Burnout: My story of chronic fatigue, neurodiversity, tech, and my shadow side

… or how I came back from the brink.

Dark times born from youthful best intentions, blind spots, and misuse. I’m on my way out of this chronic state, but it has been a massive growth journey. Join me as I collect my spiralling journal threads and piece together a way forward, sharing with you what I’ve learned to avoid burning out.

Table of Contents


  • Never prescriptive. We’re all complex and unique, what works for me might hurt you. Mileage may vary, so please tread carefully with yourself.
  • Language: When I say ‘Burnout’ here I refer to complete breakdown (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Adrenal fatigue, ME, and related bucket terms). A hard week shouldn’t ‘burn you out’, (though it might hint you’re headed that way).

Predisposition to Burnout?

While perhaps my story is unique, there are some traits I’ve seen come up again and again in studying Burnout. It’s likely that these traits increase the chance we’ll hit these challenges. (Though we must not discount that there are obvious external stimuli which massively contribute.)

Brain types – I have undiagnosed ADHD and Aspergers (ASD). I am a highly sensitive person. I have adaptations that more or less let this sit under the surface and help me interact with life in a semi-functional way. I share this because the lack of knowing oneself, or the language of your nature, is a fundamental blind spot which can exasperate the following predispositions.

Caring roles – Christina Maslach (the leading scientific authority on burnout, see burnout books), has focused a lot of her research on healthcare workers, stating that “almost one in two US physicians has symptoms of burnout”. This surely is the result of many factors, but I feel it supports that chronic fatigue often occurs in people who really care about others, (given those apt to work in health care are on average, probably caring people).

Personality Types / Drivers – There’s a growing science, (most popularly led by people like Gabor Maté), which highlights the hazards of being a very caring person. In Transactional Analysis, this is covered in drivers like Please Others (“People Pleaser”), and Be Perfect. I’d highly recommend reading Maté’s books or checking out his podcasts/interviews.

Fundamentally if we’re too giving; if we consistently (often subconsciously) prioritise other’s needs above our own, (putting ourselves ‘away’), we suppress much of what is needed to be a healthy organism. The downsides are apparent, and are causing a veritable epidemic.

If we don’t prioritise ourselves we get sick. If we continue to do so even when we are sick, our body shouts louder and louder until we are forced to address our blind spot; or we stay forever in bed, in sickness, or worse.

It has been well studied not just by me but others, and documented that repression of healthy anger disturbs the immune system. Now Why should that be the case now? Healthy anger is simply when somebody is intruding on your space and they won’t desist… It’s different from chronic rage, which is a whole other thing. No, In other words, anger is a boundary defence. That’s all it is… The human emotional system in general has the role of allowing in what is nurturing and loving and healthy and welcome and to keep out what isn’t. That’s the job of the emotional system. Let me ask you a trick question. What’s the job of the immune system?

Ok, I’ll answer, is to keep out what is unhealthy and unwelcome and toxic, and to let in what is nurturing and healthy… it allows in nutrients and vitamins and healthy bacteria and keeps out and destroys what isn’t toxins and unhealthy invading organisms. And so on, in other words, the immune system and the emotional system of exactly the same role.

Gabor Maté on Diary of a CEO
This is the Transactional Analysis ‘Drama Triangle’. People with a propensity to over-care often sit in the ‘Rescuer’ position. In TA we want to move from the Drama Triangle to the Winners Triangle. (Rescuer -> Responsible/Caring.)

So those of us with these traits (Over caring, People pleaser, Rescuer, Be Perfect, and putting ourselves away) are, I believe, predisposed to these sorts of health outcomes. After that, it’s luck or grace or maybe the righteousness of our subconscious voice which dictates when and for how long we are to be subject to these dark, dark times. (Again, not forgetting that there are clear external stimuli in the mix.)

For me, this manifested via a coalescing of these blind spots (neurodiversity & relationships, people pleasing, rescuer, doer, entrepreneur, maker), in the face of dicey external events.

I now believe that I decided to become a rescuer when I was eight, when my lifetime dog was run over by a motorbike. I remember it destroying my mother, who was already depressed, and I remember I consciously decided to bottle up my emotions from then; and dug a chasm in my being to collect all of the tears. It must have destroyed me too, really, but I don’t remember it.

