Capital DJ Vick Hope reveals how a relentless drive for success and ‘doing’ drove her to the point of collapse – and how she finally learned to be still
I’ve just smacked Lee Ryan from Blue in the face. He doesn’t deserve to be smacked, I like him a lot. But the road to a perfect cha-cha-cha is – as I discovered on day one of Strictly Come Dancing – a long one.
I never did achieve a perfect cha-cha-cha. In fact, my technique (or lack thereof) brought my Strictly journey to an end – a journey I began on the cusp of my 30th year, thinking that it would be a good idea to learn something new. In reality, I learned a whole lot more. And being voted out of the competition was merely a catalyst for the long-building breakdown that followed.
I’d recently found myself single after a decade of being in two long-term relationships. I’d moved into my own place and, for the first time in my life, I was alone. I threw myself into 15-hour working days, taking only three days’ holiday over the course of 12 months. I plugged any gaps in my week with boys who didn’t care about me. Learning to dance was another way to fill the silence, so when that bubble burst, the silence was deafening: I’d reached burnout.
New research suggests women are more likely to suffer work burnout than men. Dr Nancy Beauregard, professor of population health at Montreal University believes a key factor is that women ‘are less likely to be given positions of power, causing them to become overwhelmed with frustration, emotional exhaustion and cynicism’. She also cites ‘balancing work and family life’ as a trigger. My friends concur. They feel guilty for working too hard to have time to start a family (with the background pressure of a biological clock). Others feel judged for putting family before career; we’re conditioned to believe we’re never not doing enough.
I’ll never forget my mum’s words after she’d travelled from Newcastle to London to be with me as I lay exhausted in her arms: ‘You don’t need to chase anything any more, darling. You need to be still and you need to learn to be on your own.’ Mama knows best. It took a burnout to force me to stop, pull back and breathe.
I had my first week off in a year and flew solo to Malaysia for my first-ever yoga retreat. It’s clichéd, but this holiday changed everything: creating space for solitude, stillness and self-care is vital. As Leo Babauta, author of The Power Of Less, explains, ‘Our lives are filled to overflowing because we’ve said yes to more than we can handle.’ He suggests ‘reflecting daily on what’s most important, and making a short list of four things you care deeply about against a list of everything else in your life. Eliminate, postpone, reschedule, or renegotiate commitments that aren’t on your list [to find time to] contemplate and replenish yourself.’
I’d never stopped to consider how my break-up had affected me, to take stock of my achievements or spend time in my own space. I’d forgotten what I was working hard for. My burnout taught me not only to deal with the silence, but to love it. Because here’s the thing: there’ll always be silence. The madness will come and go, and what you have left every time is only you. You need to be enough. You are enough. We can endure much more than we think we can, but that doesn’t mean we should.