Too many apps and tabs open, the “not enough free space” pop up nagging at me every other minute. This exquisite machine was tired and over worked.
And so was I. I too, an exquisite machine (as all humans are) had arrived at the most recent case of ‘over heating.’
Ok cut the judgement, the time management is improving, slowly. Upon my reflection to figure out how this happened, it became clear that I was able to operate well enough within a moderate/high stress environment. All I needed was for one or two more pressure points to be pressed and my ability to keep myself together would surpass its threshold. What do you know, pressure points were smashed way outta the park, *queue overheating/breakdown*.
About two years ago I experienced similar, but more intense circumstances. I burnt out. I was done, overs, gone.* A series of events occurred that left me completely demoralised. One high stress/high pressure event on the plate and I’d eat it up, add another; ok, not fine but still manageable, then another and another…until, BOOM! Hana had been reduced to a body with no life inside.
Life had become dull, days would go by and I didn’t care if I did anything or not. The closest description would be that I was dead inside. I had become unmotivated to do or be anything. I was tired, not the kind sleep could remedy. I couldn’t be happy, heck I couldn’t even be sad or angry, I was just existing, I was numb. Any emotion or feeling came by as fast as it arrived. I was observing life as it unfolded for me and unable to engage fully with the moment or with others. What excited me about waking up each day was gone and my desire contribute to or be part of something was sucked into a vacuum. I went from someone who feels everything (maybe a little too much sometimes) to the opposite; being indifferent. I couldn’t feel anything and it sucked.
As far as i’m aware, I mostly did the same things: I had loving and supportive friends and whanau (family) around me, time for myself and would get out of the house now and then. I also did things uncharacteristic of me and felt no remorse, no joy, nothing. I broke promises and was unfazed (I do my best to live by 'say what you mean and mean what you say'). Days turned into weeks, into months and I was still a shell with no drive, purpose, or wants. When I’m feeling down, usually I can say to myself ‘ok that’s enough, be happy now,’ I’d become happy and get on with it. But this new space I found myself in didn’t respond to my go-to ‘cheer up’ methods. This was unknown territory for me and I didn’t have a clue how to navigate through it let alone articulate to someone else what I was going through so they would know how to help.
In amidst the unknown and confusion, I made a decision which I’m not too sure was the most intelligent one to make at the time (Hana likes to do things the hard way) and influenced by my take on ‘pain killers’: I don’t take them if I can help it. I want to feel the pain and be conscious as I grow through it - with injuries, body aches, surgery...this was going to be no different. But let's get one thing straight, I didn’t want to be nor did I enjoy being in this state and I don't have a pain fetish (get your dirty 50 shades minds out of here) but the only way I felt was 'right' to overcome this slump, was to accept the situation for what it was and go from there. I made a decision not to attempt to fix whatever I was experiencing. I wanted to embrace this limbo sensation and understand myself better as a whole, to meet the parts I never knew existed.
We've established that there's a lot I didn’t know, which was as useful as fossil fuels are in 2017… So I fell back on what I did know and tried to draw on familiar examples and experiences to inspire life back into me.
I thought, meditated and implemented a lot but nothing quite hit the mark or felt right. I’m not sure whether I avoided turning to my tupuna (ancestors), perhaps out of shame but once I incorporated their knowledge (after a few months in), it reaffirmed for me that whakapapa (genealogical connections) is everything. I'll tell you one way how, with this quick breakdown of how one of my iwi (tribal affiliations) and waka (canoe) were known as 'Ngati Ohomairangi' and 'Nga Rakau-tapu-ma-tahi-pu-a-Atuamatua' when they left Hawaiki, yet arrived in Aotearoa (NZ) bearing the names “Te Arawa”. Why’d they change their name mid-voyage? You could imagine there’d be a misunderstanding or two on their massive trip across Te Moana Nui a Kiwa (Paific ocean), and there just so happened to be a really big one which resulted in my ancestors’ near-death encounter with TE KOROKORO O TE PARATA, a monster of a whirlpool, but them making it out the other side.ˇ They were lead out of the whirlpool by a shark, the Arawa, and so renamed themselves to acknowledge this event.
