I wake up every Saturday morning and sit down at the computer ready and excited to share something that lit my week. An insight, an idea, a book, a movie, a person. It’s Saturday morning, I am at my computer but, looking back, there is nothing but … the chase. Gotta tick this box too … .
When I was told for the first time that this is a marathon and not a sprint, I was happy. I thought it meant this is an effort you can pace for yourself where you can grab water in the in-betweens, breathe, actually sometimes even enjoy the scenery or the run. The reality is … this is a marathon of sprints.
I spoke to Circulus Institute on Tuesday about burnout. I went into the meeting almost completely convinced it was not about me and then started checking boxes one by one.
The way I replenish after a day of constant depleting (which my job has become over the past year) is sitting with myself, reading what I like, writing, contemplating ideas and dreaming of a time when I will be my own boss, helping only the people I want to help, making a difference in their lives and the lives of others. This week I have had to actually schedule these to make sure I do any of it. Around Wednesday I found myself thinking of them also as chores. You lose the joy in things that you otherwise enjoy. Burn out symptom. Check!
My plate is full of work. FULL. But I make an effort to focus every single second on doing a good job, focusing, taking things seriously, doing the best that I can. Every now and again, this week, someone said, hey, you are actually doing a great job. It fell on deaf years. I don’t even recognise the wording. All I know and all hear is “hey! eyes on the chase, chase every second, make sure you don’t miss anything! Run, pay attention, stay on top of things! Run, don’t waste time!” I actually said the words this week “I don’t enjoy compliments”- wow. Losing the ability of receiving praise and constantly beating yourself to go faster, do more. Burnout symptom. Check!
I sleep for 7 to 8 hours every night. And yet I wake up like I merely blinked my eyes shut for a second. My jaw has been clenched so hard that each evening I have had to use warm patches to unclench it. I am not hungry, food makes me nauseous, I eat because I have to … to keep the chase going. Every hurt I know from the past is coming back. By back muscles, my knee, my head. I have been sick to my stomach for the past two days. Mindfulness practice seems like a burden – breathing … I don’t want to focus on it. The body keeps score. Burnout symptom. Check!
I LOVE my family. They are my rock, my berth, my fuel and my lullaby. I snap at them every day. I want to hide under the covers and talk to nobody in the house. In a distant echo in my head I recognise I would like to be part of discussions going on around me but in this reality I feel too tired and too removed to say anything. I know if I open my mouth I will snap so I feel the kinder version of me is the silent, removed one. Not able to engage with people you love, in activities you otherwise enjoy. Burnout symptom. Check!
This is not a pity party. This is not venting – I actually hate it when people tell me, oh, I just want to vent – the translation is “I want to air my house of bad shit and I will just send it to yours. You do what you want with it. Once I am relieved of it I will happily walk away, not even thank you for listening and go on my merry way while you find a way to deal with the shit I just left with you.” This is not what it is. This is a cry for help to myself and to others. In over fifteen years of therapy and several of coaching, I recognise all of the symptoms. I see what is happening and I realize I am stuck and in danger. It’s like I am presented with a ball of thread, all mingled and tangled and full of knots. And I want to start unravelling it and I can’t catch a lead. Seeing words in black and white on the screen has always, always ordered my thinking, has always carried on what I think and feel way better than any spoken word. This is why … .
Why don’t I just write this in my computer and am sharing it with people who read this blog (thank you btw)? Because I feel that if one person recognizes themselves in this and stops their chase, even for a minute. If one person takes an extra breath because they realize, reading this, that what they are doing is not being a cool achiever but a candle that burns at both ends, then my struggle is not in vain.
Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash