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!

⚠️ 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

🗂 Sources:
▫︎ [burnout is pretty common]
Nearly half of Canadian workers experience daily burnout
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

‣ [it hits women hardest]
How more women are dealing with mid-career burnout
Why Burnout Is Hitting Women the Hardest

[it brings me comfort]

✧ [Compassion and Benevolence in Design]
Compassion-First Design for AI

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