“Vacation” Just Means You Have To Work More Later

It has been a week since my close scrapes with having my car run over by a truck, running out of gas on the highway, and having a mental breakdown at my workplace. I got some rest, tried to unwind, spent some time taking care of the issues I could resolve on my own, and now I’m back at work. It is, unfortunately, like I never left. Yesterday was so busy that I had a stress headache and an overstimulated migraine at the same time, and wound up spending my evening sitting in a comfortable position on my couch while drinking plenty of water with all the lights off except the dim light of my television and my always-on christmas lights. All of which normally helps but didn’t this time (probably because of how long the combo migrache had been going on), so I would up turning to painkillers and eventually those helped. Sleep eventually killed the lingering effects of the migrache so I was ready to tackle today. Except this horrible combination of brain pains is already back because today is busy as well and it’s not like I magically got used to my new underclothes in twenty-four hours.

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Breaking Points And Self-Care

I almost hit a breaking point last week. I’d been putting off getting gas because I was too tired to do it after work, in too much of a hurry to do it before work, and too exhausted to think of leaving my apartment for anything over the weekend. So I left my apartment with basically no gas in my tank and panicked during the second half of my commute about potentially running out of gas before I got to the gas station because I hit two patches of stop-and-start traffic due to massive tractors being on the highway. Then, it turned out the gas station I went to had ripped out every single pump and not just part of the parking lot like it had looked from the street. While searching for nearby gas stations (a lot of stuff in that area has closed in the past 2 years, so I wanted to be sure I went to someplace that was still open with what might have been the last of my gas), a stupid, massive pickup truck almost backed over me despite me honking at the driver and opening my window to yell. Either he didn’t see me or didn’t care, but I only didn’t get run over by this truly massive lifted pickup (large enough and high enough to have just driven right onto and over my car) because the people who had been blocking me in moved enough that I could get away. After that, I got gas, went in to work, took one sip of my morning coffee, and realized that if I tried to work through the day as I had planned, I was going to have a breakdown.

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All It Took To Combat Worsening Burnout Was A Lot Of Effort

As I’ve mentioned an untold number of times on this blog, I’m struggling with burnout. The problem with burnout is that it isn’t solved by a simple vacation. Or even several simple vacations. It is a process of years to recover from the constant exhaustion, the anxiety, and the need to continue the grind. A process that frequently doesn’t ever play out for people in my society, much less for those who are less privileged than I. After all, I’m not going to be able to escape the burnout until I don’t need to work extra hours to make ends meet in a way that doesn’t involve bargain shopping, penny-pinching, or denying myself anything I don’t strictly need with a few exceptions here or there. Even then, I’d have to find either a new job or a way to fundamentally alter the relationship I have with my job and the way I feel obligated to continue laboring as I have in the past. So, while it is definitely possible (and even probable, given enough time) that I’ll eventually escape this cycle of constant burnout, I find myself focusing on ways that I can continue to live with it, at least for now.

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Stress and Sleep Troubles

It was another rough week. I got everything done I needed to and most of the things I wanted to, but I’m now struggling through another (thankfully silent) Friday and I want nothing more than to turn into a puddle for twenty-four to forty-eight hours. I bet puddles don’t have insomnia or anxiety. I bet puddles can get all the rest they need or want. I bet puddles don’t feel depressed and isolated from everyone they care about because anxiety is mean and they were raised to take on responsibility for the happiness and well-being of everyone around then, frequently leaving them feeling inadequate and like they’re hated whenever they protect their own mental health by not putting in extra effort to help other people who are struggling. What a life that would be, to be a puddle.

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I Struggle To Spend Money On Myself

For the first time in enough years that I can’t actually figure out exactly how long it has been, I’m taking a week off work at a time that isn’t the week between Christmas and New Year’s. For the first time in my life as an adult in the workforce, I’m taking a week off of work to go on a vacation. Even when I was still willing to endure the stress of my family to access the lakehouse every summer, I never managed to take a full week off. I always had to align the trip with a holiday and take only a part of the week off. But this time I’m actually leaving my home to go someplace I’ve never been before with no intention other than to relax and enjoy myself.

