I’ve been reading a lot about burnout. I guess because I’m there. I’m past there. Since about the second or third week of June I have worked 5 days a week.
That might not sound like a lot. After all, the rest of society works five days a week. Why should I be burnt out over a “normal” work schedule.
It’s not a normal schedule though. I wake up at 2 am on the days I work. I work 10 to 12 hours on the days I work. I all EMS on the days I work. I have to make wellness checks when patients don’t show up to treatment or answer their phones when we try to call. I have to be told by the Sargent that our patient was found deceased in their home. That I’ll never be able to joke with her again; never tell her stories about the kittens or what Ox and I got done on the addition. I’m an introvert constantly empathizing and caring and giving while barely getting enough sleep to keep myself healthy.
I am so out of touch with myself that I don’t know how to care for myself anymore, and I allowed it to happen.
My former supervisor went on vacation for two weeks. During that time I lost 5 patients. Some withdrew from treatment, deciding to go do palliative care instead. Some actually died, as was the case with the wellness check. One moved out of state, but I’ve been so present in our sister clinic that I never got to say goodbye to him before he left.
On top of that, my brother also went on vacation. I knew it would be hard when he left, but I didn’t know I would have panic attacks and feel mom’s death all over again while still having to go to work and hold my shit together.
A couple of Tuesdays ago, I hit my breaking point. I was training a new teammate. We were on the floor taking care of patients. One of my coworkers came on the floor, took one look at me, and asked in an extremely concerned voice, “Are you ok?”
Out of all of the responses I could have given her, all of the things I could have said, I didn’t have it in me to lie; not to myself, not to her. Not to anyone.
“No. I’m not,” I said, on the verge of tears.
We stepped off the floor and I ended up crying in her office explaining how I was exhausted, how I had so much loss that no one could prepare for and the panic attacks due to Jon’s absence.
I’m only human and each of us can only handle so much and I had reached my limit. After emotionally dealing with so much with so little reprieve or self-care I had finally reached the point where I literally couldn’t give anymore because the only then I had left to give was tears.
That coworker ended up covering the rest of my shift that day. I went home and slept for hours. When I woke up I ate then went back to sleep. The next day I went back to work and was able to function.
My former supervisor heard about my break. When she got back from vacation she sent me a text asking me to call her when I had time.
“I wanted to make sure you are ok.” It was so good to hear her voice. It was so connecting to have someone reach out with genuine concern. As I sat outside smoking too many cigarettes, tears silently running down my face I told her everything that had been going on. I told her how I felt like I wasn’t doing anything to create a culture change in our sister clinic. It felt like the only thing I was doing was working more and living less and that I didn’t know how to live anymore. I didn’t know myself. I didn’t have the energy or drive to do any of the things I used to love to do. No cross-stitching, no working out, no dojo.
Just work, sleep, followed by more work.
It’s sucked. It’s sucked so much and now it all feels pointless.
Working 50+ hours for over two months has put a huge strain on my relationship with Ox. It’s left me with nothing to give to our relationship.
My former boss asked if she could have a conversation on my behalf with our new FA. She said she felt like I needed to be back in my home clinic for a while to rebalance. That I needed to work less and be in a familiar environment with familiar people and away from the drama and chaos that is our sister clinic.
She said she is always here for me. I asked, “Even when you’re on vacation?” To which she replied. “Absolutely. Even when I’m on vacation.”
I felt loved after our conversation, much like I felt loved and cared for when my coworker finished out the five hours I had left on my shift. I felt like a person and like I mattered to someone, anyone. That I wasn an invisible cog, replaceable and insignificant. People in my life cared about my emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing and they were actively helping me, not just giving me pretty words about holding on or digging deep or “It will be ok”.
I want a consistent schedule again. I want my three days. I want my days off. I want my routines and quiet moments. I want time away from people and saving lives. I want the energy to save my own.
I want so many things but mostly it comes back to, “I want to be left alone.” I want to not problem solve. I want to turn off my emotional system. I want to disconnect so all of the damage from overworking and begin to heal. I know it’s going to be an extremely slow process. I know it’s going to take a while to recover from what I let the past few months be.
