When we hear the word burnout, most of us think of the workplace and a high workload which causes unmanageable stress, consequently leading to this dreaded condition. However, burnout at work is not only caused by insurmountable workloads and high expectations, but also by mistreatment of co-workers (bullying, abuse, …) as I mentioned in my previous article. Additionally, it can also be caused by abuse at home or by a partner. This can have lasting repercussions, making an emotional burnout recovery a lot of heartbreaking work.
When that happens, the recovery process is harder, and it often takes longer. Damage caused by loved ones is not easy to get over. Long term consequences of child abuse can remain with the victim for decades.
Who Can You Talk to?
When you suffer abuse at home, it is not easy to talk to someone. People – even your friends – may not believe you. They know your father (or mother) as a happy guy, always the life of the party. “No way, he can’t be abusive. You’re lying.”
So, in most cases, victims of domestic abuse end up dealing with it on their own – for years … – which is a tough burden to carry.
Who is Responsible?
Suffering abuse at home during youth ALWAYS has consequences on the victim’s adult life, one way or another. I often see those memes on social media, claiming that “you are 100% responsible for what happens to you in life, so take responsibility.” Sure, I agree, up to a point …
Nonetheless, just like those T.V. commercials for medications, those memes should state a disclaimer “not applicable for people who suffered emotional, physical, sexual, or psychological abuse during their childhood and adolescence.”
Those people had a lot more to handle than the usual teenage hormones, angst, and other teen issues. On top of that they had to deal with fear of coming home, worry about another upcoming angry outburst, dreading the weekend when they would spend two full days with their volatile parents, and anxiously looking forward to Mondays when school would give them several hours of reprieve.
You’re always dreading Christmas or any other holiday, fearing to upset mommy or daddy in any way, and just trying to get through your adolescence safely, waiting for the day you turn 18, so you can finally leave home and no longer live in fear, just be yourself.
Try to tell those kids that they are “100% responsible for what happens to them in life”, and see if you can get away with it. Tell the adult who struggled to throw his painful past of him/her that he is “100% responsible” for all the times he/she was too afraid to say no due to the way he or she was raised.
As much as that meme applies and is true, it should definitely come with a disclaimer.
Here’s my disclaimer: I am not making any attempt at excusing bad behavior. For example, someone who robs a store because “he had a bad childhood”, sorry, I draw the line there. Robbing a store is a choice he or she made.
They could have made a better choice. There are millions of people who suffered abuse and many of them did not turn to crime, but still ended up living good lives. It all depends on the will you have within you to leave your past behind.
What if you Choose your Abusive Partner?
It is a sad truth that people who were raised in abusive homes sometimes – subconsciously – pick an abusive partner. Once more, they end up putting up with verbal and/or physical violence and sometimes even more … The lucky ones make an early break for it and they get out of there as fast as they can, not wanting a repetition of their childhood. The majority, though, remain locked in that marriage for years, and even decades.
But Why Would You Stay with an Abusive Partner?
Why would you? That is a common – and understandable – question. Why indeed?
During my years at university, I was partnered with a girl in my group; we had to research domestic violence and then present a presentation in Spanish (I was studying Hispanic Studies). For this project, we visited a center for abused women and listened to several heartbreaking stories.
Many women had remained stuck in their marriages, because they had children. Others had lost contact or support from their families (mostly because of their partner) and were too ashamed to ask for help. Then there were others who had no financial means to escape their hell, since the boyfriend or husband controlled the money at home.
Nowadays, I also see unhappy – and also abusive – marriages where the wife chooses to stay, because she is afraid of being alone.
I am not making this up, these are all facts.
Back to the Brain
How does this lead to burnout? I think, you have a pretty good idea. Let’s recap. Violence at home and/or with your partner can include insults, threats, humiliations, bullying, belittling, hitting, beating up, rape, and worse. It can even lead to murder.
Imagine living with this for years on end, taking this day by day, 365 days a year … Your brain is an organ, and putting up with so much abuse and so many terrible memories is too much. Eventually, the brain breaks down, no longer able to handle it all.
You lose the will to function properly; you are numb to the world; you believe that “everyone is bad”; you don’t want to go on, you just can’t; you can’t do anything; you are depressed, some even lose the will to live; every day is a day you don’t know how to tackle; you drink more than usual, and so on … That’s burnout. And help is urgently needed.
