Beyond the date that most new years resolutions have long been forgotten, I have finally grown the courage to carry out mine. My resolutions this year do not look anything like the extensive lists and ambitious implementation plans that have dominated the previous years. Because this time around I enter the year not flourishing with fresh energies, but burned out – and where the logging of goals would normally fill me with anticipation, the mere thought of it seems to me nothing more than empty and exhausting at this very moment.

The only resolution I pledge this time around is to replace the fear in my life with love, and that starts here – by speaking my full truth. Alienated with a one-sided image I have crafted for myself over time, I just feel like need to do this to reflect my reality. I need to come clean and clear the air of the mist and labels that I have been hiding behind. I need to take the mask off my face and the weight of my shoulders. I no longer want to hide.

At the same time, I observed and experienced myself that there is a lot of taboo, ignorance, misunderstanding and shame surrounding the so-called ‘Millennial Burnout Syndrome’ 1, and mental ills in general. By keeping our walls up, our battles get so much tougher than they’d have to be. Personally, I found incredible strength, inspiration and acceptance in those being open and sometimes brutally honest about their trials and tribulations. I started to realize that to expose your vulnerability in an age of false representation is not weakness, but strength. I wished there were more people doing this, and as I can really only lead myself, I aim to be in the words of Gandhi ‘the change I wish to see’. Of course each individual’s story will be a different one, but by sharing mine I hope to empower a soul, spark a tiny bit of understanding or open up the conversation, so that we can avoid others tumbling into the same pitfall and for those already there to feel less alone.

I’m terrified of doing this, but convinced that exposing my unflattering truth is an inevitable part of my healing process, so here we go, here I am #nofilter.

Although having a history of chronic anxiety and depression since late childhood, I always refused to give in to my mental ills and found strength in the statement that life is what we make it. And so the first few years of my adult life, my day-to-day had become a direct manifestation of this belief.

I got to be a teacher at an undergraduate/bachelor course lecturing a webdesign program that I had independently developed as part of their core curriculum, in front of full classes and aiming to inspire all 110 students at age 22. I single handily organized a successful 300+ people event in an Amsterdam venue and set up a worldwide blog that got support from its movement’s pioneers, on which one of my articles got 200.000 views, and continues to attract over 3000 readers each month even years after its retirement. I put in place a full webshop and customer service system to professionalize an independent record label so that they could focus on crafting their music while serving their fans. I made a beat and co-wrote a song that got over 7000 plays and lots of love on Soundcloud. I landed a graduate job as an online marketer and later managed to build up a professional profile and portfolio to sustain myself being a freelance (web)designer. I had lived in 3 countries in 3 different continents and visited and traveled 15 more in between.

I had strived, struggled and indeed accomplished to be so many things that I once set out to be. I even overcame many of my anxieties and pushed my boundaries doing truly amazing things I thought I’d never dare to. Shit, I may have achieved more than I ever thought I could. I gladly took on all labels of go-getter and dream chaser, but it didn’t feel right.

What all started with passion, slowly but surely turned into an obsessive type of get-shit-done-ism as a way to escape the insecurities that were mine and the uncertainty that is life. My ambitious empty and my efforts unfocused, I got caught up in the rat race – or the matrix, if you will. I was continuously striving to finish the next task of my to-do list, to complete the next mission of self-improvement and to fulfill the next desire.

I believed of course that the achievement of such and such things would make me happy.
But of course, it never did.

I would endlessly aim and occasionally succeed to overachieve, yet always feel as if I was failing. I would celebrate my victories, but still feel haunted by the lack of progress in other areas of my life that I felt I wasn’t excelling in. Whatever I would do, and however many people would affirm me telling me how impressed they were, it was never quite good enough to satisfy my increasingly louder inner critic.

I tried to please everybody and kept myself to a standard that I now realize no sentient being could possibly live up to. I wanted to be everything to everyone: informed and inspiring, helpful and kind, interesting and creative, beautiful and healthy, independent and above all strong; a good friend, a capable professional, an inquisitive student, an encouraging teacher, a self-sufficient daughter, a generous lover, and so on and so forth – there was no end to the deficiencies I felt needed fixing and so much disappointment in my own inability to do so.

This vicious circle and an 80-hour workweek characterized my life for quite some time. I worked around the clock, running around and stressing days at end as I went off very little sleep, nutrition, exercise and general self-care. Chasing one thing after the other, I kept pushing myself to try harder and harder at whatever cost.

It came to a point where sometimes my labor wasn’t even serving a specific or significant goal but the mere action of working simply became compulsive. I was ‘cursed with an unconquerable craving for work’ (as is the definition of workaholism) and fully consumed by thoughts of it. Once again, I had fallen victim to the very OCPD traits I initially set out to defeat by pursuing personal development – oh, the irony.

I continued like this for days, weeks, months. I didn’t have the balls to step out, thinking I wouldn’t have much to offer but the level of accomplishment, productivity and discipline that people had praised me for, and my self-worth had become dependent of. I kept up the hustles and the smiles, both in my working spaces and online. I had become so used to hiding my identity behind things of work, and I had grown terribly afraid of people’s judgments and opinions in case I’d break down the image that I had so carefully crafted.

I wasn’t true to myself, but blinded in pursuing all those false ideals that I had accumulated over time. In becoming all that I had wanted to be, I had neglected all that I already was. It’s not that I was living a lie, but I certainly wasn’t living the full truth either. Behind the scenes, I was feeling numbed and unfulfilled on my best days, alienated and suicidal at my worst. I went through a pretty dark phase and had to temporarily rely on anti-depressants and zombie through the day, just to get through it. Fearful yet longing thoughts of what would happen if I were to lose my ability to force started to linger, and as the universe works in sometimes not so mysterious ways, that is exactly what happened.

