“At the age of 32, I reached the point of burnout. I was a public relations manager for a medium-sized software company. I liked the work, and I was good at it. But still, it went wrong. In retrospect, the signs were pretty straightforward; having great difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, hyperventilating at the office, a panic attack during a theater performance. After a second hyperventilation attack at the office, my manager sent me home. She didn’t allow me to do anything at all for a while. When I appeared at the office the next day with dark bags under my eyes, I was banned from the office. I was stunned. Of course, I needed rest, but the imposed rest increased the tension even more. This was because it was not my decision. I had no control and felt powerless. After a few weeks, I felt a bit better and wanted to go back to work. My supervisor and the company doctor thought I should start with an hour a day. I didn’t accept that. I thought it was going too slowly. I then resigned quite impulsively. I left for Le Puy en Velay in France to walk the camino to Santiago de Compostela.
The first week was the toughest. I was still recovering from my burnout, and my physical condition was, to be honest, not too good. While walking, in the albuerges, and in the evening in restaurants, I avoided other pilgrims. I loved to be alone. Every now and then, I had a pleasant encounter with a fellow pilgrim on the way. But after one or two days, I thought it was enough and said goodbye. That surprised me because I always thought I was extroverted. I am very open and spontaneous at home, and I talk easily with strangers. Also, at parties, I was the last one to go home.
After more than two months of walking, I was back in the Netherlands. I felt energetic again, and I was in excellent shape. During a session with my therapist, I told about my avoidance behavior on the camino while I usually am very extroverted. I thought my introverted behavior was due to my burnout and that it was temporary. But then I found out that I had the wrong idea about being an introvert. My therapist explained that introverts can, in fact, be very social but prefer not to be. After a social interaction, they feel the need to retreat to recharge. Then I found out that I had convinced myself that I should be an extrovert all those years. In fact, without knowing it, I had negative beliefs about introverts. And now, I turned out to be an introvert myself! This was the cause of my burnout. I worked hard as a public relations manager, but it slowly sucked me dry. I still work as a public relations manager but now as a freelancer. When I am tired, I take a rest. I work fewer hours and therefore earn less. But the energy and happiness I get in return are priceless.”
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Sofia’s (54, Brazil) camino story: ‘At Cruz de Ferro came the sadness’
Nagela Alexa’s Camino Story: ‘The Camino changes your life if you allow it.’
Andre’s story (58, Belgium): ‘On the camino, I had to face the hard fact of how horribly I treat myself.’
Agne-Henrik’s story: ‘The camino changed my life‘