There is a legitimate ailment that affects all people, no matter your age, experience, social status, or how careful you are. There's no bottle of pills to cure it. Doctors and herbalists can't help you with it. You're alone, for the most part. And only you can figure out how to fix it.
This mystery disease is known as "Burnout". And it is a very, very serious thing. You never know when it will strike, or how long the healing process will be. It simply settles on your shoulders one day, like a damp, gloomy cloak; stealing the joy from the things that used to light you up, stealing the energy from your very bones, stealing the point to life. There it will stay; that ill-fitting, invisible piece of cloth that enshrouds you in mediocrity and depression.
Don't worry though. There's a light at the end of the tunnel. There's a cure for it. It will take time, and effort, and gentleness. But you can beat it. Though it hangs on with the stubbornness of a tick, you can shake it and come out stronger. I'm positive about this. I'm positive, because even after wearing my cloak of gloom for three years, I am finally healing from it.
When I left Oregon three years ago, I knew I was burnt-out from farming. The years of struggling so freaking hard to make the farm work, while living with family who didn't want it to work, took its toll. I thought perhaps a change of scenery would help, so I moved to Missouri. But that didn't help. The joy of working with plants and animals was gone. I felt tired and drained. There was no joy in any part of my life; not in the beautiful area that I lived in, not in being married to be best man on earth, not in welcoming our firstborn son, not in starting up a farm of our own... Life was dim. I slept a lot. I cried a lot. I began dabbling heavily in paganism and self harming. I was burnt out and knew it. I also knew that I wanted to heal. I just didn't know how.
It took a very abrupt piece of news to start the healing process. A piece of news that took me 4 months to come to terms with, and one that ultimately changed me for the better.
And the news was?
Well, it came in the form of a positive pregnancy test.
Yes folks, I am pregnant with Kiddo #2. *insert bombshell dropping*
This was very much a shock to Hubby and I, as we were hoping to wait a year or two before adding to the family size. Being the superman that he is though, it only took him about three days to get used to the idea and then become completely ecstatic over the news. Me? Not happy. Not. Happy. I hadn't even figured out how to be a mom for the first one! And we were just starting the farm! How on earth was I supposed to do everything while pregnant and then do it with a newborn!?
So there was more sleeping. And more crying. And more being depressed.
And then I'd had enough. I didn't know what I was going to do, but by George I was going to start fixing these problems. I wanted to be excited about this baby. I wanted to have tears of joy when I finally met this new little one; not have tears of dread like last time.
It took four months, but I can now say with a smile that I'm on the firm road to recovery. It took time, and effort, and gentleness. It was baby steps of fixing my faith in God through reading just one small chapter of the Bible each day and finally stepping foot inside a church again. It was learning to love being a mother through a special book gifted by my mom and taking delight in my chubby, smiling son. It was realizing that making this house a home and being cheerful for my husband gives far greater rewards than globe trotting to Bali and Aruba ever would. It was accepting the gift of a new child.
And now it is learning to love farming again.
Like all the other areas in my life that needed fixing, it's taking time and gentleness to heal from this major burnout. I'm taking tiny steps back into finding the joy of it. It started out with things like buying a couple books from Amazon ('Woman-Powered Farm', and 'Made From Scratch'), and going to the feed store to simply look at chicks and flip through magazines. Then it went to slowing barn chores down and taking the time to enjoy the veal calves that we've raised over the summer (and will be butchering in 4 weeks!). Then it was pulling the spinning wheel out and making yarn... Then it was ordering 2 dozen Sapphire chicks (Sapphires are a F1 cross between a male Cream Legbar and a female White Leghorn.). And then I felt ready for the next big step: Three Ossabaw pigs, and a working dog.
These tiny steps weren't rushed. I waited until I was champing at the bit to do each one. I wanted to feel the joy again! I wanted to remember how fun it was at the beginning to simply hold a fluffy chick in the palm of my hand. Or to outfox a crafty calf or pig. Or wake up in the morning feeling excited at what might happen. I'm getting there. I can feel it. I don't have my pigs or my dog yet; but they're coming in the next week or two. And I am so, so excited. Life has joy again. Life has purpose.
And I am happy.
If you're feeling burnt-out, my friend, take heart. You can conquer it. I know you can. Focus on finding the joy. Do something tiny that brings a smile. And do it every day. The gloom doesn't last forever. Joy will always win.