Burning Out the Light

“Some people have compassion for even strangers, but not for their own bodies.” ― Mokokoma Mokhonoana

At the age of 18 years old,

I had a burn out.

I was enrolled in a highly competitive CEGEP

Where everyone wanted to go in med school.

I still remember that first week in CEGEP

Where I thought that everyone was so much smarter than I.

No matter what I did,

It was never enough for me[1].

I never knew what was ‘enough’


What was too much,


What were my limits.

I think it is a struggle for everyone,

To learn what are your limits.


People tend to learn them,

When they are older than 25.

But, some people,

Like me,

Had to learn younger…

I remember having 7 courses.

At that time,

I remember never wanting to accept my diagnoses of ADHD[2]

I would rarely tell anyone about my condition,

Because I knew people would judge me (which they did).

I never wanted them to consider me as

“The dumb one”


“The one that cannot be at our level”.


Instead of accepting my problem

And my limits

I went in total denial.

It would take me 3x longer

To read the manual,

To do the exercises

To adjust to the new school environment.

I would not go to sleep

Until everything was done


I remember my dad

Staying up so late.

He never went to sleep until I was asleep.

Even though I was in tears

Even though I was panicking

Even though it was 2 am.

He was the only one able to calm me down

And made me get some rest.

And for that,

I am truly grateful.

People usually describe me as a ray of sunshine

(Anyway, that’s how my whole family sees me)

I am always full of energy,

Always trying to make people smile.

I remember that when I had my burn out,

Everything stopped.

I couldn’t smile anymore,

I had difficulty getting out of a chair.

And when people helped me,

I would start crying

“For no real reason”.

I was so exhausted,

I could have slept continuously for a whole straight day,

Without even waking up.

I remember that time when I saw Mme. Karine

For my weekly school’s appointment,

She helped me organize my time more efficiently.

I remember that day so well.

I did not even spend more than 5 min in her office,

Talking about how I felt,

When she cuts me off to ask,

“Do you have the number of your doctor on your cell phone”

I was shock by that question

And thankfully I had his number.

While dialling the number,

She looks at me,

Straight in the eye

And says,

“If I cannot have an appointment with your doctor for tomorrow,

I am personally bringing you to the hospital right now”.

I did not understand what was going on,

She told me that for now on,

I was no longer in control.

No longer in control of my school sessions,

No longer in control about which class I needed to drop,

Nor the number of class that were dropped.

I was not understanding what was going on…

She explained to me,

That within the 5 min,

I mentioned more than 5 red flags

Describing symptoms of a “burn out”.

I was crying.

I was freaking out.


I couldn’t control anything.

I panicked.

I told them that in no way

I am okay with this.

They told me

That for my health right now,

They had to do what they are doing.

I called my dad at work crying,

Explaining that because of health issues,

They are forcing me to drop many classes

That I could not be in control of that

That I could,

No longer,

Perform “like the other students”.

I thought of myself as a failure

A dumb person that couldn’t keep up with the crowd.

I felt so worthless.

My dad was so calm and said

“Honey, breathe,

Now, listen to me.

Everything is going to be okay,

It’s a good idea that you are dropping classes.

I am so sorry sweetie, but I cannot really talk right now,

But do not worry,

I will come pick you up in an hour”.

When he came to pick me up,

I told him that they made an appointment with my doctor.

I told him that apparently, I was in a burn out.

My father said,

“There is no way, you are in a burn out!”

“You are just tired!

But, fine,

We will go see the doctor,

I cancel my day tomorrow.”

“I am telling you,

there is no way that you are experiencing a burn out”

“I know what a burn out is,

I saw one of my colleagues, going through it,

And trust me,

You are not even close to what he lived through”

He kept on repeating this speech for 30 min

The same words,

The same emotions in them.


Until we got home

For an entire year I was so mad that he never believed me

Until I learned that the speech he was doing,

It was never addressed to me,

But to him,

About how he was in denial

About how is little ray of sunshine

Was burning out

No longer shining through.

How was it possible, that his joyful girl

experienced depression symptoms?

He knew how bad it was when he saw my doctor.

When he saw me pleading,


For not dropping any classes.

Seeing me so restless,

So vulnerable,

So tired,

Only then, did he understood.

But even today,

He will never admit

That it was a burn out.

Not because he does not believe in mental illness

But because it hurts him to think like that.

My dad helped me get through this dark passage of my life

I learned to accept that I was different than others

That I danced in another rhythm.

And that does not make me weaker

But different.

And when I told him,

“But dad, by taking more time,

The doors, all the opportunities, are closing on me.”

All he would say is:

“Tous les chemins mènent à Rome/ Every path will lead us to Rome.”

And that ‘cliché’ quote is the truth.

We live in a society that forces us to follow a certain path

And if you cannot follow,

It means something is wrong with you.

It’s been awhile that I wanted to share my story,


I couldn’t find the right words

Until today, at midnight,

Seeing my friend going through the same path I went through.

I am here to say,

That you are not alone.

That we hear you cry.

That, yes, right now,

It feels like you are legitimately drowning

And no matter how much you swim through the surface

There is a wave pushing you further and further down.



A storm will always pass,

The ocean will become calmer,

And you will be able to swim back up

To breathe,

To relax,

And just float on your back

To enjoy the view.

You will be happy again.

It is a hard fight,

But you are never alone in this.

[1] I really want to specify the “for me” because my parents never gave me more pressure. They only wanted me to do my possible.

[2] ADHD = Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder

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