I recently took a work placement test that examines your personality and identifies potential challenges that might occur on the job because of your personality and how you view life and work. 

“While Oreoluwa’s high drive for achievement may have led too many successes, they may be particularly uncomfortable with potential failure. This discomfort may drive them to overwork themselves or be overly perfectionistic at times, leaving them vulnerable to burnout.”

The extract above is from my result. I read this back to my friend, and she laughed at the accuracy of the statement.

Here is the thing, I suffered burnout for the first time at the start of 2019. I was tired, my mind was foggy and I became easily irritable; these were the first symptoms I experienced. I chucked it up to stress and promised myself that I would eventually find time to rest. 

What followed quickly is something I like to call ‘energy outages’: I’d be out of breath, then my legs would give way and I would have to sit still for about 30 – 45 minutes before I’d be able to get up or do anything again. 

On my lowest day, I called my mum to pick me from work because I couldn’t will myself to get up, and there was no way I could make the drive home. She came, drove me to my Uncle Niyi’s workshop, and they both took me to the hospital. 

The doctor ordered many tests. I spent the next two days getting pricked and probed; none of the tests gave definite answers to all my symptoms. The only clear thing was that my immune system was compromised, but ‘why’ remained the mystery question. After the doctor asked questions about my lifestyle, he declared I was stressed, and stress had compromised my immune system. 

It all felt bizarre to me. My body was simply giving up on me.

The course of treatment was two weeks of bed rest, drugs I was supposed to take every day for three months. However, because I was underweight, my doses were halved, and a three-month adult dose became a six-month regime for me. 

________ 

Your body heals, treating it is easy: you feed it right, exercise and rest; it is happy and on the mend. 

But your mind is another story, and I started to question myself. If I couldn’t take care of my body, then what could I care for? I questioned purpose. I wondered how and why I became this person, ‘a perfectionist’, afraid of failure.’

I didn’t find answers to all my questions. 

By the end of 2020, I was back where I was at the start of 2019, but I’d like to pat myself on the back because I spotted the signs early. I identified that it was within my capacity to take myself out of situations that encouraged and rewarded me for overworking myself. 

I outlined the following steps for myself:

Learn to rest: I find that I can’t shut my mind off from thinking about what I should be doing either for work or a personal project. When I take time off to rest, I beat myself up because I believe I should be doing something productive instead.

Understand why I approach work the way I do: By June of 2019, I was feeling better, and I promised myself that I wouldn’t let myself go again, but I let myself down. I realised that I couldn’t figure out why I am the way I am about working. I needed someone to help me understand myself and give me healthy tools for handling work better. 

______

The result from the test showed me my approach to work is still flawed, and there is still work to be done, things to unlearn, new habits to pick up, and the journey ahead of me is a long one but one I am committed to going on it. 

So, if you made it to the end, here are two questions:

1. Have you ever suffered burnout? 

2. Does your work bring you joy?