Burnout and Recovery

There’s something incredibly freeing in knowing that you’ll not be able to look at your phone for eight hours. 

No, I’m not kidding. I’m not allowed to have my personal phone with me during work hours. So, you see, that eight hours might be more like nine hours. 

I’ve learned a few things being back in the office though. That I need the bustle of an office, or the noise or music, or something in the background during my day. Sitting in silence and working is doable, but my focus is shot. 

Don’t get me wrong. I still hit my deadlines and my daily goals. It’s just… a struggle to focus. I do a bit here and a bit there and I get to the end of the day and I’ve done what I need to do, but it feels as though I’ve been working scatter-shot and not actually been as productive as I should be. 

And there’s the trap. That not-so-little word “productive.” 

I have a problem with being productive. I take on more and more responsibilities because my brain stays active all the time. I don’t get to shut it off and I crave new and exciting things. I like to build businesses and find improvements in the system. It’s actually why I burned out so badly that my friends had been pushing me to leave my job three years into a five year stint. I wasn’t just doing the job I’d been hired for. I was also doing three or four other jobs on top of that. 

There was the process improvement initiative that needed someone on it. 

And the safety briefings that needed to be done. 

And the change management initiative that needed a cheerleader. 

And the team lead on the five year project that I’d been there for the first step of and needed to see through before I left it. 

And the leadership development course that I didn’t need but looked good on the resume and let me meet senior leaders.

There was the manager leaving without notice, and someone had to step in. And then they needed to hire someone though the outside process, because gods forbid they just promote from within. It wouldn’t be “fair.” 

Ask me about the fact that everyone assumed I’d have the job. Ask me about the fact that I was doing the job in addition to my other duties. And the fact that HR dumped my resume without it going to the hiring managers at all because I didn’t have the “manager” title anywhere in my background.

I answered the screening question honestly due to my understanding of the question and the manager who was doing the hiring told me “you could have asked me what I meant.” 

Um, I thought this was supposed to be a blind process from outside? So, to my mind that meant I couldn’t talk to you.

Turns out this is a female thing. It comes from how we’re socialized in the US. It’s why we end up outside of the old boy’s network trying to figure out how the social structure works. We swallowed the lies that our accomplishments and our achievements would be enough to push us forward. 
No. It’s networking. It’s asking the hiring manager questions that the person on the street can’t because the system isn’t fair. 

And the manager that was hired was from the team I was working on, so great! I knew them. I could teach them everything I was doing. Three months of me as the interim manager meant that we could trade off as The Great Unpleasantness meant we were suddenly doing shift work. 

Get that through your head faster than I did. Maybe you won’t burn out working a 60 hour work week trying to figure out how to make everyone safe in the office during The Great Unpleasantness and get everyone back to work at full staffing because the hybrid model would not work. 

No pressure. 

And give me a status on why you’re working so many hours on this project where we’ve changed the goal posts approximately every two hours since you’ve begun. And we won’t let you see the studies or the guidance, just let us filter that for you. 

And then, the headhunter called. And I left. Two weeks notice after the job letter was in my hand. 

That’s been another adventure. And a stop-work order that popped up in January. It took until September before I had steady work that didn’t make me want to stab my eyes out.

But those months of scrabbling and starting a new resale business and trying to set up for freelancing and cutting the budget to the bone so I could rely on my savings to float me until unemployment kicked in?

They were scary. 

They were also the rest point that I needed to recognize that I needed to get my head on straight. I needed at least a month to do nothing productive. To get my energy back and to look for something that would cover my actual needs every month. 

And I’m not recovered from the stress yet. I still have trouble being creative (though that haze over my brain is starting to clear, just a bit.) I have trouble self-motivating. I’m tired all the time. 

But I have a plan. 

I have been consciously trying to take care of myself. 

Increasing exercise. Downsizing. Clearing debts. Cleaning the house. And getting ready for the next big adventure. 

I don’t know when it’s going to hit. But I’m not just bracing for the waves. I’m putting up sandbags on the perimeters and boarding up the windows. I’m installing a sump pump. 
Part of me thinks I should go back and edit this piece about five times before I post it. 
But I’m not going to.

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