I have done a lot of pondering lately. Being an introvert, I favour reflection just as much as action. I have been an introvert (so far this year) who has actioned far too many things than my comfort zone would usually allow. There just hasn’t been enough time to reflect. I’ve just been doing, and never stopping, instead of being. And after so long of this life strategy I realise that this wandering away from my natural personality orientation is not emotionally healthy. Pushing ourselves is good, in small doses, but if that pushing becomes pathological, and merely the best attempt we can muster at an escape from our inner demons, it is nothing short of a harmful addiction.
I am all in favour of striving, and it sure beats languishing in our limited comfort zones forever, festering in our own [bored as a corpse] juices. Striving is what allows the confines of our personality to stretch. New thinking patterns and helpful positive habits can develop.
Outdated shit coping strategies can be pruned away, making way for newer better ones, but there is a danger to this strategy, and the danger is psychological BURNOUT.
Burnout is not a phenomena exclusive to CEOs and city bankers. In fact, I’d say burnout is a very normal reaction that many types of people can have, if you repeatedly exhaust your capabilities as well as paying scant attention to your personal boundaries; crossing and re-crossing those invisible inner lines that should just not be crossed.
I see people in danger of burnout, and people have seen that possibility in me. But the problem is, when people point out that you are placing yourself under lots of pressure and might want to consider possibly slowing down, our natural reaction is ‘SHUT UP. WHAT DO YOU KNOW?! I KNOW ME BETTER THAN ANYONE DOES, SO WIND YOUR NECK IN!!’
The thing with burnout, is that it is not up to us to point out if we think someone is perhaps heading in that direction, because that will provoke defensiveness. Burnout is therefore only realised when we are actually in it, and suffering from it- in other words, we can only see the risk of burnout, when we are already well into burning out! Anything before that point, and we can just say, ‘it’s ok, nothing to worry about, we’re just a bit tired, this is nothing that a good night’s sleep won’t fix.’
But we only realise we are maybe burned out, when we are pretty fucking far into that process of being burned out. We only realise we are burned out, if all the sleep in the world won’t cure our tiredness. We only realise we are burned out, when things that would usually be enjoyable for us, cease to be enjoyable. We only realise we are burned out, when we notice we are consistently using avoidance as a coping strategy to get us through our day. We only realise we are burned out, when anxiety about our day tomorrow, keeps us awake at night, tonight and most nights. We only realise we are burned out, when we realise we are socially retreating and getting easily pissed off and provoked by others. We only realise we are burned out, when it is impossible to be patient, with anyone, or with any task, for any reason, at any time.
I know I am burned out, and also very depressed with it. People don’t understand that when we are depressed, that term stands for DEEP REST. We become depressed, when our minds, bodies and souls require DEEP REST. Depression is a mechanism by which we retreat from everything except our own pain, and we just lose any ability to be active. Depression is caused by burnout, but depression is also nature’s cure for burnout. Because to be depressed gives us that DEEP REST that we NEED.
Depression is shit. It hurts. But it is evolutionary in basis, and a universal reaction to burnout and pathological pushing.
I know people who push to pathological levels, fuelled on by invisible and usually unacknowledged addiction. I very much include myself in that category, therefore there is no judgement intended, only a worry that those people will be ok, as well as a worry I will be ok.
I am a pathological pusher. That is why I went to a job interview last week and attended an important meeting, pushing my current suicidality aside as though it wasn’t even there in the first place. My pathological pushing has led to me having more blogs and pieces of writing published this year than I can count on two hands. My pathological pushing meant that this year I have raised an unknown and very credible/heathy amount of money for mental health charities. I have been to Westminster, written two cracking speeches, organised a 3 day charity event involving lots of people, made contributions to reports and important policies, been interviewed on telly, and by someone very important (nationally). I also ran a 5k then a 10k, have progressed with my healing from PTSD/BPD, and then had lots of fab ideas for my future too.
But I am depressed today, and stuck in a state of requiring DEE—P—REST.
The burnout can only be remedied now by the restorativeness of a depressive episode, but you know what, this is nice pleasant restoration. This is clinical bloody depression! This is life spent, feeling shit, most of the time- and nothing at all budging the epic shitiness. This is my punishment, and the pay off, for all my pathological pushing this year.
So the depression means that I just cannot keep pace with my prior schedule of pushing, and instead, I become reacquainted with the
joy misery of doing virtually nothing, and still feeling EXHAUSTED.
I cannot tell you how tired I actually am. Because that would be a very tedious blog post, but trust me, I’m tired!
Nothing will seemingly cure my tiredness, but I know this is only a reaction to my pathological pushing.
Where does that tendency to pathologically push originate from?
These are my reasons……(identified during periods of very clever previous psychological introspection.)
I was born to three significant type A role models (my dad and my two big brothers). they were CONSTANTLY busy OR ill because of their previous busyness, so they were what made me think that this kind of self-pushing and striving was important and desirable.
I was born to a dad with a perfectionistic/narcissistic personality, who was affectionate conditionally, rather than unconditionally. His message to me and all his kids was…. ‘you only matter if you are impressing people, and if you don’t impress, you may as well accept you are an utterly USELESS human being who should
possibly probably be shot for your ineffectiveness’.
I was born to a dad who…….yada yada.
I got all this from my abusive dad (and my repressed mum who just did what he wanted to keep the peace).
So if I know this unhelpful behaviour is all down to him and his influence, (as well as the influence of other key family members), why on earth can’t I just restore myself to factory settings, and delete my previous unhelpful conditioning?
Why can’t I just realise that pathological pushing leads to burnout?? ….and burnout leads to depression….and depression is SHIT.
Why is that tremendously insightful insight, generated by perceptive self-analysis [due to tons of therapy] not enough?!
Feel free to tell me in the comments section, as I have no idea myself!