Many times, I though write this blog post, but many times, I postponed it. First was not ready to talk about it, and expose myself so intimately about a subject that is so private.
Only a few people from the vCommunity, family and close friends know about this subject. This is The time that my brain Burnout.
Why write now?
Well, I think its time for me to talk about it, and when I see signs that things are not 100% and you could have a relapse, nothing better to talk about it and remind you what happened.
It was around March last year that I realize that it was time to stop, time to get away from any work, computers and just stop the brain from thinking anything related to IT, I was not able to deal it no more.
I saw some signs before around December, but that was something that I was always dealing with, so I think it was just something that will go away after some weeks or a month. I was very wrong!
January and February, together with March, were the worse months in my life. Was not able to function at all. I could not sleep (but I always had and still have some strange sleeping hours), going to the office was a real pain, and I had tremendous headaches all the time.
I love my job, I love my work, and I work for a great company. Not only, my main Consulting company Elits, but also Ericsson as an external consulting for the last 8 years. But back then when it was Sunday, and I know that I needed to go work the next day, or even driving to work (was already doing some remote office). It was always really pain and always get in panic because of that.
Working from home was not better, trying to work to concentrate and cannot look at the computer for 10/15m without the need to close it and leave the desk.
As a Senior Engineer and doing from 3rd and 4th line support, the most challenging and difficult issues come to my desk. Those type of issues needs a lot of troubleshooting, and I was not able to do nothing on that. Zero!
I was also doing some writing, and I could look for a text for days and still cannot write anything. I could write like 3/4 lines, and nothing came out from this brain.
I was receiving some support requests, and I was replying that I was not able to find anything, or fixed it when I know that was not 100% true. Because I was not fine and I simply couldn’t do it.
As I said, I love my job, I love what I do, so this was so extremely painful not be able to do my job. This was only adding more stress and more problems with my main problem… I was having a Burnout.
At home, I had some issues also, a lot of angry for nothing, talking loud, well I always talk loud 🙂 and wife and kids were dealing with me, and that was not a good time for them.
Then late in March, I decided I could not do this anymore and need to come clean in the company what was going on. As I said, I work for great companies, and in my first meeting with my Manager to tell him that I need to time off (how long I did not know then), it was a great talk.
At that moment I was so relieved and also happy, not only for his understanding of the problem and give all the support to take time off I needed (1, 2, 3 months until I was completely recovered), but also because I took out of my head all that pressure because of the problem I know I had and cannot work properly.
Also, talk to with my main company and Manager and again had all the support to take time and heal myself.
How did I arrive here? Honestly, I don’t know 100%. Excess of work? Maybe, but I always was used to working 12/14h or more per day. Not because the company asked or presser me.
I even had some meetings with managers one year before, because I was working too much and they want me to reduce the daily work and hours.
I could not turn off after the work, my brain was always thinking about what to do, that issue that needs to be fix what could I do… what were the plans for the next week, deliver work to teams, new infrastructures, fix, updates, improve infrastructures, etc. If I did not have anything, my brain would invent something just to have something to think about all the time.
That, in my opinion, was one of the most things that put in that place that ended in the day my brain did burnout.
A side history:
I had one article that I was waiting for such a long time to write for a company, and they invite me to write just at that time that was bad.
As always, one of my imperfections is not to say no when we should, I accept (because I was waiting so long to write for this great company). Miss the deadline many times, and I was not able to write anything useful. Then I finish an article with 2000 words, and when I finish, I know that was a bad article. However, I sent it anyway, and the feedback I received was horrible.
I knew it was the right and honest feedback because that article was complete shit. They said they would not publish that article, and I, of course, know they were right, I would not also.
I ask 2/3 weeks to rewrite that article, and if it was not a good article, they could dismiss it. Again, I had the thinking that I need to prove that I can, not to anyone, I need to prove to myself that I could, and I was good enough for that. That kind of thinking was one of the reasons that I was in that state.
Then in the next weeks, I get strengths, I do not know where, and finish the article in 2 weeks, and the feedback that I had is that it was an excellent article. However, that work did drain the rest of what I had.
I tried to read a lot about this subject, also some testimonials from other members from the vCommunity who went through what I was going through. However, most of the cases were not related to the source of what I was going through.
I had never been bullied in school (unfortunately, I was the bully many times in school, something I do not feel proud of). Never been bully in the company, with my background, that is something I will never accept from anyone. I was happy at work, had and still have a great wife and family, so what was missing here?
Where is this coming from?
Me and only me. My addicting of being better, learn more, and more, with this paranoia of not be good enough with this stupid “Impostor Syndrome” in my head all the time. The need that the brain needs to be working all the time, not able just to chill out and distress and disconnect. I never learn how to do that, even today is something I do but with difficulty.
I went and got professional help. Something that I never, never thought I would do in my life. Because that is my way of thinking is to give up and make you a weak person when you need to be strong all the time (stupid, yes, but that is how my brain works). However, I had one rule, no medication, nothing. I would not take anything during that time, and I never did until today.
When you learn to fight since you were young, to move and get out of the place you born, to fight all the way, to where you are today, you have a defense that you need to fight all the time to stay better and protect yourself. That nothing is given but earn, you will never leave your guard down. If not, you could lose all and go back when you started.
So I stayed in professional consultation for some months and went back to Portugal alone (family remained in Germany) some weeks to distress. No computers, no worries, no thinking, zero worries.
Of course, most of the time, I was not able to 🙂 but did me very well. Go back home, hang out with friends, and go back to my old neighborhood look at the roots, was a refresh, yes, and an awakening of where I did come from and where I did went to. Only with my work and effort, but that was not all. My family, my kids, also were significant and needed more my time and presence. All that I build since I was a stupid kid that made a lot of troubles in school and after school.
I returned to work after almost 2 months. We agreed that I will only do a couple of hours a day for a month or so, after if I was feeling better, adding more daily hours. Around mid-June/July, things were much better, but I could let the guard down and start again with the same behavior. There were some weeks that I push myself again at work (without the company knowing 🙂 ) and immediately notice that it was a bad path. More headaches and starting not to sleep properly then was time to reduce all again and stick to the plan.
What about today?
Today a year and a couple of months later, I learn to switch off. Not as much, I would like to, but I can do that today.
In the last month or so, notice some issues again, some problems. Concentration, lack of sleep, headaches. Nothing serious for now, but that is why it starts. Therefore, we always need to pay attention to the signs and slow down if needed. This pandemic and “house arrest” did not help at all.
I will be on vacation soon, so have time to relax and spend some time with my kids, family, and friends (and I miss those stupid people, then know who they are 🙂 ).
Finishing this long text and hopefully help others to take really attention to the signs. If you feel you are getting into a hole and in a dark place, just talk to someone. Always seek professional help, even you don’t like it, it helps at least talking about the problem. Reach out for someone, friends, family, professional help, but do it. Before it goes deeper and you are in a dark place and in a hole where it is very difficult to get out. Unfortunately, many can’t, and it is too late for them.
We only have one life, so make the best of it and always be around with people that love you, family, and friends.
Sorry for my long text… but I needed to write this one day. Stay safe.
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