The Burn Out – my victory

(If you’re just tuning in, I suggest you read the previous 3 or 4 posts before reading this one – to get the whole story)

On the very last day of my very last rotation, my preceptor called us in one at a time to complete our final evaluation. When it was my turn, I sat down in the chair and we looked at each other across the desk and remembered silently how 12 months ago, we sat across a larger table when the decision was made that I would repeat a whole extra year of school.

It did not come as a surprise to me when he told me there was a notable difference in the levels in which I had grown.  I did not take it as I knew more now than I did before, even though continued experience results in knowing more.  Seeing someone in the middle of burn out and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I was certainly different 12 months later.  The other notable difference was my confidence – moving from a prideful attitude, thinking “everything will work out”, to confidence in what I’ve learned, to a new level of trust in God and the calling and the dream He has given me. That’s the true victory!

I’ve noticed that it’s easy for people with higher educations to trust in their knowledge rather that having faith and trust in God. But through this experience, I’ve had to trust God with my dream, my marriage, my family, my money – almost every aspect of my life.  Yes, I had victory over my degree when I walked across the stage (twice) at graduation, but my true, lasting victory is the new level of trust and faith I have in my God.

So, that’s my story!  And here’s a bonus video for you…

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The Burn Out – my recovery

In June 2008, one week before graduation, the Committee called me in to make their decision.  Ken and I were driving down to Savannah, and I was rummaging through the backseat when I found the book “Failing Forward” by John Maxwell.  We both just started laughing because we knew that no matter what happened in the next couple days, success was on the horizon.

In September 2008, I moved back to Savannah to complete the requirements that the school had set.  This was my prescription for the next 10 months

“Failing Forward” by John Maxwell

“Getting Things Done” by David Allen (x 2)

Catalyst 2008 CD’s (x 2)

Ed Young and Joel Osteen almost every Sunday morning

Reconnecting with my ministry team at church.

And a bonus: The computer bag I used for the entire 10 months said “Be strong and courageous!” (Thank you ATF 2008)

While all of this kept me focused and in the victorious mindset.  The breakthrough really happened with the first book – “Failing Forward” by John Maxwell.

I didn’t start reading it the second I found it in the backseat.  I have a pet peeve about “self-help” type books – they usually have some “self-reflection” activities in them, and if someone is not ready for that level of “help”, then they’ll read it to say they read it, and never receive the benefit it offers.  So, I knew I was not mentally or emotionally ready to start “reflecting” what the book might be asking of me.  But, when I moved to Savannah, I was ready to conquer, so that’s when I started the book.  And I completed the activities and questions at the end of each chapter.  It was hard, I’m not going to lie, but it was bearable, and I was ready.

Through the book, I was able to accept my portion of responsibility for what happened to me, and I was able to forgive the others that held responsibility in it as well.  I was also able to stop blaming myself for things that really weren’t my fault.  And God’s amazing because not long after I finished this book, I had an unexpected encounter when the faculty memeber that gave me the failing grade back in June.  She commended me on my success and told me she was proud, and in that conversation, I searched hard for bitterness and cynicism towards her, and could find none!  And I had similar experiences with several of the members of the Committee with the same outcome.  Are we super friendly, no, but there is a shared respect.

I’ve always heard “time heals all wounds” but without a little effort and a change in your mindset, you’re very likely to end up wounded in the same way again.

Last one (I promise): Victory!

The Burn Out – my trigger

In medicine and in life, symptoms are not the problem – they are hints to help identify the problem. The symptoms I listed in my last post led me to the conclusion of burn out in my school work, but what started the ball rolling down the burn out track?

Pride

In January of 2008, I was on a certain rotation where I was given verbal evaluations that were positive, but the written evaluations turned in to my school told a different story.  The part that bothered me the most was the fact that I was reported to be rude and unmannerly.  With her report to the school versus my word about what happened, the school decided to keep a close eye on me with an extra rotation assigned with a faculty member.

Looking back, I can see now where what I was calling “confidence in my knowledge and profession” was really pride, thinking that my charm and friendliness and presumed willingness wouldn’t allow them to fail me twice.  But I was wrong.

In May 2008, I was full blown into many of the symptoms I listed yesterday.  Those added to the normal pressures and stress of pharmacy school led to me failing the second time and a serious string of anxiety attacks.

In my case, a lot of people around me wanted to blame all of this on an attack from the devil.  When in reality, my sphere of influence was about to be expanded to a place that a part of my character wouldn’t have lasted.  And I’m not saying the enemy wasn’t involved – I know I have a big dream and a calling on my life that fits that dream, but the pride I had would have ruined it without the devil’s help.  The one thing I can blame on the enemy is the string of people immediately after these experiences that looked at me and said “maybe you’re not cut out for this profession.”

But like Nehemiah, with God on my side, no matter what the voices said, I stayed on my wall, and completed my task in victory!

Next: Forgiveness and Recovery

The Burn Out – my symptoms

Some of you know, but some of you might not know – a very trying and painful season of my life has finally come to an end. So much has happened and so much has changed that it’s hard to decide where to start. But over the next several posts, I would like to share openly what has happened to me and within me over the past year.

