Burnout Solution 5: Your Creative Relationships
A special mention in your personal road to recovery is friends and family. They are the ones who stand by you in your time of need. However, sometimes they can also be part of the cause of your burnout. Try to tread lightly here and take it easy in your relationships with them. Take time to feel your way through. And remember that the only constant in relationships, is change. Let's dive in deeper.
Relationships always change During the burnout I discovered many of the relationships with the people around me where at odds with my life goals and my feelings. As a result, quite a few of my personal relationships have changed both during and after the burnout. And so will yours. Ultimately, they will change for the better.
I'll start with a personal example to explain how this works. As a person I feel an intrinsic need to create and express through my writing, lectures and music. It is in my blood to do so. Simply can't help it. But the majority of my loved ones are not like that. They do not have similar feelings or goals, let alone understand such an intrinsic creative drive and how frustrating and anxious it can be.
As a result, they were often dismissive towards me. Not because they wanted to harm me, they loved me, but because they thought I "needed to hear it". They went beyond constructive criticism, asking me to behave 'normally' and many of them even telling me to just give up my life goals. When I would follow their advice, but things turned out differently than they expected, they would blame me instead of questioning their own advice. And if I would resist their advice, I was characterized as stubborn and arrogant. In other words; they were constantly projecting their truth on me.
Let me be clear: I do not blame them. They are simply not me. If I don't communicate to them what I want and need, they cannot know. And if I do communicate it to them and they don't understand, it's not me that is wrong. It's them. It's all part of growing up and learning about human interactions. I'm no exception. And neither are you.
It's not about what it is, it's about what you do with it. In other words, if you'll stand up for your needs, even if it means it changes the relationship with your loved ones. One of the key things you will discover in your recovery process is that although you may have your mental problems... so does the rest of the world! You are quite literally not alone. You are however, more aware of ti because of the burnout. That's the so-called gift of burnout: awareness. And with awareness and acceptance, the road to positive change is set in.
So, forgive them immediately. But, don't give in to them.
...but don't give in
I did. It should come as no surprise to you that one of the biggest causes of my burnout was not being the expressive person I am supposed to be. After years of hearing I'm not normal, and worse still, actually feeling the dismissive attitudes in my loved ones around me, I had started to compromise, forced myself to listen to them and try to live more to their norms. As a result, I had stopped writing, making music and making my lectures about the subjects that I wanted them to be about.
And then, of course, I crashed. And not just mentally, but also financially. And after that, inspired by a group of musician friends who did live without such compromise, I found my voice again (quite literally because I even wrote a song about it). Yet during that period, I discovered that relationships will change, sometimes drastically. If for a long time you weren't feeling comfortable, you'll have asked things of your surroundings, and gravitated towards people, in ways you would not have done if you felt you were on the right path. But now that you are - however painful the path may be right now - change is inevitable. And that's a good, good thing.
Reshape the relationships
People cannot help having expectations of you, even if they are not based on reality. You’ll have to forgive them for that. Because you are probably doing the same to them. But you do not have to try to fulfill those expectations. The emphasis should be squarely upon your own recovery and what you need. Not what they want and expect. Many of them will try to help, which is good, but the most important part of being in your Help Team is that they also understand when to lean back and give you the space you need. This will be one of the toughest parts of recovering; reshaping the relationships with your loved ones. You have no other choice but to do it. This will ultimately help you recover quicker. It’s your road to recovery, not theirs. At times things will look bad concerning those relationships. But the work you do on them during the burnout will get you into a much better position to have the right relationships after. So even when they look bad now, they will improve and go your way. Mine have changed for the better in countless of ways.
And to paraphrase my great friend and singer Chiara van der Lee, now that I know everybody else is a little f***** up to, I feel much, much better about being a weirdo myself. So will you.
And take it easy. Love.
(Check out the book Restart here)
Rogier van Kralingen