What burnout looks like
Mon, 20 Sep 2021 01:49:53 +0000
You are so chill and positive all the time.
How are you never grumpy?
I envy how relaxed you always are.
I’ve heard this about me so many times. And it’s true: I’m not a stressy person. In situations of tension or conflict, I find it easy to take a step back, analyse what’s going on, and find a rational solution without losing it.
I can still function pretty well when I’m anxious or under pressure.
I like to think of myself as a strong human. I can handle things. I can manage any shit that comes my way.
And I mostly can. I survived anorexia, moved countries several times, worked through a pandemic, have been homeless for over three months, and just had to carry on with life while my Grandpa died on the other side of the world.
But there comes a point when enough is enough. Your body and your mind just give up. You start feeling exhausted all the time. Situations that you would have normally skipped through without batting an eyelid now make you grumpy and irritable. The smallest of pebbles becomes an insurmountable mountain.
You’re burning out.
I had no idea burnout could be this bad until I experienced it. And it took me a very long time (well over a year) to realise and accept it.
This is what burnout looked like for me.
This was the first sign. It’s true: I am the most chilled person I know. Very few things bother me to the point of ruining my day. But then I started to get annoyed by the smallest of inconveniences. I complained all the time about trivial things. I had become the person I wouldn’t want to be around.
I’ve always been able to see the bright side of life. Suddenly, I was negative about everything. I couldn’t see the good in anything. I wasn’t able to feel grateful, I didn’t want to be grateful. That was really scary to me because I could see it wasn’t how I normally acted and behave.
Anything more than reading in bed would feel like too much. Replying to emails would sound like an unconquerable task. I have skipped showers, forgot to eat, dropped pens and burst into tears.
Headaches and stomachaches
I started getting worried when I realised my physical health was deteriorating because of how mentally exhausted I was. My headaches had become more frequent and I felt bloated and uncomfortable all the time. Stress was really taking a toll on how I felt within my body.
I would often have nightmares and wake up in tears. I’d be short of breath and my heart would be racing. I’d feel dizzy and lightheaded, would have difficulty focusing on anything, and had to take multiple breaks at work to go cry in the toilet.
Not wanting to get out of bed
For months I would spend a considerable amount of time in bed coming up with excuses to call in sick at work. I never did, except when I was so anxious I was actually unable to function. I had to give myself pep talks almost every day to find the energy to leave the house and perform basic tasks.
Not being able to interact with people
Both performing my customer service duties at work and hanging out with friends felt exhausting and overwhelming. When someone asks you where the tahini is, and all you want to say is, It’s right here in front of your stupid face, you know something has to change.
Overall, I was just so, so exhausted all the time. I could barely exist outside of work, except I couldn’t, because there was still so much to do. Figuring out how to live in a bus, finding out places to park, then being homeless for months, constantly planning where to stay for the next few days, on top of learning how to navigate a fairly fresh relationship, and trying to practice self-care at the most basic level.
Burnout is something I don’t wish on anyone. I’m not even remotely out of it yet, but I’m working on it. I’m trying to figure out how to get better and how to create new conditions that will prevent me from burning out again. At least now I know what I need to avoid so I can stay sane and happy.
I hope everyone is keeping safe and warm in these times of uncertainties.