A broken robot: the face of a burnout

Rise and grind and how the urge to hustle is destroying my creativity

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My whole life I’ve always been told that my face reads like an open book.

Unable to hide my feelings and emotions, what you see is what you get. Can you tell what I’m thinking here? If you’re first guess was “fuck mornings, give me coffee” then yes, you are correct. But it’s also so much more than this.

As I look at my face in this picture, it really sums up the past few months for me. I’m chronically exhausted, stressed to the max and beyond tired, and yet trying to find a little glimmer of something to make me smile, which is harder every day. My work as a creator that used to always bring me so much joy is not sustaining me anymore. Turning 30 in May of last year I felt like I was solid and where I was meant to be after dealing with what I thought was my worst burnout, and not too much later I feel lost like a little girl again. How does that happen?

Being burnt out doesn’t begin to cover what I’ve been feeling. Without realizing it I’ve slid into a depression-like bog, where I’m stuck in the mud and it’s getting increasingly harder to try and pull myself out on my own. I know I need help yet I find myself pushing everyone away from me.

Sparked by my terrible experience with the beached whales in November, and now with my insomnia back in full swing, my anxiety keeping me company every waking hour, and a punishing travel schedule that I just couldn’t say no to, I only blame myself for getting to this point.

Living in a competitive world if you’re not “busy” or “great” than you’re “lazy” and “unsuccessful” and the pressure of this path I’ve been on is often suffocating, and it often feels like my creativity has gone forever. Without realizing it, I’ve slipped into the habit of only showing the glamor of travel, of my world. Obsessed with success and staying on top of an industry I love, I forgot my roots in imperfection.

I feel like I’ve built this incredible and seemingly perfect life online that now I can’t actually live up to

Lately I’ve been feeling like a broken robot, like I’m programmed and going through the mechanisms and motions of my life, but I’m not really there and things keep breaking. I feel like an iPhone frozen on an update (damn you, Apple, you can’t make me buy a new phone yet). I’m lost.

Normally I would have posted a different version of this shot on Instagram, where my tired face is hidden or later on when I’ve had three coffees and put on makeup, perhaps with an inspirational caption about following your dreams. I would have photoshopped my eye bags and brightened my face, sticking my chin out to make myself look thinner and less puffy.

But being the honest cynic that I am, I can’t keep this to myself any longer, and I’m tired. I’m tired of everything.

Here’s the real me, right now. I know I won’t be in this place forever, but right now I am, and this is a glimpse of my emotions and feelings as I work to find balance and happiness again. I feel like I’m in between chapters of my life; things are fundamentally changing for me, but I haven’t come out the other side of the tunnel just yet. I’m still in the bog.

So here is a moment of reality of where I am right now. I look and feel like shit, but I’m trying to do my best to do my job. I love it but it’s hard. We are all imperfect humans full of complex emotions, me included. You are not alone.

Now where is the coffee?

Liz xx

How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation via Buzzfeed

Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work? via the NY Times

Here is my original post on Instagram from a few weeks ago, the community and comments are pretty heartwarming and incredible

work burnout

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40 Comments on “A broken robot: the face of a burnout

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  1. Great post! I like to refer to the proliferation of articles touting that Habits of Succesful people that all somehow include waking up at 4am, lots of wheatgrass juice and no work life balance as “the cult of busy.” It is great to hear the other side of it. At the very least you need a nice vacation!

  2. Hey Liz – Your story resonated with me. Five years ago, I went through exactly the same. Also, had the notion of the busier the better. It happened at the same time as divorce and my dad dying. I just want to say stick with it. Recognising and accepting you are in a dark place is a big step, and you’ve already done it. Don’t expect to be the same person you were before though. Mental illnesses re-wire the brain.

    If you haven’t already tried it, mindful awareness did wonders for me. The 4/7/8 breathing technique also helps with my sleep. People kept telling me to keep a gratitude journal, but feeling thanks when you are in a dark place is incredibly hard. Instead, I keep a “things to let go of journal”. If you Google it, there are loads of suggestions and what it actually does it lighten the load on your shoulders so you can build inner strength, and focus on you, and your priorities.

    All the best. xxxx

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