I started having fatigue issues in my teens. The doctor told me it was psychosomatic in a way that implied he meant ‘fake and lazy’ and thus there was no help. Was it chronic fatigue? Or overload? Or an inadequate diet? Or depression? With hindsight it could have been any or all of these things, I have no idea, but I struggled through GCSE and A Level, with no sense of being supported or taken seriously. Those ‘imaginary’ problems of my teens haven’t ever gone away. My diet has improved, so it’s not that, now.
Not being taken seriously has left me feeling like I have to prove something. I have to work harder than everyone else so that if I have to say I’m too sore, too tired to do a thing, people won’t automatically ascribe it to laziness. This is how it goes in my head. Constantly having to prove that I’m working hard and trying my best does not lead to rest and time off. It may be that the reason I spend so much of my time exhausted, is that I am, in fact, exhausted (and still, the little voice in my head says I am lazy and making excuses).
When I’m not coping, the fun stuff goes first. I save my energy, my spoons, for the paying gigs, the domestic stuff and trying to stay fit enough not to further compromise my ability to do the work. Going out in the evening is usually the first thing off the list, and as I work from home, being exhausted often punches a hole in my scope for contact with other humans. Very little comes in, and my creativity and imagination shrivel, and this certainly leads to depression. Getting into a pattern where all I can do is work, and recover from work, isn’t good for the soul.
I don’t know, when I get up of a morning, how many spoons there are and how far they will get me. Some days I do really well, other days everything is like wading through treacle. Most of the work I do requires some degree of being clever and imaginative – this is true even in PR. Any kind of emotional set back can wipe me out at speed. There clearly is a psychological/emotional aspect to burning out, and that tends to leave me feeling that it’s my failure to control my inner world that is the problem. And because I’m making the problem, by not managing things better, I do not feel entitled to ask for help or support.
I don’t have an answer to this at time of writing, but exposing the mechanics has turned out to be useful for other people in the past, so here we are.