Burnout – Usually You Don’t Know You Got It ‘Til It Knocks You on Your A$$

Posted by in Louise Behiel | 62 comments

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.

from http://www.freephotosbank.com/9333.html

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.

What now?

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?


  1. Wow. You’ve had a TON to deal with Louise. I am so thankful you shared it so openly here with us…I am so sorry about the loss of your colleague. Devastating and another reminder of how fragile life is…

    Take care of YOU and know that we got your back!! HUGS!!!

  2. Oh Louise, how sad that you’ve lost your friend and co-worker at such a young age. You’re right, life is short. I’m glad to hear you’re feeling better and am seriously hoping you’ll pay attention to your body and your mind, next time. We’re so fragile, even when we feel strong. Maybe especially when we feel strong because that’s likely to be the time when we pay attention the least to what our bodies are telling us. Take care of yourself!

  3. Oh, Louise! I had no idea what you were going through. How awful to have your co-worker snatched away so quickly and cruelly. Of course that loss forced you to reexamine your life and goals–and Lucy’s brand of long division seems especially pointless when a person has died too young.

    I’m glad you’re back but take it easy on the re-entry. We want your novelist/blogger/therapist/mom/friend voice to stay strong for years to come, even if that means you’ll post less often and visit blogs less often.

    Congrats on fixing the editing problem with your book and making the decision to move the blog. As Patricia said, you rock. You kick butt.

    • Thanks so much Pat. I am purposely taking it easy this time around. And I’m setting limits of what I do and when.

      Your kind words mean alot. be well.

  4. I’m so glad you’re back. I’ve missed your posts.
    I’ve burned out before. (More than once if I’m being honest.) The worst was when I overworked myself and came down with a sinus infection that was misdiagnosed as an allergy. The doctor put me on over-the-counter allergy medicine, which made me drowsy but didn’t cure me. I kept working longer hours because whatever I had made me less productive. Weeks passed and I got worse. The sinus infection moved into my throat so that I could barely swallow anything and couldn’t sleep at all. I finally got on antibiotics that fixed the infection within a week, but my body was so drained from fighting it that it took me almost six weeks after that before I was back to normal.

    • ugly, Marcy. You’re so lucky you finally found the cause and got on the right meds. we get so depleted of health and strength that our bodies can’t respond well to anything. thx for the kind words. It’s good to be back.

  5. Oh Louise, I am so very sorry to hear this! And the reason that I didn’t come and seek you out to find out how you are and why you were missing is because I too was suffering from burn-out and was missing! I so understand how you feel. Maybe I am a hero and I didn’t know it. But I was diagnosed with CFS about twenty-five years ago and then with all the stress with my hubby’s situation that has been ongoing and still not settled, I crash every once in a while. I do the best I can and then I need to take a time out. I haven’t blogged either for quite a few weeks. Finally, I was able to put two sentences together, well, maybe more than two, but I finally have a post for tomorrow. I just hope my dear friend that you don’t continue to push yourself. It is one of the hardest things for us to learn, and that is, how much is too much. And then there is the catch up and fall behind game which seems endless. But we can’t do everything. We just can’t. I want you to know that you can count on me to subscribe to your new website Louise. I am soo happy that you are going to be self hosted. Yay!!!! Welcome back Louise! 🙂

    • Thanks so much dear friend. I’m glad you’ll join me at my new home. and yes, I’m working to keep things more settled and less pressure so that I can enjoy the process. I need to focus on what works and what gives me joy and that is all. be well. take care of you.

  6. Louise, I’ve missed you and your blog, but I completely understand the need for a break. I’m a wicked introvert and the constant push to be everywhere and do everything tends to wear me out. I think you have done a terrific job juggling all your commitments and dealing with all the things that have been tossed at you. So sorry to hear about your staff member passing so unexpectedly.

    • I’m more of an introvert than most people guess, but it was the compilation of situations and truths that threw me under the bus. take care of yourself. things can slide very easily – and I know that from experience.

  7. Oh wow… I thought you were just taking an extended blog break to write. At least you did get to do that! So sorry to hear about your staff member – what an awful reminder that there are no guarantees in this life. Glad to hear you’re working through things and getting back in the groove with your health, writing and day job!

    And ohhhh, I can so relate to the overall theme here. Yesterday I skipped blogging for the second time this summer – not because I honestly didn’t have time; and I even had topics in mind. I Just. Didn’t. Feel. Like it. No deaths or major health woes here, but I took the quiz on your first link and unsurprisingly got “You are at a serious risk for burnout.” Going back to read the “what to do about it” articles now. Good luck keeping yours under control, and thanks so much for sharing this.

    • not sure where my comment went Jenn. sheesh. looks like you’re wiser than I – just not doing it when you don’t feel like it. Good for you. If you’re at the highest risk level, take care of yourself. Burnout bites.

