My ’13 things’ towards recovery from burnout

This post was written by Megan on June 16, 2010
Posted Under: burnout and recovery

Evolution to burnout recovery cartoon

I've been shuffling around the edges of telling you my burnout story. My story 'unplugged' of being unplugged.

I didn't want this blog to be about 'the answer'. Because I believe everyone finds their own answer. Mine won't be the exactly same as yours, you see.

A woman told me that taking spirulena (algae) was the trick to her recovery. Unfortunately, spirulena did zip for me.


How Amber triggered this post

A woman by the name of Amber asked (via a comment) about my recovery after reading 'A funny thing happened on the way to burnout'. I gave a reply that was so long I was wondering if I should use it for a PhD thesis. Couldn't just say 'Rest, cups of tea and Lindt chocolate', though it might have been more helpful.

And for the record, I am not fully recovered. But I'm a lot better than I was.


The 13 things that really, really helped me towards recovery

Is having 13 things ominous? It certainly wasn't intentional. And I'm sure you can handle it.

  1. The Helen Keller approach
    Stripping back stimuli and giving my senses a rest has been vital for my recovery. So the first thing I did after diagnosis of chronic fatigue was rennovate a house. Tradesmen with drills, nail guns and commercial radio filled my world. I almost died.
  2. The nothing 
    Napping is one thing, just lying down is quite another. 

  3. Culling friends
    Discovering that most of my friends rang to tell me their problems then hang up was not the easiest of revelations. Getting caller ID and simply not picking up the phone when a certain person calls was just the beginning….
  4. Giggling like a schoolgirl
    My lead-like fatigue, combined with my unusual sense of humour, made finding things to lighten my spirit a challenge. But I put on my false nose and glasses and got on with the job of chortling. Key focus: comedy DVDs (and bad French films), Gary Larson cartoons and my partner dancing 'conceptually' to movie soundtracks.

  5. Saying NO to "The NEW CURE for chronic fatigue!"
    Wear red undies (it's a chakra thing), drink this special berry juice from the mountains of Timbuktu (only $299 a bottle!), trampoline upside down, etc. There comes a point where it all gets too ridiculous. However, magnesium-calcium supplements, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, cranio-sacral osteotherapy and horribly painful massages have been the real deal for me. 
  6. Scribbling rubbish
    Writing three pages of whatever comes into my head every morning (called morning pages) helps to make sense of things. It allows me to be myself (the boring, angry, cliche-riddled tired, tired, tired person that I am), and raises me out of myself, giving me a loving bird's eye view. Bloody miracle stuff.
  7. Getting angry at Jeff
    I have this habit of swallowing my feelings of narky. Early in our relationship my partner, Jeff, noticed this – and decided it was his duty to push me to the point of hysteria.
  8. Counselling, and then not going to counselling
    There's an art to spilling your beans to a stranger. Communing with the right counsellor for me was gold. Putting a hold on it at the right time was platinum.
  9. Money and the lack thereof
    Nausea in my stomach was a standard CFS symptom – but I also felt sick about my credit card debt. Daily. I found a way to turn the money monster into a manageable acquaintance.
  10. Rock 'n roll
    Glory to the iPod. Music regularly pushes me along the local running path. I may be running or I may be crawling – but as long as I'm moving to the music, there's hope.
  11. Creative natter
    I've created two writers groups (and joined another) to chat about creative stuff. So talking the talk – even if I'm not walking the talk (or too tired to walk…go Google Groups), inspires me to wipe the drool off my chin and start constructing whole sentences, sometimes even articulately.  

  12. Drugs
    A certain drug stopped the biological drama cycle that my adrenal glands have been gleefully conjuring on a daily (and nightly) basis for over seven years.  Enough already, pop the pill.
  13. Chocolate…
    …and toast with jam, chips, blue cheese and runny brie, and alcohol. This had to be said. While we're busy being 'good', it's important to balance out with some 'bad' every once in awhile.

Want to know more?

The following 13 posts will deal with each of these steps is greater depth (or at least have more jokes). So stay tuned!


By the way…

No matter how many helpful tactics I insert into my life, those bloody curve balls keep coming. 

Just to keep the gods entertained, sometimes the answer for us can change. It often does for me. What works one week (or month or year), doesn't work the next.

Then I change again. And that's okay.


This post was written by Megan Hills. Megan is a writer and cartoonist who would like to point out that 13 is actually a lucky number in certain Asian cultures. Find out more about Megan


    Reader Comments

    1. renovate a house. Hahaha. For me it was- move house 3 times in one year, once internationally. It was a trip :-)
    Thanks for your previous reply- I only just saw it, I got lost. Interesting that you mention the shiny new 3D version of yourself. I get glimpses of that sometimes (ok, rarely at the moment, going through a rough patch,) and it is awe-inspiring. Really awake. I suppose that after years of feeling worn out you really appreciate the goodness when it comes. And I also believe that because of the fatigue we are forced to connect with what is real and true in ourselves. And it shines, once given the chance.
    I am a writer too- was writing a PhD when I fell ill, and am hoping to start writing for a living soon.
    Looking forward to your next posts!

