Listen, understand and act: how to help someone burning out

Tips on how to become a supporter, from the other side of the burnout mirror. First published in French in Nov 2017.


Note from the author: this piece has been pulished today before proof-reading. Forgive the mistakes you’ll spot along the way! ;-)


Burnout and I are now long-time buddies. It hit me twice, in 2013 and 2015, and today I talk about it, I listen to stories of wounded people and I carry out my own humble research towards eventually eradicating it.

But there’s a very different side I have not yet explored: how do you help someone suffering from this type of exhaustion, be it work related or otherwise? How do you tackle someone else’s pain and the affect it has on everyone’s life around them? How do you offer the right support for both short and (sometimes very) long term? I’ve received a few requests to write this essay but it’s far from the easiest subject to broach: having been a burnout victim myself, I thought I would be well equipped to help my friends, and later my partner. It didn’t come out so simple. In this piece, I’ll attempt to explore a few leads to help you see what lies on the other side of burnout.


Understand

Before being able to help in any way, you have to make sure you understand the mechanisms of professional exhaustion syndrome. Today it is still very complex to diagnose or even acknowledge. Burnout isn’t well understood and there’s still no clear agreement in the medical world on how to tackle and treat it. In France, there’s still no legislation that recognises burnout as a “work related disease” despite the fact it is now so widely spread. This is partly due to the fact that the symptoms of burnout are quite hard to make sense of: they gather together signs like loss of appetite or chronic pain in a wide spectrum of symptoms that can be dismissed on their own. Sometimes it can appear like depression, but it can also look like seasonal fatigue or a chronic back issue. Most of the time we deny there’s something wrong by blaming it on a difficult time on a project, or Winter which is hard on our health, or a tense atmosphere at work as we try desperately to make these problems seem smaller than they are. Once burnout is identified recovery asks for constant attention, sometimes for months. Burning yourself out can be the fight of a lifetime, shaking you to your very core. For the people around you it can transform into a long and gruelling journey with no clue of where it will lead.

Burnout is multifaceted by nature and can affect diverse aspects of someone’s life and psyche. It can shake everything from self esteem, sense of social value, emotional needs, intellectual capacities and more, up to the point that it profoundly destabilise one’s very existence. Even if work is usually the main source of exhaustion, many other facets of one’s life can add up to burnout, including relationships or personal issues. This doesn’t make it easy for you if you’re close to the person burning herself out, and we’ll talk that through later.

Firstly, let’s focus on the causes, mechanisms and impact of burnout so as a supporter you are able understand and approach it as accurately as you can.

Physiologically speaking, you can explain it straight forwardly: burnout rises from an extended, repeated and excessive amount of stress that your body tries to adapt to until it reaches its limits. Then organs begin to fail. Joints, back, digestive system, nerves and muscles or even immune system are vulnerable to the effects of burnout up to and including the brain itself. Literature on the topic combined with personal experience of the syndrome allow me to distinguish two phases of burning out:

  • a slow progression of time where stress almost invisibly grows,
  • a precise moment when one or several organs, very often the brain, stop functioning.

Burnout is literally an exhaustion of resources, physiological as much as psychological, over an extended period of time, which plunges people into such a down that they end up literally unable to use their bodies and minds anymore.

Despite the rational explanation of why stress can settle into one’s life, there exist multiple amplifying causes:

  • loss of meaning in our daily activity — be it professional or personal, as well as a mismatch between our personal values and those in our environment, which feeds the loss of meaning,
  • lack of means or tools to actually do anything about the setup we’re in, powerlessness forced by rigid systems on which we have no influence despite all our efforts,
  • lack of recognition, either from within by lack of a feeling of usefulness or accomplishment, or from our hierarchy and surroundings by lack of financial recognition, visibility or gratitude,
  • repetitive process-driven activities without the possibility to influence said processes and enhance them through our expertise or job experience,
  • impossibility to find a sense of day-to-day progress, due either to repetitive tasks or because of a never ending stream of work where we start from scratch again and again with no possibility to invest in our expertise,
  • feeling of uselessness, either because we’re not given enough work or because we are not trusted, not allowed to have any influence on the way our work is supposed to be done or simply because we are told we’re expendable,
  • difficulty in dealing with unilateral hierarchical dynamics, indisputable orders with no link with the reality of the job,
  • lack of healthy humane relationships or too many toxic ones (manipulation, harassment…),
  • painful mismatch between the situation we find ourselves in and those we would like to be a part of.

