The Year My Brain Broke

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Big confession: I’m 31 years young. My husband is 27 though and I still hold fast to the claim that its the average of our ages now. Hence, I consider us both 29. Through my 20’s I was hell bent on taking on the world. I think they may call it ‘workaholism’ but I’m not entirely sure.

I put myself through uni, eventually with no help from the government and little help from my (wonderful, but at that point not wealthy) family. I worked multiple jobs to do it. On Tuesdays (the day before payday), I had the choice to fare-evade or eat. Often fare-evading and attending uni won out. But that is ten years ago so I think the statute of limitations has probably kicked in now, hence my confession.

When I left uni and moved back to my hometown, due to some demons I may disclose later, I was terrified of my own company. So I worked a full time job, started a catering company that turned into a cafe, was heavily involved in my church youth group/kids ministry/music team/communications team etc. But that was okay because I had youthful energy to push me through.

At uni, I had been randomly chosen in a tutorial to do a psychometric test as part of a HR process. My IQ tested pretty impressive. We thought it must have been wrong so I tested again under a psychologist a few years later and scored 4 points higher. Why am I telling you this? To illustrate that I’m no dill. I’m smart, I’m a perfectionist and I don’t mess up.

Fast forward to approximately 4 months ago. I was writing two books (one for me, one for a neurologist) and studying a Masters in Communications all while running the paperwork side of the cafe. And…my brain broke.

I couldn’t read a paragraph and comprehend it. I couldn’t hold my hands out straight without them shaking like leaves. I couldn’t sleep. My residual battle with adrenal exhaustion got pushed into crisis territory and my poor hubby had a hysterical wife on his hands because she couldn’t read a recipe let alone stand up to cook it. Friends and family have no idea how bad it got – and I like to keep it that way. (So I blog about it. Go figure.)

Four months on, the neuro I’m working for put me on a strict detox and a load of adrenal/digestive support stuff to help my system recover. He advised a whole lot of lifestyle changes (All of which will be in the book ironically) and I had no choice but to take them seriously so I could unbreak by body and my brain. My husband took over the running of the business and I got given two jobs: Write the clients book and get better.

There have been some really big achievements – finally being able to spring clean my house, being able to get out of bed before 9am and function fine, being able to exercise and cook. All these things are great. But right now, my husband is sitting in the other room doing the cafe books and I am utterly ashamed to see that the cracks in my brain started showing long before crisis point hit.

Essentially, I burned the neural pathways that had anything to do with the cafe. They call it a lot of things: executive stress, burnout, etc. At first, I felt guilty. How could I be so bad at one thing and function okay with a whole lot of other things within a relatively small amount of time? My sister (studying neuro at Chiropractic Uni) was telling me how the hippocampus works. If we burn a particular neural pathway, we need to avoid it so that something called ‘hippocampic rehabilitation’ can take place.

It means we need to avoid the stressor, rest and relax, and start using other pathways in our brains. I guess the case in point is this: If you have burned yourself out in one area, don’t feel guilty enjoying other areas of your life. In fact, it’s probably the best thing you can do. Give yourself permission to do it. If you start feeling okay and instantly return to the old stressor, you might find that neural pathway is still burned. Give yourself time kid! Let neuroplasticity take place.

Says me who feels incredibly guilty that hubby is currently fixing all my bookkeeping mistakes. My poor hubby! My poor accountant!

Over and out from your favourite hypocrite

Clare

 

 

2 thoughts on “The Year My Brain Broke

  1. thevelvetsoapbox says:

    Been thru burnout – won’t bore you with the details,but, a rather wonderful specialist doctor explained it to me as this – you make deposits into a bank account and you make withdrawals. If you make too many withdrawals you end up bankrupt; and another description he used was: if you don’t service your car, or put water and fuel in it, if you rev it too hard for too long you will stuff the motor. Pretty good descriptions, life is a balancing act …

    • clare1983 says:

      It is indeed a balancing act! So sorry to hear you went through this too. It’s hell on earth! I’ve known since I was 18 that a certain obsessive streak ran in our family and that, because of my personality and task-oriented nature, I was at risk of burnout. My Dad went through it much worse than I did – and it is probably because of that that we caught it nice and early. I am really thankful for my husband and my family.

      Thanks for reaching out. I hope you’ve found the balance again! Its always fascinating talking to people who understand this. xo

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