What Burnout Really Feels Like

There’s a lot banded around about burnout. Self-care feels like the buzzword of the moment. However as someone who has been struggling with burnout for at least three years now, I will tell you this. You cannot and will not remedy burnout by country walks, hot baths or positive affirmations.

Burnout is not being tired or having a busy period in work. Burnout is a measurement of your immune system’s fucked up-ness. You do not heal fucked up-ness by reading a book or cuddling kittens. That is called looking after yourself. And it most certainly does not fix burnout.

If you are going through this, I empathise with you. If you can avoid this, do so at your earliest convenience for once you fall down the rabbit hole you can’t climb out of it that easily. All the therapy in the world will not fix the physical stuff (sorry, Sean – my therapist) and your only chance of escaping is waiting patiently for sand to fall into the hole until you can feel daylight on your face once again.

If you haven’t had burnout here is what it feels like to go through it.

  1. You will feel angry. Your constant exhaustion will be met with unhelpful advice from others such as, try getting enough sleep, or, maybe you’re sleeping too much. Trust me, in recovery there is no such thing as too much. You will wake up tired. Everyday. Forever.
  2. Your GP will likely fob you off for many years suggesting you really have a mental health issue but without running adequate tests for deficiencies or other things such as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.
  3. You will ache. Everywhere. Usually around the joints, but there will be muscle stiffness too. Your gait will change and you will hobble like the Old Woman Who Lives in a Bloody Shoe.
  4. You will forget things. I recently forgot my boyfriend’s name. Fortunately he is a very good understanding boyfriend and this was not in the context of bed.
  5. You will pee all the time. Perhaps over 15-times a day. You will keep a fluid intake diary and wonder where the hell all the extra fluid comes from. You will get in bed at night and pee several times before you are allowed to fall asleep. You will pee in the night.
  6. You will be clumsy. You will knock into things. Tables, chairs, dogs. You will most definitely knock into things in the middle of the night whilst you go for a pee.
  7. You will have the concentration span of a gnat. If that gnat was pissed up on its work’s Christmas-do.
  8. You will have brain fog. Your brain will feel like the inside door of a tumble drier without the ability to de-fluff it.
  9. You will have no sex life. Sorry. Facts.
  10. You will forget what you wanted to write for number 10.
  11. You will be stressed, overwhelmed and miserable at times. Your GP will then remind you that you have depression, even though you are simply miserable from chronic pain and exhaustion.
  12. You will only be able to tolerate anything in incredibly short bursts before hitting THE WALL. The Wall can be observed in toddlers and baby animals. Mid conversation can suddenly come to a grinding…
  13. It may take years of rest, therapy, self-care, medical support and love from your friends and family to get though it. It may feel like you’ll never get through it but bit by bit some of your vim will return. Vim by vim.
  14. You will realise that you have to let go of certain traits. Tidiness, organisation and perfectionism will simply have to go. You will not give a rat’s arse about spelling mistakes and eventually give up on editing blogs because the words scramble aimlessly around the screen whenever you read them anyway.

#burnout #selfcare #mentalhealth