Befuddled Brain and Lead Limbs – Burn-out with a Mountain Backdrop

A feeling I’m not unused to, especially since I’ve been recovering from burn-out. A feeling that reminds of a hangover, eyes squinty, limbs heavy, no coordination, requiring herculean effort to walk up the stairs or even tap away on this keyboard. After hauling myself slowly up the stairs, which I can at other times cavort up two at a time, my heart rate beats pathologically fast and my breathing is laboured, not like after a good run but more like when you are really sick or super hungover. My mind like a jumble of yarn balls after the cats have been playing.

My energy, or lack thereof, isn’t any longer a complete mystery and confusion to me, I can now see some patterns, I can identify some of the things that drain me, but sadly I still often seem to have to get drained before I really notice.

I find that my energy cycles turn quite quickly, no more than a day or two in a row goes by where I can count on, with any kind of certainty, what I will be able to do. Most of the time I find my body somewhat heavy and my mind sluggish. I find myself slightly frustrated by the small windows of opportunity I have where I can experience life without feeling like I’m dragging heavy weights behind me. Then I remember that my purpose just now is to rest and heal; tiredness suggests I need more rest, and I guess, despite my best efforts to honour my needs, I’m not actually resting enough.

It appears to me that post burn-out life is like an extremely highly strung performance sports car. I only run well when the conditions are just right. My window of tolerance is minute and my thresholds are low. Burn-out is the ultimate exercise in awareness, the ultimate in yogic training, having to notice all the fluctuations in my body to figure out if I’m in a nourishing or draining space, my body acting like a megaphone on steroids leaving me in no doubt when conditions have drained me once again.

As I’ve written before I am starting to believe the key to my energy as being completely authentic to myself, working out exactly what I need for my engines to run smoothly.

I believe my lesson now is to really learn what I need emotionally and physically. I can see that energy is there when, given the right conditions, when i feel in control and am giving freely of myself, I feel energised, I have a bounce in my stride and my mind fog clears; those moments are often fleeting, lasting only minutes and turning up only every few days, but they come just often enough for me to know that strength does still exist in my mind and body.

Over the past weeks I’ve completed one 10km walk, and a number of 3-5km walks, my physical strength and lung capacity is enough, granted, the uphills were tough, but for someone who isn’t trained in mountain trekking my physical capacity is good. After walking my body felt fine. But as the days go by and I expect my body to adapt and strengthen to the walking I find myself just feeling more and more drained, limbs heavier and heavier.

As a physiotherapist I’m well acquainted with training techniques, but after burn-out the body seems to behave differently, I haven’t managed to do any type of consecutive physical training for more than a few days at a time before it’s time for another downswing of energy and I have to rest again (training such as walking or gentle yoga). Sometimes I push myself when I’m feeling sluggish and the tiredness clears, other times it seems to compound the lethargy. It’s a difficult line to tread, when to push a little harder to get stronger and when pushing will tip me over the edge again.

A few days ago I came to the conclusion that I have to once again stop and have total rest. Actually I’m on day five of rest and I still feel very tired and heavy. Fear sets in: will I ever have energy again? Sadness sets in: look at what has happened to me, what a state I’m in. But what I’ve achieved over the past weeks is actually phenomenal, I’ve experienced so much, seen such beauty, met so many people. I’m negotiating being in a completely foreign country (India), if I was just to feed myself three meals a day and have a place to sleep at night this would be plenty enough. My friend reminded me today “You are not here on a mission, you came here to rest”.

If past experience serves me, after enough rest the motivation for activity will come back naturally all by itself. Until then I need to practice self-compassion and self-acceptance to honour my own need for rest.

‘Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.’
~ Jack Kornfield


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2 thoughts on “Befuddled Brain and Lead Limbs – Burn-out with a Mountain Backdrop

  1. I guess it is a long trip back – but it is going the right way. Many many prayers are going from Battle for your complete healing, and from me, very specifically as i wake up every morning

    You will get there




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