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The Burn-Out Point

man-person-dust-sportIn my ten years of living with schizophrenia, I’ve become acutely aware of a phenomenon I’ll call the burn-out point. It usually happens when things get to be too much or when the thoughts that are careening through my mind become more of a weight than I’m willing to bear.

A lot of people are familiar with the idea of burnout, of not feeling like they want to continue with what they’re doing because it seems to have gotten old or it just feels like nothing is progressing.

The mental illness burn-out point is a little different though. Instead of feeling like you don’t want to do things anymore, you’re still highly motivated to do them but you know you can’t handle it with the state of your illness. You know that if you take on additional stress, things will start to go south and that’s not good for anyone.

In my situation, I want to be able to move but I need to make more money. Because I need to make more money I need to find more writing gigs but I hit a point and I know I can’t feasibly do any more than what I’m doing right now. Because of this I start to doubt whether I have it in me to take on anything else, and that leads me to question whether or not I really want to keep writing in the first place.

It’s a strange and convoluted cascade of thoughts and that’s how most things are when you have a mental illness.

I reached the burn-out point ultimately yesterday afternoon and I took the steps I needed to to purge the cobwebs, namely I wrote in my journal and made lists. That seemed to quell things a bit.

The thing is I’ve reached the burn-out point many times before and I’m sure I’ll reach it again in the future, but there are things you can do about it.

You can talk to someone, that will give you the perspective you need to sort things out.

You can also take the necessary steps to limit stress, which is important especially if you have a mental illness.

It’s a delicate balance between what you can do and what you want to do. You have to be careful not to get too far ahead of yourself in striving and hustling for the things you want, otherwise stress will get the best of you and then the paranoia and delusions will start and you’ll lose track of the stability you’ve worked so hard to maintain.

The burn-out point is real and anyone with mental illness can attest, I’m sure, to the reality of trying to get where you want to be and the fact that you have to take it easy on yourself in order for you to maintain stability.

It’s important to remember though, that we all need some time-out sometimes and it’s perfectly okay to take whatever time you need in order to maintain a grasp on your stability.

I’ve been there and I know what it’s like. I can assure you, it’s okay to take a chill pill.

The Burn-Out Point

Michael Hedrick

Michael Hedrick is a writer and photographer who has lived with schizophrenia since he was 20. His work has been featured in Salon, The Week, Scientific American and The New York Times. You can purchase his book 'Connections' here or Follow his blog on Living with Schizophrenia here.

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APA Reference
Hedrick, M. (2016). The Burn-Out Point. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Mar 2016
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