In a four-part series, Georgie Bradley chronicles her experience of burnout, from depression to disordered eating to taking a sabbatical. Read the fourth part, here.
Like an in-patient released back into the wilds of the world, my return to Dubai was a splash of ice-cold water to the skin. That world I had left behind was still a vortex on ‘spin mode: 10’, and there was me, retinas ringing, gingerly inching through it, avoiding its gusty suction.
I knew the real work on recovering from burnout would start where it all began. Greece was everything I needed it to be. The realness of its people, food, and air soothed me like a warm compress to the forehead. But in the darker recesses of my mind, I knew the hamster wheel of stressors wouldn’t have waned by the time I got back.
I knew the real work on recovering from burnout would start where it all began.
Two months off is a steal of time – pretty much gone unnoticed. But when you’ve ejected yourself – full body and mind – from life as you know it, you come back to life as you want it. Because the faster we run, the greater the need to slow down and embrace the zeitgeisty delight of replenishment, saying no, and putting parameters in place.
Now, several months later, I’ve taken the risk of operating as the multi-hyphenate I’ve always wanted to be – spreading myself across many verticals but under my own watch. I’m still thrown off my axis on the regular, because there is never a finish line on adversity; it’s as inevitable as death and taxes. However, the lag time between incident and restoration gets shorter and shorter with a sharper set of coping tools.
I now see the things that once held me in a false-positive prison with a more focused view. Like the fact that social media pornifies the idea of success – it’s foisted upon us in pseudo-shiny squares, hyping us up to feel like we could be doing more, wanting more, and being more, making it sometimes difficult to distinguish what is important from what is not.
If I can seal our unfettered one-upmanship of each other with a promising platitude: We all have different timelines. You do you, because comparison is the thief of joy.
I also know now that I do not owe skinny to anyone. Pushing through hunger pangs does not make me work harder or more efficiently. My eating disorder left me in hideous debt of self-love and respect, but I am slowly building up my credit score and spending it on myself. I am also changing the direction of the conversation I have with my friends away from diets, food, and the body.
I’ve learnt that a broken person is an open person. I’ve been united with an assortment of strangers and friends far and wide – forums, Instagram DMs, workshops – in a tidal wave of mutual need, a need to dislodge feelings from the lowest rungs of ourselves that is so pure that skepticism is parked way outside. Transparency isn’t as rare as you’d think.
People who need help often look a lot like people who don’t need help.
But there’s really not much parity between physical and mental health. We are mental as much as we are physical. Yet the language and narrative around it is confessional. My hope is that our collective outrage that burnout (and all mental health conditions) is treated differently to other health conditions will slap and shake the system. People who need help often look a lot like people who don’t need help. Just asking is our universal screening tool.
The median outcome of now having some rip-roaringly good days followed by hallowed duvet days is that I’m doing much better. It’s never linear – each person’s journey to recovery is as unique as a fingerprint. But I’d like to get to a point where I can wear life like an oversized dress – not take it too seriously and give myself space to breathe. It’s me and seven billion other people. Relax, dear girl.
Follow Georgie’s journey on Instagram, here.