Thursday, January 12, 2012
When you’ve just had to come to terms with the fact that you’re burnt out you need to speak to yourself with a voice full of conviction. I think it deserves James Brown kind of voice that don’t mess about and bother about political correctness. Maybe it even needs a bit of a preacher touch to it.
If I’ve offended anyone I apologize. It’s not my aim to offend. My aim is to make a point which I quite clearly can’t do.
If you think having a nervous breakdown is hitting rock bottom you’re wrong. There’s actually something beyond that and while it’s not quite as stressful it’s still bloody awful. It’s the burnt out state and it’s a state that brings you from stress to powerless and apathetic.
To be honest I prefer this state. It’s not nearly as disruptive. The reason for why it’s not disruptive is that you stop caring and you feel completely powerless. It’s like that last stage in the grieving process when you’ve come to accept that someone is gone and they’re not coming back and there ain’t nothing you can do about it.
Only when you’re burnt out you can come back. You can get your mojo back. That’s the truth.
I’ve ended up doing a life review. The past few weeks have been awful and not so much because of outside influences but because of the depression. It has brought me to new lows and I’ve had to medicate at full dose again just to get to a state where I can concentrate on anything else but the depression.
I don’t like being medicated but I like the state I was in a lot less. There are times when we have to rely on medication to get by. Lesson number one.
Lesson number two is that we have to admit we have a problem.
Lesson number three is to ask for help.
I have to revisit lessons number two and three again. I have a problem and I need help.
This is an important time for me. Inadvertently I have been forced into doing a life review. Who am I? What am I really compared to what I have been lead to believe I am by others? How have others opinions of me influenced me and forced me to be what I’m really not? Who are my parents? Why did they treat me the way they did when I was growing up? How did they show me that they love me? How did what they are influence me? Who were their parents? How did they love my parents?
The conclusion at its core is that I’m not a bad person and there’s nothing seriously wrong with me that I will need to change. Except for the depression. I need to change the depression state into a state where I’m more comfortable. It’s pretty big shit, and I use that word on purpose because it seems to fit the best, to be able to become comfortable with oneself in the throes of depression. I feel better about myself than I have in ages. I don’t have anything left to prove because I’m good as gold already.
“because I’m good as gold already” < Words I thought I would never hear myself say. It’s a huge step for me!
I’m lucky enough to be left with only having to deal with being burnt out and depressed as a result of that.
I think there are four stages of burn out.
The first one is exhaustion. You may still be holding it together but you’re not doing well. You come home and head for the fridge and grab whatever is in there, maybe self-medicate with alcohol and TV, and become comatose as soon as you stop moving. Normally you pride yourself on doing your job right but now you’re looking for shortcuts and that erodes your self-esteem because it makes you feel guilty.
The second one is shame and doubt. You’re asked to take on more and normally would jump at the opportunity but there’s a voice inside that screams “What? More?!” and you’re not feeling confident about the future, you’re dreading it and you’re even discounting your past accomplishments. You’re feeling like you’re an imposter. You start sighing heavily, the way people sigh when they’re grieving or feel completely powerless! You’re experiencing a profound sense of vulnerability and powerlessness.
The third stage is when you bring out the armour and you become cynical and callous. Look out for number one. Cover your butt. No one’s getting to you! You become short and obnoxious with other people and they start avoiding you, they don’t hassle you anymore. They’re all fuckers anyway.
The fourth stage is when your coping structure becomes unglued. It’s about failure, hopelessness and crisis. You’re one little step from the psych ward, my dear. What you’ve been doing is like trying to run a marathon at full speed the whole race through. Your mental apparatus is wearing out and the reason for why this stage is so disruptive is that your psychological defences have worn down. Painful memories and old hurts surface. Any bump can set off an overly sensitive reaction.
Burn out is not for wimps. Most people pike out long before getting to burn out. They give up, leave their jobs or families and try to start anew somewhere else. Getting to stage four requires determination. It requires a strong sense of responsibility and rigid perfectionism. You have to think there’s only one way and stick to it. Usually the people who get to this stage are responsive to others and others lean on them for support and they’re the emotional sponge for others.
If you’re burnt out you’re going to need support. You may need professional help because you’re in crisis. You need to confront your denials, cynicism and your helplessness. You have to allow yourself to grieve past, present and even future losses so you can move onto turning guilt, hurt, anxiety and aggression into focused energy you can use to help yourself. You need to acquire new skills to create new options so you can develop productive attitudes and take productive actions, attitudes and actions that help you not fight you.
The trick is to become creative about your burn out and turn it into a transformational experience. This is the probably the best opportunity you’ll ever have to transform.
Can I do it? Hell yeah! I didn’t even really hit stage three or four before I screamed for help! I’m just not stubborn enough to see it through ‘til the end.
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