Mama has a burnout: ‘I had ended up in a life that slurped me empty’

“I work hard, I have a toddler and a husband and I am the buddy of a mentally handicapped woman. Of course I am sometimes tired, but I also feel satisfied. Three years ago I just needed a burnout to learn how to keep things in balance. ” Adriane (38) is the prototype for a burnout, she says afterwards.

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In between expressing

‘I’m a perfectionist. Always afraid to disappoint people. I worked as a manager until four weeks before my delivery, and six weeks after the birth of my child I was already chairing meetings. In the lunch break, between expressing and a salad, I took half an hour to the gym to get back in shape as quickly as possible. I took in my mother-in-law who was recovering from hip surgery and assisted a depressed friend.

For my daughter’s first birthday, I crafted a train of raisin boxes, but when I looked at the final result at 2:30 AM and thought about the next morning’s meeting, I started to cry. That night I did not fall asleep. Not the night after, and not many nights after that. I couldn’t eat anymore, had a head full of cotton wool and couldn’t remember anything. “This is no longer going on,” my husband said one morning, calling me in sick. Only then did I really collapse: burned out.

I felt like I sat on the couch for months without a shower, but eventually I was back at work after more than six months. Thanks to a coach who taught me to keep my perfectionism under control. Distinguishing main issues from side issues and no longer putting energy into things that do not give me energy. That cost me a few friendships. I can be kind to myself, I now know, and saying no is also an option. Without being followed by a ‘sorry’. That is why I no longer work fifty hours a week, and after a broken night I go to work a little later. ”


Fourteen percent of employees have to deal with burnout complaints every year, reports the Central Bureau of Statistics, including more women (56%) than men (44%). On average, they are roughly six months out of circulation. The cause: too much stress, both at home and at work. Anyway, everyone has a period in which things go less well. How do you know that you are burned out and not just suffering from a big dip?

It was very clear to Adriane: ‘I was completely exhausted. Both my head and my body stopped functioning. I thought I was going crazy. ‘

‘It has a cathartic effect’

For Evelien (40) her burnout was already five years ago, but she is still not really over it. “It has a cathartic effect, they say, but for me the days are occasionally still black. I don’t really know if I am completely healed. During my college days I already had periods when everything was too much for me. I thought it was because of my father’s death just before I went to college. And that maybe some things emerged from my quite complicated childhood.

Besides, student life did not suit me. I took that study because my parents expected it from me and because my environment admired me for it. I put pressure and expectations on myself, when I actually wanted something different. ” Things went better when she graduated and started working full-time, but six years ago Evelien got down again. “After eight years of marriage, I got divorced. I moved to a new home with my daughters. A war of attrition. The years before I had been in a relationship that made me very unhappy. My sole proprietorship was loss-making from day one.

Wrong choice

I felt inadequate on all sides; my life seemed like one big wrong choice. My ex completely failed, financially and when it comes to caring for the children. One morning I woke up sobbing – for the next several weeks I couldn’t stop crying. ” Evelien’s doctor diagnosed a burn-out and prescribed a sedative. “It didn’t help at all. On my daughter’s seventh birthday, I didn’t cry, but I was asleep in the bowling alley. My battery just wouldn’t charge. In fact, I only descended deeper into the abyss and could no longer enjoy anything. ”

Automatic pilot

A year later she decided to switch to antidepressants. She has been taking it for four years now. “That works a little better. The sharp edges are off, but I still don’t feel fit and happy. I am on autopilot and I am chronically tired. I now work as an employee, which makes it easier for me financially. And I talk to a psychologist, but that gives me more relief than it really gives me new insights. Great for now – I can’t keep nagging my friends. Running is good for me. At those moments my head is really empty, but once at home the knot in my stomach is just as big as before. ”

She has learned from her burnout. “I realize that I have to learn to adjust my expectations: it is impossible to raise two children on your own, to be a helper at school, to run my own business, to be a sparkling friend and to live happily ever after with a new love that I also have to find for a while. One step at a time, choosing for myself, and learning that okay is pretty good enough. ”

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Turn the lights out

Olga (36) did not feel excessively stressed or unhappy, she never called in sick and yet two years ago the light suddenly went out. “It was an ordinary morning. Husband and kids had just left home, I still had half an hour to get ready for work. I looked at the sprinkles on the table, the plates of half-eaten sandwiches and sticky cups of orange juice, and suddenly I couldn’t go on anymore. I couldn’t bring myself to get up and throw it in the dishwasher. To take a shower. Let alone go to work. Even sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee was impossible. I just sat on that kitchen stool and didn’t move a bit. ”

Zombie at the breakfast table

I called in sick and dragged myself through the days. Sat like a zombie at the breakfast table and let the kids make their own sandwiches. I didn’t shower, walked around in sweatpants and knocked back a vodka gravy before the kids got out of school. Shopping was unthinkable. The idea was already too much for me; actually drive to the supermarket and also trudge through an impregnable hurdle with a cart. I was crying at the thought of the hunt for organic gammon. ”


A burn-out, the doctor noted, when she paid him a visit three weeks later. “I told her about the past eight years. About my two very tough births and my marriage that was in crisis. About my job in which I felt undervalued and which caused me a lot of stress. And the children, whom I took care of all by myself, because my husband always worked. And for whom I actually couldn’t be a nice mother for a long time. As soon as they got out of school, I counted the hours until they went to bed. I had chronic sinus inflammation and back pain. The doctor gave me a psychologist’s phone number and said, “If that doesn’t work in a few weeks, I suggest you consider antidepressants.”

No way, I thought. This happened to me for a reason, my burnout was a distress signal. I wasn’t depressed, I was exhausted. I had ended up in a life that gulped me down. Something had to change. This was a wake-up call. ” Olga’s conversations with the psychologist were of no use. “I had a good overview of what was lacking in my life, and how it could be done differently – I just didn’t know where to get the energy from.

“I can’t offer you more tools than you already have,” said the psychologist, and she advised me to take time and give myself some rest. Not obliged to do fun things, but just listen to my body. But then again, I didn’t find that peace – even if I lay on the sofa all day long in pajamas. Everything wobbled – my marriage, my job, my health. And then I also felt like a mother of nothing. ”

The difference

A friend pointed Olga to energetic therapy. “Had worked wonders for her,” she said. After each session she felt relieved from the stress that people and situations caused her. What a fuzzy stuff, I thought, but since I didn’t have a better plan, I decided to give it a shot. After the first session I already felt lighter. The therapist taught me the difference between my own emotions and those of others. That I am responsible for what I let in.

A difficult man? I could kick him out, blame him for the rest of my life, or make something of the relationship. I taught arguing children to fight things out myself, I let go of people who sucked me out. Step by step I climbed out of my valley. One day I cycled to work, determined that I wanted a different position. And damn: I got that. Every day the sun started to shine more. And after two years I could honestly say that I was out. My burnout has made me wiser. I have not changed, I have only changed my attitude to life. ”

This article has previously appeared in Kek Mama.

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