Burnout Stories

Getting your own burnout story written down can be a therapeutic activity, and reading others’ stories can make you feel less alone. Below are some stories that members of the Madame Papillon community have shared.

B for Burnout

Madame Papillon’s co-founder shares her experience of burnout.

When did you know you were going through a burnout?

It’s really difficult to pinpoint when I accepted that I was burning out. 

It definitely wasn’t as I sat sobbing to my colleague the day she persuaded me to get my things and go home. That was a Thursday and I was sure I’d be back in the office by Monday. It probably wasn’t as I explained my situation to the doctor, showing my exhaustion on my tear-lined face and stuttering the reasons I had not been myself recently. It might have been when I registered his concerned expression and accepted the three week sick note. Or it might have been when I sat in my first ever therapy session, weeping and unable to explain this thing that was taking me over. It was probably weeks later, when conversations with friends had sifted through the thoughts running through my head. When yoga and breathing exercises had calmed my frantic mind and I no longer felt that constant tug in my stomach – whatever I had been doing, I had been sure there was something else that was more urgent, more worthy of my attention. When I was with my family, I was feeling I should not have left work so early, left that task undone; when I was at work I was worrying that my children were not getting the attention they deserved. I realised I had not read a book for pleasure in months; I realised I scorned people who had time for television and I realised I could not go on like this.

What do you think caused your burnout?

Looking back, it is clear that something fundamental shifted in me during the time I think of as my burnout. I went from being a busy but competent working mum to being an overwhelmed and sinking mess. No one thing was the cause, not the undermining at work, the demands of children of different ages, the juggle of running a household, the guilt at not fitting in any exercise, the lack of family nearby to support with logistics, the mental load of not forgetting anything, none of it, was the sole cause. It was the combination of all those things that became unbearable.  

How is your life different after burnout? What have you learned about yourself and your needs?

What is different about my life now is an awareness of the risk. The risk of thinking everything has to be done, that down time is luxury rather than a necessity. A recognition of the need to consciously choose to be good enough rather than perfect. An effort to stay aware of what is important in this life (spending time on people, relationships, growing, learning, trying) and what is not (having things). A space for ensuring I spend time on myself, recharging my energy levels, to spend on the precious people around me. 

What do you want the consequence of your experience to be? What’s next?

I want others who meet me to find their own inspiration to adapt their lives to better fit their needs. 

Burnout Recovery: What to expect and how to cope

Professional life coach Gabriela Doicaru-Spencer shares her observations of burnout.

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