What it does mean is that person has run out of the fuel of love. Because they themselves have not been refilling their tank. They have not been receiving care, receiving love or been able to love and care for themselves. They do not set store or value on their own entitlements to care and love from their own personal relationships. They do not value themselves innately, or value the work that they do. They do not set store on what it is to give of oneself.
It is easy to devalue caring...very often it is voluntarily given or given in exchange for meagre salary and zero acknowledgement and gratitude. When a person is underpaid and never thanked, it can seriously undermine their view of themselves especially in a society which measures success by affluence, prosperity and freedom from care. When a person has no support with achieving the most demanding of tasks, it becomes like a mountain one can never climb.
Very often the people who are drawn to caring-work have suffered from a lack of care in their own lives. They seek to give to another what they deeply longed to have received for themselves. Have you ever heard of the expression wounded-healer? This means that the 'healer' was able to facilitate healing by virtue of their own personal awareness and insight into pain they developed from their own wounds.
When a carer's attempt to resolve life-issues succeeds, the carer heals himself at the same time as being of service to another. A child who was very hurt turns into an adult determined to protect any child from hurt and who are extraordinarily sensitive to vulnerable children and will do anything to look after them. A vocational doctor very often has a fascination with illness from suffering from poor health themselves or had to witness physical illness in their family and thus from their experience develops a determination to cure and battle against illness. A teacher will inspire , encourage and further their students who will remember it for life. A psychotherapist or psychologist may have had a dysfunctional family and suffered much trauma and want to understand the workings of the mind in order to heal and repair troubles.
The cure for burn-out is self-care and self-love. The challenge of burn out is exactly this: physician heal thyself. For those who rage with a deep burning sense of injustice against harm to children, make sure to be tender about how hurt you might have been in your own childhood and take steps to heal and soothe that deep ache for the loving parenting that you never had. For those who vowed never to place your parents in a nursing home because of your distress at seeing someone's lost dignity, make sure you offer your own self the dignity of equal rights to other people and create a good quality life for yourself.
For the harshly condemned childcare workers in Ireland this week, I doubt very much that there are not some parents who relate with the desperation to take a break and get a rest, the frustration and helplessness at not knowing how to care for someone whose needs you don't really understand, the isolation and fear of revealing these things to other people, not being able to ask for help for fear of losing one's job and being seen as a poor worker. Or as a parent, not feeling able to ask for support for fear of being a failure at the one task you swore you would do very well. How many parents have not had their buttons pushed and lost control? This is not to excuse behaviour which is abusive. Once someone is an adult they must take responsibility for causing harm to others. But, when someone is absolutely exhausted and yet is still obliged to go on meeting the needs of others..is it any wonder there are signs of not coping through neglect?
So these are some signs of burn-out:
- exhaustion, tiredness, feeling completely drained
- demotivation and dread of the day ahead
- feelings of failure and worthlessness
- distress at being the one person whom nobody notices
- bewilderment at why no-one ever thinks that you have your own life to live and deserve some attention
- anger and resentment towards the person/people you care for, despite having set out to love and look after them
- occasionally in the worst and most chronic cases, partial hatred of the person whom is being cared for and projection of all fears and hurts onto them, feeling helpless to them, enslaved, victimised or manipulated by them
- a hardening of the heart in a usually loving individual
- permanent apathy and indifference to the distress of more helpless and vulnerable people
Homeopathy can help. So here are some suggestions:
Sepia . Indications for using this remedy range from extreme tiredness, lethargy, absolute indifference to a deeper depression-like experience where everything is seen from a dark perspective. Mothers at home or child carers are burned-out and just need personal space, to get out for a walk in fresh air. Women can be quarrelsome and irritable with their husband in particular and may end up shouting and snapping at their children. They may go through phases of going through the motions with their children and feeling switched off and lacking in affection and love towards them. They then start to berate themselves for that detachment that they sense developing inwardly and get into a cycle of guilt. But this guilt will not be able to change their feelings. Some Sepia types escape into their work or become extremely busy in order to run away from the situation. They have this feeling that no-one can understand their situation and can be very weepy and convinced that nothing will change. Burned out Sepia teachers can become sarcastic and harsh towards their students. Some physical accompanying symptoms for Sepia can be anaemia, sleeplessness, constipation and severe I.B.S. due to stress. Back pain and the classic "putting one's back out" and being laid up for days is another indication.Cravings for chocolate, fresh air and physical exercise. Dancing suits Sepia women and helps them to have an outlet. Men can easily develop Sepia states from over work and workaholism. You will find these types wishing to stay away from home and spending alot of time in sports , trying to feel better and thinking mistakenly that they can solve the problem physically.
