A couple years ago, maybe even as many as three years ago, I had lunch with a friend. She expressed concern that I was pushing myself too hard. She said to me, "If you don't give yourself some time, your body will make you take it." She was telling me that if I did not slow down, I would fall down.
I was definitely pushing myself, but it seemed at the time to be the usual hamster wheel, working my heart out as I had always done, because I could, because it would "pay off" and "grow my career." But I was also increasingly lax in self-care; hobbies I had previously enjoyed but rarely prioritized had faded off my radar entirely, so that all I really did was work, collapse, troll for sleep, and then repeat. The media-blackout I had put in place post-Trump spread to include everything else but what I was getting paid to do.
It was not long before a two-day weekend was insufficient time for me to recoup anything: energy, recharging, even staying current on important chores. Forget energy to socialize, plan a trip, or consistently read a book.
And down I fell.
I was ever-ripening for collapse, due to deferred maintenance ... like a house roof that's not cleaned or patched, or an auto that never gets an oil change, catastrophic damage becomes unavoidable -- the proverbial bad bird coming home to roost or the savage piper that comes to call. And that's exactly what happened, swan-diving past burnout and straight into depression, lawn-darting myself face first into hopelessness and despair. Insidiously, life became not really worth living anymore.
I never sensed that horrible shift happening, either, as it seemed as if I just woke up on a morning like all the others but the light was gone, there was no future, it was just me in a cage of a job, doomed to repeat the same isolating, pointless work, regardless of what company I moved to or what role I changed. My natural state went from resilient and idealistic to listless inertia and wishing I could just be dead so I didn't have to do it all anymore.
Enter therapy and a refresh on Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Enter a return to antidepressants (this time, Trintellix, so new there's no generic, at a whopping $3/pill). Enter a dawning realization that I was letting my job kill me and it was a pointless, empty, boring crap-corporate job.
After I fell down, I woke up ... to the many things more important than work, the innumerable better ways to spend one's time. I just hope I am tuned up well-enough now to sense when things start again to go too fast, to recognize when I'm extending myself too far on something that's very low ROE (Return on Energy) ... to slow myself down without a catastrophic fall prompting it.
Before the fall, I prided myself on my ability to stick out almost anything, as if endurance was some worthwhile effort on its own. My puritanical programming manifests in these weird, toxic ways, and I see that very clearly now. After the fall, it is better to look at any situation with an eye for the eject button. Now it seems better to eject too soon rather than linger too long.