Not to be taken lightly

See what I’m reading this gloomy Sunday to know that this post is not an easy one…

I lost the bubble in November, spent a good 10 days barely functioning before realizing I needed to take a deep breath and then coming out on the other side with a new appreciation for Burnout, what it is, and how it can hit you out of the blue.

I’m not sure I’d have really known what to even look for if a friend a few weeks back hadn’t introduced me to a Brene Brown podcast where she talked to the authors of this book. Even then, listening to the podcast, I just thought I was stressed and found the tips for closing the stress cycle resonated: I am not walking to work, swimming in the evening, getting distance from the daily stressors… big or small…in ways I was pre-Pandemic.

I was not prepared for the sudden change from feeling overwhelmed and stressed (but sure I could manage it) to being submerged in a deep horrible apathetic darkness where I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and where it took all my working energy just to get through the priority tasks on my agenda…like teaching a class. But there was nothing left after: no interest in reading or relaxing, or talking to friends. I was short tempered and found engaging with my family hard. It took everything I had just to get through my work day. Thinking was too difficult…subtitled movies with my husband or deep conversations about Arthurian literature with my excited university daughter (ie: things which previously filled me with joy) were too much.

And I knew that wasn’t good.

Here’s the thing about burnout: it lies to you. It told me nothing I was doing mattered. That I was doing a terrible job teaching and should quit my job. That I had lost my edge….and to be honest for that period of time, I had.

And I didn’t start to become myself again without a bit of a retreat. Walks. Trees. Campfires. Disconnecting. Giving myself permission to do the bare minimum. Doing some serious serious self-evaluation and thinking.

And the light came back.

Photo cred: Anna Nielsen, somewhere in Europe 2019

Postscript: I posted afterwards on social media. And so many people reached out in support…also to share their own stories. I learned two things.

1. More people are dealing with this than ever right now and we need to address it, not pretend it doesn’t exist.

2. When we are in a dark place, we retreat. By the time people reached out in response, I was fine. Check on your quiet friends.

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