  8. So sorry to hear about the last couple of months, Louise. Especially about your employee – life is definitely precious and short. I’m glad you’re getting back on track – nutrition makes such a huge difference. Keep working at it, but don’t over do it. Everyone will be here:)

    • Thanks for stopping by Stacy. Her death was a real blow. so sudden and out of the blue. I had no idea how deeply it affected me until a week or two later. It seems that I internalized all of those reactions until it was safe to come out. thanks for waiting for me. It’s great to have such a supportive community in my corner.

  9. Louise, so sorry to hear about all you’ve been through. I wish I could stop by, brew us some tea and we could chat, or watch some HGTV and pretend we’re not the family hero sleeping on the job. 😉 Heartfelt hugs on the loss of your teammate. Kudos for getting back on track nutritionally. I’m so glad it’s given you back some energy. I know when I’m on track with my paleo eating, I feel the absolute BEST!

    • I saw you mention Paleo on one of your blogs Ginger (at least I think it was you) and decided to give it a try. very big difference almost within hours. rather amazing, to tell the truth. Thanks for the tea and hugs. Much appreciated.

      • Yep, I’m the Paleo girl. Have been eating this way (primarily) for years now. There is so much info online, blogs and recipes galore. I don’t find it all that hard, actually, once you get a little creative. Ordering out can be tricky but is doable. I have some great cookbooks too and there’s a couple new ones I want.

        I’m so glad it helped! Your experience of a positive change almost immediately is not abnormal. Here’s to feeling better!!!

        • Amen Ginger. Here’s to feeling better. I ate something this morning that is ‘wheat free’ and I’ve fought exhaustion all day. won’t be eating that again.

  10. Aww Louise! I’m so sorry you went through all of that. The death of someone close to us is hard enough, but on top of that you had the other issues cropping up. I’m glad you were able to recognize burnout for what it was and do something to get back on track. Huge hugs to you, my friend! I’m glad you’re back. Looking forward to the new site, it’s going to be amazing.

    • Thanks so much Tameri. I’m looking forward to it as well. it’s another one of those things that I’ve been considering and now have to get it done and off my plate. be well, lovely lady.

  11. Oh Louise, how very sad…the way of life…isn’t it. Sending strength to you and your friend’s children. Good for you to recognise burnout. PS I scored 59!!! on the burnout test. About what I thought.

    • Yes it was very sad. So very quick and totally unexpected. take care of yourself, Veronica.

  12. Sorry for the loss of your friend.

    Glad you’re feeling better and getting back to your lovely self!

  13. Great to see you back Louise!!! Missed you alot!! Very interesting post, I did the test and I scored VERY high, which for some reason really surprises me. Actually I’m quite speachless about the whole thing….???? Is this something I need to even look at , well I guess I could at least look at what the possable effects could be?? or do I even what to go there, Wow!! This has really got me confused…… Wow!!!

    • Remember it’s an online test with numerical scores, Mel. better to take that and look at some of the other signs and symptoms (I’ll have a post later this week) and see what you discover.

  14. nothing like cancer to get your attention, even when it’s somebody else’s. glad you’re back on track.

  15. Well, I don’t think I’ve been on your site before. Found you through Christine Ashworth. I am glad that you took the time you needed and are getting back on the horse. Also, all of my sympathy for the loss of your co-worker and friend. Death is never easy. Mostly, thank you for sharing your journey.

    • Thanks for stopping by Maria. Glad you enjoyed

  16. It’s good to see your name again, Louise. I thought you were taking a nice, long vacation. I’m sorry to hear about your team member. Death in one healthy and, to me, young, is always a shock. As an odd aside, my cousins wife had a hear attack and died on July 7th, and she was only 48, healthy and non-smoker. Carbs are evil! I have a marker for Celiac, and know that I cannot eat wheat, no matter how good it looks, and how wonderful I remember it tastes. Yes, I have pushed myself in the past until my body dropped me flat. It has taken many years for those lessons to sink in. Good to hear from you again. I started your book last night and so far have not caught anything, but nice to have a heads-up.

    • Gerri, nice to hear from you. Hopefully you will enjoy the book and not find anything. After additional rounds of professional editing, I will scream if there are still serious problems. Celiac is a pain. wheat is a killer

  17. I often refer to myself as a recovering perfectionist. It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to do it all, but we just can’t. So sorry to hear that you’ve been through so much but it sounds like you’ve turned the experience into a life lesson. Bless you for being so open and sharing that lesson with us!

    I agree with Patricia. You rock, Louise!

    • Kassandra, thanks so much for your kind words and support. and yes, it has become a good lesson for me.

  18. You rock, Louise! You kicked butt. Now, go get some rest! We love you and need you here so don’t leave us.

    Thanks for the honesty and the links.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • You are so nice, Jansen. thanks for the wise words and kind suggestions.

