I had a career that I loved, at the top of my game. It was my high school dream to give back by working to promote health, but after 15 years my body decided to shut down. Burnout and depression.
The commute to work on a 400 series highway was exhausting. As responsibilities and the number of projects increased; my creative side (previously a great outlet for stress) suffered. After shifting gears to start an independent business at home — my brain wouldn’t let me catch my breath. Instead of taking a few months, or even a few weeks, to recharge; I had an uncontrollable need to keep going and doing more.
I was addicted to the adrenaline rush of achieving the next great ‘thing’ for my career and in my life. I was the shell of a human. A human-doing, definitely. A human-being? Not even close.
Then, I crashed. I could not send even one more email.
For the first six months all I could do was sleep. I was overstimulated, over-stressed. My body and my mind just stopped.
When I met Ann, I wasn’t in a place where I could have worked with her. I might not have even met her had my aunt not convinced me to attend an entrepreneurial networking event one night. “It’s literally down the road from you”, she said. “And I am driving from two hours away. You’re coming!”
I went. More like, I crawled. I mustered up the energy to introduce myself. Ann was so calm and her smile warm. I loved her business concept. She is doing amazing work to foster good health for people, and I wanted to collaborate with her — later on, when I could work again.
A New Start
After those six months it was time to start something. I needed to learn how to take care of myself, to believe that my health mattered too. I knew work had become a distraction to avoid dealing with psychological demons. I just kept working and the stress kept building.
Finally, I had to stop, turn around, and face what had been haunting me. I needed to learn how to manage challenges of work (and the rest of the world) without being overwhelmed by it. To befriend my ‘inner child’ and make a commitment to her not to get as lost as I had before.
I found myself standing in my ‘woman-cave’ at home. Overstuffed with school textbooks, work papers, oversized furniture… I realized the clutter was a symbol of my life. I love to decorate my home, but my room, my most personal space was ugly! The piano, sofa bed, and chair weren’t used because it wasn’t relaxing to be in there. It was so far from being a representation of who I am.
I called Ann. I still had very little energy at this point and felt the project was too big to tackle on my own. She came over and we had a wonderful afternoon. She didn’t have me picking out paint chips right away but began with a meditation and time for me to draw with coloured pencils.
Ann offers healing, not just design.
She brought calm into my room and helped me visualize what it could be — a place to dream, to rest, and to have a bit of fun. A place to find hope again for the future.
To be continued…
Rebecca Fortin lives north-east of Toronto with her loving partner (Chris), vivacious dogs (Milo and Copper) and debonair cat (Ross). Until recently, she had been working as a Journalist in Global Journalism with the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto; and prior to that working on healthy urban design as a senior-level Advisor for Peel Public Health, a large public health unit located west of Toronto. She is now growing organic herbs and creating art on her 6-acre property nestled in the environmentally sensitive Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt lands.