Hey babes - it's been a minute, hasn't it? Today, I'm peeling back the layers and sharing my journey through the abyss of burnout that became a profound chapter of self-discovery. I took a little step back from photography for a while and am only now getting back into the swing of things. I thought I would share a bit of my journey here and see if anyone else can relate.
In my "real" life, I work as a brand and marketing specialist which I LOVE. I extra love that it has so many parallels to my work as a boudoir photographer - but will save that for a different post. On top of that, I have a little family who is my entire world. My not-so-baby boy has some special needs that require a bit more attention than usual, especially with school. When he was a baby, I always thought that him being in school would mean that I had more time on my hands to spend on my business. As it turns out, that is not the case; he needs me now more than ever.
The pinnacle of my stress was at the end of 2021 when my busy season looked like 9 clients within 5 weeks. For perspective, at most, I will accept 3-4 clients per month. I am a people pleaser and thought that I could handle that craziness and demand. As it turns out, I couldn't. I got through that season but just felt so uninspired and unmotivated.
Shortly after that, I threw my back out and it has taken me over a year to get to a decent place with it. It still bothers me but I am finally now able to lift things to eye level. The idea of lifting my heavy camera was out of the question. When my doctor asked me how I injured myself, the only thing I could say was... stress. I didn't fall or have a car accident. I just woke up one day and couldn't move.
Throughout all of that, I also managed to get a diagnosis for PCOS which made a lot of sense for my body but meant that I needed to make some lifestyle changes.
Analyzing this burnout, I can also point to the post-Covid world as an additional reason. Rescheduling clients, navigating fears of sickness, and wrestling with the financial fallout – it was a rollercoaster that left me emotionally drained.
So, what did stepping back look like for me? Hiding.
My primary coping mechanism was reading. Lots and lots of reading. While escaping into books might sound harmless, I realized it was becoming a shield, a way to avoid confronting deeper feelings.
In light of all of this, I've made some conscious decisions and it is starting to feel like I'm emerging from the shadows.
It all began with the question: what truly lights me up?
The simple truth: I love making art and I love supporting women.
Going forward, that is my north star, my lighthouse light for my business.
Wedding photography, as much as I've tried to love it, isn't my jam. I am closing that side of my business and focusing only on boudoir. I harboured so much guilt about that side of my business: I didn't like it but I felt like I had to...I felt guilty every time I posted to my boudoir page and not my wedding page. No longer.
Recognizing the tipping point between productive and overwhelmed has become a priority. I am also trying to do better at acknowledging imposter syndrome and the loneliness of solo entrepreneurship, I've opened up more. Seeking connections within the photography community and beyond will become a vital part of my journey.
Stepping back has allowed me to redefine my relationship with photography. It's not just a business; it's an extension of my passion. By letting go of what doesn't align, I'm creating space for what truly excites me.
As for the rest of it, it looks a little like this:
I love my day-job as a brand and marketing specialist, but it can't consume me. It is a part of my life, but it isn't my life.
Reading is different now. I'm savouring each book, allowing time between reads to process and feel. It's no longer a refuge; it's a source of joy and inspiration.
My family made some real strides over the last few months. For the first time in a long time, I feel like we've turned a corner. We have made some changes that I think will set us all up for success.
Seeking professional mental help has become a priority. I love therapy, truly. I haven't gone in a while but I am going to. I need to get real about my relationship with myself. Wish me luck.
I hope this post inspired some of you or, at the very least, made you feel less alone. Have you dealt with burnout before? What types of things did you do to help?