I. Hello again, blues, my old friend
I’m going to admit something that I’ve been feeling for a few years now, but could never quite say to myself for fear of going down a long, lightless tunnel. But I’m saying it now because I think I’m strong enough and aware enough to know the root of the problem.
Here it is: I don’t like the Christmas season.
This despite enjoying decorating the Christmas tree (something that I missed this year), loving the cinnamon smell of the apple crumble pie I help my dad bake, spending a lot of time thinking about what each of the friends I’m giving gifts to need, and participating in no less than three company events–the company bazaar, the decorations contest, and a Battle of the Bands event that forced me to confront my lifelong stage fright as I provided both lead and backing vocals. Needless to say, I had my hands full.
But I soon found myself doing the same things I do only when I’m feeling extremely down: crying at my desk, coloring in coloring books, and playing video games for hours on end. I may have subconsciously anticipated this would happen, so I took the last week of the year off work. I’ve been cooped up at home since Christmas, coloring and playing video games and having mood swings and dark thoughts I don’t understand.
I think joining the company events was my way of trying to avoid how the holidays make me feel. And in the process, I made myself feel worse.
II. All the metaphors for exhausted
Earlier this month, I thought my 2018 resolution should be to declutter. But I realized that I’d already gotten a headstart, selling books I probably won’t read and cutting out or demoting to acquaintance-level the people who hang on to my energy and emotions like leeches. It pleased me to know that my bullshit filter has been steadily getting better over the years. So upon thinking about it some more, I’ve decided that my resolution should be about getting better at self-care.
Those who’ve been following my social media accounts know that my life in 2017 acted like some kind of extreme rollercoaster when it came to the things I couldn’t control–from a sprained knee that now aches during bad weather to winning a writing contest that opened many doors.
But what I did not talk about was the burnout. I’ve burned out a grand total of seven times this year. For a long time, this confused the hell out of me because I didn’t have quite as many incidents as in 2015 or 2016, which were years when I was in a solid depression state (though in a way, I guess you could consider that stage one long period where the candle hadn’t just gone out; the wick was burnt and I couldn’t find the matches). But in 2017, the year that my therapist declared me depression-free, I found myself often crying at my desk, coloring, or playing video games–things that I often did only when I felt spread out (like butter over too much bread, hehe) or simply couldn’t do anything else. The early part of the year definitely still had depression interlaced with burnout, but after I got cleared, that’s when I experienced more incidents. And I could never quite catch the symptoms before the symptoms caught up to me.
What. The. Hell?
III. Adulting and self-care are actually the same thing
If you’re impatient like me, you’d know the feeling of wanting to do ALL the things even though you’re not fully healed yet. It’s like in physical therapy; after the interns got my injured muscles working and feeling again, I had to do exercises over a period of two months to strengthen them. Healing is a slow process; that applies to your mental and psychological health, too.
This book I’ve been reading says that burnout is not actually rock-bottom, but a sign that something within needs to change. Likely an unhelpful attitude or harmful belief that drives me to take on more than my own limits can take, while ignoring the little voice in my head going “ENOUGH!”
I’ve only got one resolution for 2018, and that’s to get even better at self-care. Not the ice-cream-and-a-massage-on-a-bad-day kind. The adulting kind; that includes paying my bills on time so that I don’t fear my phone line getting cut, sleeping enough hours so that I don’t feel like killing a man during the day, eating food that gives me energy instead of tanking me in the afternoon, living within my means so that I don’t have to take on freelance to supplement my salary, learning to spot emotional vampires from a mile off. Things like that and more. It sounds like a lot, but it means fixing different areas of my life to become more functional, more kind to myself and to other people.
I’m coming out of another burnout this Christmas. I’m also coming out of Christmas hoping that this is the last one for a long, long time. If I haven’t been there for you as much as I should have this year, I’m sorry. I would not have been in the best shape to be present in your life. And if you’ve listened to my problems even just once this year, thank you. From the bottom of my burned out–but not burned up–heart.