when I’d been running from that very state.

I was at once obsessed with my physicality and also tragically disconnected from my body and its needs. The condition totally shot down my pride, dismantled my emotional crutches and forced me into a new, softer, heavier, squishier, more feminine body that challenged my pride and expectations of how I thought my body should look. Gaining the weight my body needed to heal caused my clothes to pinch, my thighs to rub and my cheeks to fill out and that came with immense discomfort, moreso for my ego than anything else.

Quickly, I realised that berating my new body just elevated my stress levels and created a hormonal and energetic environment that perpetuated my condition. I had to learn not to judge my body against my previously slim and athletic one and lean in to the way my body looked when it was doing its best to keep me alive.

I had to accept that healing would take time. I learnt the difference between living at speed and in flow and accepted that, in sync with nature, life works in cycles. I can’t be moving at speed and with force all the time. A virtuous life requires undulation of me—calm must follow exertion.

Energy is Power

We aren’t physical beings as much as we are energetic ones. Where we get energy from and where we give it to informs our energetic power; and I had none.

My own thoughts were more of an energy saboteur than anything else. My incessant mind, in its desire to distract me from my feeling heart, was stealing energy from my physical body. So I learnt to navigate using my energy, which is truth instead of my thoughts, which are subjective. When I cleared out my mind, I had a more direct route back to my innate power bank—my soul.

To keep this channel clear, I had to learn the difference between the external things that attempt to lure me into handing over my energy, and the call of my own soul. The difference between me and the me society was yanking at me to be. I was unplugged from my personal power and sucking faux energy from false belief systems. I had no boundaries—the energy I did have was leaking all over the place, into ‘fitness’, into the past, into the illusory idea I’d constructed for myself — and I had no stable power bank to recharge from.

Squandered energy is a denotation of spiritual crisis, and in this way, spirituality is as much biological as it is psychological and emotional. This meant learning to care for my body as not just a vessel holding me to the Earth, but as a conduit to my soul, my nature, and my creativity, all of which require energy. I restored my energy through nourishing food for my tiny body, eaten with kindness, creative pursuits for my hungry spirit, and filling my heart up to bursting so my soul had a beautiful home to land back into.

You might not wind up with diagnosable Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but exhaustion, inexplicable pain, and an inability to be still can all be signs pointing to a soul that’s been lost under unexpressed parts of you that are vying to be seen.

It took a lot of self enquiry and conscious creation of space, to be gently tenacious in self care, and let my sensitivity be itself. But as I took each step in coaxing my soul back, slowly, slowly my energy returned with it, along with my moon cycle, and then came the reunion with my creativity, and at some point the light in my eyes flicked back on. Fatigue turned out to be the big contraction before my great expansion; my lesson in how to protect my energy without sacrifice, how to be discerning in life’s seductions, how to celebrate the nuances of being human without duality, and find strength in the tricky multidimensionality of being on Earth.

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