I don’t claim this list to be exhaustive. Burning out is such an intimate experience as each person experiences it differently in the deepest recesses of their bodies and lives. There are as many causes as there are cases.

There are however some common features. It is said — mostly by health professionals — that the very people who burn themselves out are committed people, often over-committed, perfectionist workers. I don’t believe in this claim. I believe our society and its current paradigm of work harms everyone regardless of their commitment to what they do, and regardless of their education or job title.

If you aren’t a health professional or are not used to being around people suffering from burnout it can be hard to evaluate how serious a particular case may be. To help with this we have provided some tools, the burnout scale (FR) and the Twelve Signs, which can aid in reviewing symptoms that should get alarm bells ringing. Let’s now go deeper into those signs.


Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

Burning out can cause various physical maladies, some more visible than others and expressed in various degrees. The most serious arises from the increased production of cortisol. Commonly known as the stress hormone, cortisol is present in everyone’s metabolism and is produced in case of stress and immediate danger. It is the chemical source of the famous fight-or-flight response. Muscles are triggered, non-vital organs and functions are slowed (digestion, hair growth etc), and heart rate and blood circulation increase. These are 100% OK in a normal context.

Burnout disrupts this natural process by inducing a sustained over-production of cortisol. Although other sources can temporarily increase the amount of the hormone in our systems, like drinking caffeine or suffering from a lack of sleep, it is the exposure to a daily amount of stress that poses a threat. As Simon Sinek says, cortisol just wants to save your life by triggering your body to escape an immediate threat. But when the threat you fear has an office right next to your desk and walks past your computer screen every hour of every day, the system that was initially designed for your own good becomes your greatest enemy.

Among other consequences, an overdose of cortisol will:

  • slow the production of hair and nails,
  • slow skin and wound healing,
  • increase water retention,
  • increase stomach acidity, slows digestion,
  • adversely affects appetite,
  • increase weight gain,
  • weaken the immune system,
  • inhibit production of oxytocin, the well-being hormone,
  • inhibit calcium absorption and increase the likelihood of osteoporosis,
  • slow growth down in children ; disrupt fetus development during pregnancy.

Cortisol intake and general fatigue also disrupt the regularity of one’s sleep cycle. Night after night a person suffering from burnout will be unable to sleep well, denying them the possibly of an efficient mental and physical recovery and compounding the exhaustion already present. They may be tempted to compensate by increasing coffee and tobacco intake or other substances that keep them awake. Weakened, their body will become increasingly vulnerable to viruses and sickness.

These effects can result in catastrophic consequences:

“It took one of my patients more than three hours to reach his bathroom one morning. His muscles were literally paralysed. Another patient drove to work and ended up hitting a tree without even noticing it. It’s just the body screaming its exhaustion.” — Dr Martie Keryer, health at work practitioner and CFE-CGC national secretary to work and handicap.

When someone is deep in the process of burning out, there is no doubt you will witness physiological changes. Weekends will bring them no rest, they will suddenly gain or lose weight, eat more or eat less and their general standard of health may dramatically decline. The more the stress settles in, the bigger and more severe the consequences on their body, and the longer it will take them to heal.

— How to support? It can be hard to correlate the symptoms, and even bring these to the attention of someone in pain. But they might be visible enough to start a straight-forward conversation and raising the idea of getting medical help from their GP or some time off work. Simply chatting about their symptoms can often bring relief. The Twelve Signs can help kick off a discussion.

Photo by Sylvain Reygaerts on Unsplash

Mental distress is the most pernicious pain because it is invisible. It is easier to start a conversation over a wound or a painful joint. But when the mind is sick, what can you see from the outside? Nothing if you don’t pay close attention. It needs a lot of awareness to link signs of a burnout together, from both people who are sick and those who support them.

Cortisol — again — plays an important role in how burnout impacts mental health:

  • it slows down access to memory and inhibits learning abilities by degrading neurons or affecting their linking,
  • it affects mood and carries with it depression symptoms, psychologic distress and makes us more agressive, cynical, oversensitive,
  • it inhibits mental recovery,
  • it favours anxiety,
  • it inhibits natural production of oxytocin, therefore diminishes empathy skills (which explains unusual agressiveness, impatience and cynism).

Testimonies of people who have burned out (mine included) report that one of the toughest consequence is that our brain slowly becomes unable to deal with tasks that we deemed easy in the past. Long term stress literally damages our brain and makes us unable to work like we used to, even if we were experts. At the highest peak, people burning out can’t even leave their home, sometimes even their bed. I still remember how long it took me before I could open my computer to use a graphic design software again without having a panic attack.

