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November 22, 2019

From Burning Up to Burned Out

By Rebecca Mehra

Almost two months ago, I returned to Bend after nearly seven weeks of travel. During those seven weeks, I raced five times in four different countries, visited family in both Switzerland and Los Angeles, and went to Hawaii with my boyfriend. On paper it was an incredible adventure, and in actuality it was, too. I won four of those five races (South Carolina, Belgium, Italy, and the UK), and ran numerous personal bests. I raced my way onto the podium at the 5th Avenue Mile in New York City. I got the opportunity to spend a lot of overdue quality time with family and my boyfriend.

Yet just a few days after I returned to Bend, I felt like the wind had been knocked out of my sails. I was suddenly struggling to get out of bed in the morning after nights of poor sleep. Practice was no longer as exciting as it once was. I was irritable most of the time and found myself complaining about small things to those around me. Despite normally being a prolific extrovert, I avoided social occasions and interactions. There is no other way to put it – I was feeling extremely off.

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I didn’t want to tell anyone about how I was feeling. This didn’t make any sense, right? I had just come off of the best season of my life. I got to travel the world, do my job, and was successful at it. My relationship was going well. I had fulfillment outside of running, getting to work on things I care about in both the city of Bend and within Stanford Athletics. I felt like if I said anything about how I was doing, it would just come off as frivolous complaining.

A few weeks ago, I went to go for a swim. My adductor had flared up the day before so I decided to play it smart by taking a couple of days in the pool. I got to the pool, scanned myself into the facility, and went to the locker room. I sat down on a bench after putting on my swimsuit and looked at myself in the mirror. I could describe how I looked – which, for the record, wasn’t great – but more importantly, I didn’t feel like I was looking at myself. It was someone else staring back at me.

I left the pool (yup, didn’t even swim). I drove to Lauren’s house and broke down while sitting at her kitchen table. The word “depressed” felt so ugly and unfamiliar coming off my tongue. In typical Lauren fashion, she listened, was compassionate, and offered up several personal anecdotes and potential solutions, including that I could be experiencing burnout. She referenced an article, "The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout ... Do You Have Them?" which I scanned through and came to the quick conclusion that I was very likely experiencing burnout to some degree. After weeks of pomp and circumstance, and a surplus of adrenal gland activity and outside approval, I was burnt out. 

As I began to tell various people in my life what I was dealing with, it never became completely painless, but it got easier. I sought professional guidance. After much consideration, I even opened up about it on social media. Mental health is extremely complicated, and the most important thing I had to learn, and am continuing to learn, is how to be kind to myself. How I was feeling still doesn’t entirely make sense to me, and as the logical “Type A” person that I am, I still find myself searching for a more concrete answer. But I am doing better day-by-day, and the glimmers of my goofy and outgoing self have begun to return.

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All of this to say, I have learned that slumps are entirely normal. Nearly everyone has them. I am lucky to be surrounded by a good team that loves me, stands by me and encouraged me to seek help when I needed it most. For that I am thankful.

Onwards and upwards into 2020.

 

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