Monika Liu – frankly about burnout and rare Tourette’s syndrome: she even turned to shamans

Burnout is a big problem today, which, according to psychologists, more and more people complain about. Both physical and emotional exhaustion betray a state that many confuse with overwork. He is no stranger to the luminary of the Lithuanian stage, Monika Liu, who represented Lithuania in Eurovision. It seems that the performer, who is always in a good mood and radiates energy, does not hide it – her boundless perfectionism and dedication to her work have repeatedly led her to serious health problems.

Monika Liu, who captivated Europe with the Lithuanian “Sentiments” in May, was welcomed in Lithuania with open arms and a lot of offers. Such an intense time before “Eurovision” continued for several more months – it seems that Monika was invited and sang everywhere. Nearby – new works and filming of TV shows. The singer, while participating in the discussion “Burnout from A to Z: what is it and how to deal with it?” organized by the Youth Line, admitted that such a marathon of work brought her close to the verge of burnout.

“I had my last vacation last November when I was sick with the coronavirus. When Eurovision started, that train started rolling and couldn’t stop. I don’t remember when I had two days of pure rest, so soon I will definitely have a vacation – I really need it,” says Monika Liu.

Monika Liu / Lukas Balandis / BNS photo.

The singer is open – the pandemic forced her to take on a lot of work. According to her, the show business, especially after the quarantines, felt a huge pressure. The fear of an uncertain tomorrow encouraged her to take on all the tasks in a row, which, unfortunately, eventually turned like a snowball that kept getting bigger and bigger and engulfing her.

“In the end, you become hostage to your work and circumstances. You need to stand on stage, but you don’t really want to. Indifference is a major sign of burnout for me,” she shares.

Monika is able to recognize the symptoms of burnout due to the difficult experience of her youth and the responsibility that fell on her at an early age. While still studying at school in Klaipėda, she won a scholarship to study at Berkeley College in Boston, USA. People around had high hopes and kept repeating: “Wow, now you’re coming back with a Grammy,” which, according to the singer, is impossible. Two years later, she went to play music in another Mecca of the show world – London, where she fell into a highly competitive environment and the trap of extreme perfectionism. Under the influence of these factors, she crushed herself, but she didn’t realize it and crushed herself even more.

Monika Liu / photo of Žygimantas Gedvilas.

“While in London, a very strong, irrational perfectionism began to manifest itself in me. I’ve always been better than myself, but there’s a certain point where it’s not good enough – you’re constantly putting yourself down and putting a lot of pressure on yourself. In this case, you live in one point, but you aspire to live in another. In the end, you get stuck in a space of aspiration where there is nothing and you become dissatisfied with what you have now, nothing is enough for you,” Monika Liu shares frankly.

Affected by the huge workload and self-loathing, Monika’s health deteriorated. She found out she had a rare condition called Tourette’s syndrome and had involuntary tics that she still has to this day. Although some of them, according to the performers, are very funny, there have also been very bad situations. The second hole in her life after the stage in London, the singer names the period a year ago, which she calls one of the most difficult periods of her life.

“During the pandemic, tic appeared in the throat. It all escalated into a fear of choking on food, which turned into a fear of swallowing. Finally, in Santariškės, I was diagnosed with dysphagia (swallowing disorder, when it becomes difficult for the sufferer to swallow liquid or solid food – ed. past.). This went on for about four months. I couldn’t even eat soup, my weight dropped drastically, and at that time I was going to London to record an album. Then somehow I recorded “Sentiments”. There were “forks”, I didn’t know where to turn,” recalls Monika Liu.


Monika Liu on her way to the PalaOlimpica arena / photo by Lukas Balandis.


Monika Liu / Lukas Balandis / BNS photo.

She also felt the warning signals sent by her body while participating in Eurovision. At that time, the representative of Lithuania experienced considerable pressure and expectations that she would always be cheerful, energetic and shine on stage. However, this is not very realistic.

