Escape the Hamster Wheel of Burnout, Anxiety and Suffering

April 7, 2021
Inspiration

The Root Cause of All Suffering... And How To Start Healing It

Guest blog by Kathryn Schwarz

Image of Kathryn Schwarz

Kathryn is a Healing Coach who empowers women to use their intuition to heal emotional trauma and live vibrantly and with purpose. Surviving a mass shooting was what gave her permission to pursue trauma healing in 2017. She was shocked to discover that unhealed emotional trauma is what had been keeping her stuck in cycles of anxiety, depression and burnout for decades. Her intuition led her down a healing path to radical self care and a life full of the connection, ease, creativity, joy and fulfillment that once felt impossible. It's her soul's purpose to share this healing practice with others.

Kathryn is a 2017 graduate of the JRNI Coaching Intensive. To follow her work, visit: www.kathrynschwarz.me or @healingwithkathryn on Instagram.

 

I want to share with you a realization about the root cause of all of my suffering. It's one that changed my life in ways I never believed were possible, and might just change yours too. 

It's time for some straight talk about chasing after that elusive thing called happiness - or even just contentment - and the exhaustion that so often comes instead.   

But first, I want to tell you about my decades of suffering because I believe it will resonate with some of you.

Suffering Inside Success

For most of my life, I was caught up in a constant cycle of anxiety, depression and burnout. I now call it the hamster wheel of suffering. It felt endless. I experienced deep hopelessness that it would ever change.

The ironic part is that my external life looked golden, like I should be happy. I was a workaholic who sacrificed a lot to achieve success in the entertainment industry - first as a producer on Broadway, and then in film and television in LA. 

With every promotion, I thought I would feel more fulfilled.

I thought I would have more time to devote to my personal life. Some part of me believed that if I could “just get through this next thing” by working hard enough and long enough then I could finally relax and LIVE my life.

But that imagined life always seemed to be on hold. 

I wore my extremely high tolerance for stressful environments as a badge of honor. It was literally listed as a skill on my resume. You could depend on me to get it done and get it done “right”. Perfectionism ran strong. 

To friends, I would joke about being a highly-functioning depressive. I made time for therapy. I reluctantly took anti-depressants, and then rather liberally and regularly took anti-anxiety meds. 

The hamster wheel of suffering went round and round.

I would give everything I had to everyone else and to my job. When I took a rare day off all I craved was sleep, or some sort of numbing so that I could recover and do it all over again. There never seemed to be enough time. 

When I connected with friends, this cycle is often all we talked about: our absurd amount of stress and how we were or weren’t coping with it. It seemed everyone was running the same race on their own hamster wheel of suffering. Side-by-side. 

So I kept running and trying to feel better.

I changed cities, jobs, careers, and therapists. After being overweight my whole life, I lost 80 pounds and kept it off for years. I started practicing boundaries to create the recommended “work/life balance”. I began meditating. I even got certified as a life coach to learn about positive psychology and personal development.

Yes, ALL of these things helped me cope better with the pain. Sometimes the life I wanted even seemed within reach.

And then the suffering would come crashing back, and with it the intense fear that I would never, ever feel better. I felt numb, empty, lost, disconnected from life and purpose. Broken. 

I was living in the Dream Cities with the Dream Jobs. I should LOVE this life, right? 

This ever-expanding gap between what my life looked like on the outside and what it felt like on the inside was the most painful part. I feared something must be profoundly wrong with me.

That was me about four years ago. 

Discovering the Solution

If any of that feels familiar to you, I invite you to keep reading with an open mind. Because let me tell you… the Kathryn of four years ago would have rejected this next truth instantly and intensely!

The root cause of all of my suffering was unhealed emotional trauma.

Stay with me.

Not the type of Trauma that we immediately think about: sexual assault, physical abuse, gun violence, war, death, car accident, natural disasters, etc. Those are all acute Traumas - often a singular event where something external “happened”. 

I am talking about another type of trauma: chronic emotional trauma. 

This is the slow drip of trauma over an extended period of time. I couldn’t as easily point to it because it wasn’t a singular event. It was internal.

