Crispy Critter: A tale of job burnout
I’ve been wanting to share this for some time, but I was afraid that my post would become too weepy and whiny.
You know, boring?
And frankly, I am tired of being blue and feeling sorry for myself.
Again, its boring and not helpful at all.
As a clinical social worker, I know what the research says about job burnout.
I’m not going to cite studies, or journal articles, because I need to share what my burnout has been all about.
And I am not going to blame any one person or the agency I worked for–the job is what it is, I did it for a very long time (and a lot longer than most), and I knew for over a year that it was time for me to pack up my stuff and head out with my head held high and my sanity intact (not sure about the sanity part). I will be forever grateful that my employer kept me working for so many years, and kept promoting me.
As an employee, I have always pushed myself at my jobs, whether I was filling coffee cups or stocking merchandise at an independently owned pharmacy. Slowing down was not something I believed in, ever.
In 2009, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It took me a long time to get my blood sugars under control, eating healthier and getting off the couch once in a while helped a lot! Being a diabetic means living a balanced life–sometimes it feels like walking a tightrope, one misstep and my blood sugars would go up, I would sleep all the time, and my mood was meaner than week-old socks.
Within a few years, I was diagnosed with coronary artery disease. And I noticed that I was slowing down. I was going to bed earlier, using my PTO for sick time instead of vacations, and turning down invitations to social events. I worked harder on my diet and exercise, lost some weight, and noticed that my engine was starting to rev up again. That lasted about six months, and then my dedicated efforts started to slip again. I gained some weight back, and I was exhausted all of the time.I also noticed that my memory was starting to fail a bit. I was also having to shut my office door every so often so that I could manage my anxiety attacks–breathing like I was running for a bus I had NO hope of catching, sweating, putting my head on my desk because I was light headed, my head pounding and my ears ringing.
I was also depressed, a lot, and my doctor talked to me about starting up anti depressants again. I did not let him know about the intensity or the frequency of my anxiety attacks. I know, goofy, right? Doc did know that my sleep was off–I had no problem getting to sleep, but would wake up at 2:00 a.m. and would fall asleep around four, to be royally pissed when my alarm went off at six.
I was still pushing myself at work, but not as much. By this time, I was threatening to retire on a pretty steady basis–one week I would calculate my Social Security benefits and tell my boss I was leaving, the next week I would declare to my long-suffering supervisor that I would NOT retire, not yet anyway.
Deep in my soul, I knew that my time at this job was coming to an end, my body was aging, my need to work at MACH 1 getting really old and frankly not the best plan for me.
And here’s where ego comes in!
Over the years, I gained a rep at my agency for being some sort of expert, and many people looked up to me as a role model (or so I have been told). This was very gratifying, but when many people think you walk on water, it can be hard to live up to! I remember telling a grandchild a few years ago how smart they were. “Please don’t say that, Grandma Beth, it’s a lot to live up to.”
Preach it, kiddo.
I was a Golden Girl at my agency, and it felt great most of the time. Hell, that is not an honest statement, I LOVED it. My self-esteem has never been great, and it really blew back whatever hair I have left to know that I was held in such high esteem by my colleagues. I lapped up praise like a really good sponge, and I came to need the praise. Even when I was 100% WRONG about something, I managed to retain my royal status.
What a rush.
But my old friend exhaustion became my stalker, following me around night and day, whispering in my ear, “You will never get rid of me, EVER, because we belong together. You are mine, and no one else will have you, bitch.”
Okay, I’m laying it on kind of thick, I know, but I’m enjoying it.
So I retired at the end of June, with every intention of getting a job to supplement my Social Security check, ensuring that I would maintain the quality of life I have come to enjoy while being gainfully employed for years.
As of today, six months after leaving my job at a local nonprofit, I have walked away from two great jobs because I was unable to handle the stress of the jobs. And remember when I told you that I loved being the Golden Girl at my agency? Well, I am pretty sure that part of my stress level is about having to prove myself to new employers–I’m not the Golden Girl anymore, I’m the new hire!
Once I have been trained for these jobs, and am expected to perform at an acceptable performance level, I fall apart. My head aches, my breathing becomes erratic, my chest starts to hurt, and I start to cry.
Thanks to my family and my housemates (and a doctor who answers emails), I am lucky to have lots of support. At least for now, I need to look for a job that is low stress and easy to do–because I need to work at something. It’s not just about having some extra scratch, it’s got everything to do with being out in the world, being productive, despite my age and chronic health conditions. For me, working is about keeping that balance in my life.
And to be honest, there have been some good things happening as I’ve traveled down this weepy whiny road of retirement. I’ve gotten lots of sleep, spent oodles of time with my family and housemates, and even gotten out to some SOCIAL functions. And, with my housemates and grandchildren, I have moved into a cool house on Cap Hill, and can walk everywhere. AND I get to pay senior bus fare, FINALLY!
I miss my colleagues, and the clients, and being royalty at my agency.
But you know, I am taking the road less traveled right now. I may not have kept those two jobs, but dammit, I am trying! I am not giving up. Life experience has proven to me that change is hard, but I know that I have made the right, the only, decision for me at this time. My sense of humor is returning, my sleep quality has improved, and I am getting out of the house every day (I forgot to mention, there were days in the past six months I did not leave the house. My housemates made me get out of the house, thank goodness).
I have been grieving for the last six months, letting go of that younger woman who used to inherit this body. Accepting this aging, cranky woman has been hard, but it’s been a good and necessary series of inner battles.
If you have kept reading this far, I thank you very much.
That’s all I have to say right now, thank goodness!