  19. Glad to have you back but I’m sorry to hear about all you’ve been enduring. Yes, burnout, I’m experiencing it now. Unfortunately I am telling myself that I have no choices and I must push through it. Just like Lucy.

    My uncle, 78, passed away 2 weeks ago from pancreatic cancer. His diagnosis pretty much struck him in the same shocking, fast way that you described above. He was a widower (his wife passed away from uterine cancer 5 years ago). He left behind his 3 daughters, 2 sons-in-law, 6 grandchildren, and his 83-year-old sister (my mother). A lot of time has been spent reflecting on exactly what you talk about–life is short. How do we choose to live it? I wish we didn’t wait for loss and tragedy to take a closer look at our own lives, but that seems to be the nature of the beast.

    Take care of yourself.

    • it is so painful, isn’t it? I don’t know why we have to wait for loss to consider and re-orient but it seems pretty common. take care of yourself. I tried to push through but without luck. hope you do better than I do.

  20. This post certainly speaks to me, Louise. I was the “perfect” child–nobody ever had to tell me what the expectations where; I just *knew*–and that has haunted me my entire life, even now that I’m old enough to know better. I’m sorry for all you went through this summer, but I applaud your wisdom in stepping back and taking care of yourself. It’s nice to see you back.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Gerry. I feel so much better – it is amazing how the time away changed my perspective. I hear you about being the ‘perfect’ child. Take care of yourself.

  21. This is one of my favorite posts of your, Louise, and not because of all you’ve been enduring. So sorry to hear about your food/body stress and your coworkers diagnosis. Life really is too precious… I think this will speak to many people. Your honesty really shines, and I have to say—seems like your burnout may inspire major breakthroughs. Thanks for sharing your world with us, talented, wonderful lady! You have many fans, and I’m stoked to be one of them.

    • Thanks so much August. I’ts always interesting to come out and put it out there (so to speak) but it is what it is. “Healer, heal thyself and tell people” is my motto. be well, lovely lady.

  22. I agree with Lara Britt – burnout has gone viral. I blame a lot of it on social media. I’ve cut back on a lot of groups I was on or subscribed to (not blogs) – dropped out of some LinkedIn groups, gone no mail on some yahoogroups. I’m still doing too much, but I’m really focused on decluttering my online life so I can enjoy those things I do like doing, you know?

    Good for taking time off just for you. We ALL need to do that.

    Hugs my dear!

    • Christine, how wise you are to make all these changes ahead of time. I love the idea of decluttering my online life. I will be using that a lot in the future.

  23. So glad you found your way back to a healthier you, Louise. I understand what you were going through. I also suffered from burnout recently, although, there were no deaths to work through, and it’s not easy getting up and writing, much less blogging. Take care of yourself. Watch the diet and don’t over extend yourself. Sometimes twelve simply doesn’t want to fit into six, and it shouldn’t.

    • You are absolutely right, Debra. twelve doesn’t go into 6 and I have to learn to stop trying to force it.

  24. Burnout has gone viral this summer. Thank you for this post. I believe it speaks to most of us.

    • I did not realize that. Thanks for sharing it with me – I think we’re all trying to do alot and in my case, too much.

  25. Glad to have you back Louise. Thanks for sharing this post–it’s true that anything is possible–even burnout. But not everyone admits to it and after reading so much about what i supposedly NEED to be doing at all times for my life and work, I slump with guilt and inadequacy. It’s probably why I end up writing about inspiration most weeks–I need the reminders about meaning and purpose myself!
    Thanks again for sharing Louise!.

    • Coleen, your posts are one I always make time for – because of their inspirational nature. we are bombarded with what we should do. and perhaps when I win the lottery so I don’t have a day job, I can do all that. But not yet. LOL

  26. Thanks for the good post, Louise. I’m glad you’re back. Yes, life is so precious. Thanks for reminding us of that.

    • thanks for stopping by Tamara. I’m glad to be back

  27. Oh Louise, that’s so hard. And…I totally get it. Glad you’re back.
    Take care of yourself.

    • Thanks Elena. it’s been a good summer – once I figured out what was going on. thanks for stopping by.

  28. So glad you’re feeling better, Louise. Boy, do I understand. Being an Indie author while trying to keep up a “normal” life is just so difficult. Kudos for taking care of yourself. 🙂

    • Thanks Alicia. we’re all in the same boat, but I need to learn to manage better.

  29. I’m glad you were able to get your feet back under you. Life is short and precious, and it’s always in the back of my mind since my sister died eleven years ago. I’ve had to learn to let some things ride until the important things are stabilized. It’s been hard though, and I still don’t think I have a good grasp on keeping the balance. 🙂

    • Thanks Lara. Balance is the key and when we think we have it, it sometimes slips away. take care

  30. I had been wondering… so good to see you back. Hugs and condolences on the burdens you carried. Your granddaughters look like the perfect antidote.

    • thx for stopping by Joan. So nice to see you first thing this morning.

  31. have fun Catie.


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