(Photo taken from a few years back)
We are both guilty of doing too much. Filling our day with task after task after task, trying to gain a sense of productivity so that we can end the day feeling satisfied with our efforts. This is all well and dandy until you get to the point of burn out. We’ve been there and trust me its not somewhere you want to go. I think that there is a fine line between living an ambitious life and living an obsessive life. Obsessing about ‘doing’ rather than just ‘being’. Time and time again I have found myself starting to enter the ambitious path but somehow find myself confused and taking the obsessive path instead. It’s a type A personality thing. Having to get everything done that you had planned. Having to get it done right and correctly. Never failing. Never relaxing. Never letting go. This viscous cycle can go on until something forces you to stop and reflect.
Let me tell you about what happened to us. It’s something that I don’t readily expose to many as I feel as though I am still learning, still recovering. But that is what life is about, isn’t it? Constantly learning. Constantly redefining yourself so that you are able to grow and mature into the person that you are meant to be in this life.
It all started in year twelve with a very typical story of the common stress associated with the final year of schooling. I’m sure many people have been there. It’s definitely a hard year. Especially for those type A individuals that must ‘get everything right’ and never fail. To be a little more specific actually, our struggles started when we moved schools. We moved from public schools to a prestigious private school. Now I want to state quickly that I am not against private schools, they can be extremely beneficial for many individuals. The teachers are amazing and the results of the students at the end of the year reflect the success of the school immensely. For the purpose of this post however, I have to include all of the triggers that influenced our lives. Moving schools was one of those triggers.
After about one year into our new school, we gained a sense of having to ‘achieve’ in all aspects of our lives. We thought we had to be fit and beautiful to be accepted. We thought we had to have a certain social status to be invited to the parties. We thought that we had to have this incredible intelligence to ‘make it’ as a year twelve student. We were convinced that getting that high ATAR score would solve all of our problems as getting into Melbourne University was all that mattered. They only reason I wanted to study at one of the countries best universities was because of its status and prestige. I didn’t actually have much interest in the course I was applying for. Looking back to my life growing up, I remember in year nine I wanted to study a health related course. I collected brochures on health science degrees and even started secretly looking online at natural therapy courses at Endeavour College. I knew deep down that health was the path I wanted to take but I was too hesitant to verbalise it to my parents and peers. For some reason or another I thought that I would be judged. Crazy, huh?! Of course now I know that there wouldn’t have been any judgment. My parents would have accepted my decision no matter what but at the time, I was so vulnerable to social pressures and had such little confidence in myself. If I had known then what I know now, my life would have taken a very different path.
To cut a long story short, once school ended, Mel and I fell into a massive bout of chronic fatigue. For about five weeks over the summer, we travelled to Europe and basically slept all day for the most part. We literally would get up, have some breakfast and then go back to bed before we’d have to get up for lunch. Once back home in Melbourne, we struggled with varying degrees of depression and anxiety. We’d be fine for a few months and then something would happen and everything would come spiraling down again. A significant low in our lives was a couple of years ago. We were working so hard at uni (thankfully doing courses we actually liked) whilst also practicing yoga to be ready for our teacher training at the end of the year, plus trying to exercise everyday, work part time and also trying to work on our blog. Oh and fit in socializing when we could. Of course this wasn’t sustainable and surprise surprise we burnt out. Everything caught up with us. We did what we have been known to do quite well in the past. We quit our degrees, we cancelled our yoga training and we reduced our work hours. Our bodies and minds literally went on strike against us. We rested for a few months and booked a trip overseas to try and escape our reality. This was a deep and scary place in my life. I never really opened up all that much to my friends as I couldn’t fathom feeling the darkness that I had within. It was too raw and too potent for me.
Fast forward six months or so and things started to improve. We were on the path to happiness. Well I thought I was. The problem was that I was still filling my days with ‘things’ trying to avoid just ‘being’. As being with myself still caused me too much pain and unease. I moved out of home, I worked part time to pay my rent whilst also studying at university. I managed to suppress my feelings for a good 6 months until an event triggered me and I went spiraling down again into my anxiety and depression. This is what happens you see. If you never actually deal with what is bothering you deep within, you will continue to fall back into old habits. You will make the same mistakes over and over again. The pattern I was starting to see was that as soon as I thought I was well and healthy, I’d fill my life with ‘to-do’s’ and not actually realize that my anxiety was still there within me ready to leap out.
Fast forward again and I think I’ve finally learnt my lesson. Meditation, hypnosis, self-care practices and moving back in with my parents for constant support has helped me immensely. I finally feel like myself again. I have learnt to let go and be okay with myself. I’ve accepted that I still have a lot of self-work to do and it’s okay to feel down sometimes. Every day I tell myself how amazing I am. I commit to daily meditation and nourishing my body with organic food. I don’t over exercise and now move my body consciously. Moving out of love rather than fear of not being fit or strong enough. It’s a daily practice and I honestly think that in my case it’s a life long commitment. A commitment to nourishing my body and soul. Knowing my limits and making sure I don’t cross them. I am walking peacefully down the ambitious path and slowly forgetting that the obsessive path. Fear, obsessiveness and perfectionism are slowly disappearing. Health, happiness and love are the only options for Mel and I from now on.
Raw and honest words from my heart to yours.