This Picture was taken last spring. 2 weeks before my burnout. On this picture we could think that everything is fine. You could think: ” she is with her daughter wlaking in a sun on a nice beach and she is in vacation”. That was true, but inside I was falling appart….That was 6 months ago.
I was the super mum, the super woman, the super wife , the super friends. I was doing everything at the same time without a break from 5am till midnight. It worked for a period of time, but the more I was becoming famous, the more I was earning money, the less happy I was.
I always did everything to satisfy the others just because I was so scared to be criticized. I did that for the last 20 years, but my burnout helped me to realize that I was forgetting the most important person to please….MYSELF!
I felt like a failure, and I had no clue how to fix it.
I made 6 weeks in the hospital to just do nothing. For 6 months, I was in survival mode. Now I am starting slowly to reconstruct myself and reset my priorities. I know my recovery is still a long process but I need to do it for me, for my kids, for my husband.
I’ve learned a lot over the last 6 months – about myself, my values, and building a balanced life – and I hope some of those lessons might benefit others in the same situation.
Burnout is a thief. It feeds on your passion, your energy, and your enthusiasm, taking these positive qualities and turning them into exhaustion, frustration, and self-doubt.
The leading researchers on burnout in the workplace are Drs. Michael P. Leitner and Christina Maslach. In their book, The Truth About Burnout, they outline six major imbalances between employees and their work that often lead to burnout
Lack of control. You don’t have a lot of say about what’s going on in your work, or your sense of control is undermined or restricted.
Values conflict. There’s a disconnect between your own core values and the core values of the organisation.
Again, I fit in this one too. I wanted to be a good mother and spend time whith your children but also wanted to be one of the best at work and climbing the ladder even higher. I thought I could do both at the same time. But at the end, I moved slowly away from my role as a mother and this was against my values. I was only talking about money at work, and I think that life is much more than money.
Insufficient reward. You feel under-compensated, underappreciated, and taken for granted.
Work overload. Your workload is too much, too urgent, or too complicated.
My job was not 100% but 200% and because I still wanted to be a good mother I accepted to do it on 4 days a week to make sure to have one day with my girl. It was a nightmare. My schedule was insane.
Unfairness. You’re treated poorly by the organisation, management plays favourites, and assignments and promotions are made behind closed doors.
I did not really experience this, There was no more promotions at this time anyway.
Breakdown of community. Your colleagues patronise you or others, there’s no-one to talk with about conflicts, and feedback is non-existent.
Since the company was in social plan, it was the war over there. Everyone was trying is best to show he was better than the others as they were so affraid of loosing their job. We used to be a team and to have a really good team spirit. But this has dissapeared and at the end it’ll be each for himself!
You don’t need to have a severe mismatch in all six of these areas to be at risk. In fact, a mismatch in even one area can put you on the path to burnout. I personally experienced at least 5 of these imbalances last year, but my road to burnout started long before that.
I would say that my burnout started 3.5 years ago when I came back from my maternity leave. Before I was working 70% and this was giving me a pretty good life balance. When I came back I wanted to ask for a 50%, but what is was told was somehow different from what I expected….
My job did not exist any more but there was this new Program Manager position with a worldwide team which (according to my boss) would be perfect for me and my career, but the job was 100%.
I said that this was not possible as I was a mother of 2 little girls 3 years old and 5 months old baby, I said I could consider it but only if it was part time. Then they told me take it or leave it.
At that time, it was only 2 years ago that we bought our house, we could not afford to loose one salry and in top of that in was pretty difficult to refuse this considerable pay raise. ( I should have known that money is not everything….)
Guess what? I accepted the position only if I could work 4 days a week, they say yes as long as I fullfill my 100% job. For the first 6 months, it was great. I must admit. The flexibility they were giving me with the hours allowed me to look after my daughters the same way as before, the only thing that has changed was that I stopped doing thing for myself. I stopped seeing my friends, going to the gym reading books… I had no more time for this. But I was still managing so that was ok.
