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The Shame of Burnout

There’s a lot of shame associated with my burnout. The shame of quitting a career I’d worked hard for – a rather the fact that I’d worked really hard to make myself that miserable.

The shame of not being able to find a better way to cope with the demands of the job. Others seem to cope – why not me? Why not me with my first class honours in Psychology and all the knowledge I’d gained reading every book on productivity and well-being.

I tried everything – compartmentalising, being super-organised, the 80/20 principle, sleep hygiene, nutritional supplements, caring less, prioritising my life over work, talking it out, ignoring it, exercising more, exercising less, trying to change the system, accepting I couldn’t….

Some of these things worked for a while, some of them didn’t. Being an eternal optimist I kept trying to do fun stuff during term time – joining a choir, going to a yoga class. But the same thing always happened – the exhaustion of utter overwhelm demanded that to cope I had to do everything I could to get through my day. Get through my day without anyone noticing that I was in a state of complete overwhelm.

I didn’t ask for help as the few times I had it hadn’t really helped. I worked in an environment that proclaimed the macho cry of pushing and striving to keep going. As a highly sensitive big-hearted introvert I got crushed – or rather, more shamefully, I allowed myself to get crushed.

So I always ended up dropping the fun stuff I loved. I learnt to ignore every signal in my body in order to get through days, weeks, half terms, terms. There’s always an amount of time that can be used to push on through.

Meanwhile, my heart was crying out about this not being what I wanted for my life. Life is not for getting through – life is for living – fully! I missed the fearless Heidi aged 28 – the hippy, single-Mum-windsurfer. Who was this serious career-girl imposter who’d hijacked my body?

Now, as I learn to embrace my unique needs and blaze my own path to well-being, to living fully, I am coming face-to-face with my shame and writing this I choose to release it – all of it.

I did the best I could at the time. And, like this blog post, that’s good enough.