What I’m talking about here is a lack of emotional safety that slowly eroded my inner safety and self worth in small ways over the course of years... until I couldn’t even label my feelings, desires or needs anymore. It caused me to be painfully disconnected from myself, my intuition and my soul’s purpose.

And nobody labeled my experience as traumatic - especially not me.

I shared the same stories and symptoms with 6 different therapists, and 3 different psychiatrists over roughly two decades. But I didn’t actually begin to heal and transform my life until I saw a therapist who specialized in trauma. 

The ONLY reason I saw a trauma therapist was because I was in the audience during the deadliest mass shooting in US history. And I STILL didn’t seek that trauma-specific help until after I had an intense panic attack months after the shooting. 

I know it’s not easy to associate our lives with this word: trauma. But what if it might be your key to jumping off that hamster wheel of suffering?

The Power of Trauma Healing 

I went to trauma therapy to heal from a mass shooting. Within our first session, my therapist was able to identify the chronic trauma that no one had been able to label for decades: emotional abuse from well-meaning and loving parents.

It was EXCEPTIONALLY difficult to accept this trauma label when it came to my family. Simultaneously, a part of me was deeply relieved to have my experience validated with a name. I was not crazy or broken. 

Now that this suffering had a name, I could take the steps to actually heal it. 

I believe unhealed emotional trauma is the root cause of all suffering, and is always the reason people feel stuck, creatively-blocked, or disconnected from their purpose. That has been my experience, and I’ve seen it play out again and again with my clients. 

In the coaching world, we use terms like “false beliefs” or “limiting beliefs”. I now call them “trauma stories” because they are something we learned that helped us survive a threat to our physical and/or emotional safety at some point in our lives (or in the lives of generations before us that’s been passed down to us).

When “OK” is not OK

For decades I believed that what was going on in my family was “fine”. It’s just how it was. Of course I loved my parents, and this is what they needed from me. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t handle it better? 

The lack of emotional safety over a long period of time is a form of chronic trauma. 

We talk about toxic environments and toxic relationships pretty openly. We talk about chronic stress like there is a prize for who suffers the most. We choose to accept these patterns as normal and “fine”. 

Somehow it is easier to cruelly tell ourselves, “I should be able to cope with this better” rather than listen to the messages from our body, mind and soul that repeatedly say, “this isn’t working”.  Why do we do this? Because of unhealed emotional trauma. And it’s not the only way to live.

Let me gently ask you, “Is it truly fine?” 

Whatever pattern that you are experiencing… is it one that you want for your life? 

What if I told you that NOTHING is WRONG with you if a part of you believes it is Not Fine. What if I told you that you are still a loving daughter, parent, team player, brother, friend, spouse and human if a part of you believes it is not fine, and knows something really needs to change in your life – even if you don’t know how to change it. 

Would your gut still tell you that whatever is happening is…fine?

If you know it’s not fine and some part of my story resonates with you, I encourage you to seek support from someone who specializes in trauma.

You do not need to wait for "permission" from a mass shooting like I did. You can even use the pandemic as your permission slip right now if that feels easier, but I encourage you to be curious about looking for this trauma word in the bios or websites of therapists, coaches, or healers that speak to you. 

You have the power to heal and you do not need to do it alone.

Trauma often convinces us that we do not have the power, or the right, to choose for ourselves. When you are seeking a new member of your healing team, I encourage you to be aware of this trauma story. Do not let it make your choices for you. You ALWAYS have the power to choose. You always have options. And you matter.

Ultimately, YOU are your wisest and most powerful healer. 

The power to heal is not in the hands of the person you find to help support you. 

It’s imperative when dealing with trauma specifically, that safety and trust is created and consistent with your therapist, coach or healer. If any part of you feels unsafe, that trust has been broken or that trust will be difficult to create… listen to your intuition and move on. You do not need to give a reason, explanation or second chance – you have the power to simply end the relationship and seek a new one that is the right match for you. 

Keep looking until you find it. You’re worth it. And if something is telling you that I might be the right match for you, you can read more about me and book a complimentary clarity session at my website: www.kathrynschwarz.me.

Want to be a JRNI coach?

One of our values at JRNI is that we dare to be different. Our coaches like Kathryn ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and leave your mark on the world and you’d like some partners in the process, come check out JRNI Life Coach Training

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