Monday, January 17, 2005

Are you suffering from burnout?

Psychologists and psychiatrists around the country have been reporting a considerable rise in patient visits since the November election. Many have said that one cause of the additional visits, from new and former patients, is directly related to the stress of facing the Democrats' defeat and, above all, four more years of President Bush. Some therapists have half jokingly termed the cause of these sessions, PETS, or Post Election Traumatic Syndrome. So if you're post election blues are heading past charcoal gray and fading to black, you're certainly not alone. You too may be suffering from a slight case of GWBB (Bush Burnout) or a major case of DCB, Dick Cheney Burnout.

The term "burnout" may just sound like street talk or jargon for being blitzed, feed up, fucked up, tired, apathetic, work wary, work weary, even hope averse. But there is such a thing as "burnout depression" - as opposed, for example, to clinical depression and other neurological disorders. And "burnout depression" is not just negative thinking. I propose that it can be the result of very positive thinking - and every virtuous and valorous thinking - along with a heavy dose, of course, of being "at odds with the world" or at odds with how things are going. (As you may know, being at odds with how things are going is not always a bad thing, and it's sometimes a heroic thing.) Burnout depression can be just as real, just as debilitating, just as disabling and disheartening as other sorts of depression, and it may not just be a phase you're going through - it could be the culture you find yourself immersed in - and there's not quick fix for THAT!

Burnout is a real and sometimes obvious form of depression in which one's ability to cope with the world as it is, with one's own life as it is, is overwhelmed. Some cases are episodic, others chronic. Psychotropic meds remain a popular if only partial antidote. It seems a more substantial and long lasting cure (or adjustment) can be made with cognitive therapy - meaning therapy which pays particular attention to the pessimistic and perhaps unrealistic (or overly realistic!) ruts in a person's thoughts

In his classic book, "Man's Search for Meaning," Victor Frankl famously said that the one thing that could not be taken away from a person is that person's attitude. And certainly, one's attitude has a lot to do with one's ability to cope. Perhaps, we could even say that one's ability to cope determines one's attitude.

But there is more to it than that. Coping is about all sorts of practical (and perhaps a few rather impractical) personal attributes and values, not just attitude.

More on this latter today, including a few book recommendations: Frankl's book, a must read in psychology circles, and a very fine self-help book I think many very BLUE Americans (especially in very RED states or RED communities) might find helpful these days - yes a book for the BLUES BESIDES George Lakoff's now omnipresent "Don't Think Like an Elephant" (more on that significant and timely little book later in this blog). No, the book I want to recommend now, apropos hope, is Elaine Aron's "The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You."

I could say, "take heart," but you probably already have a big heart, if not a bleeding heart. And I could say, "good luck," but we're all going to need a lot more than luck to get us through this intact and, for godsakes, improved.

So take up mustering the gumption to go on and to PREVAIL. Share the joy of the best life has to offer with your friends.

And remember: sensitivity can be a strength!


At 1/17/2005 8:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still like the Aldo Leopold idea of "think like a mountain". We see things in our microscopic life span, and it helps to broaden ou scope because the mountain will still be there when we're gone. RQ

At 11/02/2005 3:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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