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My New Mental Health Cycles

As I sat on my porch this morning, drinking my coffee and enjoying some direct sunlight as I cooled down after my morning workout, I was forced to admit that my struggles with depression this year weren’t entirely due to the long, bitter winter we had. That definitely contributed to it, of course, there’s no denying that. My struggles with work and the increasing solitude I feel as one of the only people I know who is avoiding all but the most necessary trips into public places are also contributing factors of course. However, there is no denying the increased severity of my depression from previous years to this one. Even last year wasn’t as bad as this one, in terms of my general depression.

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If You Bite Your Cheek And No One Sees It, Are You Really Injured?

I bit my cheek the other day. It was a rather ordinary moment, by any measure. I was eating my afternoon apple and, in my genuine enthusiasm for the fine fruit, accidentally bit the inside of my cheek. It hurt, of course. It always does, no matter how frequently you bite yourself. But it didn’t bleed very much. After doing my best to examine the injury, I was able to determine it was quite deep, given the way I’d bitten it, even if there wasn’t much blood. Since there was nothing I could do about it, I rinsed my mouth out and returned to my apple. It was painful, but I was able to avoid worsening the injury by chewing carefully and finished my apple. Eventually, I also ate dinner and managed to avoid worsening the injury through another great deal of careful chewing. It required ignoring a decent amount of pain, of course, but I’m fairly used to ignoring pain so I was able to cope well enough. I couldn’t just avoid eating, after all. That would only make things worse in the end.

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Amazing What A Little Time, Some Energy, And Years of Effort/Therapy Can Do For You

I bought curtains today. And a curtain rod, of course. I’d need some way to put the curtains up if they were going to actually serve their intended purpose, you know? I also bought an oscillating fan and sundry cleaning items. Pretty normal stuff for a trip to the store at the start of summer. Nothing terribly exciting here. I also put the curtains up. Took a few minutes to find all the stuff I needed in my toolbox, given that most of it spilled out when I moved and I’ve only needed the stuff in the drawers over those past two years rather than the still incredibly messy main storage compartment, but I think the job took ten minutes total, from unpacking the curtain rod to fussing with the curtains to determine where I wanted to position them when they were open. They’re partially behind my front door, you see, so I wanted to make sure they wouldn’t get caught on the door in some strange twist of chance that would result in the curtains getting pulled down. And now I’ll be able to sleep past sunrise on clear days, since the window the curtains hang in front of allowed sunlight to bounce pretty much straight into my bedroom.

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Taking A Moment For Perspective

I was taking a break at work, sitting in my chair and mindlessly flipping between email accounts on my phone so I could feel like I got something done (clean out my email inboxes) without needing to really do much (all I really get are ads these days), because I was too exhausted to engage with even something as simple as a sudoku puzzle. After I ran out of inboxes to clean, I decided to text a friend a simple complaint about being exhausted and not knowing why, given that I’ve actually been getting decent sleep this week. As we talked and I went from that general statement to considering the specifics of my past few days, I realized that I should actually be very proud of myself for only being this exhausted. All of the stress of the last two months hasn’t actually gone away, I’ve just adjusted to carrying it and started getting enough sleep that I’m not so tired in the morning that I need to spend two hours convincing myself to get out of bed.

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I’ve Been Practicing Taking Breaks

While I know that I am the source of most of the pressure I feel to be productive and to do most of the stuff on my to-do list in a timely manner, I can’t help but feel like it is easier to find better ways to work than to address the monumental issue that is how much of my self-worth is derived by being productive. Nothing highlights this more than times like right now, as I’m working on catching up with everything I didn’t do for the full week I was feeling exhausted and out of it due to sleep deprivation and stress caught in a horrible feedback loop that is taking me multiple weekends to break out of. I have a simply massive task list since I wrote down everything as it came up last week (I’m pretty good at recognizing that my memory is going to be faulty once I reach a certain level of exhaustion), and it has been a struggle to ride the fine line between productivity and rest. After all, it won’t do me any good if I get a lot done in one day but wind up tiring myself out so that I’m useless again the day or two after that.

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