MH INITIATIVES
MEHREEN HASHMI

WRITINGS

What did I learn from my burnout ?!

Today, I woke up at 6:15 am for a morning walk and joined my neighbor at the park. When I was returning home from my morning exploration, I had a lot of plans to finish tasks. But as soon as I reach home, my body and mind were sending me another message. So I listened, finished a few tasks and rested. If it was 2016, it would have been another response to these messages. In 2016, one fine morning I collapsed and ended up in the ER at a local hospital. It was not sudden, I was going through uncertain health issues and trying to figure out the mystery of that sickness. Eventually, at that the ER I came to know that I have physical anxiety and have been suffering from burnout. Burnouts are not a common term in our society but it does happen to the human body. So the days before that I was waking up at 5:30 am every morning and working non-stop till 9:00 pm. I had a full- time job with two leading positions at the same place and curating exhibitions one after another. Let me explain to you curating one exhibition in months is a huge and tiring task itself and I was doing multiple shows over the months. Before that routine as well, I was doing a lot of things more than the physical ability of my body. In short, I was taking all that energy and ability to work non-stop; for granted.

So when I collapsed, days before that, I was not capable of not finishing regular tasks as simple as getting a glass of water from the fridge. I was not capable of leaving for work after getting ready which took hours usually it took a few minutes. Before these helpless days, I had a breakdown and started counseling. I have been so much eager to invest in myself, learn new skills, do a list of things as hobbies, achieving career and life goals and so on. All of that was without a physical break. How did that happen and why I was doing it to myself? Well, long story short, my abusive mother never allowed me to rest while burning from high fever even. Once, she dragged me to the kitchen to wash a huge pile of dishes around midnight, when I was only 12 years old and had 103 fever. It took me years to break that programming from my mind, body, and soul. There were many brutal episodes like that and my body burned out eventually when asking for mercy from me.

During those days I learned to be grateful to be able to work hard and sometimes harder than many regular people around. I learned to listen to my body and my mind to give them a decent break. I learned that everything happens on its own time and life is not about completing a checklist. I learned that you need a break after a tiring week and you can rest when sick. I learned that I am allowed to rest when not well and leave the dishes until I feel better. I learned to workout as a lifestyle and make it a habit. I learned to simplify my life and choose my battles. I learned to stop and feel my surroundings. I learned to be grateful for the energy which helps me achieve my goals. I learned to show quality, not quantity. I learned to say ‘NO’ to those who were not considered of me. I learned to put myself first more than anything else.

I learned to break stereotypes from my lifestyle and make my own choices. I learned to not take my health for granted. I learned healthy competition rather than being in a marathon. So now when I finish difficult tasks and achieve milestones; I give myself a nice break because I deserve it so do you. When your body goes through physical and emotional trauma, it stays in your muscle memory, means your body remembers. I learned to get rest and acknowledge when I am tired. It took me a few reminders after 20 years of that abuse. These days, I endure what I already have; my work, health and my good friends. I remember that I have to rest physically and mentally too so I don’t work on Sundays besides chores. I do make time for those friends who are good and considerate with me. I don’t push people away who wants to be there. I seek help when I need it even if it's only moral. I learned to take at least 30 minutes for a yoga routine or workout first thing in the morning because its the fuel for whole day. I pamper myself some of the days too. In short, I have learned to take care of myself so should You.

Take a break when you need it and take care of yourself because you deserve it.