Many have described Mother Teresa as being "tireless in helping others". As someone with chronic fatigue, I can understand how a burned out individual might find this hard to imagine. Being 'tireless' that is. That burnt out individual might also feel a little resentful about the term 'tireless'. The worshipping of 'tireless [...]
‘The ambulance is on its way.’
She was looking hard at me as she said it, like the word ‘ambulance’ was going to make me feel better. I lay there quietly, convinced I was about to become a waste of emergency services resources – one way or the other.
We had been talking about how incredible nature was. About how much better life would be if we were closer to it. The conversation stopped abruptly when an intense pain shot down my neck and arm.
Before I passed out, I recall feeling a distinct sense of panic. Understanding that death is a part nature, I intuitively grasped that perhaps I was closer to it than previously thought. When I came to, my eyes were already open. This meant that waking up involved closing my eyes for a few seconds before looking out again. I felt okay, a little groggy maybe. But I did have some trouble understanding what was in front of me. I blinked and stared harder at it.
Eventually I realised It’s a person. I blinked again. A woman, yes, a woman.
Then something in my brain snapped back into place. The woman staring back at me was Julie, my housemate of ten months. With blood red hair interrupted by a black shaved patch on the side, Julie was pretty easy to recognise. Well, on normal days.
‘Are you okay?’ she asked. ‘Mmmmm,’ I replied, as if lying in a hammock with tequila.
This was not a normal day. But I hadn’t had one of those in a quite awhile.
Is this burnout?
Most people don’t think of scenes like this when they think of burnout. Burnout is more like a slow grind into the dirt. More commonly, the ‘burnee’ gradually loses starch in their posture. They slowly start to curl inwards. Dark circles may appear under the eyes, but not always. The eyes themselves are likely to begin darting around, wired with anxiety before shutting down attention altogether. But other things can happen, too. It all depends on the individual body’s particular penchant for trouble. And mind for menace.
So what happened exactly?
Amongst other burnout symptoms, my body became partial to a particular kind of ‘vasovagal episode’ of which stress can be a trigger. My pleb interpretation: The heart reckons it’s over you sitting and standing and things like that.
‘I need more blood!’ it calls like Dracula. And gets it. But, for some reason, no one’s telling the brain what a horder the heart has become. The brain suddenly discovers on its own that it has less blood – and freaks. You feel dizzy and nauseous and pass out. Lying down is what your heart wanted all along.
Why Goths would like it
Vasovagal episodes would have Goths crazy with envy. Passing out will your eyes open is stuff they can only dream about. It’s not fatal though, and this loses its edge somewhat. Which is a bit like burnout generally. It’s not fatal, but sometimes – while in the midst of it – we wish it was. This makes it even harder to lever the desired understanding and compassion from others. ‘Hey we’re all stressed’ others might shrug, roll their eyes even.
But being burned out is not just being stressed
Being burned out has ridden off the cliff of stress. I’ll be chatting more about the difference between burnout and stress in the next blog post – and about how you can use it like a baseball bat against those who roll their non-wired-tired eyes at you.
Until then, namaste.
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Have you had something really odd happen to you during burnout?
Or to a ‘burnee’ you know?
My Burnout Thing is a personal exploration about – you guessed it – burnout. That is, when a person is feeling burned out…like really wired-tired for a good stint. And I’m hoping this site is personal for both of us (being a burnout blog, this baby is interactive). Through My Burnout Thing we will be [...]