Stop The Glorification Of The Busy: Why Burnout Syndrome Is The New Disease Of The Century

Artwork by Chelsea Grainger, print available for purchase here

This story is not a happy one. I was actually holding off to writing anything because I was afraid I’d be judged and became anxious it might lead to my job’s demise. But as life happens while you are making plans (cliché much?), I found myself in the need to write and publish ASAP. Funny choice of words, since ASAP brought me to my current state.

I am 28 and after more than two years of non stop work I was forced by the doctor to have a break and stay home for 6 days, better said stay away from work for 6 days.

Diagnosis? Burnout syndrome. Sounds familiar?

Maybe not. Then, what about the below symptoms?

no good days at work

loss of motivation, ideals and hope

detachment and depression

forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention

chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal pain, dizziness, fainting, and/or headaches (all of which should be medically assessed)

So here I am taking it easy for a couple of days. Unfortunately, keeping away from my laptop is not an easy thing to do, so I try to relax editing photos, writing and listening to some music and also catching up with my sleep, since I have no tasks on my to do list. Weird!

As the days go by, I can’t keep myself from thinking what went wrong and how did I get here. Was it because of the big turnover in my department, or maybe the amount of work per capita, were the deadlines too tight? For a while I managed to juggle with them all: my daily tasks, my risk reports, my controls, my 200 emails and calls/day.

Even though I had incredible amounts of work, I was taking pride in the quality of my work. I was good and I knew it. I was smiling when I was getting nauseous because I was moving the pointer from my main monitor to my third monitor too fast. I was the go to person in my department. I knew that I wanted more. I thought about leaving at some point, but then things got better for a while and I forgot that I was unhappy. Then the recognitions started to flow down, one after another: points, prizes, the promise of a soon to come promotion.

I became faster and better, but not stronger.

Looking back, I had all the premises to fail. As John Fowles would say “Handsomely equipped to fail, I went out into the world.” And this is what I’ve done. I failed at life for a while, or I still am, because the moment hasn’t passed yet. To live up to my zodiac sign – Cancer, I took a few steps back, went back into the shell, lost touch with my friends, cried myself to sleep every night, and the times I got back out was just to get into fights with my partner over nothing.

Needless to say, it wasn’t just the job, it was also me. My own fault for putting too much pressure on me. I worked so hard to put my name out there and to prove myself, and none of the recognitions I received was good enough, nothing slowed me down.

How could this happen to me? I sworn to never work in a corporation, to keep away from them and to never ever set my foot into one. I broke the love promise I made to my fragile heart when I realised I wanted to leave my home country as soon as possible, I felt claustrophobic, and the easiest way to do that was to get a job exactly in a corporation in a different country. Suddenly, it didn’t seem such a bad idea anymore.

The money was good and this allowed me to travel more (the thing I love the most). But I got bitter and by that time capitalism hit hard.

I’ve done a lot of thinking in the last couple of days and I am still emotional, as you probably guessed by now. Today I took a stroll around the city and I found myself crying to Hallelujah, played by a guy on the street who looked like Gael García Bernal.

This story doesn’t have a happy ending either. If you were expecting the line where I am telling you how I found myself the perfect job, meaningful and well paid at only 6h/day, sorry to disappoint you, that line is not coming yet.

To sum up, take good care of yourselves.

Our jobs are not who we are and unless you are a doctor or a fireman plus few other exceptions, you’re not saving lives here.

I would like to know if you were ever forced to take days off from work because you were exhausted? Have you ever talked to your manager about this? Do you have friends who went through the same thing?

Please check out the whole list of symptoms.

Also, see this test that could help you figure out if you suffer from Burnout syndrome.

Eva Martin is a fictional character writing about real facts.

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