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I would like to share my personal experience of how I avoided falling into the burnout. With no intention to give lessons to anyone, I only hope that my story can help others become aware of their own condition so they don’t end up on the precipice.
It was by attending a workshop with Dr. Mee-Yan Cheung Judge on The Use of Self that a click triggered in me. Two days of deep diving on the use of the Self and the Presence forced me to see myself on my internal mirror. It was especially during the exercises that I realized how much I was hurting mentally and physically, and how much I was hiding it to myself. Two years that I was on this dangerous slope at work, and lately in my private life also, without wanting to realize the obvious. I will not mention here the causes that led me to this descent into hell, each of you will easily deduce by the following or will see his own.
“Use of Self is the core element in how effective we are in successfully executing our intended roles. It is built on our awareness of who we are, clarity of our intentions, consciousness to the situation, our choices and managing ourselves purposefully in acting“. – Dr. Mee-Yan Cheung Judge
Becoming aware of my inner feelings that I was trying to hide, the denial of my malaise, the illusion that everything is fine or will be better tomorrow, the lack of compassion for me, all this was a big emotional shock. The shock was all the more violent as I knew perfectly the symptoms and conditions that can lead to burnout. Because I have deepened, illustrated and communicated these thanks to two specialists, Florence Bierlaire and Dr Marie-Pascale Simonnet.
People at-risk burnout, including me, are:
- with values and the meaning of a mission
The symptoms I felt and refused to admit:
- lack of vitality
- disillusionment, disenchantment
- loss of joy
- fallback on myself, isolation
- loss of concentration
- sleep loss
- feeling helpless and losing control of my life
- loss of meaning at work
- last fatal symptom that I narrowly avoided: collapse and demolition
While crying I warned Dr. Mee-Yan Cheung Judge that I was leaving her workshop well before its end. She kissed me, congratulated me for my courage and my awareness, and wished me to take care of myself from now on.
The same evening I was at my doctor, the good Dr. Sory. After listening to me for a long time, he put me on long sick leave for advanced mental exhaustion with the strong advise to see a psychologist. That same evening, I drew what had just happened. Having opened my eyes on my bad condition thanks to the workshop of Dr. Mee-Yan Cheung Judge, the visit to my doctor, and the decision to take care of myself to avoid burnout:
Some time after, I felt that I had just avoided the worst. That I had asked for and then received the help and support that I needed. Even if the recovery looked difficult and long. As drawing is a therapy since childhood for me, I need to express on paper what I feel, I drew what I felt this way:
Visits to the psychologist helped me to establish a list of actions and ways of thinking that would take me back slowly but surely.
- My exhaustion state, being on treatment and that it will last a long time
- I will be fragile for a long time, so I must protect myself and be extremely careful. Not to trust an apparent quick return to feeling better (a relapse would be worse)
- I have one body and I have spent more resources than it has (identical to the problem of overconsumption of our planet’s resources)
- I must say loudly what is going wrong and ask for what makes me feel good
- I cannot please everyone by always being nice
- I can disappoint by saying no or by refusing to do something
- I am the only person who can take care of myself
I pledge, as long as I am not back to the top of my health, to:
- Listen to the signals of my body and every day evaluate how I feel thanks to introspection (15 minutes of meditation)
- React immediately the day after to return to an acceptable level of well-being, if the result of the evaluation was not satisfactory
I commit myself now and for the future to:
- Take back control of my life on what is under my responsibility
- Put barriers at work to avoid permanent stress
- Say stop to work overload, only work for the resources of one body and one mind
- Stop what pumps me energy and makes no sense
- Regularly regenerate myself through what makes me feel good, walks in nature, drawing, meditation, reading, traveling, family, etc.
- Ask my employer, my direct hierarchy, what they will put in place for me to go better. If I assume my responsibilities, how do they assume theirs to prevent my burnout and burnout of other colleagues?
I returned to work recently. I received a lot of encouragement from my colleagues, understanding as well, and always the same observation that burnout risk at work is increasing for more and more people and more and more often. From my direct hierarchy, I have also received attentive listening, understanding, rearrangements of my work (I have, for example, gone from one to two days of teleworking), and other measures that should help me.
I am aware that I am still far from being at my normal state of well-being, I am still fragile. I must remain very careful. But I know that I am on the right track.
I learned at my expense what it is to believe being a superman who can do everything, quickly and well, often to please, even more often for fear of disappointing someone. I learned that the lack of congruence at work, the lack of meaning in too many activities, create cracks that only get bigger in me to become an abyss. I learned that being nice all the time with everyone does not help to respect me. I learned that not listening to the internal sensations of my body is the worst thing I can do. I learned that I am the only one responsible for my well-being.
I thank the following people for having helped me, advised, guided, supported, informed, loved, consciously or not: Dr. Mee-Yan Cheung Judge, Florence Bierlaire (psychotherapist and friend), Dr. Marie-Pascale Simonnet (Psychiatrist at the European Commission), Andrea Agosta (my psychotherapist), Dr. Sory, Agnès (my boss), my family starting with my wife and my children who have endured hard times, my friends and colleagues.