These three celebs went through burnout in a public way, inspiring the world to rally around mental health initiatives.
Burnout doesn’t discriminate. All fields, cultures, socioeconomic levels, genders, and ages can experience burnout. Celebrities have started opening up about their journeys through burnout in their respective fields, from filmmaking to technology, music to medical fields. While nobody’s burnout journey is more important than anyone else’s, it can help to see those who have such wide reach and influence speaking up, and speaking loudly, about the intense and life-changing journey through burnout. Here are a few who have mattered to me, and inspired me to speak out as well (starting with the creation of my burnout coaching career).
“Let’s f* change the world.”
Singer/song-writer Lady Gaga is a champion for mental health awareness and isn’t afraid to take every opportunity she can to teach others about it. In 2018, she advocated for 23 minutes during her acceptance speech on mental health, demanding we “create a more nuanced infrastructure” for dealing with mental illness, including PTSD which she specifically called a dangerous mental illness. Some people who have experienced burnout suffer from PTSD, often without knowing it, and can’t truly deal with the extent of their mental illness until they receive support for the condition, myself included. She demands leadership and change to support those fighting and living with PTSD, and I stand with her in these goals.
Her journey is a classic case of burn out, with our drive for success killing us slowly as we say yes over and over when we need to say no. Bustle reports her message to inspire “rest of the yes people”:
“After years and years of saying yes to jobs, interviews, events — all opportunities of course that I am so humbled and grateful to have had because I know that there are so many who have not. And after working as hard as I possibly could to achieve my dreams, slowly but surely the word ‘yes,’ ‘yes,’ ‘sure,’ became too automatic and my inner voice shut down which I have learned now is very unhealthy. I was not empowered to say no.”
“I hope I am a psychotherapist’s dream. I’ve spent enough hours in therapy.”
Australian singer and songwriter Sia, who has written more than 100 pop songs for famous artists including Rihanna and Beyoncé, but her journey has been tough, dark, and difficult. Rolling Stone reports “she’s overcome more than her share of hurdles to get where she is today, including alcoholism, bipolar disorder, an autoimmune disorder, and a suicide attempt.” We all think celebrities have it together, but her inner dialogue, she said in the interview, still looks like this: “‘Um, mostly, ‘Fat fuck, fat fuck, fat fuck. Tree trunk, tree trunk, fat fuck…’” Her battle with body image and substance abuse was just the beginning.
She was drowning in her own career success, and wanted out…“sick of touring, sick of interviews and promotion,” Rolling Stone explained. Like many burn out sufferers, her mental battle manifested itself in the body, in physical symptoms like it tends to do. I had TK TK TK Jess’s symptoms. She developed a full-on autoimmune disorder, Grave’s disease, which can be caused by stress. “The music business was essentially killing her,” her manager told the reporters. We hear ya, Sia. It looks exhausting, and it was. She told ET Canada that “getting famous” in itself should be categorized as a traumatic event. In 2019 she also Tweeted about having a neurological condition and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and she continues to deal with migraines, back issues, fatigue, and thyroid problems. She started to recover a bit when she found her true passion and talent in writing famous pop songs, some of which she did in under 20 minutes. She learned her favorite place was behind the scenes, not in front of massive crowds.
“Finding the strength to come forward about those things is not easy. But maybe, by telling my story, I can help someone else going through tough times.”
Sometimes burnout is the result of a traumatic event, including abuse. I was the victim of emotional abuse by a boss, which contributed to an eventual PTSD diagnosis. Through the process, I was one of the millions of people watching Kesha go public with the effects of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse from Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald. She was still under contract with her abuser, and pursued a legal battle (complete with subsequent hashtag #freekesha) for years. Burnout and mental illness sufferers often find themselves with the same dilemma–they can’t get better until they can get away from the source of their problem. If abuse isn’t a “good enough” reason to be able to get away from your trigger people or situation, I don’t know what is. I too, didn’t immediately recognize the signs until much of the damage had been done. I too felt stuck in my situation, without a clear exit strategy.
Kesha told Billboard reporters that she was changing her perspective: “My new songs showcase my vulnerabilities as a strength, not a weakness.” Life goals, Kesha.
The list of celebrities who have been through burnout also include Selena Gomez, Beyonce, Hilary Duff, and others. Their journeys show us that burnout doesn’t discriminate and that fame and success only fuel the grip burnout can have on you. This is a cycle that we can stop, through education, coaching, and support. If you or a friend may be suffering from burnout, reach out.
Written by Jessica Walther, CEO of Itivate