This automatic repression worked, for a time. An adaptation designed to sustain those around me whom my organism required for survival. A trade-off. But little did I know, 20 odd years later the deep pool of unrest in me would break its banks.

Burnout Causality – Input & Experience

Given some of the above predispositions, and unarmed with the self-awareness of them; I was probably always going to hit chronic fatigue. I include my story here for context, but I suspect for others there is a plethora of input/stimulus experiences which could produce similar outcomes. I think they all amount to a stressing of once-useful adaptations learned as a child, perhaps themselves products of our predispositions.

Burnout 1: Negative Inputs & Blind spots

I learned to build things from my dad. I learned to create art from my mum. Other family members inspired both too. I was very lucky to nestle amongst creativity and entrepreneurship at different times in my life, and it stuck.

I’ve been entrepreneurial since I was a kid. I saw how hard work money, business, and jobs can be, and I found from that a deep desire to work out a way to enjoy my work and get paid – to find my ikigai. I had always been driven.

This has been a blessing and a curse.

Fundamentally it has meant that I’ve always done a lot.

In the run-up to my first burn out I was growing 2 businesses and finishing my science fiction novel, (of course self-published because who needs health right?) I was greedy with creation and business and autonomy. I had not learned to cool my jets.

On the side I would also do carpentry, build things, and seek to look after/check in with all the people in my life regularly. My blood was 80% coffee until 6 pm when it became 50% wine. 

First signals: I started having accidents. I severely damaged both wrists while cramming some maker-time during my lunch break. I developed headaches that wouldn’t quit.

This was a fiery time but had its perks. It felt righteous; I was fighting the good fight. I might have sustained this some years longer, but my then-partner’s father passed away from suicide. This was abysmal. I had, by some grace, been protected from such darkness up until then, and though I didn’t feel much in my body, I was heartbroken, I later realised. He had been inspirational as an author himself. Directly, it was horrendous for my partner, and naturally, she was immensely hurt.

In the following year, my predispositions led me to over-care (we must always care for those around us who go through something like this, to be clear, but boundaries are healthy both ways). In the vacuum of the situation, I leaned into the adaptations I’d learned as a child. I rescued. I played the hero. I likely infringed on the healthy grieving and processing space my partner needed – I know now that she didn’t need rescuing. She needed someone to feel it all alongside her. I was inauthentic because I had a blindspot which hid myself from me and others.

A doctor told me then that suicide is like a bomb going off in a family. This felt true.

We got through this though, and the following year, with all of my log-jammed plans running aside the sadness, I hit a louder signal number #2. 

I thought it was a heart attack. I’ve since heard almost exactly the same story recounted about 10 times from various people in tech. With no frame of reference, and with a severity of feeling as yet unfelt, the first big panic attack we have can feel like death. It is, perhaps, the death bell tolling – a warning.

I collapsed to the floor while on the phone with my mum. The repressed people pleasing I was unknowingly committing broke the seal and I was swarmed by the emotions I’d been dumping into my own abyss. But I didn’t know that then. All I knew was my heart was exploding and my body was half numb and my consciousness was hyper-strange. 

I wonder how many emergency room appointments feature ECGs but result in the doctor passing you an A4 handout about panic attacks. I felt pathetic. My whole life I’d been ‘being strong’, but turns out that I’m limited. I am susceptible to that which had plagued my mother. 

The panic attacks continued, and worsened for some years after that. But this was the start of my journey to understanding them, to understand the causality, the subconscious reality, and to start to steer the ship away.

In summary, I think the causal math would look like this:

Predispositions + 
overwork +
poor nutrition +
(tragedy, loss, or other intense stressor)
accelerated journey to panic attacks/burnout
(through turbocharging childhood adaptations)
One of my daily drawings as I went through burnout

An aside: ‘Fair Field’.

In the mixed up, limited way a child sees the world, I had, I later realised, developed a personality function I nicknamed my ‘fair field’. A loved mechanism born of rescuing and Autistic social justice. I would automatically seek to make everything fair for everyone around me. I’d save people in little ways, I’d make over-the-top efforts to cheer people up.

I walked around carrying this fair field bubble for 25 years. This is an example of a childhood adaptation which seeks to force the world to be a way; fundamentally at the cost of my health. Be compassionate, always, but have boundaries and just sit in the mud with people, don’t rescue them.