    Written By Amber on June 17th, 2010 @ 7:45 pm

    Moving 3 times….once internationally, Lordy, Amber. No mean feat.

    Yep, that new 3D of yourself can sure be fleeting. Capice. But you will see more and more of it as time passes. Takes several truck loads of patience (something I had in thimble-sizes prior to burnout). At times like this, patience is a virtue that is shoved down one’s throat.

    Writing for a living is a great thing to do (a) if you feel the urge to do it and (b) if you are burned out. Low cost, spontaneous napping allowed.

    Looking forward to your next comments!

    Written By Megan on June 17th, 2010 @ 8:08 pm

    Love your writing and love your dogged commitment to Lindt chokkies.  You are a prophet, hopefully well out of her wilderness!
    Love you,

    Written By Christine on July 3rd, 2010 @ 6:44 pm

    Hi Megan, I just stumbled upon your blog and I'm going to subscribe to feed. I've burned out in April and quit my job because I couldn't handle it anymore. The first day off I cried all day. My nerves were all over the place. Anxiety attacks… Everything. For these last two months I've been staying at home doing nothing, on anti-depressant and anxiolytic. I've forced myself to some jogging, doing yoga and tai chi so I don't loose my mind. I'm feeling better, although I still feel tired. I still wake up anxious, and I haven't got my energy back. I'm always lazy and tired. I've just ventured on a small project that I could do at home (to pay the bills) and I'm realizing I'm not ready. It feels daunting and my anxiety can't cope. Anyway, I'm going to stop before I bore you to death. Just wanted to tell you that your blog was very important for me today. Thanks :)

    Written By Tiago Antunes on July 6th, 2010 @ 11:24 pm

    Tiago – I sooooo feel for you. Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are not alone, and there are people who will read your comment and feel they are not alone too. And please don’t think that you are lazy. It’s just your body that’s telling you to rest. This needs to happen now. Anti-depressants should be helping with the anxiety. If they are not, check with your doctor about the dose and the kind of anti-depressant you are using.

    It’s great that you are managing to exercise – brilliant effort! Also great that you learned you’re not ready for work yet. This is a tough realisation. ‘How can I pay the bills???’ is the obvious dilemma. Pull on your people resources: friends and family. And ‘delegate’ to someone to find out if there’s any government support available to you. Being an independent little sausage, I found asking for help difficult. But it’s the best lesson we can learn out of this. That and respecting our emotions and our bodies. Thanks again, Tiago.

    Written By Megan on July 8th, 2010 @ 11:07 am

    Thanks so much for your reply Megan. I'm going to wait a while more to see if the anti-depressant starts to take effect (my doctor doubled the dose a few days ago and he said i should feel much better in a couple of weeks).
    I'll keep you posted about how my recovery is going (at least I now learned the art of patience and taking it day by day), and in the meantime get some of the wisdom you share on your posts (I bought the Praise of Slow, and I'm curious to read it). Thanks Megan ;)

    Written By Tiago on July 8th, 2010 @ 10:46 pm

    ‘Taking it day by day’ is perfect advice for all of us. Glad to hear that you are working closely with your doctor to get a handle on that anxiety – it is a patience process. Hope you enjoy ‘In Praise of Slow’. I certainly did.

    Written By Megan on July 10th, 2010 @ 7:19 am

    I can't tell you how glad I am that I found this site. I've been trying for so long to find someone who not only have my condition, but who can articulate intelligent thoughts around it. And this list is great, I'm gonna start doing all the 13 things from this day on.

    Written By Hans on July 28th, 2010 @ 5:49 am

    Hi, Mega Megan! What is it about people suffering from burnout/adrenal probs/CFS/ME etc? Packed with creativity and entertainingness! I shall stroll gently through your blogs to see what further goodies are available.

    How are you these days? You were planning on writing a blog per each of these 13 items, did that not pan out? I found you by googling magnesium-calcium, but I can’t find a blog on it?

    love & hugs, Annys

    Written By Annys on November 21st, 2014 @ 7:43 pm

    PS. I found it all (didn’t take much looking, but I’m not high on patience…) Love it, love it, and love the e-book!

    Written By Annys on November 21st, 2014 @ 8:20 pm

    That’s so funny, Annys! So like me. I’m not high on patience either :) Very pleased the blogs and ebook are hitting their mark with you. Your comments are encouraging me to get back into this. Thank you so much. Luvuns x

    Written By Megan on November 21st, 2014 @ 8:59 pm

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