Recently I have been lightly nudging people towards my Kindle ebook ‘Run Away Moments’, simply because it’s a way to generate a tiny bit of passive income and I often get good feedback from people who have read it.
It is a collection of 16 non-fiction short stories of my time backpacking and living overseas. It’s far from perfect, and the last time I read it I spotted more than one spelling mistake, but it was a very enjoyable lesson in self-starting. I learnt a lot about writing and why I enjoy it, and I taught myself how to format a book for Kindle and how to market a digital product using email campaigns.
A few people have purchased it, which still gives me a delightful feeling of excitement, but it has also prompted me to remember where I was in life at the time that I wrote it.
After my visa for Australia ended, I moved back home and knew what I wanted, but I didn’t quite know how to get it. I haphazardly made my way to Sheffield, where my life became a bizarre and draining parallel of making real, tangible progress towards my professional goals and becoming truly, dangerously burnt out.
I look back on that period in my life and the internal emotional pain that I carried every single day comes flooding back. I was scared and desperate to get to where I wanted to be.
I worked 3-4 jobs at the time. Office during the week, bar at weekends, freelance proof reading and also voluntary contributions to a wide range of online magazines, events and stuff I got involved in through my blog.
I had a lot of feelings to deal with following my departure from Melbourne that instead just got pushed to one side; a break up with a boyfriend, struggling to re-connect with friends back in my home town, fear that I wouldn’t achieve my goals.
I turned into a mess, unable to think even just one clear thought for months on end. Things culminated when a friend tried to commit suicide, and the stress of life broke me. I threw my hands up in the air, dropped the many plates I was spinning and moved back in with my parents.
At the time, it felt like the ultimate failure. But now I can see that it was actually the first time since moving back to the UK that I actually listened to my own needs and did something about it.
Being at home then enabled me to focus on learning to look after myself again. I started eating properly, I started running again, I stopped doing so many different things and I just focussed on getting to the next step. My goals were to build a career in digital marketing, and within 8 months I’d finally gotten over a big hurdle in that journey; I landed a job with a marketing agency in Manchester, and braced myself for another big move.
Once in Manchester, I naively thought things from this point on would be easy. They of course were not. Agencies, as I learned first hand, are a ruthless way to learn how to survive in the corporate world, and I started to get burnt out and stressed all over again.
I started to feel so fatigued and like I just wanted someone to look after me. I started to look for an outside fix, also known as external validation. Little over a year later, I entered into a relationship and immediately started investing far too much energy into that instead.
What I didn’t realise at the time, is I thought finally ‘having someone’ would make the unbelievable amount of anxiety I experienced on a daily basis magically disappear. Of course, it didn’t. Thankfully, I made a very wise decision early on in that relationship; I started having counselling. I went sporadically and sometimes with long breaks, but I kept going. The sessions became harder and harder over time, but my awareness of who I am, what I want and what I need reached levels that I didn’t even know existed.
After three years I’d built a very strong emotional foundation, which unfortunately also revealed that I was outgrowing what had been a very unhealthy relationship from the outset. That relationship ended shortly after this realisation, which I now can see very clearly is for the best.
What I know now is that the way to not burn out and feel like life is too hard, is to learn to listen to your intuition and set boundaries with yourself and others based on what your intuition tells you.
I look back on my younger self, a very eager, very anxious, very nervous woman in her mid-twenties who, despite crippling anxiety and depression, still managed to forge ahead and write an ebook, amongst all the other things she managed to do, and I’m able to feel compassion and gratitude towards her.
She did her best with the level of awareness she had at the time, it’s not her fault that she didn’t know how to look after herself better and it’s okay that she missed a couple of spelling errors before listing the book on Amazon.
She had so much fear that things wouldn’t work out as she hoped and I sometimes wish I could go back and tell her that things work out just fine. She learns how to manage her anxiety, how to listen to herself, how to set boundaries, how to take criticism without feeling personally hurt, how to think commercially. She learns to stay level headed regardless of whether things are bad or good. She learns how to trust herself more than anyone else. She buys a property on her own; a dream that she’s had from a very young age but always secretly believed would be too hard to do.
I used to look back on younger versions of myself and feel disdain or frustration at the decisions I made, but now I focus on compassion and gratitude. That time in my life definitely wasn’t happy, but it was necessary for my growth and it got me to where I am right now.