For most, that help never comes.
Not everyone can afford a psychologist. Their sessions aren’t exactly cheap … So, what can you do?
Drop Your Past Like a Sack of Potatoes
To heal from burnout, you should look at my recommendations from my previous articles How to Heal from Burnout and How to Deal with a Burnout – Symptoms and Solutions.
To deal with your past, I recommend the following:
- Cut your ties with anyone who has ever abused you (and while you’re at it, get rid of any toxic people in your life too). If the abuser(s) was (or were) a relative(s), that’s another matter, but for your own mental health, keep family visits to a minimum if things can’t be solved.
I once saw this Mexican series on Netflix (La Casa de Las Flores) which I absolutely loved (I binge-watched each season, always eager to find out what would happen next), and in the last season, one of the main characters (who has a terribly mean and awful grandmother) states: “Just because some people are called family doesn’t mean we have to put up with them.”
That statement struck a chord with me. It is true. It may be hard to understand for someone who didn’t suffer abuse. If you are lucky enough to have been raised in a loving family, then you are truly very fortunate, for many children do not have that privilege.
- Good, point nr.2: Find a new home, a house, studio, room, apartment, anything apt for living, as long as it bears no memories of what you suffered. A new home equals a new beginning. A new beginning brings hope. Hope gives you the energy to work for a better present and future.
- Number 3. If psychological help is way over your budget, then get some self-help books, books that help you achieve inner happiness, books that help you enjoy life again. In my previous post, I recommended two books by Gabrielle Bernstein which have been of great help to me, but there are also many others. If a book speaks to you or is calling to you, that’s the one you should get.
- Here’s 4. If a holiday is financially not possible, then go for a few day trips here and there, perhaps a walk around a nearby lake or by a river. Visit a friend you have not seen in a long time. Do what makes you feel happy again. Buy that chocolate cake if it is tempting you in the window. The main thing is that you have to start living your life for YOU again, for yourself, and not for others.
- Let’s move on to number 5. If you need to talk to someone, but – again – weekly appointments with a psychologist are just too expensive, then find someone to talk to. Perhaps a friend or even an acquaintance who is willing to listen. It doesn’t always have to be a friend. It could be a stranger who just happens to be there at the right time.
Let me give you an example. A few years ago, when I went through burnout, my neighbor decided to bully me. Yep, I know, what a “man”. He knew that I was suffering burnout, but he seemed to need a punching bag for his frustrations, and I was “available”.
That went on for weeks, and after he left (he has land here, but has not built on it) his “dear auntie” – who lives here permanently – continued the bullying campaign.
I met a lady who knew that auntie from years back and who had always had a good relationship with her. That lady and I really hit it off and in time we became friends. When she found out what her friend was doing, she broke off all contact with her, and she sent me an email, telling me that if I ever needed to talk, that she was there for me.
See, I had only just met her. Sometimes we find a listening ear where we don’t expect it. I never forgot that. That lady doesn’t live here anymore, but we are staying in touch.
- So, here comes my sixth point. Have faith. Just like that lady who offered to listen to me, there is someone out there who will listen to you, who will help you, or who will just be there for you, or bring you a plate of chocolate chip cookies.
- Have faith and believe in yourself. You got this! You can do this. After a storm, the sun always comes out.
- Forgive. I know, that one is hard. How can you forgive someone who bullied you or even beat you? It may take a while to reach the state of forgiveness, but one thing I have learned is that forgiveness releases you.
When you forgive, you not only relieve your aggressor from his/her burden, but you also shed your own cross that you bore for so long. Anger and resentment poison your soul, but forgiveness sets you free.
Burnout is a consequence of many factors that bear a weight on the brain: stress at work, stress at home, with loved ones, stress outside the home with frustrating procedures, companies, events, life situations, you name it.
Our brains work harder than we think. We do not only use them to write shopping lists and turn them on full performance during office hours. They also work full time at home (even when we sleep), and when constant abuse is thrown at this wonderful organ it eventually breaks down and stops functioning properly.
I hope that this article and my previous ones can help bring some relief. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, and if you are looking for a listening ear and haven’t found it yet, use my comments sections for that too. I will read it and give you an answer within a day.