a much needed conversation about non-avoidable burnout

After reading the first paragraph of the article entitled “Let’s talk about burnout” in the Lion’s Roar newsletter of September 9, 2018, I was compelled to send them this comment.

Here’s the context…

Lion’s Roar

“There’s avoidable burnout, and there’s non-avoidable burnout. If you’re going through non-avoidable burnout — perhaps you’re a low-income single parent, or you’re the only person available to advocate for your medical needs and you have cancer — then you’re likely not reading this. Your back is against the wall, and I hope with all my heart that you’re able to get what you need. But, for those of us who can pull back from overload and overwhelm, now is the best time to make some choices toward more sustainability and joy.” …

– Mushim Ikeda, guest editor

Mushim Ikeda is a social activist and teacher at East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, California. She also works as a diversity and inclusion consultant. She will be one of three teachers featured at the 2018 Lion’s Roar retreat this October, “Facing Life’s Challenges.”

Here’s my comment…

Dear Lion’s Roar,

Reading about avoidable and non-avoidable burnout today felt like: Finally, a much needed conversation about a belief, among others, with harsh consequences and embedded in the type of ignorance which presumes that the owner of the belief knows the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, even though reality tells another story.

I have been disabled for the last 27 years, and have practiced meditation, spiritual teachings, prayer, yoga, and many more modalities for the last 20. But the more I advanced on this path, the more an unbearable tension was created around the belief that all burnout, all overwhelming situations were avoidable and my own reality. To the point where, many times, I was ostracized because I was asking for too much attention – when I was asking for support to a teacher that had convinced me of attending her classes after I had raised doubts that they might not be appropriate for people with my level of incapacities – that my challenges were just the same as everyone else facing physical ailments, it was my ego who was to attach to my problems.

So you know, I am suffering from fibromyalgia or chronic pain, from multiple chemical sensitivity, in my case being intolerant to pollutants and medication, and from ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease. I was 32 when I fell apart, unable to work anymore, but much more painful, unable to take care of my child who was 10 years old at the time, and had to go live full time with his father.

After many years of investigation, I have recently discovered that the root cause behind those 3 auto-immune diseases was a complex trauma – also called developmental trauma disorder, or childhood trauma. Which means that the abuse, the violence and the neglect of my early childhood had for consequences the disorganization of my whole physiology. Their impacts were so powerful that some part of my brain, of my hormonal system, have not been able to optimally function. In fact, they were wired, in a case like mine, to create sickness as my default response to any stress.

So in short, to address an avoidable burnout would presuppose that I could go back to an already well oiled system, which I don’t have.

It has taken me, more or less, the last 5 years to recover from the damage of those ostracizations, of the impacts they had on my physical, emotional and mental health, the perception of my place and possible contribution to a spiritual community. Because that was where I believed I belong. That was what made sense for me.

I will agree that part of my disorganization could have been caused by my own dissociation, misinformation, denial, lack of skills, and have at certain points, but much less acknowledge was the damage caused by the ignorance, shaming, disregard or total denial of those around, the people in charge, groups and institutions who have claimed to be at the forefront of the wellbeing of all. As if I was in this relational healing process all by myself, in a social vacuum.

To read your words this morning had a profound impact on me. I felt seen in my ordeal. I felt acknowledged as a disabled person, as a marginalized person among too many others marginalized person and groups. I felt that as a community we are coming to a new depth in our understandings, skills and practices, we are creating new intentions, new ways to care and take care for one another.

With all my gratitude