When the Body Can't Take any more

How Anna fell into a deep depression and how she picked herself up again.

At first it was just a paralyzing pain in the chest, but it was quickly forgotten. Then, when the legs simply buckled away, Anna knew: her life energy was gone.

Burnout – what sounds so harmless is a radical life disruption for those affected.

In medical terms, the diagnosis "burnout" does not exist. Rather, physicians speak of depression. Mostly triggered by chronic stress, which is ignored by the affected person for a long time until it comes to a breakdown.

Those affected can no longer go about their normal lives from one day to the next. This is what happened to Anna (name changed). Her story shows how burnout can occur and how someone gets out of this valley again.

Anna was an upbeat and successful employee in a large company. The trained IT specialist had been working for the same employer for a long time and had already held various positions in the company. "I always took great pleasure in my work. In my free time, I also pursued various hobbies: played in a band, enjoyed being creative and designing jewelry," Anna describes her life before the collapse.

Too High a Workload

In 2012, she took a new position in the company. It was held by two people before her, and she was promised that soon someone would be hired to support her. Despite the heavy workload, she liked the new challenge. What was difficult, however, was that she couldn't talk to anyone because information was confidential. Until now, she had always been able to exchange information with colleagues.

Now she often took the customers' problems home with her. Due to financial problems no workmate was hired to support her. Although she could have called in an external consultant, she rarely made use of it.

She continued to pursue her many hobbies, but she could not really switch off from work. However, she was not aware of this at the time.

Thrown off Track

She had a first key experience when, during a visit to a restaurant, she felt a stabbing pain in her chest out of nowhere and could no longer move. She sat motionless for a few minutes, waiting for this terrible condition to stop. After a few minutes, she was fine again. The next day, the experience was forgotten.

"I couldn't even stand for a minute, my legs just buckled."

Anna Burnout sufferer

In the following weeks, the work pressure became even more. A few months later, the incident repeated itself while she was sitting in the office. Again, she felt the enormous pressure in her chest and was paralyzed. Instead of calling for help immediately, she continued to work for another two hours, hoping her condition would improve. But it didn’t and so she turned to her boss, who drove her home.

"I then slept a lot at first, but the state of exhaustion didn't get any better. I couldn't even stand for a minute, my legs just buckled," Anna recalls. From one day to the next, she was completely powerless. She was then admitted to a clinic for psychosomatic disorders. The doctor's diagnosis was depression due to exhaustion!

Inexplicable Sadness

To her exhaustion came a deep sadness that she could not explain to herself. Her whole life was thrown off track.

"It was only when I was off work that the boss saw how much work was on me."

Anna Burnout sufferer

After a six-week stay in the clinic, she was better, physically fit again, but mentally not yet back to her old self.

Her boss was very understanding. "It was only when I was off work that he saw how much work was on me," Anna says. She was eager to go back to work and initially resumed her job with a 30% workload. When she increased her workload to 50%, she realized that she was again heading toward exhaustion and possible relapse. As a result, she was provided with a job coaching supervisor by the invalidity insurance. The purpose of such a supervisor is to reintegrate people into their jobs and to give them the best possible advice. But in Anna's case, the supervisor also saw that the workload in Anna's company was too big for her.

Listening to the Body

"In the summer of 2014, more than a year after my breakdown, I quit my job and was very relieved afterwards," Anna recalls.

Today she is doing well, even if she is not back to her old self. She has a great need for silence and to this day cannot stand loud voices.

When asked what she should have done differently in retrospect, she explains, "I should have taken much more care of myself and listened to my body."

The fact that she is doing so well again today is also due to her family and her partner, who showed her a lot of understanding and tried to give her joy again. Today, she is once again pursuing her hobbies to a greater extent and is experiencing great fulfillment as a result.


Ariane Modaressi