Burnout usually simmers for a long time before it really breaks out. “I can no longer go with the flow” is the feeling that subsequently dominates the mind.
When body and soul are exhausted
The numbers of mental illness and burnout are increasing, especially after the pandemic. People run at full speed for months, sometimes years, until they finally collapse. Simply no longer can, no longer want. Body and soul can no longer withstand the strain, the constantly suppressed call for help now also penetrates the outside world.
The story of Kerstin M. is an example of an overload that becomes permanent. With the help of rehab, she found her way back to life and work. Her burnout appeared gradually until it eventually led to an outbreak. But that is also the beginning of a healing and journey to one’s own self.
“I can’t go on” – a breakdown usually has a long history
The collapse happened in November 2010. Kerstin M., who worked as a financial accountant and producer in an advertising agency, got into serious clashes with her boss, as is so often the case. But unlike in the previous arguments, this time she can’t stop shouting. And then don’t stop crying.
“It was like I left my body, like it wasn’t me. It felt like I was watching myself slump all over the place.”
Almost three years later, Kerstin M., 35-year-old mother of two, has a clear view of what happened back then. She reconstructed the course of the disease precisely: “I felt very restless and strange for many months. We moved with the children to another city, where we built a house with a lot of anger and arguments. I was restless, jittery, full of energy, and always dissatisfied and on the lookout. I was very unhappy with my profession as an accountant. It was not me, but my parents who had chosen it for me after I graduated, offered to work part-time in production, I was happy.”
The company is growing, and so are the tasks
With time, things began to look different to her. The company was growing rapidly, and soon, Kerstin M. had to do the entire payroll and financial accounting and make monthly statements for twice as many employees in the mornings. She was also used for secretarial tasks. At lunchtime, she took care of her new tasks as a producer. She worked on important customer projects, collecting offers, driving to print shops, creating concepts and presentations, preparing tax, organizing events, and visiting trade fairs for the company. She also designed the company terrace.
Soul, health, and environment suffer
Kerstin M. got chronic headaches due to less sleep through the night. The thought of forgetting something important at work kept her awake most of the time at night. She was irritable towards her family. Because she screamed so often, her children were scared of her and her marriage was on the verge of collapse. More often, she was dizzy, in her left ear she had started hearing difficult. Palpitations, loss of appetite, concentration problems – when she was collapsed on November 30, 2010, Kerstin M. was at the end of her physical and mental strength. Only in retrospect, she realized how stressful the time was for her: “I was deaf to my soul. I blocked out the clear signals my body sent me. Instead, I was always very friendly and happy, and was considered a jack-of-all-trades. I often dressed crazy and always looking for objections from my colleagues. How exhausting it is with a messy house, two small children, a legal dispute, and a man who works an average of six days a week, I did not want to and could not admit at the time.”
Antidepressants and weekly appointments with a psychologist
Kerstin M. is lucky. Her mother arranged an appointment for her with a psychologist friend, who worked with her once a week for the years ahead. On the same day, a neurologist prescribed antidepressants and referred her to a psychiatric day clinic for several weeks. Here, Kerstin M. worked out the goal of working towards a career change in many therapy hours. It has become clear to her that she cannot make peace with the profession of financial accountant her parents have chosen for her. With the support of her therapists and psychiatrists, Kerstin M. applied to the pension insurance company for vocational rehabilitation. She quickly got the feedback that her application could not proceed until she was undergoing medical rehabilitation.
Medical vs. professional rehab
Looking back on her six-week stay at the clinic, she said that it was the best that could have happened to her. In contrast to occupational rehab, which relied on purely job-related training or retraining measures in order to secure earning capacity, medical rehab focused on the treatment of the disease on which the impending reduced earning capacity is based, in the case of Kerstin M. in connection with depression. She took part in the anxiety disorder group and was fortunate to come across a very committed and emphatic senior physician who, through hypnotherapy, gave her a feeling for her own strengths again. She took courage and regains self-confidence.
Get away from all domestic worries
Kerstin M., who at first didn’t want to be separated from her family, began to see the advantages of inpatient rehab. “I was completely out of all domestic worries and everyday obligations. Embedded and protected like in a ‘castle’, I had time to think about myself and my life and make plans. The incredibly diverse range of therapy options gave you a plan tailored to your needs with measures. I learned more and more to let go and to go beyond my limits. The more I got involved in this adventure, the better I felt – day after day.”
When Kerstin M. left the clinic and came back home, her children told her that they had the feeling that a new mom had come home.
The time after rehab
After the rehab, Kerstin M. put her newly gained professional perspective into practice and submitted the notice to her advertising agency. Since she quit for health reasons on the advice of her doctors, she had no blocking period from the employment agency. She used the vacation entitlement that her boss had to pay her for further training in the medical field. Her application for vocational rehabilitation was rejected by the pension insurance and the employment office. Despite letters from their doctors, which they rated as unsuitable for their profession, the opinion of the Employment Agency was different. Kerstin M. was considered to be able to work full shift in her learned profession. However, she didn’t let anything discourage her and was sticking to her goal of studying to become a naturopath for psychotherapy.
“I am grateful for the experience”
She later believed in her abilities again. Kerstin M. was then involved in hospice work and applied as a lateral entrant for a part-time position in care in a retirement home. Kerstin M. signed her employment contract and the study contract for an evening course at an alternative practitioner school. Later, she started providing training as a nurse.