Metaphor summary at a basic level: they were cruising along, circumstances occurred that almost took them to their graves with Tangaroa ("god" of the sea), but they made it out. “Hey, this is what I’m going through only I’m still in the whirlpool part and haven’t found a way out, or a shark” I’d think to myself. I knew I was going to get out of whatever I was in, I just didn’t know when or how. If my tupuna, whose same blood runs through my veins, made it through their adversity, so could I. This awareness gave me a type of hope I can't compare to anything else. It's literally in my DNA to experience struggle and figure a way out of it. A 'problem solver' by birth-right, this was just a sucker of a problem I had no clue how to go about solving.
I think it's important to note that I didn’t place any expectation on a deadline to feel better by, or so on. Rather than conclude what I was going through as something wrong that I shouldn’t be experiencing, I just let it flow (one of the gifts I was blessed with in this is life is patience, which came in very handy during this process). Similar to the kaupapa (theme) of this previous post, I gathered little pieces of gold over the months that were all part of the journey back to life, and every single one extremely necessary. I was figuring out all the ways that didn't work, which looks a lot like failing. As far as I can remember there wasn’t one moment or event that snapped me out of it. There wasn’t one thing that was my "A ha!" moment. It was the culmination of small decisions over time that lead to one day, while I was doing something, I paused and realised “shut the gate I’m sad!” It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. Yeah I was sad, but I truly felt it in every single part of me and I felt ALIVE.
Overall this haerenga (journey) from being burnt out to feeling this genuine sadness, took about 12-18 months.˚ I went through a process, painful at times but again extremely necessary to learn about who I am. There were so many hard things about being in this awkward space, this being the main one:
You’re breathing, can see/hear/read/write, have people who love you, food, a roof over your head… what do you know about hard?
I felt embarrassed to think I was going through a hard time. I felt like a failure, like I had let my tupuna who survived much worse adversity than I, my family and friends down because I wasn’t contributing to something or someone. Because I was wasting away the gifts I was born with, I was 'letting everyone down.' Not your typical foundation for adversity huh, exactly my point. I have aspirations to change the world, so not fulfilling this mission of mine was a big deal and a disservice to my people. After a while I realised and had to constantly remind myself that everything is relative. My struggle isn't less valid or real because it isn't rooted in addiction, crime, violence etc. Just as there are many ways to define wealth and success, there are for adversity and struggle also.
Another was, how do I tell someone about this? I didn't have the slightest idea how to quantify what life was like, what do I say? I said what I could, which wasn't much for a long time. I was super blessed to have people close to me who understood they didn't need to fix me, they just needed to be there. I wasn't broken, I just had a problem to solve. These were the best kind of people for me as I went through this transition. They made sure I was physically and spiritually safe, otherwise let me go about rediscovering life. These are the people you talk to about what you really feel, as well practice.
Find these people and never let them go, or be one yourself. They are special and make going through Struggle Street that much better and less lonely if you have them to lean on when you overheat or burn out. They may not fully understand what you're going through but ask yourself, do they really have to? Just remember to patient with them as they try to support you, especially if you're wanting their patience in return to be there for you as you figure it out. Some will try to fix your problems and take your pain away - most of the time, this from a loving, supportive space. It may take some time, but you don't have to see the whole path - just the next step.
Kia ora rawa atu, thank you very much for your time. Please if you have any whakaaro (thoughts) or you want to share korero (stories), get in touch.
*I'd had enough with everything, with life. I was ready to pack up and leave and disappear.
ˇSome voyagers aboard the waka did die in Te Korokoro o Te Parata, and their whakaapa lines discontinued. The only reason I’m here today is because my tupuna survived that voyage and every other obstacle that came their way.
˚This is how long I was conscious of being in this state. The whole thing may have been avoided had I picked up on signs, who knows. Maybe it was inevitable, a lesson to be learned. Perhaps this whole thing was 22 years in the making from the day I was born or even before that, I can't say. What I can say is how appreciative I am to have gone through a process that stripped me down to nothing and allowed me to redefine myself, my mission and the value of life from the inside out.