Burnt-out and the process of recovery
So I want to share some personal experiences with burn-out and how I got myself out of it. The thing is, and this is just me talking from personal experience, is that most people don’t take you seriously. Bosses and managers or team leaders often are quick to label you as lazy. Or they label you as someone who isn't willing to put in an effort to grow and learn within the profession you practice at that moment.
The first time I remember myself burning out was when I was 19, 2009. Back then I was working as a mailman. In Belgium they do this by bike. Now that the internet is becoming more and more the usual way of mail traffic, the old mail service needs to change the way they work and what they offer as a service to society. Just to be able to stay in existence. So publicity and all kinds of promotion material became a big thing as income for the company. By the time that I was working there, ¾ of the work was delivering this promotion material and publicity at private addresses just like the mail. But the weight that came along with it and the extra hours was crazy. It was almost impossible to get it the way they expected us to deliver our work. With a very angry and frustrated team leader who lost himself a bit in alcohol wasn’t the best to address this issue. Most of the steady workers, they had their way around it and never had problems with it, but the new guys walking in were bombarded with the task to deliver perfectly as asked for.
I got so tired of it and was so angry with my team leader! So on my last day I drove out of the depot. Somewhere after my first break, we were supposed to refill the publicity and the next round of mail (which was almost nothing), I was done with it. I left it all behind and threw the publicity in the first big garbage bin I passed by and drove home. By the time we had to finish I went back to the depot to turn in my gear and it took them till the day after before they realized what I actually did. So by the end of the week I was off the job. At the end of my time there, 6 months, I was tired of the way the team leader handled the team. The extended hours to just finish the demanding work and not even paying extra hours. I wasn’t sleeping well anymore, I hated to go to my job every day, I wasn't able to eat well and so on and with a heavy physical job it’s a golden formula to destroy yourself and burn out. But because they didn't recognize this at all back then as a burn-out they just fired you as a person that is incapable of his job. But don’t even mention the burden you experienced, because they will just laugh it away.
Back then I was working through my scoliosis and very deep insecurities and anxiousness. So on top of the physical recovery a mental recovery was needed as well. There I dropped into mindfulness. Take a lot of time for yourself, limit your impulses from outside and try to relax for a minimum of 2 weeks. Before taking action again. Next to the rest, food was also a very important factor in the process. But back then I just lost my job, my parents weren’t around and family has been out of the picture for the majority of my life. So I needed to deal with this on my own and without an income, there is no food or a bare minimum to take care of yourself as you are supposed to do.
The second burn-out came up when I was working in a supermarket. This was from 2010 till 2012, a little bit more than one year and a couple of months I was working in their butchery. I did enjoy the job for a long time. Because they noticed that I was willing to learn and capable of taking responsibility where asked. So after a couple of months they gave me the closing of the kitchen and the clean-up. Which I could do on my own without anybody around dancing and flowing to my own music.
Back then, when I started to work there, I was a vegetarian and wasn’t eating any meat at all. During work we talked often and shared life stories, anekdotes,... You name it. There was a good connection with the coworkers. Even with the big difference in our background and the conservative chef we had back then. Pushing us around with a very bad toxic masculine attitude. Although he wasn't to be blamed for it. This is just the conservative behavior that Belgian men were being faced with in the good old days. So for a person with a conservative perspective it can be very difficult to see the younger generations taking life to a completely new direction. Back home, for my chef, we knew that his wife was the lady with the pants in the house. So he had nothing to say at home, but at work he was compensating for the way he was treated at home. He did the same with his team that his wife was doing to him at home. With the pressure of delivering the expectations I was preparing some things every day, 6/7 days a week, like hamburgers were one of those recipes. After a good year I developed a problem with my wrist and my tendons up to my elbow. So it became a very painful action to repeat day after day without any real possibility to take care of it and take a break from the repetitive movement that caused this injury.. Only got the advice to keep on working and taking pills to take the inflammation away. If that wouldn’t work anymore, the only thing would have been injections with cortisone. Back then I was becoming aware of the imbalance within our own society and the fucked up demands on what they expect at certain jobs. (Excuse me for my language).