Burnout 2: Positive Inputs & Complacency

After my first big crash I got some okay therapy, (Gestalt), and sought to rocket ship away from the panic attacks, (spoiler: that’s not how it works). Despite 10 years of building myself up to be a merciless self-developer and entrepreneur, I had to change how I worked. 

I tried to go away for a summer, touring South West England with my then-partner. We had mixed successes here, trying to help me heal. There was a crucial lesson waiting for me though, down in Penzance; When you’re truly burned out, there will be times when you can’t just change the scenery to solve it. You may need to just lay the f*ck in bed. For months.

There was a lot of loss to accept at that time.

  1. Give up coffee, caffeine, stimulants, and sugar!
  2. Give up alcohol.
  3. Give up being a workaholic, give up a profitable but stressful JV.
  4. Give up being an author.
  5. Give up being social.
  6. Give up saying yes to everything.

But I did find things that helped, (full list at bottom of this post): Alexander Technique helped me learn to hold my body better, which started to undo some of the damage I’d done through various injuries from accidents. My teacher is philosophically solid and a superb human, he guided me in so many ways. Reading books like Waking the Tiger (Peter A. Levine) and Banishing burnout, (full list below), I started to tilt my consciousness enough to start to see that I had blindspots. Dark Souls let me get out my shadow side.

I tried many things to heal.

Slowly, I started to recover, and I moved myself away from Hertfordshire and got a mortgage on the only house I could afford in rural West Wales which had enough land to plant trees on; a ticket to a slower life. It was a wreck of a house and needed renovation in almost every aspect.

As I’d been going through this attempt at healing, still panic attacking every day, me and my friend Mike Stott had been low-key building Zero BS CRM. This was really designed to be a bread-and-butter software business which we could run without killing ourselves, deliver value, and pay the bills. 

But then we got an offer to be acquired by Automattic…

We’d never talked exit plans, and we both went into the acquisition learning as we went. This was my blindspot here. In my denial, I had boxed all negative things into a ‘Burnout’ box and not seen the obvious: Positives can also be massively stressful.

There were some punishing months. I was having panic attacks almost permanently. I was often ill. I was personally juggling refitting a wreck of a house, going through meetings and calls relating to selling our company; presenting. (I’m grateful for all this by the way, I’m not coming from a victim position here, just highlighting that not all stressors are ‘bad things’.)

Thankfully amongst all that I found my second therapist, a master in Transactional Analysis; he probably saved my life.

Work was difficult. It had been a massive challenge to sell your company amidst daily panic attacks. Then going through the process of merging your small company into a larger one turns out to not always be that fun. I learned a lot, but in the new corporate environment, the newness of exiting a business; I stumbled back into unhealthy patterns, and on top of that the relationship with my co-founder broke down.

And then there was Gamestop. It’s funny, in hindsight, to look back at yourself and be able to see the crazy blind fumbling through life that we all do. There’s surely a pattern in the madness, but I really shake my head at my past self (with love).

The Gamestop saga came at a time where I’d sold the company, I was getting through the house DIY, frictionally fitting in at Automattic. And for some reason trading shares in my spare time… (It was profitable, but unnecessary and harmful to my health). I caught the wave early on as I was on the subreddit where it flagged up. I was entranced by the massive returns and even more so the hysteria, the righteousness of the indie trader, and the exposed tenderloins of big finance. But the body said no.

We called an ambulance at 8pm. It was covid times and the medic came into my bedroom with an army man who’d assumed ambulance driving duties for lack of staff. I had several bouts of some kind of a fit. They never gave me a medical answer for it, but it shook me right up, and from that day I’ve had ‘migraines’. Low level visual confusion too, and using screens (cosmic irony or what?) or driving for more than 20 minutes, led to very painful migraines; sometimes lasting days.

(Insert common story of going to the doctor to be shuffled around specialists who ultimately put you into a catch-all diagnosis and give you a for-life drug). In my case MRI’s and London neurologists lead to epilepsy drugs, and then finally Amitriptyline, (much prescribed cure-all hide-all here in the UK). It took some years for me to lay it to the side.

Amongst all this there was more loss, close and severe.

