• Kristin Perissinotto

I'm burnt out but I'm fine, even good.

I'm largely unwilling to admit to feeling any negative emotion that isn't anger. I'm comfortable with stress most of the time (is stress an emotion or a state of being?), because being totally and fully relaxed doesn't work for me past three days. Blame that on capitalism and hustle culture. But after compounding the stress of living under Scott Morrison's government for four years, working very long days during the election only broken up by taking a break to stress about the election, and just generally living a busy life, I've finally admitted that I am burnt the fuck out.

The thing about burn out is that it's not just a busy day, month, or year. It can hit at any time, under any amount of stress or busyness depending on the situation and individual. For me, for example, it takes a very special blend of emotional stress, an inability to switch off, and external factors resulting in my running around like a headless chicken. ie., experiencing the 2022 election as a volunteer and progressive commentator. My life is quite busy most of the time, and that's by design, but I usually carve out times that are strictly for unwinding. The problem arises when those times are spent with me *stressfully* watching Netflix or going for a walk with no headphones (gasp) because my thoughts are too encompassing.

Burn out as a self-labelled Type A, slightly neurotic, control freak (me!) looks a little different to what you might imagine. My mental health is generally excellent, something I never take for granted. I'm pretty resilient except when something is REALLY annoying or when I'm sick (thank god we have to isolate with COVID or I would have lost at least 3 friends). From the outside, my burnt out self looks pretty similar to my usual self. Busy, placing importance on alone time, opinionated, an inability to say no, largely reliable, pretty much always answers the phone. I can't just switch off because 1. the things I ignore will be there when I get back and then will be urgent, and 2. I can't switch off, like how do you do that.

My burn out looks like procrastinating replying to an email that would take two minutes. It looks like refusing to watch a new show just incase it's sad or scary and I just CANNOT HANDLE THAT so I'd rather watch 6 season of Modern Family thanks. It looks like buying work lunches because I completely forgot to make them or was somehow unaware of having no groceries. It looks like leaving Instagram DMs unread for days even though the number in the little red bubble bothers me a LOT. It looks like my attention to detail (which to be honest isn't GREAT to begin with) being impacted.

And the weird thing is, when someone asks me how I am, I'll say I'm fine, even good. Because I don't feel bad. I feel a little stressed generally, maybe a bit tired. But it doesn't feel like something is wrong. I am genuinely fine, even good. I'm operating at a lower capacity, but I'm still operating. We see burnout depicted as something obvious and open for the world to see. And while that might be the case for some, it's not the case for me.

And the big problem for me is that my burn out is caused largely by factors pretty out of my control. The Morrison government, climate change, international wars, the fact that with a few swipes I can read news from all over the world, and rarely is it good. How the fuck do you manage that? Especially when not looking at the news just results in your thinking and guessing what the news might be and feeling a slightly-different-but-just-as-bad sense of stress. Attempted meditation or a day at the beach isn't going to do shit.

I usually just have to wait it out. Cut back on the unnecessary things, make peace with buying my lunch a bit more regularly, watch the entire backlog of every trashy sitcom I have access to, and wait to come back to a baseline. Until then, I will keep saying I'm fine, even good. Because I am. And this time I have finally learned that the best way to go about things is open communication. Revolutionary, I know. Because people will probably read this and think I'm not actually fine. But I am. Genuinely. But being open about burnout has been pivotal. And hearing how many other around me are feeling the same is comforting.

I'm pretty good at giving myself a break, but not so good at asking for a break from people around me. But this time I have. I haven't asked for help, because I know I'll be okay, but there is such power in just letting people know you're not quite at full capacity. That you might be a little slower than usual, that you might take a week to send a two-word email. So this time, while I wait it out, I won't feel the compounding stress of people waiting on me. And that makes all the difference.