I stood in the kitchen looking at him, dumbfounded, through the mist of tears that stung my eyes.
I’d been by my husband’s side through 16 years of his military career. We had moved from San Diego, to Seattle, to Long Beach, to Key West, and now New York City. I had bent over backwards to maneuver my remote medical career around relocations, deployments, and fulltime motherhood. To avoid the final bend that would break my back, I left the healthcare industry after seven years. I needed the flexibility of working for myself.
I had even managed an entire pregnancy while raising our then 3-year-old alone. The military had sent my husband to work in Cuba for 7 months.
But now he was telling me he wasn’t happy in our marriage.
My heart caught in my throat as I breathlessly waited for him to say what I expected next, “I want a divorce” …
The previous several months had been beyond challenging. The culture shock of moving to NYC from the Florida Keys was like living on another planet. Frenetic city energy had replaced the laid back island lifestyle.
I refused to dump my then kindergartener daughter onto a school bus alone in NYC. This led me to dive headfirst into an added role - homeschooling both of our kids. I'd volunteered in my kids' school classrooms often. My involvement in their education was nothing new…. Yet being completely and solely responsible for it was not only new, it was pretty dang terrifying.
My inner perfectionist came springing into action from the start.
Perfectionist Leah was also making her mark in other elements of my life.
My wellness coaching business was thriving. From the outside, it looked like I had it all together.
But, behind the scenes, I felt like a total failure. Trying to be a shining example for my clients, I expected myself to be perfect. Nothing I did felt ‘good enough.' I scrambled to do all the things, refusing to acknowledge that I needed help. I thought that would mean I'm weak. Meanwhile, I was too busy to notice that I was neglecting my husband.
By the time he had me waiting to exhale on this spring day in our NYC kitchen...
I felt like my life had spun out of control.
Thankfully, the words I dreaded never came. Yet, I could not ignore his expression of discontent. To be honest, he wasn’t alone. At that moment I realized my marriage and business were not all that was suffering.
In my effort to be everything to everyone, I was also neglecting myself.
For almost a year, I had been physically ill, but several visits to specialists brought no solutions. The question of stress came up a couple times, but I didn’t feel stressed. I was feeling exhausted and unmotivated.
That wasn’t stress, was it?
I sometimes felt overwhelmed, but that’s just normal life, right? I seemed to have the same challenges as everyone else, but they appeared to balance it all with no problems. I felt so frustrated. As I compared myself against others, I feared there must be something really wrong with me.
That day in the kitchen with my husband became my turning point. I realized Perfectionist Leah had morphed into Burnout Leah.
Maybe you can relate to Perfectionist Leah or Burnout Leah (or both)?
Burnout Leah felt like she was trudging through quicksand.
Quicksand is a scary and peculiar thing. The more you push against it, exert effort to free yourself from it, resist succumbing to it… the more stuck you get.
Burnout Leah worried that the weight of the world would come crashing down on her if she paused for even a moment. She was unaware that her self-neglect was actually sabotaging her effort to be the pillar of support she wanted everyone to be able to rely on.
That experience of burnout, six years ago, had me teetering on the edge. I almost lost my marriage and my business. I had completely lost sight of my power, and my joy. It was a turning point in both my personal and professional life.
Have you ever felt a desperate need to maintain control over every aspect of your external world? That's how I felt. My burnout experience taught me that harnessing the power of our own energy and habits is so much greater than grasping at control.
I learned the benefits of allowing myself to feel heard, valued, and nurtured... and stop running myself ragged by fighting myself every step of the way through life.
Healing my burnout led me to study the neuroscience of behavior, holistic stress management, self-leadership, and sustainable wellbeing practices.