Sometimes, burnout symptoms can look like a depression. Loss of liveliness and vitality, increase of sadness, lack of motivation, mental fatigue, inability to focus… But burnout can’t be summed up as “just another form of depression”. Sometimes depression is part of the burnout syndrome but not always. The two have different mechanisms and different medical treatments. For instance, my GP chose to prescribe anxiolytics that worked wonders on me. On the other hand, Goulven CHAMPENOIS reported that the treatment with antidepressants he was prescribed by his GP didn’t work at all, to the point where it even made him feel worse by supressing functions and ability to feel emotions that were actually useful for his recovery. Burnout is such an unknown and peculiar syndrome that many GPs feel helpless and use the tools they know work for known sicknesses. Again, there are as many variations of the burnout syndrome as people suffering from it, and I am far from being legitimate when it comes to how to approach it with medication. My point is rather to help you approach this syndrome with an open mind.

— How to support? Again, the hard part is to correlate symptoms. Like with pshysical symptoms, you can try to open a conversation around those which show, to help the person realise there’s something wrong going on and that it’s not just a “bad series of months”. It is not normal to suddenly lose mental skills and it is not something that can heal in a blink of an eye.

All those symptoms, both mental and physical, will no doubtedly have an impact on someone’s daily life. Most of the time, things come slowly and you will have trouble noticing it yourself, at least not early enough in the process. A lot of psychological issues can explain why someone sick from burnout cannot acknowledge it. But there are clear signs that something is going on. The further they are burning themselves out, the more they will:

  • go out less, see friends and family less often, sometimes stop seeing them altogether,
  • stop activities that they were keen on (sports, things they usually enjoy doing),
  • eat differently: eat less, eat more, eat quicker, lower food quality,
  • catch any sickness or virus: flu, stomach bugs, sometimes severe illnesses like lung infections or chronic diseases,
  • see body pain increase: back pain, joints, headaches and migraines, etc,
  • stop recovering, see their stamina disappear, look tired all the time, be unable to get efficient rest,
  • change their relationship to time: restless week-ends with no idea what to do but never enough time during the weekdays,
  • work extra hours, spend more time at work, take less days off even if they have some to take,
  • think and talk about work-related topics all the time, evenings and week-ends,
  • show anxiety signs when it’s time to go back to work on Sunday nights or after vacations,
  • become very sensitive, cry often,
  • lose their temper and get angry at things even if they never were before, show some unusual reactions and behaviours,
  • become indrawn, uncommunicative, look for loneliness, avoid talking about any work-related matter, shut down to any offer for support.

It is far from being easy to witness someone’s life degrading over time. On the other side of the mirror, we see things getting worse and we try to warn the person we love, often to no avail. Mainly because it’s hard to grasp what they are experiencing, for us who are not in pain. Trying to understand something we have not experienced and we can’t have access to is a source of pain in itself.

I’d like to think it is easier to develop a feeling of empathy towards them when we have experienced a similar situation. I hope that with the data above, you could have a glimpse of what it can be to suffer from burnout and that it will help you to develop empathy towards the person you are trying to support and the daily and invisible pain she has to go through.


Photo by Farrel Nobel on Unsplash

Listen

There are two ways of “listening” to burnout: you can listen to people who experience it or you can try to listen to it for them.

Some people will open up and speak quite freely about it. It is important to give them your full attention and avoid minimising their pain at all cost. Also, you can be sure they will minimise it themselves, even if they manage to speak out. That’s why you should take every display very seriously: the mere fact they came to you and opened up on such a tough and intimate topic is a sign of great trust and letting go that you have to consider precious. But be careful: sometimes those displays are tiny. Every “I think I need to talk to you” requires an immediate response from you. Don’t leave them unanswered.

Other people in pain won’t be able to express their distress, for millions of reasons that belong to them and them only and that you have to respect no matter what. If someone can’t see what’s going on or conceals their pain because it’s too difficult to face it, it’s up to you to pay attention to that and help them to put a finger on it very softly.

Every utterance of pain must be heard. I recall with much sadness a period during childhood where I was suffering from intense anxiety attacks which had deep effects on my scholarship and my health. My helpless parents got me to see all kindsof doctors and paediatricians, but not a single one could hear my pain. I was even put under a placebo treatment, so they could prove that “I was faking” when I was relentlessly complaining about my painful belly. I still feel very bitter about the way I was treated by this medical community, nevertheless it shows me today how helpless I was when it would come to expressing the mental pain I was experiencing. My body had found a way and turned mental pain into physical pain, such a pain that I wasn’t able to experience a normal child’s life and even feed myself properly.

