5 Steps to Total Burnout and Unhappiness



I’ve been abused.

Gulp. I think I just swallowed a blue whale. That confession hurt.

Rewind.  Time to remove some cinder block and mortar.

I walked over to my neighbor’s house a few weeks ago to simply discuss carpool and say “Hi”.  We hadn’t seen much of each other over the summer, so she asked how I was doing. Without even a second’s notice, my eyes puddled and rivers ran down my cheeks.  I started to laugh because I was so shocked at my own reaction to that simple question.

What in the world is wrong with me? I thought.  Why am I crying? Maybe I’m starting my period tomorrow.  Oh man, I sure hope that’s what this is.

How embarrassing! 

She was obviously not expecting that and so she did her best to comfort me.  Such a sweet friend.  I simply said, “I think I’m just tired.”  Yes, I’m sure that’s all this is. Tired. I haven’t slept in 2 years.  That could easily be the problem. Right?  Us mothers can blame everything on sleep deprivation.

But the next day, my mom called and asked how I was doing and once again, tears raced down my face and met up with my quivering chin.  My prayers at night left puddles on my pillow.  I couldn’t talk to my sister without crying. There was a freaky raincloud following me around.

Oh man, I am not coping. This isn’t good.

It was a red flag for me. Something was obviously not right. I’m free-falling to rock bottom.  How did this happen?

I’ll tell ya how it happened.  Here’s a 5 step recipe for total burnout and unhappiness:

1. Don’t get any sleep

2. Stop doing things you love to do

3. Stuff your emotions with food or any other addiction and then hate yourself later for it

4. Don’t take breaks

5.  Tell yourself you “can’t” or you “suck” a lot of times throughout the day

Why would anyone do any of those things?  Well, learn from me.  This summer beat me up.  I went into it with a plan.  We were going to do amazing things.  I was so excited to play with my kids and relax from the rigor of school and let the kids learn and experience things they don’t get to do during the school year.  I was going to be “Awesome Mom.”  Unfortunately, it didn’t happen the way I had planned.  My kids got rest alright, but sleep became the planet Pluto for me thanks to FOUR WEEKS of illness.  Hand, foot, mouth went through our entire household one week.  The stomach flu traveled, the regular flu, and chest and sinus colds ended four weeks for us.  The rest of the summer was spent on road trips.  3 weeks of not sleeping in our own beds and not eating food out of our own kitchen.  Those were fun weeks but very taxing for a mother.  One of the weeks was spent in a tent sans my husband.  Yes, I took all four kids camping in a tent in the Nevada heat to spend time with my father and siblings.  So much fun.  So much work.  So exhausting!

To put it mildly…my well was dry.

Bone dry.  Cracked, thirsty, neglected and labeled useless.

I’ve been tired before, and I’ve been able to pick myself up off the bathroom floor and put one foot in front of the other, but this particular stint of exhaustion hit a nerve.  It went deeper.  It woke up a sad, fat, self-conscious, self-destructive, quitting, young, 13-20 year-old Mandy.  Ewww…it found my weak spot.  I don’t visit her very often.  I don’t really like her.

I see her as someone who was weak.  And yet, here she was, again.  I hadn’t felt her presence for MANY years.

When my body decided the exhaustion was enough, I became so mentally weak and tired that I mostly wandered around the house, just shaking my head at the smallest of tasks and simply saying to myself…

No, I quit.  

I can’t.  

The load is too heavy.  

I can’t do it anymore.

No one listens to me anymore.  

I’m invisible.  

I can’t keep the house clean.

Oh man, I’m DONE!  

Everyone just carry on without me.  

I think I’ll just hang out here in the corner in the fetal position and rock back and forth and mumble crazy things

Problem was, every time I turned the corner and saw a cluttered closet or a basket of laundry that needed to be folded or dishes that needed to be done or the to-do list longer than The Great Wall of China, or a fight to break up, the voice in my head told me just how bad I sucked at doing the only job I have.  Every where I went, a neon sign flashed in all caps: I SUCK.  I was so mean to myself.  Worst Boss EVER!

A good part of me died the moment I declared defeat.  My thoughts gave birth and power to the puny master of all lies.  His name is not even worth mentioning.  He is the king of discouragement and let down.  Why do we let that demon in our heads and let him convince us that our efforts aren’t enough? He preys on the tired, stressed and weak people because he is weak.  He’s a bully and he turns us against ourselves.  LAME!  And  for some absurd reason, I let him get me down, like a black widow spinning his web around me and slowly dragging me to my emotional death.  Web of destruction.  I put on 15 lbs to prove I could self-destruct.  I was becoming a ball of negative energy.  Like an energy vampire (so much fun to be around, let me tell ya…HA!) I could rattle off a whole list of things I didn’t do or couldn’t do.  I stopped keeping track of what I actually did do. You know, the good stuff.

I wasn’t eating well, wasn’t giving myself the right amount of sleep, was withdrawing from friends, didn’t want to leave the house because getting dressed was too much to think about.  Wearing clothes?  No way, not happening.  Can I just wear my exercise leggings all day and call it good?  Please?  Finding momentary comfort in cookies and cinnamon rolls and whatever else I could get my hands on just sent me spiraling into a deeper abuse cycle.  I knew those things didn’t really bring me comfort.  They made me feel worse about myself.  Here I am, someone who proclaims to be healthy and yet, I can’t follow my own rules.  Where is my integrity?  There he was again, that stupid spider, spinning his web, telling me I don’t know anything and I’m not strong enough to do this job.  What a vicious abuse cycle we can throw ourselves in.  Ewww.  Ugly stuff.

And so, I go back to my confession.  The one where I admit to being abused.

I’ve been abused most of my life by the person I should trust more than anyone on earth.  A person who should love me and know me more than anyone else on earth.  A person who knows my most intimate thoughts and who should have the most interest in me also.

My abuser is me. ME!  I have spent a good portion of my life beating myself up.

That’s so dumb!

I’ve just never been good enough for myself.  And I know I’m not the only one that is cruel to themself.  It’s preposterous.  It needs to stop!  Why, why, why can’t we be kind to ourselves???

I’m here to tell ya, those abusive days ARE OVER!  GONE!  Kickin’ them to the curb.  I really, truly want to love myself.  We all should love ourselves.  I think mothers especially are too hard on themselves.  We can’t physically do it all.  And we aren’t meant to.  We aren’t supposed to carry unbearable burdens.  We aren’t supposed to lose our identity and sacrifice 100% of who we are.  We are supposed to have joy.  I want to get out of my own way and become the amazing person I know exists behind this wall.  I’m kicking that sucker down now.

I am powerful.  I am enough and I can do hard things.  I don’t want my kids to abuse themselves, so I have to show them the path that leads to love.  I am their lighthouse.  They are watching me.  Learning from me.  Whenever I hear one of my kids say something negative about themself, I quickly try to remind them that God does not make “stupid” or “dumb” or “ugly” things.  And it’s time for me to take my own advice.

Are you ready?  Get ready world.  It’s time to get Happy!!!  It’s time to be in LOVE!

I’m unraveling from the fetal position.  First step in the right direction.

(I can hardly contain myself.  I’m giggling right out of my chair right now. It’s just so exciting!)

3 thoughts on “5 Steps to Total Burnout and Unhappiness

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