Hello, my name is Manon and I am burned out.

Typographic illustration Manon Gruaz

I was scared to share this delicate information with you but it’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, and we need to normalize the conversation about burnout and educate people because it can happen to anyone and more quickly than you imagine.

I may share my full story later and what I’m going through but for now, I wanted to share that this is real and it is hard. There are days where I don’t recognize myself and I feel like I have no value. I don’t share this to elicit your pity — I share it as a reminder to everyone: I know I am not alone — burnout is pretty common▫︎ and it hits women hardest‣.

For the longest time, I was driven to perform, prove, push, push, push, all with a smile on my face to hide the pain. I worked at being strong and resilient. That’s what you need to succeed in life, right? Bullsh*t.

I tried to suck it up for months. I tried to hide for several weeks.
I didn’t want to be considered weak.

Here’s the naked truth, I am broken.

Burnout broke me in pieces, scattered to the ground. There are days where I feel empty, joyless, without strength. I am scared that I may not ever feel happiness again. I’m plagued by anxiety and insomnia. I’m scared to not be able to do what I love. Answering emails and texts feel insurmountable (personal emails, I have quit slack, outlook, and all work-related content).

At the beginning of my leave, I felt guilty, and then, I was going to perform my healing! But a sprained ankle taught me that doing nothing is the beginning of my healing.

Judging my own suffering as a weakness is NOT being good to me. I have to demolish my entire belief system.

I am one of the lucky ones — I am grateful for systems at work that allow me to recover at my own pace and I am supported by a loving partner, caring friends, encouraging colleagues, understanding manager, even strangers on Twitter. I realized the love I was missing was my own. That’s what I’m working on now: loving myself unapologetically, completely, fiercely.

From there, it raised the question: How I can be benevolent, compassionate with others if I am not with myself?

Typographic illustration Manon Gruaz

My work now is creating space for compassion, joy, and recovery.

I dedicated a fair amount of my career talking about Compassion and Benevolence in Design✧ and yet… it’s only NOW that I scratch the surface of the meaning and power of these words.

And it’s there that I realize that a big question remains: How do I alleviate my own suffering?

Until this day, in the context of the pandemic —a.k.a fewer options — ,
I explored some paths to alleviate my own pain:

  • DO NOTHING, Feel EVERYTHING. This time is not vacation nor time to be productive on side projects. I had to stay in bed for 4 days without moving. I couldn’t walk for 2 weeks without crutches. I forget days, hours. I can’t read and that’s ok. My brain needs a hard reboot and my ankle helps me in her own way.
  • Accept. Don’t fight pain, Surrender, Accept. Say the words: I am going through a burnout. I experience anxio-depressive episodes.
  • Rewire my brain and self-talk. I experience Burnout, I am not it. Benevolence and love are the only language accepted in my brain. My therapist has this metaphor. Imagine that you are a kitty. You are afraid and anxious. Does the cat’s mother judge and yell at the kitty? No. She is comforting and reassuring. Let’s be like the cat’s mother.
  • Confort over judgment/stress. I watch movies, series that I already watched and I rewatch them over and over again because it brings me comfort⍤. Brooklyn 99, RuPaul Drag Race, and Formula 1 are my saviors.
  • Fuck Expectations, respectfully. I put emotions, expectations of others before my needs, my emotions. I believe it partially led me to the state that I am now. I set myself free of the game of expectation by having an «out of office» message to each email I receive saying: I will not reply to your email immediately. It may take several days. […] Thank you for your patience. I am reclaiming my time.
  • To heal, I need a team. Health care professionals (doctors, therapists, physiotherapists, massotherapists) are so important in the path of recovery. If I don’t feel safe or not listened to, I can’t recover. I learned that the hard way.
  • Uncomfortable conversations with «comfortable» friends. My friends know my situation. We talk about it candidly, openly. I have their support in every way they are comfortable with. I feel their love even if sometimes I don’t answer their texts. It’s not always easy. Sharing our vulnerability creates resonance, deeper connection and leads us to mutual care, self-acceptance and self-love.
  • Sparkle a feeling of Joy: I buy balloons. I realized that the feeling of joy is mysterious and ephemeral, I can access it through tangible, physical, small things…like balloons!

Shift of language, observation of emotions, usage of metaphors, seeking comfort, setting healthy boundaries, synergy of support, mutual care, finding joy where I am cultivate Compassion. These are my tools to alleviate suffering and initiate — intentionally design — transformation.

⚠️ This list is not an advice list. Each burnout is different, there’s no recipe for recovery.

Typographic illustration Manon Gruaz

I know my journey will be transformational, but for now, I need to rest, reset and heal. As humans, we need to be gentle with ourselves and with others.

Take care of yourselves, people. Truly ❤️

🙏 If you feel like you are on the verge of burnout, please reach out. You are not alone and there is a support system for you. Believe me. Talk to your manager and find a way to take long-term time off.

💜 Mental health care in Canada: Where to find help
https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/mental-health-care-in-canada-where-to-find-help-1.3767445

🗂 Sources:
▫︎ [burnout is pretty common]
Nearly half of Canadian workers experience daily burnout
https://www.itworldcanada.com/article/nearly-half-of-canadian-workers-experience-daily-burnout-according-to-microsoft/444482
The pandemic has impacted the mental health of Canadians https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11–631-x/2020004/s3-eng.htm
Survey: 33% of Workers Are More Burned Out Than a Year Ago
https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/survey-33-of-workers-are-more-burned-out-than-a-year-ago-869143031.html

‣ [it hits women hardest]
How more women are dealing with mid-career burnout
https://www.canadianbusiness.com/innovation/how-more-women-are-dealing-with-mid-career-burnout/
Why Burnout Is Hitting Women the Hardest
https://www.phillymag.com/business/2019/06/24/burnout-is-hitting-women-the-hardest/

[it brings me comfort]
https://thoughtcatalog.com/january-nelson/2017/12/science-says-watching-the-same-movies-and-shows-over-and-over-again-is-actually-good-for-you/

✧ [Compassion and Benevolence in Design]
Compassion-First Design for AI
http://manongruaz.com/conferences
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aUBvuavI2s&ab_channel=Devoxx

Are you passionate about Compassion by Design? Affective Computing? Resilience? Benevolent Innovation? Welcome, Home. Let’s be joyful rebels together

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