I am allowed to be burnt out.
For me, this is a radical idea. The admitting and acceptance of the state of being burnt out, and actually giving myself permission to be burnt out. To be honest, I think I’ve been burnt out for years, and it finally caught up with me last year.
I am autistic. From a very early age I was conditioned against expressing that and pressured into appearing neurotypical. I have, up until this year, put on a facade of a successful, bubbly, vivacious and sociable business woman. Mostly this appearance was abused into me by It, but it was also expected of me from all of my previous roles.
I have overworked and over performed in every single role I have undertaken. I would typically arrive at 8am and leave anywhere between 6 and 8pm, having worked through all of my breaks and most of my lunch, always at break-neck speed, because there was so much work to do. I worked myself ragged, and I went back in and did it all again the next day, because that’s just what you do. I’ve done this in every role until I moved to my current city, so that’s a good decade or so.
Throughout most of that decade, I was also with It. The narcissist. The ending came about because It was becoming desperate, and eventually manipulated Itself into the position of ‘either you come with me or I go alone’. I was in a position where I was actively pursuing the career I wanted, and I wasn’t prepared to jeopardize the career I had been working for years to be able to pursue, and I was angry that he would ask that of me while putting his own career first (always first). So I said no.
Then I went straight back to work the next day. And continued working, and overworking, and not thinking about anything, and putting on the facade of being a lively, successful young businesswoman.
It’s all caught up with me and there is no escaping the exhaustion that I have denied for so long. I ignored my body at every turn. When it screamed ‘rest’ I said ‘harden up’ and went to work. When it said ‘no more, go home’ I said ‘nope, we’ve still got to finish this document pack’ and kept going. And when I say I worked fast, I mean I worked bloody fast. I put out more work in one day than most would in three. My brain was constantly on the go planning my next move, identifying the path to take to complete the required tasks in the shortest amount of time, and in the right priority order.
Oh, and through most of that I was working a second job on weekends and doing one paper a semester at university.
So yeah, I’m allowed to be burnt out now. I sound defensive, and that’s because I am, because I expect to be told ‘no, you’re not allowed to be burnt out, harden up and keep on going’, because that’s what I’ve basically been told my entire life in various ways. Stiff upper lip. Carry on. That kind of claptrap. Telling myself I’m allowed to be burnt out is one thing, but taking a stand and saying ‘I AM ALLOWED TO BE BURNT OUT’ to the world is an entirely different kettle of fish.
Because despite the abuse I’ve been through, despite feeling as though I’m brittle and nothing but bone and sinew, despite almost falling asleep at work on numerous occasions because I am so exhausted, I … I gaslight myself. It’s so ingrained in me, I gaslight myself. It has been reinforced so thoroughly in my life that I am not important, what I feel is not important, what I want to do is not important, what I don’t want to do is not important, that I can’t possibly imagine that what I’ve been through is … something. That it’s actually not good, that I’ve been impacted by it and that feeling is valid and true and reasonable.
It’s a horrific mindset, but I’m battling it. Slowly but surely. Because I deserve to not be burnt out.