I have almost completed an awesome book by an awesome woman – Mad Church Disease by Anne Jackson. Basically, it’s a book about identifying and taking steps to recovering from burn out in the ministry.  But a funny thing happened on my way through this book…

I realized that the downward spiral I started on could be defined as burn out – not in the church or ministry, but Pharmacy school burn out.

In the book, Anne lists 40+ symptoms of burn out.  Here’s the one I tested positive for…

– Avoiding truth

– Avoiding accountable relationships

– Lying

– Being tired all the time

– Headaches

– Weight loss

– GI issues

– Insomnia

– Teeth grinding

– Cynical

– Grumpy

– Paranoia

– Suspicion

– Helplessness

– Anxiety/worry

– Panic attacks

– Feeling on the verge of a breakdown

– Withdrawal from family and friends

– Fear of being alone

– Dread of talking about school/pharmacy

Some of you may be surprised by this, some of you may not (and for the record, this is not an opportunity for anyone to call me up and ask me to list specific times that I might have done any of these things to you, because I probably couldn’t tell you, all I can say is I’m sorry).

Next time, I’ll share with you what started me on this path.

What’s your Melisande?

“Her skin was like alabaster, her hair a black so true it gleamed blue where the light touched it and her eyes a sapphire that gemstones might envy…her raven hair fell in ripples, gleaming like black water in moonlight …[her laugh] the sound liquid in the moonlight…her look went through me like a spear, my knees turned to water…collects hearts as the royal gardener collects seedlings…she shone, no less for her beauty than her barbed wit ”

In the story, Melisande enraptures everyone she encounters with her beauty and grace, including Phedre, the heroine. In spite of the adoration, Melisande is so concerned with only herself and then her son that she would use, hurt, sell, marry, or kill who she has to in order to get what she wants – including Phedre. Phedre experiences the murder of her adopted family, being sold into slavery to a barbarian, imprisonment, and attempts on her own life due to this Melisande. On her many adventures, Phedre hoped that she could outrun the hold Melisande has on her or be cured of the love she has for her. Each time she returned home, she cannot deny it.

Melisande holds responsibility for every negative experience in her life – and she hates her.
Melisande is wealthy, beautiful, intelligent, and graceful – and she loves her.

Do you have a Melisande in your life? Something or someone that inevitably draws you but then stings you? The one thing you despise most but it marks almost everything you do and you need it to bring your dreams to pass?

My Melisande has been my school. It told me I’m qualified and I’m going to be great at what I do. Then it told me I don’t belong and tries to send me away. They promised me one more chance as long as I do everything EXACTLY as they say. I hate it! And yet every hoodie I wear in the winter has their name and logo on it – it’s so comfy and the logo is so cool. Every pen I write with pricks a painful memory that I have to be dependent on them – they’re the best writing pens I’ve seen. Every memory I have from the past four years has the mark of them lurking in the shadows or hovering over me. My life and my dream could not have gone on without them – and they liked it that way.

So what is your Melisande? What is the one thing that the very sight or smell or even a touch on the skin sparks a mixure of devoted love and strong hate?

The Doctor is in

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It’s over, and yet it’s just beginning. It’s definitely official – I am a Doctor of Pharmacy!

In honor of graduation, here’s some tidbits about the traditions and rituals that I learned…

Why do we wear a cap and gown?

Well, back in the day (that’s the Middle Ages), students would wear the hat and robe every day to class.  It was a way of distinguishing scholars and students from normal citizens.  Plus, it was cold.  Even American Universities followed this until sometime after the Civil War.  (And I thought our dress code was strict!)

What’s with the stripes?

The higher the degree you earned, the more luxurious your gown was. So, doctorate graduates had robes made of silk with velvet stripes on the sleeves, around the neck, and down the front.  (Yeah, ours weren’t silk!)

Why do we have a separate hooding ceremony?

The hood is representative of the mantle of wisdom and knowledge.  During the ceremony, the student presents the folded hood to the mentor and the mentor places it on the student.  It signifies the graduates going from student to colleague.

What do the hood colors mean?

The higher the degree, the longer the hood.  The velvet boarder that goes around the neck and down the back is the color of the degree (Pharmacy = olive green).  The colors inside the hood are the colors of the university (South University = orange and white).

So, there ya go!

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P.S.  I will be putting the rest of the pictures on Facebook, so add me – Cynthia Hendrix

Gimme a break

The past several weeks have been crazy with finishing school and moving back into my house and graduating and job interviews. And in that craziness I’ve had some terrific ideas for blogs, but just no time to post them. So, I’m announcing officially that I will not be blogging again until Monday, June 22.
This will allow me to enjoy graduation with my family (and Father’s Day) and finish getting my life lined back up for the long haul. It will also allow my ideas to soak so that I make sure the timing is right for some of the things I want to share.
So, don’t despair because I’m not posting (you know I’m just that important), but when I do get back, you get to call me Doctor!