Total Burnout Part II: It’s Actually Depression

It’s a Major Award!
Kenosha, WI. 2019.

“Light thinks it travels faster than anything. But, it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first… and is waiting for it.”

Terry Pratchett.

Its been six weeks since we reviewed the Top 10 ways to resolve a state of burnout, by “rekindling connections to our emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual realms [in order] to extract our dread and restore our ability to master our fate” (Me, 2019).

As I published that entry, I was well aware that I was burning the proverbial midnight oil on my own health, happiness, and self-worth. I was actively seeking approval from humans that only ever assured me that I either wasn’t enough, or was infact far too much. I was mining for validation, dangerously close to a war zone of unmarked utility lines. And the worst part was, I was well versed in what was to come next.

Only recently, have I been able to admit that anxiety is my oldest friend. What was once Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in my childhood, grew to Generalized Anxiety in my young adulthood, and morphed into a little vanilla-chocolate swirl of Panic & Depression as of late.

As someone who is relatively cheery; quick to coo in excitement over Christmas decorations, produce a nostalgic happy-tear at an antique shop, crack a shameless joke, and share an abrasive laugh – my anxiety and depression has never been invited into my identity. And so, when I feel the familiar shadows creeping in; the cocktail of denial, embarrassment, and dread are never too far behind.

When navigating trying times, it is difficult to determine if the immediate struggle is the depression itself – or life events that are legitimately depressing. This concept can become paralyzing, rendering one busy playing finger-pointing roulette with the crowd and the mirror.

Weeks ago, I was trying to convince myself that my dampened mental state was symptomatic of a regular ol’ burnout. I figured I was running low on energy because I wasn’t making enough time for hot yoga, proper nutrition, or twerking to the Greatest Hits of the 2000s. #candyshop

Well now here I am; sipping on a Green Tea Latte, my entire backside coated in CBD oil, fresh out of a sensory deprivation tank, and I can confirm… my serotonin levels are shockingly low.

Here’s the thing. We have to stop denying our truths. We have to stop prescribing hot baths, prestige cosmetics, and credit card debt to our friends that are clinically depressed (or ‘just going through some sh*t right now).

We have to take others’ approval off of its unrightful pedestal. We need not invest in the opinions of those that abandon, judge, or discard us. ‘It does not do well to dwell on dreams’, and it does worse to dwell on nightmares.

We must uncover the lust for life that glimmers in our eyes when we hear our favorite songs. We deserve to express ourselves with the tenacity of a toddler and the flair of a waitress at TGI Friday’s.

Those of us that have lived our lives within the confines of our own minds must grant ourselves the grace to live in the present among the rest of them. Living in anticipation of the reaction of others is not a life worth living. And while our depression makes DAMN sure we’re aware of that, it doesn’t hint at which life is worth living – and just how close nearby it may be.

Once we do the work to affirm our worth, our values, and our destiny, we become dramatically less vulnerable to the fleeting opinions of those around us. When we deny the appeal of codependency and maintain healthy boundaries, we reinforce the importance of our overall wellness.

Like most change, adopting these new habits can be incredibly painful. The loneliness can be deafening. The uncertainty can unravel your mind. On the other side of this raw, unprocessed emotion – is an entirely upgraded operating system. And not, like, with new emojis and stuff. But, like, with an awareness of your patterns, an acceptance of your past self, and faith in your general worthiness.

If you have also found that you aren’t just suffering from burnout, and might actually be depressed… I’ve got an addendum to the to-do list:

See a therapist. Work with a mental health professional to gain insight into your coping mechanisms, cognitive distortions, triggers, etc. Determine if medication should be a part of your healing plan. Invest in each session by being as honest and vulnerable as possible. #healedpeoplehealpeople

Set aside time for meditation.
It isn’t easy to silence the mind. It is even more tempting to judge the sheer failure to do so. Hot yoga serves as an incredible trick for the mind and body, rendering your brain victim to natural fight-or-flight responses that lend even precious moments of quiet on the most trying of days.

Prioritize meaningful alone time.
You shouldn’t limit your alone time to the rare trip to the grocery store, massive load of laundry, or evening Insta-scroll. Dedicate prime time hours to yourself. Run 5 miles at a local forest preserve. Take photos of a frozen lake. Enjoy a homemade dinner, alone.

Be choosy with your friends.
When you’re in turmoil, it is essential that you surround yourself with the most supportive energy. Don’t prioritize fair-weather, self-absorbed, or shallow friendships in your moments of need. Spend time with those that love you for the you that you have a hard time loving. #readthatagain

Laugh your *ss off.
There is nothing that lifts me out of static dread quicker than a stand-up comedy special. The best will remind you that your pained insecurities, irrational fears, and obscure observations are not alone. They inspire a dark humor that reminds you there is a silver lining tucked beneath the surface of every heartbreak.

We’re no longer in the business of being deemed ‘worthy enough’. We’re in the business of being authentic. And if you can’t play by those rules, you can’t sit with us.

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

Carl Jung. Psychology and Alchemy. (1944)