Phos-Ac. This is another excellent burn-out remedy. People needing this will have low energy but this may manifest in a type of Chronic Fatigue situation where the person can no longer continue to work and will simply have to give up responsibilities until they feel better. The person will not be able to concentrate, focus or think straight. They may find it difficult to remember things and can often experience bouts of dizziness or vertigo. They will want to take regular naps as even a short nap refreshes them greatly.
They can be physically extremely run down and hair may start falling out. They crave fruit and smoothies and refreshing things. They feel apathetic and even wear an apathetic expression on their face. This is a slightly different version from Sepia's emotional indifference. Phos Ac types have suffered intense disappointment and also disappointment in love. They may have long-term chronic grief or have had multiple griefs leading up the development of fatigue symptoms. Phos Ac can sometimes be indicated after a virulent viral illness which left the person very tired and their energy is simply not returning. Phos-ac are more likely to become depressed rather than irritable but are not particularly aware that is how they feel. Sometimes women have this form of burn-out and depression. But often men are in this state...when they come home from work they just want to sit down and watch TV. Nothing moves them or motivates them and they have no joy or interest in life or in the things they used to do. Their partner may tell a cheery or interesting anecdote about their day, and he will stare ahead, unacknowledging and unmoved.
Cocculus. Cocculus is for those who become exhausted and sick from anxiety over a loved one. They develop huge anxiety about health and think then that they are also becoming ill. This remedy helps people whose exhaustion stems in part from prolonged sleep-disturbance due to nursing people at night and all night long. This may include shift workers. People who are burned out in this manner are particularly affected in their nervous system. I once treated a counsellor who was utterly emotionally drained and was also suffering from trigeminal neuralgia. All her symptoms lifted and she was also surprised that she had become so quickly drained and exhausted. It was a great initiation into self-care if she was to pursue the vocation she loved. Cocculus types will tend to develop vertigo and floaty, dissociated feelings. These symptoms force them to lie down and rest is what they should be getting.
Once again, these are just three of the remedies a homeopath may prescribe to carers. Every individual is so different. Physical ailments from exhaustion are experienced according to the individual physical constitutional make-up of that person and what they are susceptible to. If you do not know which homeopathic remedy to choose to relieve your symptoms, then hand it over and go and seek out a professional homeopath in your area who knows how to help you.
It is important not to condemn others so easily. Walk in their shoes first before making superficial judgements about people's behaviour. If you visit your GP and come away raging at her brusque manner and seeming utter indifference.....maybe just think about how she arrived at that point. Next time you see a frazzled mother snapping at her child in the supermarket, give her empathy and compassion and even offer support in that moment or a loving smile. Sometimes when people are rude, uncaring and switched off ...they are quite simply all used up and they need love. If you are overflowing with energy, and happen to be in a lucky life-phase at the moment where you feel you can cope, please be alert to the suffering of others. You may not always spot it in the patient in the hospital but surprisingly in their harassed and tired-looking nurse instead. When you are angry that a person you have relied on for help, turns out to be human and not an all-knowing angel and your expectations are disappointed, be grateful for the realisation that we are all the same. That we are all equal and that life can be hard and despite our moral courage, perseverance and fortitude, we stumble and make mistakes. When someone is young, cut them a bit of slack. When someone is old, try to recognise how frustrating and occasionally saddening a slowing-down body and mind can be. When someone who puts themselves out to care, seems unaware of you , well do it for yourself instead.
Love thy neighbour, as thyself.
And remember Saki's saying " Be kind, for we are all facing the same battle"