This burnout bubbled up and became far worse than the first, and years later I am still subject to the migraines, though they are now managed. If you’re reading this and you’ve seen some of this in yourself, or seen any bodily signals – please listen to them, please learn the lesson your subconscious is trying to teach you. Don’t let it get to long-term/chronic health outcomes.

In summary this math might look like:

Panic attacks, part recovered from first burnout + 
Unexpected triumph of selling company +
Old house repairs constantly +
Co-founders transitioning into corporate team
A new impetus, environment, and excuse to overwork, new frictions
Body shouts even louder in pain as I put myself away

Other Potential Causality

I think there were other causal inputs to my crashes; though I feel the lack of self-awareness did much more damage than these minor stressors:

  • Getting Typhoid in Nepal and being on intravenous antibiotics for a week.
  • Moving house 10 times in 9 years.
  • Stressing my body by trying loads of different diets.

Do you see any other major contributors to burnout in your life or others? Please share in the comments at the bottom of this post.

Today (+3y)

Though I am not totally healed, I am getting there. I am off long term medication. I balance life against migraines as best I can, and I’m back on the road less travelled, trying to be more and more authentic; learning to prioritise myself equal to the others around me. 

I seek to feed my body with good nutritious food, (for me that’s organic, whole foods, avoiding all processed foods, especially sugar). Qualified nutritionist guidance really helped. I take supplements, because I’ve found that they make a big difference. 

I do things which nourish me, splitting my on-the-clock time between work (software engineering, entrepreneurship), and making things with my hands (play). I enjoy time with others outside of that, and am still learning to be present, boundaried, caring and not rescue or people please.

I feel my feelings.

Much of my progress I put down to excellent therapy. I found my dude. I consistently invest in getting support. I think this is essential, (in whatever format suits you), in these, the times of the atomised tribe.

Much rarer are the falls back into what doesn’t move me forwards. I play occasional relaxed games, (sadly I have to hang up the controller on games I loved like Counter Strike and Celeste). I people please, and say yes to things which are not in my health interests, but I spot it, and I nudge myself kindly back into balance.

It has felt, for much of the past few years, impossible that this sequence would lead to a positive outcome. I felt like death, I was bitter, frustrated, sad, depressed. I felt I had lost so much, and I have. Trust that the abyss is not the end. The sickness is the teacher.

Recovering from Burnout (CFS, ME)

This isn’t a how-to on recovering from burnout, but it’s a start.

So you’re in a bad place. Your health is signalling, or your body is screaming at you that something isn’t right. Perhaps it’s someone you care for in this state. First take this in: Maintain belief in your ability to heal. Our bodies are excellent at it, once we get out of the way.

Here I’m going to share the things I’ve tried as I’ve climbed out of my own personal abyss. I’ve prioritised them in terms of efficacy, but we’re all different. Your own list will likely look different. Please trust your own path, and please act. Even if it seems impossible; chip away at it. We do not have to be chronically afflicted with burn out.

I heard this concept from Michael Hyatt at WDS 2014, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

Before I dump the list, I’d say one more thing. Fundamentally I think burnout is a reaction. It’s the body saying no. The key is to find out what it’s saying no to, and make changes.

Change can seem slow, the friction of your existing patterns may be massive. It might feel immovable.

Be kind to yourself, coach yourself through the change; and find voices which reinforce your will. There are humans who can be present in a non-judgmental, non-selfish, supportive way, even if there aren’t many accessible to you now. The internet, and this connection we have right now is your friend. You can shy away from the change, but your body will just scream louder.

I’d suggest the 3 key aspects of healing Burnout are:

  1. Experiment with change – feel your pain and make changes. Start with little ones (how you spend your day, diet), then consider bigger decisions (work, people, places, longstanding approaches which no longer benefit you).
  2. Be holistic – I’d be suspicious of only addressing it ‘in the body’ via traditional medicine. Move towards integrating body & mind, not separating them.
  3. Find expression – paint, write, draw, make. Do it for your self.

With that said, here’s the rundown of modes of healing I’ve tried; prioritised by efficacy to my situation (over-work, over-tech, over-doing, people pleasing, rescuing -> panic attacks, chronic fatigue, extreme migraines). 

(Pssst. If you have any other useful input here, please comment below.)

