I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m on earth to do, including radical mental health and the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health collective. I’d like to help do something meaningful and connective with many people, and radical mental health has been that. The part that hurts is my own burnout.
How do you prevent or heal from burnout? Some ideas I know are like this.
- pace myself
- don’t bite off more than I can chew
- get support
- ask for help
- take breaks
- go on little vacations
- keep a sense of humor
- don’t sacrifice my well-being for anything
- put my health first
- sleep, delicious foods, and movement are not optional
- gratitude journaling and other attitude work
- tell the truth about what I’m feeling and needing as much as I can
- keep a variety of activities going
- don’t put all my eggs in one basket–diversity every day
- know myself and my feelings
- quiet time
- nature time
- spiritual healing–prayer, ritual
- visioning to stay on track with what I really want to do
There’s so much that can get in the way of doing these things to prevent and heal from burnout. Lack of money can be a reason Ming and I don’t go on a little vacation. Some self-care takes more energy than others. I forget how draining a certain activity can be, so I run out of spoons.
I make good plans, but things I had no idea would happen come up out of the blue. My good plans vanish as I put out metaphorical fires. Health issues, electrical work being done on our house, an interview, a deadline we forgot. I’m trying to be responsible, caring for myself and others, but when I’m overloaded, so much can slip.
Radical mental health is my dearest project. I need to do the work I believe in, so I can live a meaningful life. But sometimes I lose faith in humanity, so it’s hard to stay motivated to do radical mental health work.
I’ve made unusual, difficult choices to keep my life simple, like not having kids, not having pets, not driving. I’ve avoided drugs very intentionally. Not owning a house is another example. Even not having houseplants–that probably sounds minor. But there are so many ways I’ve tried to keep my stress low, so I can care for myself and others.
But many people make poor choices and live with high stress in order to make money and prioritize other mainstream values. Then their life falls apart, and I’m a person they ask for help when they’re going down. I’m glad I’m thought of as a solid friend and community member. But sometimes I feel used. That person makes a lot of money, doing the impossible, with full time work, family, and other normal choices, while I’m living in poverty but expected to support them.
I see people around me living unsustainable lives. They work a job they hate for many years, maxing out credit cards, thinking they can neglect their health indefinitely because they’re too busy to care for themselves.
Bodies have a way of putting a stop to that. Many health issues are wake-up calls. It would be better to have self-knowledge and admit reality before the stroke, car accident, breakdown, heart attack, or cancer. Sleep isn’t optional. Movement and sunshine can be really good for people. Crisis mode can only last so long.
Ming and I drove by the fancy houses at the edge of Red Rock, and I looked at their backyards with see-through fences so the people who live there can enjoy the view. I told Ming, “No one is in those backyards. They’re all empty, because the people who live in those houses are all at work to pay for it, or dying inside the house, having retired.”
Many people think money brings security, so they’re working to amass as much fortune as they can. I’m trying to find different security based on community and love. To me, that’s what anarchy is.
I don’t need a nation state to tell me how to be kind or to enforce my morality. Fear of imprisonment doesn’t keep me honest–I’m just honest. If we had time to know ourselves and care for one another, would kindness be the norm?
I believe in community and love, but I can’t do it alone. If I’m giving and giving to people who can’t give back because they’re too busy working, that means I can’t care for myself properly and do my life’s work. People living their lives in unsustainable ways make my life unsustainable too, unfairly.
I’m proud of myself for feeling my feelings, telling the truth, making art and writing every day, and running the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective. But in some ways, my previous life of sedation on a bipolar cocktail was preferable, especially for the people around me who liked me quiet and as easy as possible. I wasn’t encouraged to speak up for what I needed–I was valued for keeping my head down. The more I tell the truth, the more difficult I am.
I don’t want to give up and join the ranks of people who want to amass a fortune and find safety in money and a sterile castle. Love is possible–a better world is possible.
But dodging exploitation and other harm all day is too sad. This is burnout. I need to heal and find faith in humanity again.