If you somehow spot someone trying to conceal their pain, if you see their body crying out so loud that symptoms are hard to hide, if you see them unable to make sense of those symptoms, please offer your help to them. It can be as simple as asking them how they feel, if they would like to talk about it. Invite them over for something simple and safe like a coffee, but don’t be offended if they don’t take your offer straight away. Just state that you are here for them and make sure that they understood your will to listen. But don’t ignore their pain.

I vividly remember the feeling of intense loneliness I was experiencing during the last months before totally burning myself out. I was deeply convinced no one could see nor understand what was happening to me even if I dared to speak out. I was convinced that I whatever I did, I would never see a way out. My partner described the same feeling: every morning when waking up, he had to confront himself to the unbearable, going to work and see all those people who looked like they were able to work and not him. There’s such a loneliness, such a distress that it creates a wall that separates you from the “real world” and that becomes very hard to climb. When you’re experiencing such a distress, it’s hard to hear anyone telling you that they “understand what you feel”. Who could understand? Who could ever imagine the daily, sustained pain we’re going through? Keep in mind that sometimes, people have been feeling isolated for months without break. Try to imagine how hard it is to extract yourself from this isolation that has slowly become your daily burden, even if you’re invited to.

Listen to someone’s pain, hear the symptoms and disorders is a massive first step. Now let’s get to the real listening. To truly be able to hear what’s going on, I invite you to reflect on yourself to avoid a dangerous trap: judgment.

Society does not always make us happy people and we can very often feel tired and irritated by work and daily life, not to the point of burning out though. Patience is precious but it can also erode quickly, to the point where your sole reaction towards someone who feels down would be “Gosh, she’s really getting on my nerves lately, if she’s THAT tired she should just go on holidays!”. It is way too easy and quick to tip over and get judgmental when you’re in good health. Easier even to judge one’s work conditions and the pressure of work. “If she hates her boss so much, she should quit and find a new job!”

What you perceive of a situation is rarely all of it. Try to train yourself to remain as open minded as you can and ask yourself the right questions. Maybe she has reasons I don’t know to work extra hours. Maybe she’s agressive because she simply had too much and can’t find anymore inner resource to deal with her day. And maybe this has nothing to do with you.

There’s always another reason behind the one you can see and it’s your duty to stay open to it.

The “real” reason might be that someone is agressive because she feels that she’s been treated unfairly, or just because she’s utterly exhausted and she can’t express any of those. The “real” reason might be that someone feels some insidious pressure invisible to anyone but her, it might be an impossible deadline, an upcoming meeting that creates a lot of unsaid stress… “Go figure!”, we might say because we’re slightly annoyed. Well that’s the point, we don’t have to be annoyed about something that is not targeted against you and that we are even not the source of. Don’t take anything personally.

It looks simple said like this, but I know that nothing is that simple when you have to deal daily with someone burning out. Tiny things that would usually be solved in a snap of a finger can become gigantic hurdles when you’ve been exhausted for months. And when you’re exhausted, your empathy goes up in smoke, making it difficult to relate to what everybody’s feeling. Less empathy means more bitter remarks and less patience too. My little trick learned over the years is this: I tried to train myself to “note” conflicting emotions growing inside me. I take note of them, and without trying to suppress them at all, I try my best to step away from them for a brief moment, avoiding to let them take over my speech in the conversation. It’s then easier to tell the person I’m talking to that I want to avoid becoming clumsy or hurtful and that if she agrees, I’d rather step away from the topic or the conversation for now, for the sake of us both. Of course, there’s no magic trick. Sometimes, it just won’t work and I get trapped in them. It can take weeks or months to getting used to identify and step back from strong emotions in a conversation without suppressing them. If you want to know more about this technique, I learned it thanks to the Headspace meditation method.

And if you want to walk further down the path of introspection and fight against judgment, this post listing popular misconceptions about burnout (FR — EN version coming soon) can help.


Photo by Jenn Evelyn-Ann on Unsplash

Act

Do we actually have a role in someone else’s burnout? This question sounds legitimate, for burnout is more than a syndrome. It is an incredibly intimate experience which affects people in such a profound way which is hard to understand. It often took months, sometimes years of silence before many people who proudly dared to post their testimony in our community could actually put their experience into words. So what space is left for us, people who offer their support?

