Back from the brink of burnout

Written in September 2023


Over the last couple of weeks I have noticed the signs of burnout creeping up. I've been more sensitive to sensory input, my sleep has been affected, I feel tight and buzzy in a bad way. I've struggled a lot more with processing information (making any story with context, tangents and unnecessary detail intensely stressful), and there's a sense of dread and despair attached to certain things. I have been visibly stressed to the point where others have been able to see it emanating from me.


This is a really positive thing, not the looming burnout, but the fact I recognised it happening. In the past I've recognised these signs far too late, only really seeing them through the rear-view mirror of hindsight. I've not been aware of them in time to take any action and as a result I have ended up going over the edge.

It's like I've seen the “road closed – under construction” sign and carried on through the barriers and over the edge like a cartoon character, rather than slowing down, turning around, and getting the hell off the path to destruction while I still can.


This time I took action and stepped back from the source of the most stress to give myself a break. One of the many pertinent quotes I have in my mental back pocket is “if you don't make time for your wellness, you'll be forced to make time for your illness” and I have been there. Ignoring my wellbeing is what gets me into burnout and what got me at least one long-term physical health condition. I don't need to go through a fibro flare as well as an autistic burnout.


A good friend of mine has had a rough time of it with physical health and doctors over the past month, and yesterday she posted that she felt quite vulnerable, describing it as feeling “skinless”. That really resonated with me – perhaps it's the butchery background – and I realised it was a good descriptor for how I am feeling right now. Except I think I also feel boneless. Like a chicken portion missing the skin and the structure.


I do feel vulnerable. Last week I was on a sort of wave crest of positivity having averted a full-on burnout and I didn't realised that the recovery I'd have to do would be the same, just over less time. I genuinely thought I could carry on as normal, having swerved the burnout, but no. I am going to have to take some concerted time off.


Rather than throwing myself at my passion projects and getting my brain stuck into the good stuff I'm going to have to take it offline for a bit and just focus on low-demand, high-reward things like knitting scarves for my gang, or making Paddington a new coat.

I need to do these things that help give my life meaningful structure – that restore my bones. I need to do the things that help me rebuild my resilience – that restores my skin.


And I can look on this as a positive experience as well, because I have learned another valuable lesson about mitigating and managing burnout, and Paddington will get a new coat out of it.



Blog page photo: Photo by Aravind Kumar on Unsplash

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