Blogging & Burn Out

I’ve always wanted to maintain a blog. My dad knows I’ve started a few, but have never really gotten past the second post. Perhaps it’s because what motivated me to blog before was a general dissatisfaction with my life and the need to share that dissatisfaction.

This time my reason for starting a blog comes from a strong desire to know myself more and a need to focus on the part of me that is not the ‘work me’.

I’m obsessed with my job. I’ve always known that I would be. (For those of you who don’t know, I’m a Speech Pathologist). Even as a young girl, I wanted a career and the money that went with it. I still remember the shock on my high school best friends face when I told her that when it came to children I could take it or leave it as long as I had a good job.

Having a good job that I enjoy is how I defined success then and it is a large part of how I define success now.

Of course many things have changed about what I think a ‘good job’ is. As a child, I imagined myself as a doctor, as a teen I imagined myself as some sort of non-descript middle management type. I didn’t even know what speech pathology was until I started the course, and even then I was ambivalent about wether or not I wanted a career in this field as I did not like the idea of working with children.

After becoming a qualified speech pathologist I felt somewhat dissatisfied by the pay and by the lack of upward mobility. I hated that speech pathology was such a feminine job because it meant that there was no money in it.

Regardless, I stayed and continue to stay in the industry because in the end I love what I do and I am awesome at my job.

I found ways to engage in my job more holistically so I could stop focusing on the low pay and lack of upward mobility. I sought opportunities to learn more specialised topics (like paediatric feeding), networked (with Rotary and NSW Speech Pathology Australia Branch), and pioneered new projects (like HUSH and SPArty).

Getting all this stuff done as you can imagine was really time consuming and tiring, and I did all of this stuff while also attempting to provide quality therapy to a full clinical caseload and having a life outside of work too. So it is no surprise that I have, on occasion, burnt out in a pretty spectacular fashion.

The first time was in 2014. The stress completely knocked me out from doing anything – I woke up one morning with flu symptoms, an ear infection and conjunctivitis. I was down for two weeks straight.

The second time I burnt out was around the end of 2016. This came in the form of large amounts of fatigue. I would leave work, get home, sleep, wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety attacks – which I didn’t know at the time were anxiety attacks – go back to sleep again – wake up – go to work only to find that by 11am it was so hard to keep my eyes open, so I would make coffee – which would usually get me through until I could go home and go straight back to sleep again. One Friday, the coffee didn’t kick in; I felt that if I didn’t lie down my heart would just decide to stop functioning altogether and I would collapse. I had to sleep under my desk that day for as long as I could in order to be able to function long enough to take the train home.

After that, I went to the GP to get my iron checked. I always see these ads on the doors of public toilets saying women who are chronically low on iron have lots of fatigue so I assumed this was my problem. I was surprised when my blood tests came back telling me that my iron levels were fine. I was also told that the kind of fatigue I experienced was ‘normal’ – you know part of my hormonal cycle. This upset me, because I didn’t want to feel chronically fatigued once a month for the rest of my life.

So, I decided to learn about my hormonal cycle. I started with a short book called “Quit PMS” and it was here that I found the answer I was looking for. What I was experiencing was called Adrenal Fatigue. I felt relieved, now that I knew what it was, I could take steps to fix it.

I took on as many suggestions that the book gave me as possible given my fatigued state – I abandoned the pill (which was messing with my hormones), got myself a menstrual cup (because apparently the pesticides in the cotton tampons and pads can also mess with your hormones) and tried to reduce my stress levels by meditating and dealing with things that were stressing me out.

This blog was born out of that need to reduce my stress, a way for me to get out my feelings and share my journey on how I am trying to become a better, healthier person.

Having a blog has definitely helped reduce my stress and has also led me to many insights about myself. I found out that I like writing for an audience – no matter how small. Writing for an audience allows me to reflect in a way I wouldn’t have if I was just writing for myself.  It’s given me a way to be accountable for the ‘non-career’ things I do because I share them and therefore have to follow through. Writing a blog reduces my stress and allows me to slow down, synthesise information I’ve learned and move forward with purpose.