  1. Nutrition / Probiotics. My food journey went through many diet towns. This time we live in is full of pitfalls in nutrition; traps even. I’ve had my times hooked on sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and other processed foods. I was vegetarian for 8 years. Generally read Michael Pollan’s Food Rules or watch the excellent In Defence of Food. Even better connect with a nutritionist. My nutritionist specialised in repairing adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue and burnout. Without a doubt nutrition was the biggest positive contributor to my recovery from burnout. I’ll write another post on this and link it here later, as it’s a big topic. See Burnout Nutrition.com and my new post on Burnout Nutrition.
  2. Therapy. Consistently showing up to do the work has helped me no end. When I started with my current therapist I was having panic attacks for most of my day, every day. He guided me toward and through change, and helped me to see and overcome unhelpful patterns. In that room I learned to feel my feelings. I’d done a lot of self-work throughout my life but with his guidance I earnestly began to achieve an authentic self necessary to overcome lifelong self sabotage. I also learned that I was neurodiverse. I cannot understate the value of finding and consistently working with a therapist who is a good match, (on a similar journey as you, with a similar brain), it probably saved my life. For me as a programmer, Transactional Analysis is the mode of learning this stuff.
  3. Alexander Technique. Each of us may enter into burnout from different origins, but as you read and study the issue it’s unavoidably true that the body and mind are one thing. Alexander technique is many things, but at its core it’s about using your body consciously. This pairs incredibly well with good therapy. As a software engineer, (dealing in abstracts), I’d become very out-of-touch with my body. Health is wealth – learn how to use your gear properly. AT is an excellent mode to learn it; it has a focus on anatomy well suited to engineer thinking. I was phenomenally lucky to find a great teacher who became a great friend.
  4. Making things. I’ve always been a maker since I was a kid. Inventing, designing, imagining; it’s my freedom place. I found many outlets during my burnout years and I see now how crucial for me having a place to express things is. I don’t see how we, (or at least I), can be authentic without making stuff in the real world. For me that took the form of drawing comics, oil painting, carpentry, metal work, welding, landscaping with big toys machinery, gardening, planting another food forest, DIY, and writing. Find your outlet, ignore what anyone else thinks, do it for you.
  5. Exercise. As a chronic ‘doer’ and a probable ADHD Aspie, I have not yet managed to consistently exercise for more than 6 months. I suspect I’ll get there one day, but in the past years I’ve found a lot of healing in making things and planting trees. For me these are my main exercising outlets. Building a cabin by hand over 2023 got me fitter than perhaps I have ever been, but I had to build up to that. When I was at my lowest I started with short walks. Literally 5 minutes. Yoga and Qi Gong too. We weren’t built to be in bed or chair permanently, but likewise you may have to be realistic with yourself. Lift heavy shit, but be honest and kind with where you’re at.
  6. Reduce your responsibilities & obligations. Practice non rescuing, non people pleasing, stop making all the effort. Leave it as long as you need to before replying to messages. Don’t phone people back. Do what you need to do for you. People will escalate and fight you for changing. Relationships may fall away. The good ones won’t. Let things go, it might well be the tight grasping of them which is making you ill. Accepting loss was a core lesson for me in burnout. These ‘renegotiations’ of your relationships might be key.
  7. Feel your feelings. For me this came through therapy and journaling. I think as we increasingly spend our lives dialled into screens and abstract digital lives we are all at risk of avoiding listening to our bodies. This breeds inauthenticity and it creates swathes of repressed emotion in our subconscious which will likely later manifest as relationship challenges or health issues. In a way it’s like negative investing; banking uncomfortable things for later. This is one place we don’t want compound interest.
  8. Renegotiate with ‘work/career’: We all have to eat. Severe CFS/Burnout is serious enough, though, that if ignored can take you out of work for months or years. Prioritise yourself and perhaps let yourself pause ambition for a time.
  9. Autonomy and psychological detachment. It could be that the stressors which have done this to your system reside all around you. For me, getting as much autonomy and time away from any potential stressor freed me up to heal. Focus on activities which pull your attention to the here and now.
  10. Awareness of neurodiversity. Perhaps over the years the labels will change, the alias isn’t so important to me. But reading about other people identifying as ASD/Aspergers with ADHD helped me feel less of an alien in the situation; it helped me understand that there is a hidden energy cost to social interaction for me, wrapped up in neurodiversity (and childhood adaptations to it). Before this I couldn’t account for getting so wiped out after activities (e.g. Zoom) where others could chug on at it for days.
