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The confession of a performance princess

1 May, 2020

"Du har inte varit utbränd, du har bara en dålig relation. "

Min chef spänner ögonen i mig och ska berätta hur det verkligen ligger till.Det hugger till i hjärtat, nej, i själen. Det gör ont, det gör riktigt ont. Eller gör det verkligen ont? En kort stund blir jag istället förbannad. Sedan blir allt tyst. Det är ingen tävling i helvetet.Utbrändhet kan visa sig på massor av olika sätt och du behöver inte åkt ambulans till sjukhuset, för att du tror att ditt hjärta håller på att stanna, för att inte vara frisk. 

At the same time, I could understand him in a way. Like Katla, the dragon in the Brothers Lionheart, I had poisened my surroundings and the mood of my colleagues. I was like a bomb about to explode. Totally blind to my own being. The problem was that I was sick. I was too sick to understand what I was doing. 

It had gone way too far, unreasonably fast. Like a snowball that was now part of an avalanche and felt impossible to stop. Inside I was empty. It was completely black. Everything that had previously given me joy, happiness, inspiration, well-being, harmony was just the opposite. Nothing gave me energy. 

The only thing I wanted was to break the negative spiral and be like I was before, happy and full of energy. But for the first time in my life, I saw no way out. I had no idea what tools to use to successfully turn around the concerning way things were going. 

I that basically had always managed everything that I have done before. My "Pippi mentality" had taken me a long way. I've never done this before, but I'm sure I can! And shame on the one who gives in, the disdain for laziness and "contentment" was stronger than ever. 

Work had now evolved to not only be part of me, but all of me. All I could think, breathe and feel was performance. That the goal justified the means was an understatement. The only thing I could relate to was that my results should be impeccable and superior to everyone elses. But to be honest, what others have achieved or thought about my performance have never really mattered. 

The hard judge has always been me. When I was around 20 years old, a friend told me: Wilma, take out a picture of you when you were a little girl. The harsh words you say to yourself now, you say to the little girl. Imagine if I´d taken that advice. Maybe I could have started enjoying life and living life to the fullest, much earlier.

I think it is easy to say that the reason could be low self-esteem that was compensated by strong self-confidence based on consistent over-performance. 

Achieving and delivering high results has provided security and eventually became a drug which I was terrified to do without. So it may be to some extent, but the triggering factor was that I got lost in my own garden. I that have always gone my own way and made decisions with life-changing consequenses that I faced with a smile. 

I always looked forward to the next morning to discover new wonderful adventures that life had to offer. All of a sudden I had no idea why I was living my life as I did. A strange feeling of being completely lost in one's own life. 

Who am I doing this for? 

I remember one evening as I stood picking up the pieces of myself after a long, intense, exhausting day. What am I doing? Who am I doing this for? What do I really want to accomplish with my life? And how to I want to live my life if I could choose myself? 

If I can choose entirely myself. 

I couldn´t remember that feeling anymore even when trying. Misunderstand me right. On paper, I lived an amazing life, had a partner who loved me, friends in abundance, a family that always stood by my side and a job many would have liked. Which I even "aced". 

But I had lost myself in the journey to prove, to myself, that I´d never be content. That I would do anything to get as far as I could. 

You could say that it was driven by anxiety. I´d say that there is a strong curiosity to see what is behind the next corner. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. 

I had reached the bottom. All I wanted to do to was to pull the blanket over my head and never be accountable for anything again. I´d started to realize. I was really not feeling well. It was almost as I was shocked by the insight after given myself a few weeks of reflection. My God, I feel so bad! It came over me like a tsunami. When did I really stop and pay attention to how I was feeling last? Obviously, far too long ago. 

How could I, who have more than most people can dream of, feel so bad? The shame was huge. 

What a luxury problem, echoed in my head. You spoiled little brat. The inner voice had not become any friendlier. To accept that I, as a sober adult, had pushed myself so hard that I could not function normally is, to say the least, easier said than done. 

My friends said exactly the same things that were already spinning in my head:

  • I told you that you have to slow down! 
  • Do you have to work so much? 
  • Can't you just do three things at the time instead of ten?  
  • You can't take everything personally, it's just a job! 
  • Don't be so emotional! 

It wasn't the amount of work. It wasn't too much commitment. It wasn't just a bad relationship. 

It was the lack of courage to live my life. No matter what anyone would think. Including myself. 

Believe me I know how painful it is to break up relationships, jobs, move, change in order to live the life I am meant to live. Where I can be me, and that´s okay. 

But I promise you. It is even more painful to explain to some you love how terribly bad you feel and then see the horror, sadness and feeling of inadequcy in their eyes. Not to mention the self-contempt and shame that follows. You have not just hurt yourself. You have caused someone you love severe pain. 

I knew that it was my responsibility that things were as they were and that it was my responsibilty to change the situation. 

It both hurts and requires an incredible amount of strength. Strenght that you for some time have used for so much else. The cloth has long since been squeezed dry and it feels like a joke to think you could squeeze another drop out of it. 

The hill is steep, the light in the tunnel is sometimes non-existent. 

But shame on the one who gives up.I have always despised laziness and a laid back approach. But deep down I have always admired, not to say been jealous, of those who are content. It seems so ... peaceful. 

I don't have that gene. Although today with different perspectives I can stop and just enjoy the moment, what I have accomplished and how incredibly grateful I am for all my life has given me. 

That gene drove me into the wall - and, ironically, it took me away. Life cannot be over now, before it has barely begun. I knew I had so much left to experience and thanks to my stubbornness, curiosity and with an incredible amount of support and love from my surroundings, things slowly progressed. 

In a way, being burnt out was the best thing that could happen to me. At the same time I don´t wish it for anyone. 

Dare to ask yourself what you really want out of your life and how you want to live your life. 

Then fill your life with people and activities that give you energy. It´s just that simple and just that difficult. 

Every day I have to relate to work as an anorexic to food. My way of solving it is to be zealous of the energies and by reminding myself that I should work for a living - not the other way around. 

Be kind to your loved ones by being kind to yourself and choosing yourself - in all situations. It's so worth it in the long run. 

/Wilma, co-founder IRETURN

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