Every second person I talk to these days complains about being constantly tired and that’s not because I am seeing them as clients. These are friends, moms at school, my family and the shop-teller who likes to share her life story when she rings up my items!
Chronic fatigue is becoming an epidemic and this is largely due to the high demands of life and our over-committed lifestyles which impact us physically and emotionally.
Some of us just cannot keep up with the pace
How come some people can manage to take it all in their stride and others are floored by the demands and stressors of daily life?
I am one of those people who couldn’t seem to manage and I was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome in 2013 after I realised that the perpetual dizziness, the complete lack of vitality and energy, and the ongoing anxiety and irritability were surely not still related to being a new mom – over a year after my first child was born. Sure, that definitely added to it but that was not the basis of it. It turned out my hormones were all over the place, my gut health was terrible and I was depleted in so many ways.
So, I faithfully took the supplements, ate the right food, tried to get as much sleep as a one-year old child would allow me, and slowly improved. I celebrated with a run or two, going out more often with friends and more doing….and I crashed again. And I repeated this rollercoaster pattern for about 4 years.
It was only in 2017 that I finally sat down with myself and asked myself “what is it about who I am and how I do life that makes me constantly have to rely on treatment to be well enough to function?”
Our unconscious patterns can deplete us
This was how I came upon the concept of what I call the Holding Personality. I already knew that our bodies and minds are intricately connected and that my psychological way of seeing and meeting the world would impact on my physical health. I also had become more and more conscious over the years of my need for control i.e. I can be controlling! After a therapist broke this to me in 1998 I shelved the whole concept as ‘ridiculous’ until years later I felt safe enough to take it out, dust it off and perhaps give it some room to exist in my framework of who I am.
I also started to realise the degree to which I felt unsafe in the world which manifested as fear of crime (which is sadly often valid in South Africa), fear related to financial security and, more subtly, fear of uncertainty, fear of rejection and fear of abandonment.
Finally, I had not learned how to manage emotions growing up. My parents were never given those tools growing up so they too were scared of emotions -their own and mine - and could not help me with my big feelings. To overcome the overwhelm of my big emotions and to make sure I did not upset my parents with my big emotions I adapted myself and held it all together.
All these fears and my need to belong, feel safe and acceptable made me feel powerless and overwhelmed so I used control and doing to feel safe.
There’s a deep fault with this logic though…..no one can control life. Also, what I was controlling for was to not have to have suffering (obstacles, challenges, uncertainty, scary emotions) and we HAVE to have these in our lives as these experiences are the only way to make our ego let go and say “OK, I give up for a while, what’s the lesson/gift?” That's how we evolve.
So I controlled and pushed myself and felt more powerless when my controlling did not work and then I depleted myself as my body ran on stress hormones on a cumulative basis with all the holding that comes with control:
Holding it all together and not falling apart or showing vulnerability
Holding everything for everyone else so they can be OK so I can be OK
Holding myself and others up to high expectations
Holding strong expectations about how life should be
Holding on to being responsible, capable and on top of things
Holding onto perfection in all that I do
SO MUCH HOLDING
Your experience of life tells your body how to react
The strong body and mind connection meant that all the holding (and anxiety behind the holding) created parallel physical tension in my body that blocked the free flow of energy and the ability of my body to metabolise and function smoothly. As my osteopath likes to say “form dictates function”.
All my body armouring to protect me against this unpredictable world and unmanageable emotions and to hold me together as the self-reliant being I believed I needed to be created a physical change in my fascia and musculoskeletal alignment. All the constant doing and achieving and holding created a cumulative fight/flight response and this threw out so many different systems in my body because the endocrine (hormone) system is just that – a system - and the fight/flight response demands that many hormones be answering the call to action most of the time. This is bound to impact on the other hormones in the system and so the thyroid can be impacted, blood sugar can be impacted, the reproductive system can be impacted and more.
All the tired people are holding too much
It was only when I finally recognised these characteristics and the holding patterns in myself that I realised that most of my chronic fatigue/adrenal fatigue clients came to me with many similarities. Lots of them fitted the category of Type-A personality and exercised excessive control without being able to really play, rest, be spontaneous, and flow with life. Of course we all ran out of fuel.
Our bodies are not designed to operate at full throttle all the time and to be on top form. We are designed to ebb and flow with natural rhythms and cycles inside of us (e.g. circadian rhythm and menstrual cycle) and outside of us (e.g. day/night, seasons, lunar cycle). However, when we are in a holding pattern we expect the same output from ourselves all the time and stop listening to what our bodies need and how they need it.
We disconnect from our bodies and they do what they must to get our attention – they send symptoms. Our bodies shout at us through the aching muscles and tension, they trip us up through dizziness, they stop us in our tracks through not producing enough energy, they whisper at us through feelings of disquiet and despair. And what they are trying to do is share a gift with us – a gift that says “STOP. This is not working and there is another way”.
Learning a more balanced way
And there is another way. I had to learn to face what I was afraid would happen if I stopped. I had to face the powerlessness and overwhelm I was afraid of that made me feel like a young, abandoned child with no emotional containment. I had to learn to be vulnerable, trust the universal consciousness/greater power/forces-that-be to carry me along to a place of balance that my body and mind deeply knew how to achieve if I listened to them. I had to learn to soften into life, into challenges and into my emotions. I had to learn to connect with others and receive the abundance of support, energy, ease, love and bliss that is always on offer.
I am still learning every day and I still sometimes get tired at times but now I know to stop, give myself compassion, listen and learn form that space of quiet and rest.
I’m not saying it is easy but it is definitely possible and the miracles and magic that have unfolded as I have stopped holding (as much!) have been beyond my imagining.
If you feel ready then just set the intention to start the process of finding more balance and you'll already become more conscious of how to shift. You can also read 5 powerful secrets I learned from my own healing journey.
If you decide to make this journey then the only holding I would advise is to hold onto your hats and enjoy the ride. When you choose to let go it will literally be the ride of your life!