Behind and burned out (but still beating myself up)

Young Asian woman lying on her bed staring blankly at the ceiling with earphones in. Photo.
Image licensed through Adobe.

Useless. Lazy. Pathetic. I’m very ill right now and we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, but that doesn’t stop me feeling guilty about everything I’m not doing. I’m burned out and exhausted, but the more time I spend trying to just take care of myself the further behind I get on everything else. This isn’t healthy, I know that logically, but logic doesn’t help right now. (Strap in for a super self-indulgent post, y’all, with a content warning for self harm, mental illness, and poor hygiene habits.)

This is part of a series of posts that I started writing months ago but am finishing and posting in late October and November. I apologise for the confusing order in which content is appearing!

I am behind.

I retweet articles that I haven’t read, knowing I should read them. I have countless others  opened in different tabs of my web browsers, and hundreds of Twitter threads I know I need to read saved in my bookmarks. Sometimes I go back, scrolling endlessly through my likes to find one particular tweet, panicking because I can’t find the tweet that it feels to “on brand” for me not to share. I share filthy writing without reading it, because I feel completely detached from and almost disgusted by sex. I feel like a fraud.

I keep buying books and not reading them. I want to support queer authors and radical independent book shops, but I can’t find the time or the focus to actually read them. I see other people sharing their reading lists and feel like an imposter because I’ve had the audio book of Mind the Gap downloaded for months but haven’t started it. I know that reading will give me new ideas and make my writing better, but right now that only adds to the pressure. I stare at the pages of a book open in my lap, unable to read a word.

I haven’t watched Disclosure or Pose, even though they’re both on Netflix and I know they’re both important in terms of how trans people are portrayed in mainstream media. I re-listen to old podcast episodes because it’s easier than listening to the new ones in my podcast feed. The back archive of Gender Reveal episodes I haven’t caught up on yet mock me because I’m too afraid to start them. I listen to audio books so I can squeeze more knowledge into the hours when I’m walking, soaking up Roxane Gay’s brilliant, beautiful words while I dodge puddles and dog poo. I still feel behind.

I have pitch ideas – emails, half written – that I haven’t sent to editors yet. I know that my voice is important and that I have shit to say, but I can’t find the strength to finish them. A few of my pitches to bigger publications have been accepted and I feel like I’m making progress with my sex blogging goals, so why am I not working harder to capitalise on those small successes? Another email draft contains nothing but the link to a tweet from 2019 about how mental illness can impact your hygiene. I still haven’t read the linked article – though I suppose I don’t need to when my own depression means I haven’t cleaned my teeth in a week.

Weirdly, telling myself how disgusting I am doesn’t actually help me do anything.

I know every single post that I intended to write and publish on my blog and what date they should have gone live. I feel like I’m failing, because if I have ideas for content then surely I should be able to write them? I look through the perfect stock photos that I should be tweeting out alongside my feminism, filth, and ‘what the fuck is gender?’ posts, wondering why my life isn’t like that. I can see in my head everything that I should be doing and don’t understand why it’s been weeks since I’ve written anything.

I self harm while I sit on the sofa, trying to force myself to write some filth for Smutathon. I dig my nails into my soft skin and I pull my hair at the roots and I cry because I feel like I’m letting everyone down. I try to push through the panic and let the physical pain I’m inflicting on myself distract me from how much my thoughts hurt. How much every second hurts, but I can’t stop because what worth do I have to my friends and on the Smutathon committee if I can’t write a single piece of smut?

I am exhausted and burned out, but stopping for a single second will mean I get even further behind. It feels like if I let myself rest and start to recover, the list of things I need to be doing will just keep piling up. Sometimes that list is so big that I don’t feel like I can breathe. I feel so behind that I have no idea where to start when it comes to catching up. Some day I’m so ill that even getting out of bed feels impossible, but I’ll still pull my laptop under the covers with me, trying to reply to emails and tweets even though I’m so tired that tears are streaming down my face.

Yes, I know how fucked up all of this is.

I’ve taken a year off from university. I’m halfway through a four year degree, and when my mental health advisor suggested I need to take a year out I cried. I’m proud that I’ve come far enough that I can admit that I do need to take time off from my studies – eighteen months ago I’d have refused to take a break and ended up more ill and burned out. As it is, I’m already burned out – from my blog, from the unrelenting stress and pressure to be productive of the last five years – and I feel like I’m failing at my year out.

How is that even possible? How can I be failing at taking a break? I hate myself for how behind I am (useless, lazy, pathetic), but the more I try to catch up the more burned out I get. If I take time to recover from feeling burned out, the more behind I get. I’m not broken because I’m struggling right now. Everyone is struggling right now, because 2020 has been a shit show even for people who weren’t already severely suicidal. I need to stop beating myself up for feeling behind, for feeling burned out.

If you do too, please know you’re not alone.

Smut positive
Heteronormative expectations and consent on first dates

1 Comment

  1. Oh, I feel your words, deeply.

    And I wish you find some comfort and some way of accepting the limitations you’ve got right now.

    You are precious and looking after you is a very important and crucial job.

    You aren’t failing at anything or failing anyone. You’re dealing with an illness and doing your damnedest and that’s okay.

    I know my words aren’t magic, but I hope they bring a little comfort. You know where I am if you need me.

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