On Work and Burnout

I am on disability- mostly for mental health concerns, but partially due to physical problems (mostly muscle injuries from work related incidents, a few from weight-lifting). However, thanks to my conscience and external social pressures, I actually push myself to work constantly and addictively. Something in my brain or spirit refuses to allow me to rest and relax, and this exacerbates things; a lot of what’s wrong with me is burnout, and I still have all the bad habits that create it. The end result is next to nothing productive gets done.

If you want an example of this, I write at a solid rate of 1000-2000 words of fiction a day when I’m working, and I do this in an hour or two. Back in the day I could churn out a short story or a chapter a week. So I should be able to knock out the first draft of a novel in two months tops. The last novel I wrote took about five years to complete the first draft of; since being awarded disability, my ability to work on a given day has probably something like a 5% chance of occurring.

I really do blame social pressure for this. Internally I understand I need to step back, and do stupid things like read for pleasure and leisure, or watch sports or any TV, catch a movie, go on vacation, what have you. I just don’t do those things; I say I haven’t worked hard enough, on my art or whatever else, even though I’m not supposed to be working at all. Everything I do has turned into labor with the end goal of productivity; the only “leisure” I get is found in purchasing consumer goods or eating (relatively, I am broke) expensive foods. This is because the culture I’m living in demands everyone work like a slave on powerful stimulants 40+ hours a week to break even (if that), and the only outlets allowed are really shopping and expensive eating. People who work brag about how much they work to me, and to be honest, I’m not impressed with their slave ethic. I work hard; I worked incredibly hard as a laborer for most of a decade, to the point of numerous injuries. I’m not impressed that you can work hard. Most people can and do. The fact that you feel the need to constantly remind everyone and brag about your employment in a shitty job just goes to show that you’re the type of person who has to impress themselves and everyone around them with artificial status symbols- in other words, that you’re shallow as hell. I am, however, directly made worse by your constant efforts to shame me into working harder when I’m incapacitated already. They affect me; they pressure me to push myself when I’m supposed to be resting and recovering first and foremost. I can’t do that while I’m under pressure.

I don’t care how hard you work, I bet your dirty dollar bill you’ve had more entertainment time in the past 13 or so years since I snapped than I have- and I bet you never had to work the better part of a decade while experiencing extremes of delusion, depression, and anxiety with occasional mania and frequent hallucinations (none of that has totally gone away, incidentally). When I’m not working, I am staring off into space incapable of doing anything. It is a purgatory type of feeling I experience on good days. On bad days I’m arguing with voices or using cognitive-behavioral therapy tactics to dismantle delusional thoughts and beliefs with mixed success. I don’t rest; I mostly think, try to do things and fail, or stare off into space. When I’m not doing that I worry about how life is going nowhere. It’s a terrifying thing where I’ve watched many of the best years of my life go by- and I’m too hypnotized into working harder to sit back and fix up my damn health by relaxing and otherwise doing things to reduce and recover from stress. I have become a useless person, and an idiotic, short-sighted, and masochistically boot-licking total work culture is largely to blame for it.

I am pressured internally as well; my conscience tells me I’m doing something wrong if I try to entertain myself meaninglessly or unproductively, or engage in leisure activities. Additionally, all my hobbies, the various fine arts I work in, are worthless if not done at professional skill levels for money. Why’s that? I’m not sure, but I created this value system where I don’t waste time, or “waste time” working in something unless it’s productive, and I excel at it right now. I wanted to be a painter, and became a writer and photographer because I’m highly skilled at those- and a big part of me resents this. Why don’t I paint anymore? Because I won’t become professional level or better at it within the next decade. I used to do it because it made me feel whole, even if the results were very third grade level. Or because it was fun and messy and involved colors doing all kinds of crazy things besides what I wanted them to (we’re talking about watercolor painting, here). Now I can’t do it at all; you’re absolutely not supposed to do it if you won’t be a rock star at it- and who says we’re gonna pay you anything for your rock star skill level and output? Because money’s the only thing that matters anymore, and the way you make that is by appeasing the rich or scamming the poor, there’s no reason to be anything but the best slave you can be or better, the best slave-driver. A lot of people get solace in being both, and eat up that “let him who won’t work, not eat,” biblical cruelty on the side for kicks, even if they’re flat broke themselves despite working their fingers to the bone. Why?

I have no frickin’ idea, but I’m gonna go draw ineptly for a bit and chew you out if you even think of shoving your filthy work ethic down my throat again.


Welcome to my non-fiction and commentary site.

Several pieces are currently posted, and in the future more will be added, but in addition to all of that there will likely be a reviews section for any media I stumble across and feel like reviewing, as well as a semi-regular blog located right here. Articles, published here or elsewhere, as well as any future non-fiction books I write, will also be featured on this page.

Subject matter is variable; it’s essentially anything that strikes my fancy or I feel needs to be written, but you can expect a lot of stuff on geopolitics, domestic politics, religion, sprituality, and the varoius arts, culture, technology, and the life sciences. There’ll likely be other things that don’t fit into that mold- check out The Parable of the Scapegoat, for instance- but expect regular if not frequent updates.

And always remember, having a bad reputation is actually painful.

-Adam Shurte