I collapsed. I reached my boiling point and I burned out. Exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually, I was left with so little energy, motivation or concentration for any of the things I had so far been so invested in. Everything seemed to fall apart like a house of cards – or maybe like a game of Jenga – or maybe more like the ’77 NYC blackout1 . It wasn’t an overnight thing, because deep down I knew that I had been ignoring its silent symptoms for a long time, but I simply paralyzed and it carried some kind of urgency that I had previously refused to admit. I knew I couldn’t carry on living like this – for this was not living.

I failed some and canceled many projects knowing I could no longer handle them. It felt so unnatural and I felt so guilty as I slowly but surely started choosing my wellbeing over people pleasing and to-do list completion. It was a rather strange experience for others to realize I was no longer 24/7 available to them and I had a hard time still explaining and justifying myself for my absence. On top of the challenges of processing a few negative responses and lost opportunities; the space it opened up in my life felt like a void and the freedom as a maze. Always having chased after the next goal, not having one was purely disorientating. I quickly realized this transition was no easier to manage than the preceding habit of keeping myself retardedly busy in order to avoid thinking, but I decided to keep at it. Some people (you know who you are!) proved to be very supportive and understanding, which gave me the trust and the power to pull through the darkest days. I just knew I had come to a point of no return.

So that’s it. That’s me, that’s my truth, my story and my life beyond the career milestones, motivational quotes and cute IG uploads. Those were my confessions and much like in church, I felt as if I needed to confess my sins in order to move past them. I cannot quite justify it, and I’m no longer trying to. Instead of a paved out path, I now feel as if there is a blank canvas and a palette of vibrant colors right in front of me.

A few months fast forward and here we are today. Determined not to continue on the same path I was on, another truth is that I have very little idea on where to go from here. Describing this story in past tense doesn’t mean that it is all behind me, for the conflict between the new and the old and the confrontation between my weariness and my drive, is still an everyday reality.

The only thing I have truly decided on is to pick back up on blogging, share my story as I just did, and chronicle my journey onward, however bumpy the road and wherever it may lead. Since:

1 writing is therapy
2 it’s what I used to always do and loved before I got so caught up
3 publishing to display my vulnerabilities is the very defeat of my fears and destruction of the ego
but most importantly:
4 our age has been largely affected by an anxiety epidemic and I hate how there’s a taboo on these topics.
I personally found it very difficult to talk about what I went through and I experienced how much difference it made once I did start to open up about it. Realizing how many people around me and in the world were actually facing similar struggles in silence, just breaking that silence and sharing in our experiences was so mutually empowering. Surely there were and will be very negative reactions as well, but in a way, even that is a good natural selection process of filtering the people who truly care for me.

Maybe you’ve been there and recognize yourself in all this, maybe someone close to you is going through this, or maybe it’s where you’re at on a daily basis, as I was. To all of you, I want to say that you’re not weak, neither alone and there is a way out. Although I can not tell you where that road may lead, I can tell you it’s already been truly liberating and, even a little bit exciting, to be out here in the open (it’s still scary as fuck though, I’m not gonna front).

If only I could make the smallest dent on that taboo or potentially uplift another soul that finds themselves in a similar situation by sharing my story as I wish others would – how could I not? Many of us go through these sensations at some point in life and I can only hope we get better as individuals but also as a community at both preventing and handling them, as we wholeheartedly support and help build each other up.

Although eternally grateful for all the amazing experiences I’ve had and the opportunities that I’ve been given, and that I wouldn’t trade for the world, the madness has come to a dead end. Success for me is no longer chasing the next achievement, but finding peace in a more fluid sense of self, and life. I am not here to prove myself to anyone and I’m coming to terms with my human limitations, allowing myself the space to be all the perfect imperfection I am. I have to trust that there are opportunities out there for me, that rely not on my false ability to work hard, but on my unique qualities, whatever those may prove to be. A bit like in the Japanese practice of Kintsugiut2 , I no longer aim to disguise my damage or hide my flaws but embrace them, for they have made me who I am. And you may know that now.

To all those who understand, respect and can relate to my journey; I openly invite you to reach out, stick around and be part of the next chapter. To those who don’t and have nothing but negative remarks, save yourself the effort, just cut our ties and get back to your own life. For those genuinely curious yet confused about the nature of burnouts and the ‘Millennial Burnout Syndrome‘, I’m available to build, as this is a matter I truly care for.

This is my truth and I will no longer represent anything but it. Thank you for listening, get in touch or leave a comment to share your thoughts and your own story and I hope you have a beautiful day wherever in the world you are : )

Nadia Piet,
in full

“Can’t keep running away
Can’t keep running away”

The Pharcyde’s “Runnin'”

1  This concept was first discussed in Larissa Faw’s article ‘Why Millennial Women Are Burning Out At Work By 30‘ on Forbes in November 2011 which got over 200,000 views and 12K+Facebook shares and tweets. The topic was again revisited by Emma Gray on the Huffington Post in piece titled ‘Women And Work: Are Gen-Y Women Experiencing ‘Millennial Burnout Syndrome’?‘ in March 2012.

2  The New York City blackout of 1977 was an electricity blackout that affected most of New York City on July 13–14, 1977. All systems shut down and chaos emerged. In this case, I’m just using it as a metaphor for something usually so vibrant just collapsing, and admittedly also as an excuse to use this beautiful imagery by Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images, found on Mashable.

3  Kintsugi (金継ぎ?) or Kintsukuroi (金çč•ă„?) is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. There is a great video on Kintsugi from School of Life explaining and illustrating the practice – and many other interesting topics once you’re out there on their channel.