Burn out – mental illness?

February 2, 2007

During my current bout of work avoidance, I’ve been doing some reading on burn out, and thinking about how I’m feeling, I can’t help but notice the similarities between the way I describe my feelings, and the way my wife described how she felt with clinical depression.

Helpless.

Listless.

Want to curl up in a ball and hide.

Detached, like it’s a dream.

The difference is that my wife felt these all the time. I only feel it when I think about having to do work. I can switch off the computer, and go outside, or play with my son, and life feels wonderful. Sit at my desk though, and try to start work, it’s like hitting a brick wall.

It’s almost like my brain is overcompensating on the work/life balance thing.

Stupid, stupid brain. Why can’t you snap out of this?

Maybe the same reason my wife couldn’t just “stop feeling sorry for herself” as many people seemed to think she should do.

The difference I can see however between clinical depression and what I’m feeling is that this is situational – it can’t be a biochemical imbalance, otherwise surely I’d feel this way all the time?

Wikipedia says

researchers disagree about the nature of burnout. While many researchers argue that burnout refers exclusively to a work-related syndrome of exhaustion and depersonalization/cynicism, others feel that burnout is a special case of the more general
clinical depression
or just a form of extreme fatigue/exhaustion

No way am I suffering from fatigue/exhaustion, I just had 2 weeks off for christmas/new year’s and 2 4-day weekends away. I’m rested and feeling far from fatigued. So scratch that one.

Cynicism? CHECK. Got that one in spades… but then I always have to some degree. Depersonalisation? Well yeah, if you mean work feels kinda surreal. Definitely “diminished interest” in any case.

And above all else, it’s work related. I’d probably feel it less if I didn’t work from home, but I think I do a good job of keeping the two separate (as much as you can with a 6 month old to look after).

But still, there’s more I can think of in relation to work that sounds like depression:

Guilt.

Anxiety.

Aggression.

It’s not that I hate myself and want to die, it’s just that I can’t keep going like this, I need to either fix the problem, or… change something. Jobs, careers, I don’t know what yet.

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