  11. Alone time. My brand of burnout came from massive over-responsibility and over-stimulation. I did not know I was neurodiverse. I did not let myself feel my own feelings. I didn’t know I needed processing time. The solution for me was to spend time on my own things, on my own.
  12. Alternative therapies: Massage, Myofascial release, Reflexology. There are a thousand therapies. In these three I have found progress out of burnout. Acupuncture was also great in assisting sleep. I think efficacy here is massively dependent on the nature of the provider, the quality of training, and your predisposition.
  13. Magnesium baths (epsom salt). The western world statistically lacks magnesium, “…magnesium deficiency in nearly half of the US population…” (#) (see: nutrition). Chronic fatigue can make you feel like your muscles have been battered. I found salt baths a real help in calming my nervous system, and assisting sleep. Floatation tanks are even better, if you have access to one.
  14. Play. Do things without consequences, throw out responsibilities for a bit and just play. See Play it Away by Charlie Hoehn.
  15. Sleep. Another symptom of my burnout was terrible dreams ranging from common garden paranoia all the way to ‘wake up you’re going to die‘ vibes. I would routinely wake up at 4am whatever I did, however tired I was. Psychologically disturbing and energy sapping, this partial insomnia kept tipping me back into panic. Sleep disturbance is a reported symptom of CFS. Exercise good sleep hygiene. Try ‘Sleepy time’ teas (Valerian) in moderation. Try 2 tbsp cider apple vinegar, 1/2 tsp honey in warm water before bed. Try taking magnesium & Vitamin D before bed. Sleep matters, don’t discount how much.
  16. Drop stimulants, increase relaxants. See above, kick caffeine, sugar etc. and take epsom salt baths. 
  17. Meditation. It can be hard, but it, (scientifically and personally), works to calm my mind and recenter me. With migraines so prevalent I’ve fallen off this practice, but I still go back to it when I especially need some peace.
  18. Breathwork. I was lucky enough to have a breathwork experience at a work conference just after selling my company. I found it a revelation, and backed up by therapy, a freeing tool in the realms of psychedelics. I hope to explore more breathwork as and when I am ready.
  19. Read. Graphic novels fed my spirit when I was chronically ill. I found dark honesty in a way I’ve not found in other mediums. Cathartic. Start with Watchmen.
  20. Audiobooks. When I realised my eyes were proliferating migraines I switched to audiobooks. There are so many great examples. Try Dune.
  21. Embrace your Shadow side. Before burning out I fought to sustain myself in the positive. I pushed endlessly to make everything around me good. I didn’t feel things. In hindsight this discounted a huge part of life, which is loss, sadness; dark shit. Part of my healing journey was to dwell in my shadow side, accepting that the world is light and dark. I found myself doing this almost automatically, from when I found the game ‘Dark Souls’. Strangely, it helped to consume some darkness. I’ll include a list of some of these below, should you find yourself evading the dark. See also, Wintering.
  22. Shakti mats/pillows. I get some relief by jabbing myself with nail-like plastic.
  23. Microdosing psychedelics. It’s said that taking small amounts of certain mushrooms or oils can help. For me I did notice a peace which was hard to find otherwise amongst the consistent difficulties of chronic fatigue. I also noticed paranoia. I think personal sovereignty is important, and for you to decide what’s safe and helpful for yourself.
  24. Dark room living. See ‘Alone time’. Sometimes I need to just go into a dark room and lay the f down. Audiobooks stop this from becoming hyper bleak.
  25. Spoons theory. This is shorthand for ‘how much energy do I realistically have today’. Each spoon represents a finite unit of energy for use on 1 task/activity. ‘Healthy’ people may have a large supply of spoons, but those with chronic illnesses like CFS have to ration them to get through the day. At my worst I had 1 spoon a day to spend. (Also called Activity Management, Pacing.)
  26. Psychedelic rock.
  27. Pharmaceuticals. I include these here because if you burn out, you’ll likely end up at a doctor or twenty. I don’t discount that some degree of packaged tablet can be of use. For me, I’ve learned to question cure-all’s, and aim for holistic understanding, but it’s fair to say that Amitriptyline probably worked positively for me for a while.
  28. Luck, Grace, Gratitude. In the end Chronic Fatigue can just be a shit place to be. Seeing what positives you can will help you stay out of the victim role as much as possible, and tilt the slant of your life towards recovery. Selling my company put me into the worst health I’ve ever experienced, but it also gave me resources to build a new life after I heal. This is a somewhat toxic reality of neurodiversity in the current software business culture (make enough before you crash and burn to survive the crash and burn #), but I am still grateful rather than resentful. I’m privileged/lucky in that aspect, I acknowledge; but I choose to focus on gratitude because it makes life less shit.

