weeknotes #25: how do you prevent a meltdown?

(Content warning: Anxiety, burnout)

I don’t even really know where the last ten days have gone since my last blog post, but I can tell you that I feel like I have been deferring a mental breakdown for the past six days. I have held back tears and screams. My neighbour’s smoke alarm has been going off almost constantly for the last eight hours. It is probably just a coincidence that it stopped just as I typed that sentence. But I think they have moved out, or are on holidays. But I won’t lie; it – like many other things – just riddles me with anxiety. Merging and deploying code as part of my job still gives me anxiety that I feel is far more personal than professional at this stage, and you know, other things just make you want to punch a wall.

I’ve also had a mouth ulcer for the past six days, too, and maybe it’s just a coincidence that I had a covid scare six days ago that also blew some of my plans out of the water. It’s no one’s fault. It’s no one’s fault, really. But it has just meant that I will not be able to see some people I care about and whom I haven’t seen in a long time. And I do not know when I will see them next. For the record, I’m fine, and I didn’t get the virus a second time. It took me maybe a whole day of panicking and being frustrated before I decided to do a test for peace of mind.

I posted on Twitter, a few days ago, that my toxic trait is doing work to run away from my own problems.

(The smoke alarm is going off again.)

I’m sipping my tea from a metal straw because I don’t want my hot beverage to touch the inner part of my lip that has the ulcer on it, as I’m drinking it. That shit burns. I accidentally touched it with salty, yeasty – did I say salty? – Vegemite from my toast the other day when I ate it, and I had to wince and growl in pain at the same time.

Anyway, my own problems are a little more significant than a petty mouth ulcer, but if you asked me exactly what those problems are, I might not be able to explicitly say them. Anxiety is a feeling. Being depressed is a feeling. Sometimes those feelings don’t make a lot of sense when you think about what caused them. I wasn’t crying about a build failure yesterday. I was crying about the fact that I had a build failure on top of having a bothersome conversation, on top of having a really, really tough workout (I did deadlift 90kg four times, though, hurrah), on top of not having the best sleep, on top of working for 10 hours on Monday, on top of feeling immense responsibility to do extra work while my team is down one person. Meltdowns are an accumulation of bullshit, triggered by something that doesn’t make any sense to an outsider of your thoughts. I should add: The immense responsibility I feel is also irrational. We don’t have deadlines. Nothing is on fire. We’re actually doing alright even though we are down one person.

I can’t help these things sometimes. I can be immensely aware of them, like I am right now, and I really feel like that is both a blessing and a curse, to be so incredibly in tune with my thoughts and feelings.

Being in tune with them is one thing, I guess, but trying to initiate an action to change the course is another. I understand it’s not healthy to defer a mental breakdown or a meltdown by working long hours to keep myself busy. If I’m doing that, I’m somehow causing myself to burn out in the process of preventing a meltdown. Does that mean I’ll have double meltdown? Does that mean I’ll be so burned out that I avoid a meltdown and never have one?

Oh, wouldn’t that be cool. Avoid a meltdown by burning myself out and being too exhausted to have a meltdown. Honestly, I feel like I’ve heard that one before. Probably from myself.

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