In about August last year, probably around the shallow celebrations of women’s month, something changed.
Foods that I normally ate didn’t interest me. I didn’t feel like going out much. I had a nap after work almost every day.
I needed a detox I thought, and possibly some vitamin B. I bought the best kind of supplements, and didn’t drink any alcohol or stay out too late for more than a month. But that wasn’t it. It got worse.
I couldn’t get into any books, and movie and TV shows seemed like too much concentration.
I write from passion, from a love of words. Yet, between September and December last year I wrote almost nothing. This was, for me, devastating.
I normally swam about five or six kilometres a week, but by mid-November I couldn’t motivate myself to finish a kilometer. After about twenty lengths one day, I got out of the pool and sat in the change room feeling defeated and beating myself up about how lazy I was.
I arrived at work many days last year, feeling a deep-seated fatigue and disinterest. The normal hustle just annoyed me. I struggled to stay positive.
But A-type personality adult-child that I am I carried on. ‘Must soldier on’ is pretty much my survival mechanism.
Make lists, and do one thing at a time. Until, I just … couldn’t. The hardest part was admitting it to myself. After that, it got easier.
Eventually I took myself off to a therapist and a doctor and was booked off for burnout. The first week off I slept almost all day each day, and was smacked by a wild flu that helped. My body was saying ‘rest’ and finally I’d started to listen.
Burnout is something you hear about all the time in popular culture and it’s easy to see why.
Read more: Are you suffering from work burnout?
We have access to more information, more opportunities, more desires than ever before. There is pressure on women to look, feel, and be amazing 24/7. Plus, we have to show how amazing we are on Instagram.
Our work is more demanding, and isn’t always receptive to our real lives. I can’t tell you how many job adverts I’ve seen in the last while that say ‘must thrive in a stressful environment’ or ‘we work hard and play hard’.
It took being burnout and depressed at the end of 2016 for me to realize that this culture at the very minimum is not sustainable, and is likely making us sick. I know I’m not the only one.
I’m pulling together a collection of essays this year and more than half of the writers emailed on the deadline date asking for an extension citing burnout as their reason for being unable to complete it.
These are talented feminists, leading in their fields, working themselves to the point of exhaustion.
I’ve started to ask myself why. And I don’t have a good enough answer yet to make me commit to another year of this lifestyle.