So without the minimum space and time to heal and recover, my only way forward was paying attention to this health problem or damaging my hand for the rest of life, for a simple job where you're not even taken seriously when it comes to health. After a visit to the doctor I had to stay home immediately for 2 weeks minimum and not be allowed to do any physical things. Just rest, take good care and go to therapy with a fysiotherapist to work on the overtensed tendons. The rest did me well and by the time I needed to go back to work, the pain was better, but it wasn’t healed, so sooner or later I would be back with the same problem. So the big chief of the supermarket took me as an imposter and told me that was just faking it to stay home and get paid for no work. The second time the doctor prescribed me time home with extra advice from the fysiotherapist, I received a letter of termination. They didn’t want to fire me because of financial reasons and forced me into a position of having to agree to resign, but then there is no unemployment fee. Or keep on working in new conditions without the trust of my colleagues, thinking I was just faking to stay away from work. So I looked for help at a trade union, but I keep the story to this point to stay with the burn-out story.
This was kind of a quick recap of some difficult times in my first years of stepping into the working space after school and running into a burn-out. And learned very quickly that what was expected of us was inhumane… And this is the central perspective within our modern society. This was way back, so can you imagine how these expectations have been growing? No wonder so many people are not happy anymore and that so many children get this example of work attitude for their future career. But recovery now, in the beginning it took me a long time to recover, because I ignored all signs of an upcoming burn-out and I tried to numb myself and keep the symptoms down with pills. Obviously that wasn’t the way to recovery, but the longer I stayed in this behavior the further I was getting from a possible recovery. So selfcare became a very important thing to develop in my own life. This constant action driven archetype of the modern day man needs to be balanced out with some feminine love and care for my body if I desire to continue for the rest of my life with a healthy body to drive through life. I did manage to get myself some back up financially through the trade union, went back to school in holistic and natural healthcare and studied to become a life coach. To fill the days between studying I went volunteering in the local shelter that even became my job a couple of months after I recovered.
So here I learned for the first time, that no matter what, when you decide you'd like to change your life to be more in line with your own passion and dreams, that choice will always offer you something better and new after you manage to let go of certain behavioral and mental patterns that keep you down. And yes, things might be difficult at first, but if you manage to push through the universe will smile upon you with possibilities and options you haven’t thought about for yourself. So an open attitude towards life, can work some deep magic ^^ If you're emotionally burnt out there is no need to recover and heal from physical conditions and so the healing process will look different. But outside of the physical realm, the only thing that can possibly get you out of this situation is rest and selfcare. Deprive yourself from impulses from the world around you for the first period and once you are recharging, you have to get back on the horse to slowly pick up the pace again with actions in life. Because when you sit still for too long it will become very difficult to step back into an active life.
Only now that you step back into an active lifestyle it is up to the person to integrate this selfcare with the steps of actions you desire to take. We can’t be all the time in action mode without resting and taking care of yourself, because you will be overloaded with pressure and stress that becomes a part of you after a while and you won’t even notice it anymore, because it has been there for so long that you just see it as a part of you now. But in reality it isn’t a part of you at all, it’s unhealthy and out of balance. I’m aware that this is a symptom of our modern society and is deeply rooted and so not easy to point out and to do something about it. I think lately it has become more and more something that is in the awareness of most people, but there is still a lot of work to take away and change the conditions that create this pattern to burn-out.
Now that I got closer to my desired path and the practice I developed for myself. I’m very aware of what gets me into that state and what not, so now I navigate my working life and personal life with balance. Instead of forcing my schedule through, I use the flow of the energy of the day. Never take too much work on and make sure there is always, everyday space to do what we need to do and to relax and spend time with the family. Sometimes we rock on with work and then there is a moment to let it sink in and take care of ourselves and then we go back to action. And so goes the circle round and round and we learn to handle our life in a flow instead of a forced path of constant action and expectations. We came here to experience life and not to be experienced by life. So I call out to all who read this and find some recognition in this story, to bring back the balance into your life. Don’t let life be your dominatrix but master life and enjoy the experience of being on your way to your dreams and goals. Because before you realize, you're standing at the finish and you missed the whole journey of what life truly has to offer. Thanks for reading everybody and I love you all madly! Have a wonderful day and till next week. Nick