Burnout…(And Finding a Way Back)

Now that things are settled down and more predictable after a long, hectic fall, I’ve struggled a bit to find my footing here. For so long, ideas and essays about living with chronic illness were natural and easy for me to develop: chronic illness and relationships; chronic illness and employment; chronic illness and pregnancy/infertility; and parenting with chronic illness, just to name a few.

More recently, the ideas aren’t so easy. Part of it is just plain old burnout, the inevitable physical and emotional fallout of the intensive process of researching, writing, revising, and promoting a book. If I don’t have a strong idea, I just don’t write. I can’t, so I wait until it feels right. It’s not an ideal way to keep up subscriber numbers and analytics, but it’s how I roll.

But it’s more than that, I think. I have a job, I have a writing career, I have a preschooler and a husband who deserve the best of me, I have family members with medical needs. The other spheres of my life take up so much of my head and my heart that there isn’t a lot of room left to talk about or think about chronic illness or to be a patient. This is partly possible because I am pretty stable right now and don’t have to deal with the major upheavals of my own hospitalizations and setbacks. It’s a lot harder to ignore chronic illness when its needs are immediate and non-negotiable.

Don’t get me wrong, illness is a part of my everyday life, from the crazy scheduling maneuvers to work in chest physiotherapy every day (or late at night, as it were) to running out of breath when I’m reading bedtime books to my daughter to the days when I just have no energy and wonder how I’ll last the long commute home. But papers still need to be graded, deadlines still need to be met, my daughter still has swim class, and the household still needs running. In many ways, I can’t afford to be slowed down by illness right now, and while I recognize such stability is borrowed time, I’m grateful for it when I have it.

Slowly, though, the ideas are starting to percolate again. I’m pitching ideas to editors. I’m posting here. I’m being more discerning about how much I say “yes” to and learning to say “no” more. Maybe they aren’t as personal and anecdotal about living with illness as they once were, but the ideas are there nonetheless. As a writer and as a patient, I’m just in a different place, but I’m starting to see that too is an inevitable thing, and I’m figuring out how to make these changing identities coalesce a little better.

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3 thoughts on “Burnout…(And Finding a Way Back)

  1. In a similar place with a promotion where many weeks lasted 50 hours instead of 40. Unlike you, however, I’m not in a stable place with some of my chronic health issues, and I have to try to get back to one.

    If I have to choose between cooking a real dinner and writing (or even reading), the dinner wins out. If I have to choose between working out and writing (or even reading), working out wins out. Unlike you, I’m not in a stable place with some of my chronic health issues, and I have to try to get back to one.

    • You make such a great point–everything is a decision and when there’s so much on our plates, we have to cast things off. I know that process is even harder when chronic conditions are flaring, and I really hope things start to improve for you soon! Hoping, too, you have a lovely Thanksgiving and can get some rest…

  2. Totes know what you mean. I was stable for 10 years then decided to find a cure to my health issues, and I avoid planning anything because people take cancelling personnally, and I never know how I ll feel in advance. I ve cancelled trying some meds because I d be out of order for a few months without certainty of a successful outcome

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