Burnout – Usually You Don’t Know You Got It ‘Til It Knocks You on Your A$$
If you follow this blog, you know I planned a two week vacation in early July. Here it is mid August and I’m just coming back. Some of you have emailed or FB’d me asking about my health and plans. Thank you so much for caring. Your contact meant more than I can say.
So what happened? Why the delay? In a word, Burnout. But if I’m to be honest, it was more than that. It was the perfect storm of demands, hopes, health and dreams that drove me into social withdrawal.
I have never had an episode of burnout. My motto has always been the Charlie Brown cartoon where Lucy asks Charlie
“How many times does twelve go into six?
He replies “It doesn’t.
She responds, “It will if you push.”
I have lived my life knowing that moderation was a rumor, especially if I was excited and interested in a project or activity. Working out? Hell yeah. Two hours at a time, three or four times a week. A food plan? Oh yeah. Managing my life, finances, work and writing? Yes. If you push through the time constraints anything and everything is possible.
Until it isn’t.
So what happened? My perfect storm had a number of components.
1. My professional life took off in a totally new, high demand direction. I have worked to make this happen, loved it, and was busy every minute of every day. There was rarely a moment to catch my breath in any given day through May and June.
2. I got lazy with my food plan. As many of you know I’m a celiac and I’m very fussy about gluten both internally and topically. BUT, a two year old took over my body and if she couldn’t have gluten, she wanted grain based carbs at every meal. Because of this, I was so exhausted I had trouble staying awake to drive to work, or home. I would drop into a coma for two hours after dinner. I couldn’t push through the exhaustion to do more than minimally get through each day.
3. On April 27, one of my staff came to me and asked for a couple of hours off to go to the doctor. She had a cold she couldn’t shake. Of course I gave her the time. And when she called later that day to say her doctor had told her to take a week off because she was exhausted, I agreed. At the end of the week she called to tell me her doctor decided it was a lung infection and she would be off for another two weeks. Before the end of the two weeks, he booked her for a CT scan then told her to go to the local cancer clinic because she had stage 4 lung cancer. This non-smoker died on July 8 at the age of fifty.
She was a widow, whose two children (25 yo and 18 yo) are now orphans.
There’s not much to say, is there? Life is precious and short.
4. Then there’s my first book. It came to my attention that it hadn’t been edited very well. I had a number of people go through it and I paid for editing because I have no ability for details. But given a couple of reviews and a comment or two (thanks for being honest with me, ladies) I realized I had to do something about the book. So I stewed and I wondered and I thought. Should be a simple decision but it wasn’t. I churned and churned and churned. What? How? Who? Why? All were redundant questions. Fix the darn book Louise and make it right. Should be easy. But that was a clue for me that I was struggling mentally and emotionally. I knew what had to be done but I was unwilling and unable to do it. Looking back, that should have been a key: when you can’t do something you know you have to do but you keep thinking about it, feeling bad, worrying…you’re in burnout.
5 I couldn’t raise the energy to write. Anything. Reports at work. My blog. My book. My novella. Letters. Emails. You name it, it was hard work to get any of them done.
6. After not blogging for a couple of weeks, I couldn’t face the idea of doing it again. Don’t get me wrong–I love blogging and following yours, but I just couldn’t fathom writing on a regular basis. So I didn’t.
In simple terms, I didn’t do much. I went to work, read a bit of email, talked to my friends, shared my feelings and worked on my next book. I sent book 1, Family Ties to a good editor, got it re-done and re-uploaded (you should get a notice from Amazon any day).When I had the energy, I sent my December novella to the same editor. I worked through the Beta comments on Book 2 (Family Lies). And I changed what I’m eating (more paleo than anything these days), so now I have a wealth of energy. For the first time in months I feel like myself again. Perhaps a little more fragile than before, but I’m back at full steam.
There is lots of information on the web about burnout. I’ve included some good links below. But remember, it looks different for each of us. It feels different for each of us. It behaves differently for each of us.
I am the family hero. I never give up and I never give in. Lucy’s comment to Charlie is how I’ve lived my life. Anything is possible if you focus, work hard and go to any lengths. But the combination of the wrong nutrients, a death on my team, and the acknowledgement that my work wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be combined to knock me on my backside.
That’s as close to burnout as I want to come.
Blog posts will start to appear regularly again over the next few weeks. But I’m going to a self-hosted site (thanks to those of you with the great posts on how to do that and thanks to Steena Holmes for doing it for me), so I’ll be asking you to change your subscription to the new site in a few weeks. I hope you’ll join me.
Until then, here are the links I promised. Take care of yourselves. Life is short and sweet.
There’s a simple test here
Have you ever burned out? Do you know what caused it? What was your healing process?