My Battles With Burnout

The hold on me seems to be tightening,
the hold of work.
The more the hold tightens,
the more I let myself give in.
I let my sleep get away,
I let my hunger disappear.

My life ethic got me accolades.
The co-workers all told me I work too much
and ask how I do it.
My supervisor is impressed.

The life ethic that has only work in it;
wherein sleeps comes at a stretch of a few hours at most.
My appetite is only about minimum needs.
Social life? I can’t even remember having that,
and phone calls with Maa have become shorter.
Well, I can’t tell her something hurts.

Now, something hurts me at random times of the day.
Tears suddenly want to pour out when I am working,
when I am talking to my supervisor,
when I am alone.
But I do not know what is that something that hurts.

My work today was not up to the mark.
I can’t think much,
I feel like the gravity is pulling me down,
with puddles of tears forming around me.
More hours awake are what I need.
More coffee is what I need.
and some food,
and I will be back.

I am not back.
I feel like a shadow of someone or something.
The work is there
so are other things–
I’m not sure where I am.

I do recognise one emotion.
It’s all I feel–
Desperation to feel something,
something which doesn’t have tears,
something which makes me something else than what I am.
Something which does not make me cry in front of all
and something which gave me strength to ask for help and leaves.

The strength was hard to keep,
it was like a thin lining
to make sense of what help I needed.
I asked others for advice;
some told me take a vacation
others told me to have a drink
and yet others told me to take it easy.
They did not seem to understand my needs and desperation!

One suggested going to therapy.
The help from therapy did work
and so did some time off–
I feel privileged to be able to afford both.
Though people around still don’t understand my needs–
they raise their eyebrows at me.

I have been doing my best,
to heal myself.
It has been months, and I am still healing.
I do not understand how I could do this to myself–
how could I put myself in such a state?

It has been a year.
I am better and getting better
though the healing still feels slow at times.
I am trying to be better for myself
as I still think and fear the burnout I had
and I cannot have it again.

Megha Poonia is a PhD scholar.

Featured image credit: Blauth B./Pixabay