Call the Fire Department
Recently, I realized that I’m burnt out. There, I said it. It’s ridiculously hard for me to admit. Why? 1. To admit being burnt out means I need help. I hate asking for help. I’d rather go to the dentist and the gynecologist on the same day. 2. Reaching a state of burnout sounds like something that requires tremendous suffering, surviving a lot of traumas, and having a lot of issues. Does my life really contain that much turmoil? 3. As a super advocate with a heaping helping of resilience and black girl magic who consistently advocates for self-care, mental health care to avoid this, I wanted to think that A) burnout wasn’t possible for me or B) if actually possible, it would happen waaaaaaay down the line.
Oops. I know what I'm supposed to do to prevent this, so how the hell did I get here?
What is burnout anyway? According to Psychology Today “Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to exhaustion, detachment, feelings of ineffectiveness.”
Okay, so, how do I know I’m burnt out? For starters, I want to say FUCK it to any and everything related to domestic violence and sexual assault victim advocacy right now. Fuck: violence, abusers, trauma, the patriarchy, COVID-19 and all it’s annoying, sickening and sometimes deadly variants, hotline shifts, protective orders, shelters, fucked up funding, the lack of trauma informed care for staff who work in agencies designed to help victims, the lack of awareness (care?) agency executives have about what their staff needs, cold weather, and bad coffee.
But let’s take a more objective look at this. What are the signs of burnout and how do they relate to me?
1. Have you become cynical or critical at work? *See F bomb rant above.
2. Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started? *I live 6 minutes from the office and I struggle to get there on time. And lately the thought of going makes me want to drink.
3. Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients? *Eww. Why are they here and breathing?
4. Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive? *I could use a jump. Don’t think I need a new battery yet, but maybe.
5. Do you find it hard to concentrate? *Wait, what are we talking about?
6. Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements? *I did a thing. Whoopteepop.
7. Do you feel disillusioned about your job? *Why do I always come here? I guess I’ll never know.
8. Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel? *Fireball and hard apple cider go well with a whole pan of cornbread dressing.
9. Have your sleep habits changed? *What is sleep?
10. Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints? *Everything raises my anxiety, heartburn has taken up residence in my chest, and my hair is thinning MY FUCKING HAIR!!!!!!
Wait, where are the rest of the symptoms? Surely, I don’t have them all…
Well, what now? I can’t stay here. Burnout smells like burnt popcorn and old coffee with sour milk.
And yet, sitting in a mess and crying about it even as it invades my olfactory senses is often easier than taking a long hard look at the mess and figuring out how to clean this catastrophe up. Especially when you’re utterly exhausted to begin with. So, I guess for now, I’ll cry and take a nap. Tomorrow I’ll get up, drag myself to work and sometime between my second cup of coffee and lunch I’ll call my therapist to begin putting a plan into place to escape this dumpster fire (burnout, not the work) and hopefully never come back.