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How Burnout Impacts People With Depression

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Burnout can happen to anybody. We live in a culture that is constantly go, go, go and sometimes we forget to pause and just breathe. I am no different. I work two jobs and am a full time doctorate student and often, trying to take care of myself gets pushed to the back burner. I put my students before me, my friends before me, my dogs before, and then it’s me. My job is taxing – working with students provides unique challenges that not everybody can understand.

Not only am I their biology teacher, I am their mentor, counselor, shoulder to lean on and much more. Students confess to me their struggles and while I am honored they trust me, it can take a toll. Not only do I take on the emotional burden of my students, I take on their traumas and life experiences as it relates to their performance in my class. What I mean is that their academic life may take the back burner to other traumas in their lives and as an educator, I feel responsible to make sure I accommodate for each student and their unique situation. Do I have to? Maybe not, but as an educator who is passionate about educating the entire student, not just their scientific brain, I care. In addition to the emotional side of my job, I prepare content and deliver content, take on administrative duties such as documenting parent contacts, tracking grades and assessment data, as well as serving on numerous committees on campus.

This is just for my main job as a high school educator. I can’t even think about my job as an adjunct faculty member and a doctorate student, as just teaching at my high school job is taxing. It has led me to experience burnout several times this semester already, where I break down, I cry uncontrollably, and I relapsed. In general, burnout happens when an individual experiences excessive and prolonged periods of stress. Burnout starts with the feeling of being overwhelmed, of being emotionally drained at all times, and of being unable to meet the constant demands thrown at you. The continuation of burnout leads you to lose interest and motivation in what you started, such as your job, a project or a new adventure.

My burnout leads me to feel that I am inadequate as a teacher, as a friend, daughter, sister, dog mom and human. I feel like I am not enough, that I am a failure of an educator and that I am letting everybody in my life down. For me, when I experience burnout, I question my motivation to go into the teaching profession in the first place. When I experience burnout, my depression starts to question all my accomplishments, my degrees and awards and recognitions, and the future goals that I have for myself and my career. As I fall into burnout, my depression tells me I am not enough, that I am weak and inadequate, undeserving of my degrees and awards and that I am a disappointment.

This semester alone, there have been moments where I find myself crying in my classroom during my break. The tears come because I am exhausted and I have kept my emotions pent up because I want to be strong. The tears come because I am burnt out and cannot control my emotions. I want to be strong for my colleagues and students and yet at times, I cannot. My emotions are out of my control. My depression tells me that because I am crying (due to not being able to manage my emotions since I am emotionally drained from burnout), I am weak. Then, when I feel moments of weakness, I confess to my students that I am a failure, that I am letting them down and not doing enough for them. I show this weakness and vulnerability and that leads to being ridiculed and judged. I hear these comments and then my depression tells me that see, even others see you are weak, you are undeserving. It’s an endless cycle. Its hard to not feel like I am a failure when I am empty and still trying to go 100 mph.

When I experience burnout, my depression rears its ugly head. It tells me that I am weak, that I am deserving of punishment. When I reach a point of burnout, instead of taking the much needed day off to rest and recuperate, I push through this needed day off and then go home to mounds of work, an unclear mind, and ultimately a relapse.

Burnout manifests itself in a variety of ways. For me, it is in the form of hopelessness, not being enough, and being the biggest letdown on this universe. I am learning to be better about preventing burnout but being human, being a perfectionist, and being somebody with depression that tells me I will never be enough, it takes time. Slowly, at a snails pace, we will learn to listen to our truth and not our diagnoses.

Getty image by d3sign

Originally published: December 10, 2021
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