A burn-out case

A burn-out case

As a former commercial pilot I was used to relying on my mental and physical health. Having worked for decades as a Senior consultant and trainer it was normal for me to be a high achiever and making tight deadlines.

However, in 2006 I realised I had lost the energy to do the acquisition essential for me to maintain my work as an entrepreneur. My marriage was draining me and I escaped from it all by doing a lot of voluntary work in the community. But I felt miserable and depleted all the same.

I decided to divorce my wife and moved out of the house after years of denial. Then one day, I found myself alone in a vacation home, drinking cocoa and gazing out the window at rabbits hopping about in the field outside and I could no longer function as I used to.

I finished my last project and stopped the training and consultancy business I had started ten years earlier. I needed some peace and financial security so a few months later I started a job as Senior Human Resource Management consultant. Things were looking up. New challenges, a good income and a new girlfriend in the mix.

But then, in 2008, the economic crisis hit. As if that wasn’t bad enough,  I had a car-accident in June that same year resulting in back pains and whiplash symptoms. I was still working as a consultant but a year later my contract was not renewed. I had tried to work as hard as I could to prove my usefulness, but it was just not enough.

Not wanting to go on Welfare, I took the offer to work in telemarketing but this work was very draining and poorly paid.

I became increasingly tired and none of the issues in my life were being resolved. On the contrary, problems seemed to be only mounting. I had always been a calm person but now I had a short fuse and lost my temper with people who were supposed to help me but didn’t. Asking for help had always been hard for me; I was the one who helped others. Daily headaches were I thought caused by high blood pressure and I also suffered from forgetfulness even though I had always prided myself on my great memory. I felt as if I was losing myself.

I went to medical specialists for insights and they subjected me to a series of tests and scans but nothing was found. In fact , they told me I had an excellent working memory and made me feel as if I was just faking things. I could not believe their conclusions. My forgetfulness was a daily cause of stress.

A few years later, a new 24-hour blood pressure test suddenly showed a nightly drop, indicating there was an element of stress involved in my high blood pressure and my GP advised  me to see a psychiatrist, pointing out that I did have a lot on my plate. That however did not feel right to me. I had always thought of myself as a strong individual, not needing help. I had a lot of willpower and thought I could deal with anything, even now. Burnout was not mentioned by anyone and it was not at all on my mind.

Was this a matter of denial? Was I too proud to admit I could break, was it too far removed from my self-image as a strong successful man? I will never know, for an integrative therapist saw what all the specialists had missed. I had most of the characteristics of somebody in the throes of a burnout. I had broken down and that was on all three levels: physical fatigue, emotional despair and mental blockage. The recovery was incredibly fast considering I had most of my symptoms for more than a decade.

The question that remained with me was why this had taken so long? Reading that 1 in 6 people have burnout complaints, I was surprised there was no holistic treatment programme out there. This is  now a great motivation for me to work with a holistic therapist to help others to recover  from burnout much quicker than I did.

Clement Faber

Trainer, consultant