Marisa H

8

After hours of yoga, mindfulness, TRE, craniosacral therapy, brief psychotherapy and doctors’ appointments I had to face the fact that I needed long-term psychotherapy.

Differing Values and Lack of Respect Can Exhaust

Mindfulness and yoga helped me get by a few years, but after my relationship crashed and burned and my manager seemed to have no idea who I was, I realized I wasn’t just tired but had burned out. It was hard to think about leaving a permanent job, when my personal life was in ruins. Each month it was a bit harder to cope with the realization that my boss had basically no idea what my tasks entailed: he didn’t appreciate my input because I came from a different background than the others, and my work didn’t exactly show in the profit column.

My values differed greatly from my managers’ and the CEO-level values. I was grinding my teeth when my boss was being condescending to my colleague who I knew was working long hours. It was infuriating to hear him crack disgusting jokes at meetings. It’s very hard to work for people who you don’t appreciate or respect. Still there can be other factors that keep you in the workplace: good colleagues can provide a safe haven.

Even though we were different people and not in the same situations in life, I got very attached to a few colleagues. We had meaningful discussions and I could unload all my negative thoughts. They might have disagreed with me, but were still listening and sometimes even kept their problem-solving ideas to themselves. I learned that when people start becoming close, their gender, age and appearance are meaningless. I felt supported by these empathetic people, and wish everyone could have that feeling in their life.

When Self-help Doesn’t Help

My burnout was a combination of an unfulfilling situation in life, bad experiences in the workplace, getting fired after company negotiations and having to give up good colleagues. During the Covid-19 pandemic, I had gotten used to not being around them physically, but I think I still need to discuss losing these people with my new psychotherapist.

At one point, I went to yoga twice a week and felt that the meditative yoga lessons helped me cope. I have attended a myriad of wellbeing courses, and many of them seemed to have a point. After being laid off, I started having chronic pain, and had trouble keeping up with any hobbies. I also turned to sugar for self-medicating. I was prescribed medication to deal with the pain, but still needed painkillers as well. This chronic pain lasted for a year, until I was diagnosed by a wise doctor, and now the pain has been almost under control for some months. Before, they were considered “psychosomatic”, which made me feel distressed because I didn’t feel that ill mentally. After listening to what I had to say, this doctor made me start long-term psychotherapy, for which I’m grateful. I have no idea where I’ll come up with the money, but I’m grateful regardless.

We need Immediate Access to Therapy

I was lucky when my amazing doctor found me a daytime appointment for a psychotherapist. I still contacted 10 therapists who had no appointments available. What would have happened, if I didn’t have the energy to find the therapist? What if I had no friends and family to support and help me? What if my only income was minimal unemployment benefit? What if I hadn’t found my therapist by chance? I’m convinced that thousands of Finnish people in need of psychotherapy can’t get past the problems in finding it. If you have to make a choice between buying groceries or paying for therapy, no one will choose the latter.

When you work full time, fitting two 45-minute sessions in a week might be challenging, but white-collar employees often have flexible hours. This is not the case for many other jobs, so there’s inequality there as well. We need Immediate Access to Therapy, which is a citizen’s initiative promoting easier access to psychotherapy for everyone in Finland. Treating current mental health issues now will most definitely pay off in the future, measured in both human wellbeing and financial profit.

What Could Help with Burnout?

Now I’m thrown in the same break-up limbo as before, without reaching stability in my work life or realising other life-long dreams. I feel like I’m surrounded by the emptiness of ground zero, which demands building something new. Maybe my foundation is now more solid, but I’m feeling down, as a stray tumbleweed slowly passes by. I think I have no choice but to take things slow.

As I’ve only just started psychotherapy, I have no idea how long it will last or when I’ll start feeling less exhausted. Luckily, several books about burnout have been published recently. Reading them can help by giving peer support or good tips about how to get better and recover.

Before I can write another burnout survivor story which the media loves, trial and error has taught me to:

– eat warm meals and veggies every day
– drink excessive amounts of tea
– sleep at least 8 hours a night, even if I’m still tired
– cherish a furry friend who takes me on a stroll 3 times a day
– meet friends regularly
– keep in touch with friends and family (but hiding the phone at night)
– support others and cheer them on
– peer support
– focus on the good and ignore the bad, if it’s something I have no control over
– lay on the couch watching TV shows
– listen to music and dance whenever possible
– listen to audio books, especially during boring routines
– listen to meditation recordings
– avoid having even one drink, as it worsens sleep quality
– tidy the house to lessen stress
– avoid sugar when possible
– silence “you should” voices in my head
– not compare myself to others
– avoid or filter news
– avoid reading online comments
– exercise lightly few times a week
– bring back old hobbies
– think about what brings me joy and feelings of flow
– write an uncensored diary
– not avoid people even if there have been small conflicts
– ask for help
– be self-compassionate: being nice to myself and remembering when I’ve succeeded

Marisa H
I'm a 40 yo humanist, who had trouble finishing their studies, but who realised that friends from Uni can stay in your life, as well as all things fun. I have lovely, boring, middle-class dreams where I'm looking forward to having heated discussions with my loved ones in spiritless supermarkets.

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