We’ve heard so much about burnout. There are articles in my medical journals about physician burnout, Posts about burnout for writers, and articles about physical burnout in my trail running magazines. In each of these documents, the guidance is clear: take time for yourself. That’s cool.
But what happens when you don’t have the time to take?
What happens when everything fries at once?
So, quick update for those of you who don’t know me yet. I’m a family doc who does deliveries (FP/Ob) near The End Of The Earth. It’s rural, and no we don’t have specialists. FP’s do most stuff. In my clinic, I’m it for Ob – we don’t have another FP/Ob on site for my group, so I workity-work as long as I think I can go, then get a locums doctor to come in and cover for a few weeks while I try to recharge. Only this time, nothing is recharging. I pushed beyond what was prudent over the past three months and it caught up to me in a nasty hurry.
Prior to and through this time, writing world was pushing and draaaging along, and right when I finally sorted out my words to complete a project…the publisher closed shop. Like, one day open and the next day done. All of a sudden, I found myself self-publishing the last two books in the series. Learning curve: vertical. Effort input: much higher than before. And to say that I’m doubting every step of the way would be a vast understatement.
THEN, mix in physical exhaustion. Not just from the Day Job, but also because >someone< is dumber than two bricks and decided that training for and running her first ultra-distance trail race would be a super duper swell idea. Because, who the hell needs time or sleep for 5 months of training? Fast forward in time, and 2 weeks ago I completed my first 50K trail run. It took more than a physical toll – I was completely unprepared for the cognitive and emotional drain that occurred. Thank God I was off an extra day after that weekend, because I couldn’t put a cogent thought together for a solid 72 hours after the race. Immediately after the race, hubs asked me a question, and I’m told the answer was in some form of gibberish. I don’t recall that moment.
So: perfect storm. #1) Fried from day job due to not much help and maintaining a massive patient load and up at night doing deliveries #2) Fried from writing job due to crippling self-doubt plus the Sisyphean task to suddenly pivot and self-publish my work and #3) Fried from emptying the physical reserve tanks far below E.
All those pithy self-help articles on burnout don’t really have a chapter that covers what to do when you blow through reserves in every aspect of your life ALL AT ONCE. The past two weeks have been a muddy, numb blur. Week #1, I couldn’t run, and focused on getting through work without making a mistake or sleeping through a hospital call. Week #2, felt guilty for not running and started to run (ouch) and felt guilty for not doing more with the writing stuff, even though my thinker still wasn’t thinking clearly and my "create-or" wasn't creating at all. To be fair, the home stretch of this last book felt like running through muddy quicksand. And I’m sure the 4 labor/deliveries and 2 emergent c-sections that week didn’t help the ability to buckle down, complete that final edit, and set up all the metadata/ad copy etc.
So what’s a gal to do? Luckily, I’m currently Far Far Away on a serendipitously timed vacation. But all the stuff I planned to do while on vacation? Nothing’s happening. Nothing is working. Everything is numb. I’m sitting and staring out the windows and cannot read or write or even think. The usual pep is gone. I spent the first 2 days remembering how to sleep for 8 hours at a time without compulsively checking my phone to see if I missed a hospital call.
Even just opening up a book to read for fun is too much effort. The idea of outlining another manuscript and starting to write it? Haha. And thank the lord above I don’t have to care for another human being for another 2 weeks. That would be an abject disaster and maybe a little dangerous.
The one area that brings relief and has started to fill up those tanks? Supportive hubs and family, of course. Supportive coworkers who are doing their level best to take as much of the Day Job workload off my shoulders. The supportive writing/medicine community on social media and IRL.
Most importantly, it’s the recognition of the state I’m in that gives me power over it. Maybe I can’t get super productive in the next few weeks, but I have the support and tools to get back to normal brain/creative mind/physical state. At some point soon, I hope to get back to baseline multitasking ability (that is to say: "functionally hypomanic") and back in the swing of things.
6/6/2018 12:07:21 pm
I have been there. I destroyed a career by not realizing I was at the end of my rope. I pushed through anyhow and triggered a chain of daily meltdowns. My advice: If staring out the window feels good right now, stare out the window. Put the book down. Postpone deep thoughts. It took a long time to get in that condition, so don't expect to recover in a few days.
6/7/2018 11:50:35 am
Thanks! I'm working on it. (And by working, I mean, not working.) :)
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Author, daydreamer, and practitioner of trying very hard to duct tape folks together and help when I can.
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