My burnout turned out to be caused by a utter and complete boreout. Which I was in total denial from.
Yes, burnout doesn’t necessarily mean that you can handle high pressure, it can also be caused by not being stressed enough. And workload may not have anything to do with it at all. The number of people that can deal with being utterly and completely bored out of their mind is … very, very, very few and far between.
In my case, I had enough to do, but it didn’t pose any challenge any more…
And I need challenges like a fish needs water. I need stuff I can sink my teeth into. Stuff that will allow me to use my strengths. It energizes me. It makes me forget the time.
The denial is over. The solution straightforward. Work that challenges me. Whatever and wherever that may be.
When I was looking for information on burnout for a friend. I was convinced she was burned out. She denied. Obviously, I wasn’t going to convince her. Figured that I would dig up some articles so she didn’t have to take my word for it.
Boy, was I in for a shock.
First article I found had a bulleted list of symptoms. Reading through it, I got more and more upset. By the end of the list, I was dumbstruck. This couldn’t be. This was nonsense. I wasn’t burned out. I didn’t have time to be burned out. Not now. Not when I was finally seeing some movement towards all the things I had been advocating for two years.
But … this article was from … non other than the Mayo clinic.
Still, I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to let anybody tell me that I was burned out, not even the Mayo clinic. And I was going to prove them wrong!
Ya. Well. Not quite.
Every article I dug up, every checklist I read, hell bent as I was on proving that I was not burned out, only made it more clear that I was as burned out as they come. There was no way around it anymore. Two thirds to all items of every single checklist I found, applied to me.
No! It can’t be. Please, no.
I didn’t want to admit what was staring me in the face. Yearned for a blue pill. Yearned to go back to blissful ignorance.
While I may be headstrong and opinionated, I am not pigheaded. So, I arranged for several tests. When the results came back, they didn’t exactly surprise me anymore, but swallowing that red pill and facing the harsh reality certainly didn’t taste sweet.
Why didn’t I and do I still not I want to have to admit to being burned out? I am after all finally getting the rest I have longing to get for months?
Because… it feels like defeat.
Because… it feels like weakness.
Because… it feels like inadequacy.
I know all that is nonsense.
Burnout is not for the weak.
Burnout is for people who care too much. Who neglect themselves in favor of others. Who understand too well why decisions detrimental to their needs are being taken. Who don’t recognize what their bodies are telling them.
At the same time I didn’t want to be burned out, I was also very much relieved that I was “only” burnout.
‘scuse me, how’s that?
Well, this burnout has been two to three years in the making. All that time I have ascribed whatever symptoms I had, the behavior I displayed and the thoughts I had, to a whole slew of other causes. To “Alzheimer Light” (I don’t mean to belittle Alzheimer patients! It’s an awful disease and I feel for anybody suffering from it and for everybody caring for someone suffering from it. It’s a term we use in my family as shorthand for everything that has analogies with the onset of dementia.) To “old age” and “failing faculties”. To menopause (oh, do I envy you boys sometimes!). To the post traumatic stress disorder I suffered last year as a result of a car crash. To laziness. To simply not being up to my job anymore. To migraine upon migraine upon migraine. To apparently not being or no longer being the kind of person I always thought I was.
Burnout is no fun at all. But in comparison, burnout is a whole lot less awful. It isn’t progressive or permanent. It can be dealt with. It is treatable. And it can be prevented from occurring again.
So yes, relief.
It is still going to take quite some time to recover and hard work to prevent it recurring. On average the whole process takes three to six months.
The word burnout has been used and abused extensively. It has come to the stage where people call themselves and are called burned out when “all” they are is “just” overworked or overwrought.
This is unfortunate for those genuinely burned out, as they get a lot of flack. “Oh, you just don’t like your job. Buckle down and get on with it.”
A situation that is not helped much by the fact that burnout is not recognized as such in the DSM-5, which categorizes the symptoms as an adjustment or somatoform disorder.
While burnout is used to label anything and everything in day-to-day life, burnout is actually something very, very specific. The guidelines that physicians (general practitioners) and company doctors in the Netherlands have to follow, spell out a very specific set of criteria for a burnout diagnosis.
There are also several tests anyone suspected of burnout should take to ascertain whether they are and/or whether other disorders are at play. It is very important to differentiate them, because while burnout can lead to depression, any depression needs to be resolved before the burnout can be dealt with.
The Mayo clinic article:
Job burnout: How to spot it and take action
Burnout can be caused by boreout:
Differentiating burnout from depression:
Burnout vs. MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) differential analysis for diagnosis and therapy – using 15 differential symptoms
Tests dealing with burnout:
- the 4DKL which determines Distress, Depression, Fear and Somatisation
(note: I have only been able to find material about it in Dutch)
- the MBI (Maslach Burnout Inventory) or the UBOS (Utrecht Burnout Scale) (a variant of the MBI), which determines the level of burnout (and distinguishes from depression).
- the SCL-90 (Symptom Checklist 90) which assesses nine symptoms of psychopathology and provides three global distress indices.
Other resources I have found helpful: