I detest feeling weak , and incapable. So being ill was a physical and mental position I was definitely not used to; In the stillness, however, God taught me a few lessons that I thought I would share …
Cut to 4 weeks ago – I was in the middle of one of my normal but absurdly busy weekly routines; 2 long runs. 2 lifting and 1 cardio session was the line up for that week. Mentoring calls, a press launch, a business awards Gala, a work day in London all fuelled by 5 hour-long hour sleeps, 6am alarms… and that was a calm-ish week compared to the one planned next – I was getting ready for a panel session at an event, an awards dinner, another 2 work days London, the usual PT sessions , more calls. Plus my full time job in the local government. Then of course keeping up with Girls in Science. Delegating articles, responding to emails, pitching to sponsors, attending business development meetings, replying to requests from the team, continuing with strategy documents.
Everyone tells me to be careful of burn out – but I try not to even think of the word because … it scares me. I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist, but I really value my personal quest to be a smart worker, a go-getter. I hate giving up. I detest negativity, and so the idea of ‘burning out’ … I just don’t have anytime to consider it.
I can usually feel when I’m lying low on emotional energy; usually after I have exerted myself profusely at a series of events where you have to constantly be ‘on’. Of course late nights don’t help.
But when I can feel myself dwindling – I usually get very teary, feel abit overwhelmed, have a cry to my mum or my best friend on the phone. My anecdotes for these moments are, a pepp-talk from my mum, scheduling more Bible reading and having some quiet time before bed as well as TRYING sleep early then , after a Saturday to myself, I’m back on form again. This time however I could feel my energy slowly decreasing, but I just kept going … I didn’t listen to the warnings.
The Thursday before getting ill was pretty busy, I went to work during the day, left half an hour early to go shopping for an outfit that I was wearing to a business gala that evening, got home around midnight and tried to snooze myself down to get a train to London at 7 am the next morning. I spent the day helPing to interview a full list of candidates for a grad-scheme and arrived home that night exhausted. I remember feeling strangely cold that afternoon, but I ignored it. On the Saturday I was babysitting my sweet little cousins ages 2 and 8, I ploughed through but had a terrible headache and was really warm during the night. Then Sunday arrived. I got up my usual time to get ready for Church and I did NOT feel great. I felt confused and really tired. My church is the type that is impossible to snooze during the service, and I’m a part of the band, so the pressure was on to keep my eyes open – but I don’t even remember what we sang that morning. I was aching and tired and had to leave at quarter way through the service. Then I came home and slept for about 16 hours. That week and a half was pretty much a blur, I slept most of the time had terrible nausea, could hardly eat … headaches and temperatures and a profusely aching body. The first few days I thought it was just a blip. I usually get a little under the weather if I’ve been super busy for a few weeks… but this was different. I realised something was really wrong when on the fourth day: I was too weak to get up out of my bed to take paracetamol.
That was the strangest feeling – it was almost like I was glued to the mattress . My mind started racing; ‘this is what it feels like to want to do something and not be able to do it.’ I felt helpless and frustrated. I couldn’t look at any screens, I got breathless doing the smallest things and I was consistently cold, despite the temperature. But it was in those quiet moments I realised a few things.
- Hugs are everything … although hugs are probably what got me into this mess I detested not being able to be close to my family. Thankfully none of them got ill from me !
- Only some things are necessary – stripping down my calendar to the bare minimum [ wake up – eat – sleep – repeat] . Wasn’t as awful as I was expecting it to be, there are so many things I involve myself with that just aren’t detrimental.
- Don’t be afraid of the quiet – I usually have to have something on in the background, whether it’s the Bible, A book from audible, piano jazz – something ! -But sometimes real focus comes in silence- I’m learning about that.
- It’s okay to step back. Your sky won’t collapse if you step away for a little while – a digital detox *even if its forced* does a lot of good. And *night mode* on your phone works like magic.
- People care – When I slipped away from church earlier that Sunday, by that evening I’d had a handful of people texting my phone just asking if I was alright. One of my mentors who had the virus herself was texting me to see if I was okay, My work colleagues were so understanding and supportive, I received messages from friends at university to see how I was doing. I felt so loved.
I believe in the kindness of humanity. And I really see this time off as a bit of an incubation period to take note and take stock of myself. I hope you get to step back slow your world down, think about the bigger things in life and do the same.