Burnout. A lot of people talk about it these days and for good reason. There are a lot of people who are pushed to the limit and then some in jobs that they don't like. This post is to share with you what happens when you push yourself past that limit.
I'm blessed to love what I do for work. I was just doing way too much especially combined with what I want to do for my family.
For the last seven years, there have been a lot of interruptions with kids waking up a night, potty training, storms, smoke alarms and the like. All of those nights without a full night's sleep take their toll.
I've been building Tinderglow for about two years. For most of that time, I have had three long term clients and not enough time to do everything that I need to do.
The last two weeks have been, conservatively, insane. For one of my clients, I left the house at 1:45am, got to Columbus, flew down to North Carolina and was at the client's office at 7:45am. I put in a full day and was back heading to the airport at 5pm. Of course there were delays, and I ended up, miraculously, making it home at 11:15pm. I also slept on the way home in that plane for the first time in 20 years. For anyone who knows me, I was THAT tired.
A few days after that, we had a smoke alarm that went off at 3:00am. I couldn't get back to sleep. That means that a few days after the 21 hour day I was up from 3:00am until 10pm. Did I mention that I have anxiety that is induced by smoke alarms. What does that mean? I wake up 5 or so times per night for a week after the smoke alarm goes off.
A few days after that, I had a deploy for one of the four pro-bono clients that I work with and I was up until 11:30pm. Did I mention that we had a sick child that night? Luckily, he slept well. For another client I was up again at 5:00am to do some deploys. I went to sleep at 6 and was back up by 7:00am to get the kids ready for school.
On Wednesday, around 3am, last week, my body had finally had enough. I got out of bed when my son woke me up feeling fine. After I got the him back to bed, I got a glass of water myself. Then I started feeling weird – headache, dizzy, totally not right.
My lovely wife sat with me for an hour that night while I didn't feel good, and I finally got back to sleep.
I got some sleep that next night, and felt good enough to work on that Thursday. Unfortunately, baaaaad choice. I worked until the end of the day, but had a BIG stress backache at the end of the day. I went right to bed, but the next morning I was back to not being able to stand for a long time without a pounding headache and feeling dizzy.
Very long story, I ended up going to the ER on Friday night with exhaustion and anxiety symptoms. You want to know what will happen if you burn both ends of the candle to the middle? You end up in the ER with exhaustion and anxiety – wondering if you're going to die that night. Weird hot flashes from the top of my head to my chest. Other ones that went from my chest back up to my head. Yeah, enough to send me to the ER.
What did I learn at the ER? "You're exhausted with anxiety, sir." EKG – "stone cold normal". Blood tests? Normal. Thyroid? Normal. "You're exhausted."
Where do I go from here. I have some wonderful long-term clients. I can cut back to a 40 hour week without it materially hurting my family. I'm blessed. I'm taking the time to change how much work I'm doing, and how much sleep I'm getting. I'm taking a little time off. I'm truly blessed that my choices are not impacting my family negatively. I'm thankful that I have the ability to do so. I'm thankful that I can use technology to help myself heal. I'm most of all thankful to Jesus for healing me.
I'm hoping that this post will keep people from that might be on the edge of burnout from going over the edge. I'm hoping that this will help other small business owners know where that line may be. Telling others what it's like to go over the cliff and how it feels to climb back up again. As the Greek philosopher Thales said, "The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself."
Don't worry. All of the blog posts here won't be so serious. Most of them hopefully will be great tech articles.