I also know it needs to happen. I need the space and time to be tired, to sleep, to slowly regain energy and drive and purpose again. After that step, I’ll need time to begin returning to the habits that I know are good for me. Working out. Eating well. Sleeping deeply for enough hours. Keeping up with chores and my personal environments. Things that help me feel like I have autonomy and like I’m an adult able to function and cope with life.
I want to get off my antidepressants. I want a life where I don’t have to be on them to cope with burnout. I want work to be sustainable and realistic. I want to have experiences and run mud obstacle 5ks. I want a dojo where I can spare and laugh and learn and be part of something larger than myself. I want to stop smoking but right now it’s my only way to get away from people; to get off the floor, so I keep doing it.
I’ve reached out to another coworker today asking for the contact information for her therapist. I feel like I’m back at the point I was at when mom died. There’s so much not right in my life that I don’t know where to start. I don’t need someone to fix my problems. I need someone to listen; to be a safe place where I can talk, where I have a whole hour devoted to myself where I can start to figure out and untangle things.
Where I can get an outside perspective and other ideas I might not have thought to try.
I don’t need someone to fix my life. Only I can do that. I need the time to figure out how to do that and the resources that will make my efforts successful.
I have today and tomorrow off from work. I haven’t had two days off in a row for so long. The thought of that much time makes me want to cry in relief but at the same time fills me with anxiety. I don’t know what to do if I’m not at work, and that’s so sad and heartbreaking to say.
How can one not know what to do outside of work? How does someone not have a hobby or passion or an idea of what would make them feel ok?
I don’t know. I really don’t know how I let myself get here, but here is where I am.
Ox has been supportive today. Well… he’s supportive every day, but today we both didn’t work. We were both home. We did chores together. We put clothes away, together. We organized things, together. We were together through all of it and that made it feel doable. I wasn’t alone. I didn’t have to figure it out by myself. We could take breaks. We had a homemade breakfast. I didn’t have to drink a protein drink on the way to work because I didn’t have time to digest actual food.
I’ve been having nightmares. It’s the first time I can remember ever being afraid to sleep. Which super sucks because I’m so physically, mentally, and emotionally tired but my brain is being a terrorist and so I’m terrified that if I sleep I’ll have dreams again.
Dreams of rotting teeth or sliding downward and screaming for my mom, or searching the grocery store for the one thing I know I need to get and being unable to find it no matter how hard I look. Or dark monsters who travel from deep in the underworld through tunnels made of bones to attack me.
They’re awful. So awful and I don’t want to have them but I don’t want to take meds so I can’t make myself not dream any more than I could will myself to do it before they started.
I need my life back. I need myself. And deep down, and I want to say I need my mom but I don’t know what good it would do to say that out loud. She’s still going to be dead. She’s still not going to be able to answer the phone.
I want my mom. I may not “need” her the way I need air or water or food, but I want her so badly right now. I want her hug, her scent. I want her words telling me that it’s ok, that I’m safe.
Ox has been doing that a lot today. Whenever we step outside or he’s close to me I reach out and put his hand on my cheek or the top of my head. I don’t know why it makes me feel safer, but it does. It’s helping through today.
Cleaning helped. Eating helped. Showering and meal prepping helped. It’s not fixing anything major, but it’s reminding me that there are shreds of me still left under all of the exhaustion and shattered stress and loss.
I’ve been trying to cross stitch more. I’ve watched all of Cursed on Netflix. I started watching Sweet Tooth. I’ve been cuddling with the kittens and sleeping when I feel tired.
I’m burnt out. Severely. I feel like burnout is its own time of injury and injuries take time to heal. They take rest, and calmness, patience, and understanding. Compassion.
I have two more weeks to go before the new schedule comes out where, in theory, I will be back at my home clinic.
This next week I only work four days. Most of them are shorter days, and one of them is at my home clinic. The next week is another week of 5 days, but two of them are at my home clinic. And then, maybe, possibly, things will get better.
There’s so much more to write about other than my burnout, but this was what I needed to spew the most. I can get through two more weeks. I can get through one week. I can have two days off in a row and survive. I can be something other than work. I can be tired and drained and lost and still be whole; not broken.
That’s something I’m still trying to keep in my mind. I’m still trying to work on being my friend rather than my enemy. I’m still not broken. I’m just really really, tired and that’s ok.
Soon. I’ll be through this soon and maybe then I’ll be able to breadcrumb my way back to me.