Imaginary friends can save your sanity

This post was written by Megan on April 29, 2010
Posted Under: burnout and stress management

Imaginary friend cartoon for burnout

Some say it's often the simple things that work best. But I say it's often the crazy things that work best.

These are possibly the words of a crazy person, so can you believe them?

I want to tell you about my imaginary friends. That's right. Not just one but many. And, yes, you can be the judge regarding the level of my sanity.

Right now, it's not looking so good. But hang in there…


Life without imaginary friends

When you are burned out, you feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the many demands in life. Sound logical enough?

I was overwhelmed by many things, and I don't even have children. I was overwhelmed by having a freelance business, three blog sites and a novel that I want to edit. I also have a worn-out central nervous system.

All these parts of my life felt like children, pulling at my sleeve, all wanting my attention at once. And they all demanded some kind of sustenance that I couldn't see myself delivering. I was too tired.

The sassy, savvy chick

Then I went to see intuitive counsellor, Shauna Teaken. Originally, if someone told me to go and see an intuitive counsellor, I would have politely explained that intuitive counselling is a load of wah-wah.

As it turns out, Shauna is a sassy, savvy chick who pulls no punches. No wah-wah here. She doesn't assume she knows it all either. Yes, within ten minutes, she seemed to know me (and my absent parents) better than anyone I know. Shauna could probably tell me what colour my undies were. But more importantly, she made practical, logical, easy to apply suggestions. Suggestions like having imaginary friends.

Actually she didn't call them imaginary friends. That's my interpretation. Basically, Shauna had quickly understood that I saw my tired body, my business, my blogs and my novel as hungry dependants.


My solution to overwhelm 

I said to Shauna, 'I've got to sacrifice a few of these babies so I can keep my sanity (yes, there's that word again). I have chronic fatigue for gods sake. I must prioritise. I must have less projects. This has got to be the sensible course of action, right?'

Shauna said 'Not so fast'.


There was another way… 

Possibly a better way. In essence, it was time for my babies to grow up, to become adults in their own right. Sounds kooky, I know. But when I put this little visualisation exercise into practice, the sense of burden immediately reduced.

Call it mind trickery, if you wish. Whatever it is, visualising what was dragging me down as an independent being is a powerful methodology. Furthermore, visualising having a team that supports me – rather than an arm-full of hungry babies – is astonishingly freeing.

Next, it was time to start having meetings with these guys. My team. Yes, I mean meetings with my business, my blogs, my novel and my body. My imaginary friends.


The imaginary forum

Every morning I write three pages of stream-of-consciousness in an A4 notebook. Stream-of-consciousness means continuously writing whatever comes into your head, even if it is 'I don't know what to write'. A full explanation about these morning pages is in my post Meditation Made Manageable – mmm.  

So I use this writing time as the forum to call a meeting with my team of imaginary friends.


How the meetings start

Often my body is first on the agenda. I ask my body – through my writing – how it's going. Yes, I actually write 'Hi body, how are you going?'. I keep writing whatever comes into my head, imagining what my body would reply. 

My body generally replies (on paper) 'I'm tired'. Shocking, I know.

I also ask 'Body, what do you require from me today?'. Body might reply, 'Some exercise is probably a good idea'. This is likely to mean crawling along a jogging track. But if movement is what Body needs, that's what Body gets. Sometimes Body says 'try some deep breathing', or 'take more naps', or 'Honey, let's take the whole day off and work through a family block of Fruit 'n Nut.' I am amazed at how sensible Body can be.


Does this sound a little far-fetched?

It does take some practice to get into this conversational flow with parts of yourself. And it takes some faith. Some faith that an answer will come to you. And some faith that no one else will look at your notebook and promptly call the nearest mental hospital.

But I highly recommend playing with this and see what comes out of it. 


The meeting continues…

After my body has had its two cents, we move onto the next team member. That's usually the three blogs (they generally all talk at once but, strangely, Burnout is the most vocal).

Wordmix (my freelance writing business) is the sensible one. It's the steady breadwinner that patiently sits until the blog flurry is over. But sometimes I tell the blogs to clam it and let wordmix say something about having fun. This challenges wordmix no end, let me tell you. 

Meanwhile my novel is smoking in a hammock at the back. Novel wears dreadlocks and generally has no specific needs. This can work well for me on certain days. But there are times when Novel needs to turn off the reggae and start telling me what the hell is going on. I demand some direction. This morning Novel spoke up all on its own. I almost dropped the pad.


The point to these meetings 

Don't think you have to work it all out on your own. Ask for what they require on that day. Not tomorrow, not next week. Just that day. And one last thing: be prepared for the answer: 'I require nothing of you today'. It can happen.    


Other possible team members

Of course, there were other things, too, that overwhelm me – like domestic duties, finding time to spend with my loved one and our friends. And time with Lewis, my cat. Lewis is very demanding when it comes to affection.

But I decided to keep my team tight in number to make that manageable too. Perhaps the team will expand some time in the future. I guess they'll let me know when I'm ready. 


This post was written by Megan Hills. Megan is a writer and cartoonist who is a little hesitant when it comes to introducing her imaginary friends to other people. Imaginary friends can be unpredictable. Find out more about Megan

Reader Comments

Megan, you are truely gorgeous ; ) I'm thinkin of running away for a solo campin trip with my morning pages and scetchbook- it's been too long, thanks for the inspiration ; ) a

Written By Amanda on April 30th, 2010 @ 10:42 am

What a great post – it made me chuckle and question and sigh – time to start asking those questions – thank you :)

Written By Munkipants on May 24th, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

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