“Sometimes you feel like shit piece and can’t really shine. Unfortunately, it is necessary, so the body mobilizes for a while. For example, during the last week of Eurovision, I didn’t need to sleep, eat or drink – I was so happy. The body released a lot of adrenaline at that time. On the day of the finals, when I didn’t understand how I was feeling anymore, I got up under a very cold shower, which I can’t really stand anyway. I didn’t feel anything, I just saw how the skin was shivering,” the artist shares.

When asked where she would recommend seeking help when the limit of emotional and physical exhaustion is reached, Monika assures that a psychotherapist is the best help for her. With it, she reflects, finds balance and does not burden the people around her – her other half, parents or friends, whom she admits have greatly diminished due to burnout. She has been in therapy for over four years and can’t imagine living without it.


Monika Liu / Lukas Balandis / BNS photo.

However, during the aforementioned period, when she was diagnosed with dysphagia a year ago, Monika did not first turn to mental health specialists – she sought help from doctors and even shamans.

“I grabbed everything. One shaman said I had to jump on my heels, another said I was dying and needed cloves to eat. Finally, the doctors said that my dysphagia was psychosomatic in nature and not caused by some other disease. Then I ended up with a psychiatrist who prescribed me medication, – says the singer and adds that this is one of the best things in her life, which saved her from worse consequences. – Sometimes antidepressants are the place to start. Then you’re back to normal, where you can make plans, exercise, meditate and eat normally again.”

However, Monika adds: different ways of help are suitable for different people, and you have to discover them yourself. Although the journey to self often takes time, she is convinced that this path is more correct and ultimately leads to better results.

“The most important thing in music are the pauses between the notes, so I wish everyone that pause during which you could hear yourself and your inner self, realize it and make some decisions,” the singer wishes.

For this reason, the singer criticizes self-help books that teach how to become successful and productive. According to Monika, they do more harm than good.

“Going sic those books! They are nonsense that put so much weight on you. I had a boyfriend who wrote down in bullet points what he had to do that day. Over time, I realized that this is not my type and that women have hormones that change, so they can’t force themselves to do the same routine every day. Different rhythms, modes, goals suit us. The desire to be successful, productive and cool becomes your enemy. It’s not necessary – it’s not healthy,” she assures.

At the same time, she disproves the saying “Have a job you love and you’ll never have to work.” According to Monika, it is very difficult for musicians to distinguish between work and leisure, because they often do not let go of the thought that music is just a hobby. However, this is not true: rest is necessary for everyone. Achieving burnout eliminates all joy in life and even the sweetness of achievement.


Monika Liu / Visvaldas Morkevičius photo.

“I remember my make-up artist was doing my make-up and I had tears running down my face. She said, “No one needs driven horses.” Those achievements don’t matter if you don’t value them yourself, they don’t satisfy you, and you don’t feel anything. From my own experience, I can say – the state of normality is the best,” asserts Monika Liu.

In the discussion “Burnout from A to Z: what is it and how to deal with it?”, athlete Rūta Meilutytė, former line volunteer and marketing specialist Ieva Mickevičiūtė and psychologist Antanas Grižas, who together with specialist Mykol Krisčiūnas, also shared their insights about an increasingly noticeable phenomenon of burnout.

According to M. Kriščiūnas, burnout is much more than simple overwork. Although it can also be recognized by severe physical fatigue, the main symptoms of burnout are: emotional fatigue, when it becomes difficult to concentrate, to do something, everything is annoying, as well as a decrease in efficiency, productivity and indifference, apathy, cynicism – withdrawal from everything that previously cared and it was important.

Watch the full discussion here:

A. Grižas adds that burnout is very characteristic of perfectionists, altruists and persons whose activities are strongly related to other people. It can be caused by constant, prolonged, chronic stress stress, lack of meaning, insufficient reward or a situation where work becomes the main value of life. For this reason, burnout usually manifests itself in the professional sphere, although it can later reverberate elsewhere.

M. Krisčiūnas assures that in order to avoid burnout, you need to invest in prevention and constantly take care of yourself, take into account your feelings and state. A. Grižas emphasizes that in order to protect oneself, healthy egoism is necessary. However, if burnout cannot be overcome, psychologists suggest turning to mental health specialists for help.

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