weeknotes #2: burnout and help

A soccer field at dusk showing a yellow sky with lots of clouds. There are some modern apartment buildings behind the soccer field and some construction cranes in the background.
A moment before it rained.

Last week’s somewhat unofficial weeknote left me feeling quite empowered to write more. I have been having a hard time lately. This week has been a mess of emotions. I’ve noticed a pattern for the past few months that involves me dipping into episodes of depression and anxiety that last anywhere between 1 to 3 days. I haven’t ever really experienced depression that involved an inability to get out of bed, or a severe lack of motivation that made days extremely hard to get through. But I have had depressive episodes that involve rapid mood swings (crying uncontrollably and “feeling sad” and at rock bottom one moment, to quite fine the next, and then back again), and this feeling of crying for no reason.

The feeling of crying for no reason absolutely sucks. I cannot turn it off. The thing that upsets me the most is that I actively try to fill my days with activities that make me happy, and time (albeit virtually at the moment) with people I care about, but somehow these low emotions creep in. Even when I don’t actively try to fill my days with sunshine and rainbows, I have no doubt that I can find the joy in every day.

This does remind me of something I used to do – at the end of the day, I used to write down some of the things that were good about my day, as a way to practise optimism. I actually haven’t done that in a while. However, I think I got to the point where I was so fed up with these depressive episodes that I booked a session with a counsellor for next week.

Talking about my problems to people close to me helps. But I am aware of being a burden to them and unloading my emotions on them. People have their own problems to deal with, and there is only so much support they can give me.

I have not reached out for professional help in so long. I had a counsellor back in high school, about 15 years ago. I was not self-aware and didn’t understand my emotions, but I have such a strong understanding of my emotions now and I am able to communicate them, so hopefully a professional can give me some guidance to get me through these shitty episodes.

What I’m feeling right now feels like it could be a result of burnout. I stayed up late the other night, working until 10:00pm. I’m ashamed of this behaviour. I don’t advocate for it at all. When I get burned out, I become hyper sensitive to certain events. It’s a pattern I have only understood and seen manifest in the past year. To be clear, my workplace and company absolutely does not advocate for overworking, and in fact encourages taking care of oneself. I accept responsibility that I have brought this upon myself. Nick asked me why I did it. Did I have something to prove? Was I being pressured? I felt pressure, but no one was pressuring me. Perhaps some of my previous behaviours were rooted in impostor syndrome, but this wasn’t. I’ve been known to be a workaholic. And perhaps during this work-from-home lockdown era, I lost the real meaning of what it means to be valuable and useful, as well as what the hell boundaries are.

Right now I feel alright. I had negative thoughts spiralling yesterday. Today they are spiralling less, but I realise that a lot of what I think about is fearing the future. Thinking of things that could possibly happen. Trying to plan for scenarios and conversations that I don’t even know I will have. I tried to put it aside.

In the mornings for the past three days I have been trying to focus on my breath, with the help of my Apple Watch. It was a habit I had a few years ago, but since traditional meditation and focusing on my breath doesn’t work for me, I hadn’t done it in some time. I am trying to figure out what form of meditation works for me. My friend Diana mentioned on Twitter that traditional meditation has not worked for her either, and instead she sees the process as, “What calms your mind down?” I like that.

I am drinking a cup of chai tea. With the cinnamon and all. I love chai blends because I enjoy spicy tea. Cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, pink peppercorns, I love it all. This one is from a teabag. I mentioned last week that I was trying to finish a supply of oolong. To be fair, I was getting bored of it and I missed having a variety of options, so I grabbed this at the local grocery store. I usually opt for loose leaf, but I’ve been so lazy these days and sometimes loose leaf tea is a commitment (also in the amount it usually comes in). So teabags it was.

Earlier in the week I made an order for some royal blue coloured activewear from Crop Shop Boutique. I haven’t owned a lot of royal blue coloured clothing or activewear in a while. I grew out of most of my clothes in that colour after I put on muscle. It’s a colour I enjoy wearing but it’s not extremely “trendy”, so I’m often left looking for secondhand options, or waiting until it’s “in season” if I want to buy new. I realised this morning – as I was working out in my new top and shorts – that royal blue is a colour I feel absolutely myself in. I feel great. I am not self-conscious. It has truly been one of my favourite colours since I was a kid, if not my favourite colour. I’ve decided that I will keep on the lookout for more royal blue, if I can find it.

I went for a walk earlier today as some rain picked up. I didn’t bring an umbrella and I decided that I didn’t give a shit. It’s just water. Similar to exercise, when you push past a certain point, you realise it’s not a big deal. I think the only gripe I have with rain is if I’m not all that prepared and my belongings are getting wet when they shouldn’t be, or I’m dressed in a way that has me uncomfortable from the cold. Maybe it was also my general low mood that left me feeling rather apathetic. I was wearing a new blue sweater from my activewear order, and so maybe in a way, it neutralised whatever negative bullshit was festering in my system.

I keep thinking about taking time off work, which I think I need to recuperate. But I think a little too much, maybe, about when to take time off, when it’s optimal, and all this other shit. Even when I’m burned out. I know, right? But I definitely feel that I’ve lost some motivation and may even feel a bit lost as to what to do.

Getting help seems scary but I guess… it isn’t? All I know is that I have a feeling of, I want to get better. That isn’t a scary thing at all.

People have different things that make them feel better. I have a few. Exercise. Nice food. But I realised I have a bit of money to spend. I wouldn’t mind treating myself sensibly. I need some new clothes to sleep in. I mostly just wear the same big t-shirt-dress that I’ve had since 2014. (Not embarrassed about it.) For at least a year I have been thinking about getting more holes poked in my ear so I can wear more bling in them. Yes, ear piercings. (And the piercing studio I go to is going to be opening soon as the lockdown reaches its end.) I’ve actually enjoyed buying new face masks recently. I somehow get a kick out of spending money on useful shit. Like socks.

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