Please share what’s helped you in the comments.

Notes to Self: A Manifesto for Never Going Back

  1. Know myself. I can be mischievous. I tend to be a free spirit. I’m healthiest when I am these things.
  2. I must make things. But I must not make everything. 
  3. Autonomy is paramount. (Needs self knowing and awareness.)
  4. I don’t need to people please or rescue, those are old adaptations that served me earlier in life but don’t make sense now. I have put down my ‘fair field’. I will be compassionate, but have pragmatic boundaries.
  5. I am of equal importance to others.
  6. I am not perfect, and that’s quite alright.
  7. Eat well. Sleep well. Move your body.
  8. Embrace your shadow side.
  9. Do the work.

Resources: Burnout books

Here are the books that have stuck with me as I worked through this part of my life. I suspect there are other useful writings out there, so please do share any recommendations in the comments.

Tweet this list. Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Resources: Podcasts, Interviews, & Playlists:

Resources: Medical Burnout Science Terms

Doctor google is not always your friend. I absorbed a lot of information as I sought answers to my condition, but medical science as it stands didn’t have perfect definitive or concrete answers to fit my brand of burnout; I found more resolution in the psyche and in nutrition. I include these, then, with a reminder to avoid jumping on labels and on catastrophising. Go steady, friend.

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic stress & Hypocortisolism
  • Adrenal Fatigue
  • ME (Myalgic encephalomyelitis)
  • Autistic Burnout
  • PEM (Post-exertional malaise)
  • HPA Axis (Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis), Hippocampus, Amygdala
  • Limbic system
  • (Rapid) thinning of the prefrontal cortex
  • Caudate and putamen (structures susceptible to neurotoxic changes from excessive release of glutamate)
  • Neurological dysfunction
  • Maslach Burnout inventory
  • Unrefreshing sleep

Shadow Side Resources: Have you been trying to make life too perfect? Try dark shit:

As above, I found that in my bodily collapse I got some cathartic healing out of engaging in dark media. It felt expressive of where I was at, it felt authentic in a way all the overcompensating positivity didn’t. Hello darkness my old friend. Here’s my short course in dark shit:

This is much like Wintering:

That is wintering. It is the active acceptance of sadness. It is the practice of allowing ourselves to feel it as a need. It is the courage to stare down the worst parts of our experience and to commit to healing them the best we can. Wintering is a moment of intuition, our true needs felt keenly as a knife.

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times
by Katherine May

Thank You.

Thank you to all of those who rode out this storm with me, who encouraged my healing, who listened. I hit new lows during these years and I am very grateful for all of the understanding, effort, check-ins, and held space. You who’ve helped me through all this know who you are, thank you.

My Ask:

Thank you for reading my post. It’s taken me 5 years to get to a place where I can write this. Whether you’re suffering now, or know someone suffering, stay hopeful. Learn to listen to your body.

I share all this with the hope it’ll help somehow. It’s helped me to get it all in order, to share it; to get it out. So please:

  • Share this with someone in Burnout, or close to it.
  • Share this with someone who’s at risk of these chronic conditions.
  • Share with friends or family.
  • Please comment, tell me your experiences. Tell me if you can see a blind spot in my thinking. What’s worked for you? What does it feel like for you?
  • Tweet me.

Be well, friend.

Let’s make mad sh*t.

I’ve made a lot of things in my life, and I intend to make a lot more. My biggest goal is to make a good and happy life.

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    2 responses to “Burnout: My story of chronic fatigue, neurodiversity, tech, and my shadow side”

    1. Mizanur Rahman avatar
      Mizanur Rahman

      This is a great list of books to help recover from your burnout, Thanks!

    2. Update: I added a new post about Burnout Nutrition here: https://woodyhayday.com/blog/burnout-nutrition/

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