Burnout is a symptom. Healing is your true self
It makes just as little sense to fix a working toaster as to wash clothes with it. But why do we do the same in our lives and try to cure a disease that is not one? Burnout is not a disease, so healing is not possible! The diagnosis merely describes a symptom.
With this article I will cover a wide range. From many confusing terms relating to burnout over the resulting clarity. That a disease can be cured, but anything intact cannot. From many phases to a single transitional phase, to a new acquaintance and an alternative-free major fire.
This article is the first to be published in English (original). If the English version of my blog is accepted, I will publish further articles in English.
Let us first clarify the terms
Four years ago I received my official diagnosis of „depression“ and the unofficial diagnosis of „burnout“ from my psychiatrist. Then I did what is a common practice these days: I googled. That was strange, I had just come from the doctor yet felt the need for clarity.
There was too much information at once and a lot of complicated connections that I didn’t understand. In addition, I focused on describing exactly what tormented me, so that the process of healing could finally begin. Describing, listening and understanding was impossible in this state.
The Internet is a deep repertory, and the emphasis is put on “deep”. Like a deep pit in which you can get lost and lose yourself. After days of research, the following terms and explanations were left for me:
Burnout or burnout syndrome is a generic term for types of personal crises that begin with unobtrusive early symptoms and end with total disability or even suicide.
Burnout is not an independent or stand-alone diagnosis; it is not a treatment diagnosis, but an additional diagnosis. There was often the talk of a „fashion diagnosis“.
A combination of different symptoms.
A sign that indicates a disease or injury.
Course of the burnout syndrome in 12 phases.
Measures to treat illnesses, disabilities and injuries resulting from a previously diagnosed condition.
Is a mental disorder (affective, ie. a mental disorder triggered by emotional excitation) and is considered a medical condition.
The main symptoms are:
- depressed mood,
- loss of interest and joylessness,
- lack of drive and increased fatigue.
Additional symptoms are:
- decreased concentration and attention
- decreased self-esteem and self-confidence,
- feelings of guilt and inferiority,
- negative and pessimistic prospects for the future,
- suicidal thoughts or acts,
- sleep disorders and reduced appetite.
After thinking about it intensely, I was not convinced that I was sick or should be healing. The medical diagnosis was an important confirmation that I am not the only one with this symptom who felt so lost. But I couldn’t use the definition of „sick“.
The diagnosis took me on a surprising path
Perhaps I was naive or too stupid to put all the terms and explanations together into one disease. It was about crises, lack of joy and motivation, reduced concentration, depressed mood, feelings of guilt and feelings of inferiority. But a feeling is not a disease.
Nevertheless, it was important for me to rule out a possible illness that could lead to depression. The diagnostic interview and the findings of the Internet research led me to visit other doctors. I went to the dentist, chiropractor, even a dermatologist and ophthalmologist. Everything was fine.
So I made the decision to let me be guided by my feelings and to stop thinking about medical or other explanations. I felt that I was on a path that I hadn’t seen before and that felt good and right.
I can’t fix anything that’s not broken
A bone that sticks out of the forearm, bleeding, would definitely require medical treatment to heal the injury. If it doesn’t do so and doesn’t hurt, an X-ray is pointless. I wouldn’t fix a toaster while it’s still toasting my bread. And I wouldn’t do laundry with the toaster.
If my basic bodily functions such as breathing, walking, eating etc. are okay, I have no complaints, what should be broken? If I still feel bad and saddened, Should I ask myself whether I am using my body correctly? Do I live the way I want to live?
Burnout is a transitional phase, not a disease
Scientifically speaking, the twelve burnout phases that are often cited are quite interesting. However, what’s the point of knowing where I stand if I don’t know what to do next? That’s too theoretical for me and leads nowhere. Today I understand this symptom called burnout as a single phase with no real end. I’m still in there.
Today I am fine and it is clear that everything had to be like this. It was light, then it became dark, the darkness came and remained pitch-black for a long time. Then the first ray of sunshine, it got brighter (feeling like I’m at this point at the moment) and I’m looking forward to the moment when the sun is shining.
It’s about getting to know yourself
By the time I realized there was something wrong with me, it was already too late. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that there was nothing wrong with me, that I wasn’t sick and therefore nothing had to be repaired or healed. Instead, I realized that I hadn’t lived until now.
Of course, I wasn’t dead. It was much worse. I didn’t lead the life that suited me. It was like trying to do laundry with the toaster. I can’t, it’s unreasonable and pointless.
Finding out which life was right for me, put my patience to the test. Opening up to your own feelings and allowing all the emotions that come along is an exciting rollercoaster ride.
I know today that there was no way around it, I had to go through it and it was worth it. The way to a better life is through the brutal truth about myself. This has nothing to do with healing in the medical sense.
Sometimes something has to burn down so that something new can be created
I’d rather translate burnout as burning down than burning out. What is no longer needed, what is unnecessary, what is wrong and what is in the way burns down. This creates space for new things and the old is irretrievably gone. It takes time, patience and courage.
Courage to part with the wrong. Courage to be open to the new. And courage to give the new a chance and to take it.
So burnout is something good?
From today’s point of view, looking back, clearly yes. Otherwise I wouldn’t have understood that I was completely mistaken in life. Of course, I would have liked to save myself from this ordeal, wished for a more pleasant alternative or found a life that met my requirements much earlier.
That was not the case, in that sense a burnout phase was much better than continuing on going in the wrong direction.
For someone who’s currently in a burnout, this statement is probably sheer derision. I couldn’t believe it then either. The people who tried to convince me that one day I would be happy and even thankful for this burnout, I punished with scorn.
I understood that I had no illness and therefore could not hope for healing. I used this terrible suffering as an opportunity to question my previous way of life, to give up bad habits, wrong goals and senseless ideas. And most importantly, I wasn’t looking for an alternative, but found my true self.