Notes from the Burnout Zone

Lynne Murray says:

Lately I find myself having trouble engaging with the world enough to write a blog post. A post I read about burning out caused a flicker of recognition and I realized that, once again, I am in that place. I’ve been here before, mostly for emotional pain and angst.In this case, sickness with a generous dose of pain has engaged my attention.

For a few years in my 20’s I worked at sorting out how to continue my Buddhist practice without the cult that introduced me to it. I wandered in the wilderness of my own mind and drank a lot. I also dieted, binge-ate and felt deeply ashamed that I was (I thought) a failure at everything. I talked to the walls a lot. My favorite text was Scott Fitzgerald’s The Crack Up.

From this point in my life, Fitzgerald’s essay looks to me like eloquent and entitled whining. If you read the essay in its entirety, you will be struck by Fitzgerald’s casual racism, but when this was my favorite essay in the 1970s, my white-kid-from-the suburbs consciousness was still being raised and I read right past the offensive language in a way I can’t do now. Suffice it to say that at that time, Fitzgerald’s words perfectly captured the cynicism of damaged egocentric idealism with a side order of alcohol.

After I emerged from a few years in that burnout zone, I had found my center in my Buddhist practice. I had also written an unreadable first novel and learned that I love to write novels, the activity that now makes my life worth living.

I didn’t know what would happen until after the burnout was over.

In the years since, I’ve managed to go through life without slipping into isolation, even through the deaths of loved ones, onset of physical disabilities, and extreme financial hardship.

Lately though, I’ve hit a more intense stretch of pain and frustration in dealing with persistent illness, and I’ve been tipped into the burnout zone. When Laurie asked me if I had a potential blog post nothing struck a chord.

I’m not going to go into details about the nature of the physical illness, because I’m just not able to deal with any advice. I’ve tried seven to ten strategies over the past three months, conventional and “un.” One plainspoken friend asked why I’m trying so many different solutions to the painful consequences of my disability.

Why so many?  The answer is: some made it worse, some did little and some helped. So far nothing has worked well enough to completely heal my illness, or effectively relieve my pain. I’m still trying. My daily life is sidetracked and relationships with other people are a bit … attenuated.

But two recent blog posts (both about burnout related to fat activism, rather than to pain and disability) actually raised a flicker of interest that brought me out of the deepest isolation.

On the Health At Every Size® blog, Fall Ferguson, JD, MA, Assistant Professor of Health Education at John F. Kennedy University writes:

There are anti-obesity articles published every day, so I can’t tell you why this one in particular hit me harder. It probably had as much to do with whatever else was going on my life than the article itself. The question that interests me here is what next? How to regroup and reignite the activist fires within? I have three ideas to start the list:

1.    Strategic Retreat: It has to be OK to retreat and “reboot” from time to time. A little R&R away from the front, as it were.

2.    Support: It’s important to seek support from others. I am not very good at this; I tend to brood alone and in silence. But when I overcome that instinct and reach out, the HAES and size acceptance communities are incredibly warm and supportive.

3.     Perspective: Fighting the good fight can’t be about winning every skirmish. I see the cultural shift slowly happening; we all do. Our success breeds outrage among those who have the most to lose. The more acceptance accorded to the HAES approach, the more strident some voices will become in opposition. I am deeply interested in building bridges and finding commonalities of purpose as a long-term strategy, but I also know that there will be those who are not open to making alliances, and you can’t win everyone over.

The HAES® files: And yet it moves…

The other post, FATigued: Finding a second wind in body acceptance was from Dr. Deah Schwartz, PhD, a therapist with a Doctorate in Education, an MS in Therapeutic Recreation, and an MA in Creative Arts Education. She is the author of Leftovers: The Ups and Downs of a Compulsive Overeater and Dr. Deah’s Calmanac, a 12-month interactive guide designed to transform negative body image and disordered eating patterns into a body positive health at every size® approach to wellness.

I am tired. The endless intrusion of diet mandates and body hating messages that wheedle their way into my world via billboards, television, radio, movies, magazines, books, blogs, trolls, and the insidious drive by shoutings has left me fatigued.  Considering we are in beach-body-season, this is to be expected…and I know that because this is my area of personal and professional concern I am perhaps exposed more than most…but I just have to admit that sometimes I hit the wall and feel depleted and hopeless. …

But I am better now.  Because today I read four wonderful body positive articles that gave me hope and infused me with just enough energy to rally, write this blog, and head off to my son’s college graduation. 

I don’t know what personal growth will come out of my own patch of bad road. One never knows that until way after it’s over. The trick is getting through it.

I trust that I will.

5 thoughts on “Notes from the Burnout Zone

  1. Lynne, I’m so sorry things are hard, and I always wish you well.

    I thought you might be amused by writer Jo Walton’s term for returning to old favorite texts and finding that they have been infected by racism, sexism, or just plain bad writing. She says they have been infected by the suck fairy. I think the suck fairy got to your Fitzgerald piece …

  2. Sending you cyber hugs & positive thoughts & healing energy, Lynne. I am dealing with a lot of stress, family problems, & of course increasing aches & pains & slowly increasing disability (I have had cerebral palsy since birth, but aging, arthritis, worsening balance & frequent pain make things much more interesting), so I can empathize quite a bit. I hope you find more answers which work for you & that you can get through this patch soon. Take care.

  3. Debbie, thanks for the kind thoughts and the suck fairy link….so true that this really is a thing. Patsy, I appreciate the hugs–dispensed by my cats. Today, somehow, almost miraculously things took a major turn for the better today. I connected with a doctor (a Kim Stanley Harrison reader, Debbie, I was proud to say I knew an editor who had worked with him) who not only came and helped me, but put me in touch with a group that can provide more long-term support. Still on the rough road but looking at light up ahead. T

  4. Hey Lynne, great news that you found that light and support. Having been through ten years of worsening health due to undiagnosed Lyme disease and two more of treatment, I well know that feeling of burnout. It’s not just burnout as such, it’s that when the body goes down far enough it takes all your mental spark with it. I am coming back out the other side now and am amazed to find that spark renewing itself in all sorts of ways in my life after being gone for so very long. Here’s to yours coming back soon! xxx

  5. Thanks, Tina. I’m slowly getting better, but I have to remind myself that the time I’m spending dealing the practical aspects of being sick is an important part of caring for my body. I’m learning a lot of unexpected things. E.g. the original organization I contacted had a 3 month waiting list and when I described my symptoms their reaction was, “That’s pretty serious you should have someone look at that soon. See you in 3 months.” I did end up finding a much better alternative, but it’s taken me a month to realize that phone call was also them failing the “caring” part of the interview. It does help that the doctor and home visit nurses I’m working with can give me perspective on how long this healing usually takes and feedback on progress they can see that I cannot. I am glad you have experienced that re-ignition and I look forward to seeing a similar spark of renewal! Thanks for your kind thoughts and take care!

Join the Conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.