I think everything started to collapse or at least to become very difficult for me when my husband took a new job 1.5 hours drive away from our home. He was not able to support me anymore in the morning neither in the evening. He was not able to dropp off the girl or pick tehm up from school, he could not bring them to their activities.
This is when I became SUPERWOMAN. I was woking 100%, fetching my daughters, cooking, bringing them to their activities, doing the laundry, cleaning the house… And I was so so proud of it. I think this is when I start to loose my self.
The more the people were telling me ” I do not kbow how you manage to do all this” the more I was doing. This has became my drug. I wanted more gratification from them and when they did not say it, I assume it was not good enough so I worked even harder to impress them more.. This was mental. I was mentaly sick for doing that. I think I knew it deeply inside but a part of me was way to proud to admit it and ask for help.
Around the same time, my company starting to have financial issues. They announced that there will be a social plan. It took them a year to put it in place, postponing it again and again. People lost their enthousiasm and motivation, they did not know where they were going. My manager was located in USA and did not really care about what was happening here in Europe. He stopped giving me direction and told me that he trusted me and that I could handle myself. We had a management meeting only every three months, as long as I was providing him good figures he did not care about me . But without direction, I started feeling more and more disconnected. My work was no longer motivating , and it became harder and harder to stay focused. I felt like I was failing – like I should be able to make things work, but for some reason, I couldn’t.
I tried to compensate the only way I knew how – by working harder – but that only made things worse. Over the course of a few months, I went from highly productive and motivated, to feeling exhausted and doubting every decision I made.
Things eventually became so bad that I couldn’t make myself care about work, and struggled to motivate myself to do anything. I was doing more and more home office to make sure I will not see colleagues. I couldn’t even face my colleagues.
I knew something was deeply wrong, but I had no idea what it was, or how to fix it.
Since the company had money issue, we had less and less projects. I wasn’t overworked, but I was exhausted all the time. I couldn’t concentrate on my work – even simple tasks like responding to emails felt monumental. I was only able to work at a fraction of what I knew I was capable of. Things that used to be easy were almost impossible. I had to deal with insomnia.
Joyful activities, like playing with my daughters, suddenly felt like an obligation and a chore.
Most of all, I felt weak. And I felt ashamed of feeling weak. I felt like I should be able to power through and work things out on my own. And when I couldn’t, I felt even worse.
For months I kept going, trying to work through the stress and frustration, but it only became worse. My husband started to notice something was wrong, but each question he asked, no matter how well-intentioned, just made me feel more ashamed and angry. I tried bringing it up with my manager, but everytime he was saying that I was doing an amazing job and that everyone was very happy with my results.
And so it went, deeper and deeper, until that day in the car.
I was driving back from the school when I had a blackout.
For few second I do not know what happened. I just ended up in a wall. Fortunately, only the car was damaged. But it was the time where my body screamed STOP!
The previous day I was telling my manager that I was seriously considering to be put on the social plan. He said that I must be very tired and that I should give me time to think about it. He said that we will discuss again about it in a week. The following day, I had my car accident. I went to my GP and he gave me a sick note for 3 weeks. And since, I am trying to find myself, to find my identity, to discover who I really am.
I thought it would take a month, maybe two before I’d feel ready to work again. It has now been already six months and I know that it will take some more time.
As I was suffering with Insomnia ( sleeping 3-4 hours per night), I am now under medication which are helping a lot. But I am so so afraid to get dependant to them. Sometimes, when I am feeling good and happy, I am wondering if it is really me or the medication? This is scary.
I was told to delegate. Until now I was not able, I was really feeling like a failure if I had to ask someone for help. It is only since a month now that I have accepted to hire a cleaning lady. It is still hard to accept to give my money away to someone for something that I could do myself…But I accept it, this is giving me more time for me.
At the moment my life feels like a roller coaster. Some days, I feel like I am back to normal and I could start working again and the following day I cannot even get up from my bed.
I know I have to be patient, it is not easy as I am the kind of person who wants things to be happening right now!