After contemplating my motivation for publishing the Burnout to Bliss series, I decided to share Book 1 with readers online – 1 chapter at a time, just as I did Book 2, CYCLING in the CITY.
But first, I’d like to introduce this book.
BURNOUT – How a Desert Lizard Restored My Faith, targets people who have personal experience with depression, who have self-medicated with sex, alcohol, and/or drugs to get relief, and who have considered suicide more than once. But it is also for their friends and family and for those in the helping professions.
Here’s the modified Table of Contents (below). If you know anyone who might be interested, have them join now so they get the story as it is told, one chapter at a time. Or, simply let them know it exists and that, if they prefer, they can buy the eBook in a number of venues besides Amazon: https://books2read.com/u/b5MOJ6. At this time, only Amazon carries the print version.
Part 1: It’s Never Just One Thing
1 Spiritual Journey Interrupted, Summer 1989
2 Mom’s House
3 Searching for Love in All Those Wrong Places
4 Being the Target
5 Being on the Couch
Part 2: Down the Rabbit Hole
6 Astrologers, Tarot, and the Psychic
7 Psychic, Massage Therapist, and the Mountain Lion
8 Summer – Time for Breathing!
Part 3: Vision Questing Somewhere in Mexico
9 Dancing with the Desert May 1989
10 Meet the Shamans
11 Camping with My FEAR and Ancient Shamans
12 A Lizard Talked to Me!
Part 4: Coming Home
13 Going Home Summer 1989
14 You Can’t Really Go Home Again
Burnout and nervous breakdowns are not uncommon, especially for workaholics or driven people. At least that’s what the psychologists told me when I experienced mine in 1988.
Symptoms of burnout include loss of energy, interest, or participation. In extreme cases, burnout may include deep depression characterized by a feeling of unrest, alienation and uncertainty that comes when one loses one’s sense of purpose or ideals.
Self-medication – alcohol, drugs, sex – seldom provides the relief sought. Generally, it only magnifies the suffering.
Burnout is an egalitarian syndrome affecting workers in all walks of life. We might hear more about healthcare burnout, especially with nurses and physicians, but anyone in any kind of work can experience it. Some organizations are taking steps to educate workers and leaders about symptoms and providing support before their valued employees succumb to the stress.
Burnout typically results when workers feel unappreciated for all the long hours and extra work they do, a feeling that no one knows or cares how they feel. But programs to educate management take money and businesses, especially small ones, say they just don’t have it. Ironically, financial loss can be experienced by the employer that kills its golden goose through overload, lack of appreciation, or just by not noticing the signs of burnout. Simply listening might have been the one thing between that employee continuing or ditching the job.
Another probable perspective of those labeled conditions is one that embraces the spiritual aspect of the experience – “the dark night of the soul.” From this perspective, the individual may feel that life has lost all meaning, especially if that person either has no meaningful spiritual foundation or is a seeker of spiritual truth and expression, longing to know God personally. S/he might try to mitigate their unending agony with alcohol, drugs or sex. They may even experience psychotic episodes, called “night visions” – even though the visions can happen at any time of the day or night.
Looking back almost 30 years through a wiser lens to write this story about my experience with burnout, aka dark night of the soul, I now understand quite differently what happened. That revelation will be the subject of the last book in this series, the true meaning of this story. Quiet introspection, examining my story, has proven to me that there are no coincidences – that just about every aspect of our lives is orchestrated and that it has meaning, whether or not we know it, whether or not we understand it.
Purposes and Goals
My purpose in sharing this story is to illustrate the concept of professionally diagnosed burnout – aka nervous breakdown or “dark night of the soul” – from the inside out, from the perspective of someone who had the experience, to shed some light on that path for other travelers. That is the primary goal for any memoir. I don’t think I’m special, although one reader did comment that my story was stranger than fiction. But I hope by sharing my story I can offer reassurance to anyone having a similar experience that:
You are never alone. You are more than okay. No matter what you’ve experienced, you will get to the other side if you want to. And you will have all the help you need for your journey … if you choose to accept it.
Please note that this is not a how-to avoid burnout book, nor is anything in my experience recommended for the reader to follow. Instead, you’ll surely get an idea of the madness involved if burnout isn’t mitigated with a healthy intervention. At the same time, the reader will not help but learn from my experience that no matter how helpless and alone one feels, help is available.
Organization of the Series
My journey from burnout to bliss is told over a series of stories, from dark night of the soul to “break-away” jaunts that not only changed my life, but undoubtedly saved it. Bliss, the final book, concludes the series.
