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What comes after burnout?

Is there a level beyond burnout? If it exists, that's where I am. For months, sleep has been elusive, and lately, it's only worsened. Regular panic attacks wake me—heart pounding, drenched in sweat, gasping for air. 


My nightmares aren't just personal fears like being unable to pay rent or facing unaffordable medical diagnoses (both of which could soon be a reality for me). They're also haunted by images of ongoing wars, the inequity in the value placed on human lives, what feels like societal collapse, and so much more. I'm troubled by these reflections: Why is one life deemed less important than another? How can people be so divided on this? Why is there such a focus on destruction, suffering, and greed in the world? When is enough enough?


My days are merging into a "Groundhog Day" loop, trapping me in a cycle that feels like it's driving me insane. As a Black woman, I understand all too well that societal systems aren't set up for my success. This awareness doesn't lessen the obstacles or reduce my self-criticism, despite years of therapy and self-reflection. I feel like I've fallen short, despite trying to navigate these challenges. I’ve failed myself.


"Black woman sitting alone in a dimly lit room, face illuminated by the soft glow of a computer screen, surrounded by shadows. Her expression is one of exhaustion and deep contemplation, conveying a sense of personal struggle and burnout."
Dall-E image of Black woman sitting alone in a dimly lit room, face illuminated by the soft glow of a computer screen, surrounded by shadows. Her expression is one of exhaustion and deep contemplation, conveying a sense of personal struggle and burnout.

The struggle seems never-ending. Each time hope flickers, it feels like the tunnel I'm in collapses further, burying me deeper under life's relentless pressures, both personal and global.


Years of hard work have yielded minimal tangible rewards. The "accolades" on social media—comments and likes—don't pay the bills. My relentless marketing and self-promotion haven't translated into financial stability, just more virtual pats on the back. I'm tired of having to prove my worth. Writing and re-writing resumes, cover letters, and cold emails over and over, hoping something bites. I know I am talented, smart, thoughtful, humble, open-minded, innovative, forward-thinking, and so much more. Yet, it seems my value is only seen in social media interactions (again, virtual pats on the back), not in the paid work I desperately need. I'm not asking for handouts, just opportunities to contribute to the world.


Financially, I'm at the brink. Last year's medical bills and time off decimated my savings. Now, with towering bills and maxed-out credit cards, I'm teetering on the edge of disaster. 1:1 conversations and online forums show I'm not alone in this, but few openly discuss it. Maybe it's shame or fear? I’ve been advised by older Black women to be mindful of being “too vulnerable” or “outspoken” online, as it may lessen my opportunities or chances. To that, I now ask, "What chances? What opportunities?" For me, I feel I have nothing left to lose.


Entrepreneurship has been tougher than I ever imagined. The notion of 'just getting a job' as a fallback is a myth. I've applied for all sorts of things—full-time, part-time, contract, even roles I'm overqualified for. Mostly, I've faced rejection or silence, feeling like just another faceless applicant. Networking has brought a few leads, but still, nothing secured.


As a single, independent person, this period of loneliness and isolation hits differently. It's unbearable. Those with partners or supportive families might not understand the unique challenges of single professionals. There's a societal bias against singles, as seen in the rarity of unpartnered leaders in top positions, and politicians too.


So, what now? Where do I go from here when my energy and hope are depleted, and my finances are drained? 


I'm standing at the edge, closer than ever to giving up. Where do I go from here? This is rhetorical, really.


I post this openly, vulnerably, in hopes that someone feels seen and not alone out there. Amidst personal struggles, I'm grappling with the broader injustices and tragedies of our world. As I acknowledge my own challenges and privilege, I can't help but wonder about the state of humanity and the path we are collectively forging. Where do we all go from here?

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