What role can we play in helping the person we care for to gain awareness of the severity of their sickness? What role can we play in their recovery? Is there anything left to do when we objectively can’t see anything that might help?

When one member of a couple is burning out, it can lead to intricate tensions. Sadly, I could witness a number of persons who saw their familial relationships crumble before their eyes. It is not rare that burnout throws a heavy toll on relationships, and in this context, the relationship itself can sometimes become a source of additional stress.

What if your distressed partner leaves?What if you yourself think of giving the relationship up out of powerlessness? There is no answer to those questions. Relationships and situations are unique, intimate. It can happen that the sick partner needs to isolate or leave for a while, in a move towards self preservation. If they open up to you in this way, it may be a healthy move to access this need, even if the thought of them leaving hurts you deeply. Let me emphasise again the profound wound that burnout is. It may happen that your partner has lost any self confidence over the months. It may happen that they have lost all hope in any kind of future or have unearthed deep, untold pains which they desperately want to protect you or your children from, for instance. Anyone aware of themselves burning out might be terrified of damaging their own family. We could digress on the many reasons that someone sick would expose to justify the need to leave or take a little bit of distance. There is one extremely important thing to take care of though, the ability you will have to create a benevolent environment, safe enough that your partner feels free to express their concerns without fear of being judged. After all, you are the person who benefits from the most, even if tiny distance to be able to reflect on this kind of need for isolation.

I remember having read a poignant testimony of a dad who was not able anymore to contain his pain so that it does not affect his wife and kids. He was of a discreet nature which forbid him to express his pain. His high potential daughter was asking for constant attention and the poor thing could not have understood the pain her dad was into even if she was ever told. The dad’s distress was immense. These kinds of situations require that the family is strong enough to listen and support their sick member, also providing him a bit of relief, which is often very difficult. As a helper, it’s also important that you learn to ask for help if you feel you are not fit enough to support your partner and family.

The last few months, I could do nothing but witness my partner’s fall. I could see his pain and how he would hide himself behind a silence that I wasn’t able to deal with. I could see in him all the signs that I would myself refuse to see when I was sick. For 8 endless months, I recklessly tried to make him aware of those signs, to no avail. I had all the cards in hand: experience, empathy, resources and readings, tools and visualisations which already helped so many people before. By trying too hard to help, I was exhausting myself along trying to climb my own helplessness wall.

Here lies all the irony: whatever help we try to bring, someone’s recovery can only come from themselves.

My partner came to me one day, and unexpectedly told me he decided to take a 3 month sabbatical to follow me to France. He decided on his own that he needed some distance with his job. Of course I had suggested this idea before, to which he had responded with a list of counter-arguments motivated by his fear. On the very day I stopped “fighting” against him that he could step back and take this decision by himself.

We have no possibility nor right to influence how fast someone can heal. Trying hard to push them towards recovery can only bring more friction and frustration on both sides, leverage conflicts and misunderstandings. If all your attempts to help only harvest hostility and a bigger resistance, maybe it is time for you to step back and let go.

Sometimes, our loved ones just need someone saying something a different way, a TED talk or a blog post and they suddenly realise something you told them a hundred times before. This is oh so frustrating. But you might as well know that it sometimes takes a long time before we are ready to hear or see something. Same for all the books and tools, same for this psychatrist’s phone number. It took me two years before I could call one that a friend had recommended to me. Two years to gather the strength, to find the right time. Maybe the person you are supporting will need the same two years. It is hard, but it is our duty to accept it.

If you have burned yourself out before, you could unwillingly try to make your loved one’s sickness yours. It is indeed easier to deal with burnout if you are experimented. During my partner’s descent, I fell into this trap and tried to transfer his burnout onto me. I then had to step back many times again to remind myself that all that I could do for him was being there. And that it already meant a lot for him.

Very often, the more we can do is to learn to be supportive, loving and welcoming beings, offering what all burning out people need: a stable shoulder they can rely on, a judgment-free environment where they would be able to experience a little relief, without bathing into self-pity.

There are words that we sometimes spend our lives waiting for: “I am here for you whatever happens. Even if you refuse my help for the moment, just know that I will not turn my back on you. I accept your emotions and reactions even if they are negative and I will not take them for me. I believe in you, you are important to me and whatever choice you make, I will support you even if I disagree”. You could be the person who utters them at last, and you don’t know the intense relief they bring.

