Life feels like it has suddenly caught up with me. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to muster up the excitement and energy to do the things I usually enjoy. Work and personal responsibilities have become a heavy weight I don’t always have the capacity to carry, and the shame and anxiety of not showing up the way I assume I’m expected to show up simply adds to the burden. I can see all the ways I could do better and be a better person / employee / leader / daughter, but can’t seem to bring myself to make any meaningful change in these areas. I ask myself, near constantly, why I can’t just get to it and do what needs to be done. The lack of a clear answer simply adds to the shame, adds to the weight.
Tasks pile up because everything feels too heavy to carry and I’m emotionally exhausted from being all too aware of the ways in which I’m falling short — even when I’m not sure why. There’s no clear cause or way out, except for the brief moments of reprieve when the dense fog my mind seems to be consumed by momentarily clears and I can focus enough on a few things to get them out of the way. Whatever the case, the heaviness keeps returning. I can barely do much of anything but I’m exhausted all the time and all I crave is deep rest.
Through my research, including conversations with friends and colleagues, I’ve considered a number of reasons for this state of affairs: a depressive episode, burnout from stress, or perhaps the sneaky symptoms of an undiagnosed neurodevelopmental condition like ADHD — all of which resonates deeply.
Whatever the reasons may be, I’m confronted by the reality of what feels like a significant transition and period of growth in my life. I no longer feel like my old self, but a new self is yet to take root. The result has been a crisis of identity that has led me down a path of confusion about what it means to be an active participant in my own life.
It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve found myself in this neck of the woods. Each time, the confusion is overwhelming. The period between solid states of being feels like getting lost in the desert and trying to find one’s way across a vast, seemingly endless expanse of uncertainty.
Depending on your school of thought, you might consider this experience a dark night of the soul, an emotional breakdown or a case of depression. Instead of writing these episodes off as something that’s wrong with me however, I’m beginning to identify the exhaustion, discontent and lack of motivation that come knocking as an opportunity to re-align my life towards more fulfilment.
When I embrace the exhaustion and allow myself adequate rest, I can begin to see where I need a change in pace, the boundaries I have to put in place to help me preserve my energy and how I need to start showing up differently for the benefit of my wellbeing.
When I confront the lack of motivation from a place of curiosity instead of shame or guilt, I can understand that this means I’m not pursuing things that interest me, and that I’m not being challenged or challenging myself in the necessary ways.
When I look closer at the discontent without judgement, I can recognise the places in my life that need me to breathe new life into them and allow myself to rediscover contentment in new ways, instead of continuing to force the things that no longer spark joy.
Each time, finding myself in this place of uncertainty and confusion forces me to get honest about whether or not the things I am choosing are still working for me. It’s an opportunity to look at the habits and commitments that occupy my time and consider any necessary changes in direction. I recognise now that no longer identifying with the old self is an invitation to create a new self into being.
Growth will take us outside of our comfort zones one way or another and the process is only more difficult when we try to resist change and cling to the old ways. These days, I can recognise the value in giving myself grace through the tumultuous periods of discomfort and allow the inner changes taking place to make room for the new self I am birthing into being. In any capacity, growth is the act of meeting yourself exactly where you are, being honest about what is no longer working, and allowing yourself to discover who you need to become to turn things around.
One question that has plagued me in this season has been how you go on when you’re trying your best to navigate this internal chaos but still have responsibilities to show up for that won’t wait for you to figure things out. At any given moment, life demands so much of us and it’s not always possible or convenient to take the time you need to work through things — which is worse when there’s nothing you can clearly point to that’s wrong externally.
I’m privileged enough that my situation allows me to have open and honest conversations with the people in my life when things aren’t working — both professionally and with family and friends — so I’ve made it a point to advocate for my needs as much as possible and be honest when I don’t have the capacity to show up in the ways that may be expected of me. This has meant having uncomfortable conversations and potentially letting people down while interrogating my relationship with productivity and the things that I’m pouring my energy into. It has meant listening to my body, prioritising my wellbeing and allowing myself to slow down and rest. I show up in the ways I can and allow that to be enough, while I regain the necessary momentum to keep going at a steady pace and make the changes I want to see in my life.
With time, I know it will all balance out. In the meantime, I stand firm on allowing myself all the grace I need to make it through and send strength to everyone weathering their own storms of growth and transition. It will all be worth it in the end.