On Pandemic Burnout

by thethreepennyguignol

Do you remember this time last year?

I don’t know about where you are in the world, but where I am, this time last year was the beginning of our first national lockdown after the pandemic started. A year – a fucking year! I refuse to believe that much time has passed. I refuse to believe that little time has passed. I refuse, in general.

Honestly, I’ve been struggling a lot lately. I think that, when 2020 finally ended, there was this sense of putting a pin in the mess of the year that was behind us. We made it, guys! We said, to the other ones who had actually made it. Not everyone did. 2020 was over. Let the good times roll, ectera.

And it’s that mindset, I think, which has made this year that much more frustrating. I can’t believe three full months have passed already; I can’t believe that I’m about to miss my niece’s next birthday, again. I can’t believe that it’s been well over a year since I saw my family last. In my mind, and I think in a cultural sense at large, 2021 looked like the way out. And I do think that this year is going to be better, I really do – roll on the vaccine, I say, my sleeves are rolled up and I’m trying to throw myself in the direction of anyone I spot holding something even needle-adjacent – but right now, it’s just really, really fucking hard.

I feel like I have pandemic burnout. Back when this first started, there was a novelty to the thought of lockdown – not to the stress of the situation we were going through, but this cosy, nesting-down idea that appealed to me and a lot of other people, too. If you’d told me a year ago that I would get pretty much twelve straight months of not having to do anything or go anywhere or see anyone, I probably would have loved that idea. But, with that decision removed from me, there’s this grouchy, stubborn part of my brain that just wants out again. I want to do things. I want to see people. I want eat a curry at a restaurant without having to slurp it through a giant straw poked through my mask (which is how I can only assume people are going about it).

And fuck – the burnout in other parts of my life is real, too. Usually, socializing and spending time out and about and doing things is my way of unwinding; the times that I value the most, the in-between times that matter most. But these days, dragging my ass to do the bare minimum of work feels exhausting, because that balance isn’t there anymore. I take fifteen years to reply to any emails. Every time I get a message from a client, I throw my phone into a river. Let me just go to a park or something, please, then I’ll write another book. Self-care feels like a comical attempt at denial more than anything else; it doesn’t feel much worth taking care of myself when the parts of myself I actually enjoy have been dormant for months now.

I’ve not got much of a point to this post, to be honest – sometimes, it just feels good to write out what I’m feeling, and put it out into the world at large. If you’re dealing with the same kind of burnout, please let me know how you’re coping with it, if you’ve found any techniques or routines that have worked to help pull you out of this rut. And please know that you’re not alone: my inbox is always open if you’re having a hard time, and even if you don’t feel like talking, I sincerely hope that you know that I hope for the very best for you and the people you love. Stay safe, keep grinding, and let’s look back on this next year and laugh.

If you’d like to support my work, please consider supporting me on Patreon!