Monday, 14 November 2022

But is it burnout ?


Fig 1. A lazy elephant

Twenty years ago, the night really belonged to us; Some of my best thinking happened in the still of night when and where there are no distractions from other humans, and the only noise is from the whir of cooling fans.

Twenty years ago, this described most nights. Enduring this kind of pace leads to what we call burnout, pretty quickly. You rest for a while, change up your schedule to something approaching healthy and you continue.

Burnout is a real, and challenging problems for our industry. It is unfortunate that the symptoms of burnout overlap with some serious physical and mental conditions, and as I recently found out; They can be life threatening.

I write today partly for cathartic reasons, but mostly as a warning that you should take notice of.

Persistence is Bad

Burnout should be a temporary condition; A change in your behavior should effect a change in your emotional state. If it does not, seek help.

Help can come in many forms, and ideally it should come from professionals. 
However, if the thought of going to a professional is somehow daunting to you, then reach out to someone, anyone, in our field and have them be your rubber duck; Ask someone who lives a similar life if your behavior, feelings, and your conclusions about that behavior and those feelings sound reasonable to another human with experience in our industry.

Not seeking help

Story time ...

A little over a year ago, in what I thought was a bout of burnout, my behavior changed; I became lethargic in the extreme, I changed from a person raring to go at 7am every morning to someone you had to convince it was worth getting out of bed.

I was of course aware this was not normal, so I changed things up, took a new role at a different company, with a different schedule and different things to do.

The excitement of a new position masked symptoms for a while, and when they worsened I put it down to the stress of a new job, as well as recovery from some 20 sessions of dental surgery in 6 months, and the fact that I'm approaching 40 years old.

Worsen they did, what was lethargy turned into pain; My legs and wrists were in a constant state of discomfort sometimes increasing to pain. After some time, my cognitive abilities were clearly impaired on some days, I would find myself confused, unable to take in information right in front of me on my screen.

I know today that this wasn't burnout; This is my current understanding of what actually happened: A little over a year ago, the insulin producing function of my pancreas began to shut down. Unable to process sugars from the food I was eating my body started to break down its own fat, leading to some extreme weight loss. Blood sugar levels increased to dangerous and because they were sustained caused nerve damage in my legs and wrists, and lead to confusion.

At the beginning of November my body essentially gave up, a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis meant my blood was toxic and acidic, I was hours away from a coma and probable death - ketoacidosis is a leading cause of death in type one diabetics, especially during infancy when type one diabetes is normally diagnosed.

I have been diagnosed type one diabetic; I'll be dependent on insulin for the rest of my life, having to inject myself several times a day, lest the thing that sustains me will surely kill me.

This is hard to process, and I haven't had much time ... At this moment, I feel like I'm surviving, distinct from actually living; I am just about managing to keep myself out of hospital, but I'm still not well at all and fear is the thing I feel most.
I am yet to learn exactly what damage I have done by ignoring symptoms but it isn't nil.
I want you to be more than a little worried if any of what I'm saying resonates with you, I want you to immediately seek help.

Peace out, phomies ...