Hospitals and medical facilities often offer specialised psychological support to people supporting someone with cancer, for instance. We are not used to deal with such trauma a sick person deals with and how it affects their life and ours. Dealing with uncomfortable and painful emotions is not always innate, especially on the long run.

If you feel isolated towards your loved one’s sickness, you are entitled to help. It can be as simple as calling a friend and telling them you need to be listened to, having someone recommend a psychologist / psychiatrist, or just going to see your GP. If you want to support your partner or friend, you too need some relief, don’t neglect it.

  • The burnout scale and the Twelve Signs of Burnout are two tools that can help you start a conversation with someone stuck in denial. With their help, you can point out topics and pain points in a more objective way.
  • A lot of resources we have right now are in French. If you know any similar tool written in English, please leave a comment and/or contact us. Thanks!

Conclusion

There is a life before and a life after burnout, a lot of people who underwent such sickness often confirm. The before is packed with extra hours, silent suffering, limits pushed beyond anything we have known. The after comes very slowly and insidiously, and the wounds it leaves are sometimes so deep that we don’t know how long they will need to heal. The after can affect body and mind so much that we will never fully recover. Two years after my last burnout, I still notice huge changes, positive and negative. I am clear sighted and serene as ever when it comes to my intention in life, but I still mourn a lot of cognitive abilities I lost (focus, mental endurance…). I am not the same anymore, and I will never be again. There is a part of me that died with burnout, and a new facet was born in parallel. I am sure a lot of burnout survivors can confirm.

The biggest hurdle for people who offer support, at any stage of the sickness, is mourning. Sometimes we mourn temporarily, just the time for the person we love to be back to who they were. Sometimes the person we had known has become someone almost entirely different. Burnout harms body and mind deeply. It puts into question our deepest values and can litterally destroy our bodies. It is very likely that the person you love and appreciate will not recover who she was in certain aspects of her personality or the way she now has to lead her life. Regardless of all the support you can bring her. Sometimes, it is for the worst, sometimes for the best, at least for her.

Time is the essential ingredient and the one sick people lack the most. Our health system (at least in France) is far from being the worst, but a lot of long-time illnesses like burnout lack a proper acknowledgment. It took me 6 months to recover a sufficient physical health to be able to think about work again, and another 6 months more to recover my mental abilities. The Professional Occupational Health organisation had to force my company to fire me, and I was told I could not work there anymore. I had the luck that this contract termination, after almost 10 years of active life, granted me a little revenue so that I could spend a few additional months to take care of my health without fear of not being able to buy food or losing my rights to rent a home. How many people can say they have been that lucky? How many of them can’t afford to take a few months off to care for their health? How many will accept a few days or weeks of sick leave and get back to work too early, too hard, in the same toxic company or environment because they can’t afford to resign? If you are able to help them get a few days off, a few weeks or months of tranquility where they can have a little rest far away from the place that harms them, if you can give them even one hour where you will listen to them, please do it. Offer them relief time. If you don’t have time but a little money, why not financing a few sessions with a psychologist or a mental health counselor for them?

Give them time. Give the sick person some time and give yourself some slack too. Everyone will experience a different route, everyone needs to walk at their own pace to find solutions to their pain. Fear and stress will be your biggest ennemies and will make your task tougher. Fight them by leaving people the time to face them, and remain benevolent.

Burnout is an intimate experience. We can’t heal people like magic. Often there’s nothing we can say or do that will relieve them. If you ask me, that is the most frustrating aspect of the experience as a supporter: the powerlessness we have to face.

I drew my own resources in the strong belief that my partner would eventually be better, at his own pace, and that every hard time ends at some point. I also took into account the fact that his burnout could deeply affect our relationship, even put it at risk. Of course it was not easy, but I learned to live with this possibility. Because I was convinced that in the end, if we had to part if was for his best.

I wish you all the courage and benevolence you need to help the person you are supporting. We opened a safe space for testimony, please feel free to contribute as a helper. Please know that every testimony, every story told could help someone around you who will find in your words the relief they need, and this invaluable feeling of not being alone. I hope that my essays contribute to making a little progress over fear and pain in this world. All questions and suggestions are welcome below!

Burnout: let’s reignite the flame

A safe space for testimony, discussions and help about burnout.

Marie-Cécile Godwin Paccard

Written by

UX Designer, facilitator, speaker. Let's talk about inclusive design, society, ethics, collapse and burnout - author on @guerirleburnout @commonfutures #FR #EN

Burnout: let’s reignite the flame

A safe space for testimony, discussions and help about burnout.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade