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The Interdisciplinary Work of Lyss England

Posts tagged burnout

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Give yourself time
even when your people are
impatient.

When they’re used to you either
saving the day
or falling apart
(appearances only)
those are the times,
4am,
waking like you just
ran some sort of marathon,
when you hold yourself
and you reach out
still breathing hard,
to do everything you ever dreamed of

not to prove them wrong
but because it’s your
still-ugly truth.

 

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I feel burnt out. Maybe it’s the time of year (it’s fall, things are dying and the ever-changing air pressure is torturous for a person, like myself, living with fibromyalgia). Maybe it’s just the eb of the flow that is my mental health. Maybe it’s because of capitalism.

Yeah, that’s probably the one.

I’ve read a lot about how your worth is not determined by your level of productivity, but I’ve also always struggled with that as a kid who grew up in a household where productivity was number one. I grew up, like many others, believing that the Road to Success was to do well in school, go to university, get a degree, and work 40 hours/week. However, like many other millennials, I have found that, since graduating with my undergrad, I am lucky to get a job even remotely related to my field, let alone those nine-to-five hours I’ve always dreamt of. Going to grad school is an option (and, it seems, the only option if I want to work in the ‘helping industry’), but it’s an expensive option that dictates where my little family and I will live and work. Simply taking the amount of time off of my day job to complete and submit grad school applications is time-consuming (and expensive) enough, let alone actually attending grad school.

Anyway, the aspirations I had for my career in social work are fading, and I find myself, a person who has always focused on school/career/building a resume, a little lost.

I define my Self as an artist/activist. I am an interdisciplinary artist who paints abstract expressionist paintings and performs and, at times, holds a vision for various pieces of work. I am a writer (allegedly) who exposes pieces of myself for the sake of radical vulnerability (like I am now). Because I am an artist who believes that the most important part of art is the process, and that there is not beautiful and more meaningful process than that of the Self. I am an activist who strives for caring communities and healing and restorative justice.

But I have never believed that my art and/or my activism would be able to support me. And if I am not supporting myself, I find that I do not value myself. This is obviously problematic and rooted largely in trauma. Some personal trauma, and some trauma that reaches society-wide. For all the times that I have encouraged the people in my life to take some time to take care of themselves, I kind of suck at it.

Maybe that’s not fair to say. In some ways, I take good care of myself. I have learned that the key to managing my disabilities is to be intentional with the things I eat, the things I do, the amount I sleep, the way I do the things I do. It’s kind of hard to live by the seat of my pants. I promised myself that for the month of September I would prioritize having fun and doing the things I wanted to do rather than work or other things I felt like I ought to do. It was awesome, but It took me three weeks to recover physically. My body went into fibroshock mode and I was more or less useless for a while.

Now I’m trying to focus on creating art rather than my day job- which is  harder said than done. A significant portion of making art is, after all, drinking too much coffee and waiting for inspiration to strike. And there I face a paradigm: do I prioritize doing things that inspire me but also physically ruin me, or do I prioritize my Real Work and find that I am too self-deprecating to create anything at all.

I had high hopes that this time in my life would be dedicated to entering every open door to feel out where I fit in this world. Instead, I am finding that there are a lot of brick walls that don’t budge, no matter how hard I work to move them (or even climb them). Between my disabilities and my politics, it seems as though I am not a very “good fit” for much of anywhere, and between my obsession with productivity and my passion for exerting mass amounts of emotional labour that I don’t have the spoons for, I don’t feel like I make a very good artist/activist either.

And it comes back to capitalism. Measuring self-worth by my productivity, and also reconciling the fact that I need to make money in order to eat and live reasonably with the fact that the majority of the work I do (both professionally and personally, come to think of it) is emotional labour- feminized work that is not valued enough to compensate the person engaging in that labour.

I love taking care of my friends and community members, but this is a truly laborious process that I put a lot of time, effort, and skills into. It’s something that I attempt to fuze into both my art, and my activism. I know that I will have many opportunities to further my career/Work/whatever, and I know that I will not feel like this forever.

But in this moment, I feel burnt out. And I know I’m not the only one.