The hilarious thing about burn out is that you don't know you're there...in it...being devoured. At least, I didn't know. I had no clue. Was I overwhelmed? Sure. Was I depressed? Probably. Was I certain I'd be able to push through and get it all done AND be totally fine? Haha...yes, I was.
I knew something was wrong with me. That's why I went to a therapist to talk about it. I thought it was stress from the usual suspects. Too much happening all at once and nothing I hadn't experienced before. But this time, what I wasn't seeing was the emotional toil that came with being so depleted and pushing ahead anyway.
I wanted to run away. I wanted to quit my job(s). I wanted to disappear from everyone's radar. I wanted to sell our house and move to another province, work in a bookstore and have zero responsibility. (Don't get me wrong, I would still really love to work in a book store again). All I seemed to be able to do was read and sleep. I felt tremendous guilt for not writing. I had projects to wrap up, sequels to start. There were things to do but I just couldn't motivate myself to do any of it.
Everyone I know is going through the same kind of stress, especially the moms. This pandemic has been brutal on all of us. I thought what was happening to me was normal.
And maybe it is normal, but it's not my normal.
After listening to me over several visits, and hearing the heaps of issues plaguing my mind, my therapist looked me in the eyes and said so matter of factly, "well, of course you're exhausted, you're drowning in the depths of burn out." That's when it all suddenly clicked.
Ah, yes, burn out. I'd heard of it. I'd known other writers who'd gone through it. I didn't actually know what it meant, not really, or how to fix it.
My therapist told me that if I didn't take steps to ease the burdens on my life now, the burn out would get worse and last longer. It wasn't going to fix itself and, with my track record, I'd probably keep going until I dropped dead (figuratively) from exhaustion.
Her first assignment: take a day off work. I hadn't taken one sick day, mainly because I'd been working from home and it wasn't impossible to push through headaches and nausea and exhaustion.
My next assignment: say no.
These two things seem simple enough. I took a sick day planning on getting writing done and maybe clean a couple of bathrooms and...do you see what was happening there? I didn't but my body did and when I took that sick day it was like my body had a green light to deflate and rest. I slept all day. I got up to eat. I read a little. I relaxed completely. I so badly needed it.
I've said no to three things as well. Two writing things and one day job thing. The world didn't implode.
As my body and mind have started to replenish, I've noticed my motivation returning. I wrote a short story for an anthology call. I began adding words to a sequel I'd started last year. My passion and creativity is sparking again and I feel excited about working on things.
This isn't the end of my burn out story, I know, there's a lot of healing that still needs to happen. There are more sick days in my future. There are more offers I'll need to turn down. My 2022 reading list will probably the highest it has ever been because reading does recharge me and it's not procrastination like I was conning myself into believing. I will cut myself a lot of slack. I will not feel guilt for resting.
Even though I love to work, it shouldn't be the thing that consumes me, there's more to life than that.