Book 1, BURNOUT, illustrates how “it’s never just one thing” when our life seems to have run off its rails and crashed. It includes the clumsy, destructive steps I took to survive the worst year of my life. It shows how real healing began when I camped with Indian shamans in Mexico where I overcame my fear and a desert lizard restored my faith.
Book 2, CYCLING in the CITY, represents the first actual break-away from my job, leaving with no plans and one paycheck to begin the journey of healing in California. Part 1 is my story, sharing the process of reclaiming my confidence and self-esteem. Part 2 is a gift to the reader. It explains why making any kind of change is so difficult; it addresses the different kinds of changes we make, the mental games we play, and the essential key for success.
Book 3 relates my second camping trip with those Indian shamans in Mexico before returning to Colorado and then moving to Canada – like the Tarot Fool with his knapsack, jumping off a cliff – to accept a possible job from a man I met at a dinner party some years previously.
Book 4 is a reflection of lessons learned, seen from a wiser, more enlightened perspective twenty-seven years later. It is the bookend to that long journey to forgiveness of my nemesis. This will be the concise “how to” handbook for anyone seeking a more positive experience in their own life.
Organization of Book 1, BURNOUT
Part 1 and most of Part 2 is by theme; it wasn’t intended to be chronological, although some mentions of time are present. An individual who is falling apart experiences the world differently; everything feels like it’s happening all at once. Just getting through the day takes all his energy. Likewise, the writing is sometimes in present tense, also done intentionally for the reader’s enjoyment and because it was excerpted from journals.
Because we sometimes use the word “enlightenment” casually, let me quickly clarify my understanding of that process. According to one of my teachers, “If a bird flew back and forth across the Himalayas with a silk scarf in its beak, the length of time it would take it to wear down the mountains is how long it takes for enlightenment.”
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” From William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act One Scene V
There wasn’t anything particularly special or different about the day. I remember listening to the Eagles on my drive to the college, reviewing mentally my schedule. It was jam-packed and included a community Board of Directors meeting about the half-way house for behaviorally disordered students, the main reason I chose to drive instead of hike up the hill, because that meeting was miles from the college.
I made a quick stop by my office to dump my papers and purse and then went off to teach, conveniently, in the classroom next door to the department’s suite of offices.
Everyone was feeling upbeat and chatting when I walked in. It felt like butterflies in the woods and encouraged me. I’d never quite gotten over the need to dash to the women’s room to barf before class – nerves from the public speaking part of teaching. But this day I was lecturing about a topic I had mastered, because it was about me, when I was a kid in public school.
After a bit of friendly chat and then the quick overview of the lecture, I was on solid ground. The words flowed easily, and that part of me that was always observing winked at me from the back wall.
I was explaining the different kinds of challenges a student with learning disabilities might have and everyone seemed to be enjoying the flow. Pens raced to note whatever their holders thought was important. Questions were limited. My tummy relaxed. I was on a roll!
Sensing a presence at the open door, I stopped.
“Dr. Young?” The gruff voice was from a stranger wearing dark colored clothing, looking like he hadn’t showered in at least a week – really rough and dirty. For a moment, the scientific part of me wondered why his smell hadn’t reached me yet.
I was on my way to meet him at the door when suddenly he yanked up the weapon hidden under his jacket and filled the room with smoke as he riveted my body with bullets, tearing through my flesh with such force I was thrown against the blackboard, spraying blood on the walls. I tasted the coppery flavor of the blood filling my mouth. I was strangling. I couldn’t speak.
“Dr. Young? Dr. Young?” The voice was familiar. I concentrated on opening my eyes.
It was a student sitting at his table in the classroom, wanting me to please repeat the part about how impairment with auditory information processing was different from hearing loss.
I tried to breathe, to feel my weight in my body.
I was standing up, not splayed on the floor. There was no blood. The air was clear. I could feel my face smiling.
“Great question, Tim!” I said. “How about we take a quick break, say, five minutes? We’ll start with that when we get back.” I headed to my office quickly.
I found psychiatrists in my phone book and quickly made the call.
“I think I just had a psychotic episode,” I said to the first one who answered, not a receptionist, but the actual psychiatrist listed. “When can you see me?”
If you are a reviewer and would like an A.R.C. for posting their review on any one of those venues or Goodreads, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copies of your posted reviews can be sent to the same email address.
Till next time, please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows. ~Tzaddi
Coming up next:
Part 1, Chapter 1