Pandemic life: "And then the tears started..."

Sussex student Jenny Bathurst has been writing for us about pandemic life since lockdown began back in March last year.

Jenny Bathurst
Jenny Bathurst

The pandemic robbed her of the chance to sit A levels. But she ended up with three As and is now studying journalism at the University of Brighton (Eastbourne campus).

Here is her latest contribution.

"If you head to the internet to search for the definition of the phrase ‘burnout’, you are met with hundreds, if not thousands, of differing results. Symptoms described include exhaustion, withdrawal, excessive drive or, in some cases, ‘inner emptiness.’ Whereas many draw the conclusion that there is a fine line between simple stress and burnout, others believe that there is a stark contrast between the two and that we should be cautious to not mistake one for the other.

"I found myself scrolling through these websites for the reason that many head to health forums and NHS web pages: in anticipation that whatever you are experiencing could correlate with the words shown on the screen in front of you. I have spoken in my column frequently about the pressures that I feel young people are faced with on a daily basis. I by no means believe that working adults have it easy, but when experiencing the stress and anguish that I have faced over my years as a student it is a strain that I hope will ease as I age and mature. Sometimes I wonder if I would be better off to fast-forward to retirement, with a healthy pension and little responsibility – but I am sure as a pensioner I will reminisce and wish to wind back the clock.

"GCSEs were stressful. A-levels were stressful. In fact, there have been many moments of my life in which I have felt particularly tense. But rarely do I reach the point that I did on Monday night. Sitting in my bed surrounded by papers and a mounting list of responsibilities swimming around my mind, I began to feel more and more overwhelmed. And then the tears started, and they didn’t stop for quite some time. And then my breathing became shallower and shallower to the point that explaining to my mum over FaceTime what was going on turned into a muffled mess. Looking back it sounds quite comical, but at the time I felt completely out of my depth and extremely anxious. The burden weighed heavy for three days and then began to subside. Studying for crucial exams, packing for my university return, publishing a book and organising its release – the thought of these endless tasks suddenly crippled me.

"I am entirely aware that this outburst sounds rather dramatic when everything I describe are not only choices I’ve made but are exciting events in my life. I wouldn’t change a thing, and I’m deeply grateful for every opportunity that I have been blessed with. However, when the voice in your head insists that nothing will go your way and that your efforts are useless…you begin to believe it. Getting upset only goes to show how much you care, and that all the hard work is bound to pay off. After reading countless articles and opinions, I concluded that I was not in fact burned out but just severely stressed. No matter how we label our emotions and experiences they are all equally valid, and amidst a pandemic we can certainly cut ourselves a great deal of slack."