This is another one of those honest posts, so brace yourselves.
I’ve mentioned fear over burning out a few times the past month or two. I felt like it was time to be blunt about the whole thing.
I am a workaholic. I push myself very hard, and struggle to switch off. I know exactly where my limits are, I’m prone to ignoring them and driving past them. I’m also an insomniac and quite often don’t eat properly, whether I forget, or get stressed and lose my appetite, whatever.
I have burnt out a number of times. Some were worse than others. Last year was particularly bad, realistically it had built over the previous 3 years. People talk about being burnt out, but I feel as though it might help some folk if I give specific details on what it was like for me to be burnt out.
Last year was an extreme case. A lot of things built and built over the course of the three years. You don’t need details of that bit, just know there was a horrendous amount of stress, I pushed myself way past my limits with work, I didn’t sleep properly, I definitely didn’t eat properly.
At first it was a bit of a malaise. I’m an extrovert, I love talking to people, I thrive on big, loud, active, conversations, whether in person, IM, or on social media. I found that I was pulling away from all of that. I wanted more alone time, more time in my own head. I’m an avid reader, yet I didn’t really want to read. I lost interest in music, tv, movies, food, and going out too. It gradually built, pulling back more and more, sinking into myself, and the depression started to push forward too.
The moment I really clicked and saw how far it’d gotten was when I was stood washing the dishes and planned my suicide notes. It was so matter of fact. I knew where the tablets where, which I’d use, the alcohol to go with it, it was all planned out neatly. By then I’d really pulled back into myself, I was forcing myself to keep up an appearance on social media, for my brand’s sake. I was pushing as hard as I could to continue working long hours and write the next book.
Once I clicked and I saw where I was at, I knew I needed to step back and heal. My dear, beloved husband was an absolute saint, I’d be lost without him. We talked. A blunt, honest, open, talk. It was hard. I do not discuss my emotions, hell I don’t even acknowledge them existing half the time, but I had to. Then we both gave me permission to step back and heal. He made it clear he’d support me for as long as I needed in every way he could.
For the first month or so I didn’t really talk. I didn’t do much of anything, to be frank. I was locked in my own little world, curled up on the sofa, trying to get my thoughts untangled. Gradually, over the course of 6 months, I healed. After a couple of months I started reading again, that built until I was reading a book a day. I started studying the books and thinking about business and my own writing again. I dipped my toe back into social interaction, but I made sure everything was under my control, and done on my terms.
It took six, long, dark months to come back from it. I should have published four full novels last year, I published one.
Don’t do that to yourself. Understand your limits, and abide by them. Believe me I know very, very, well how much pressure there is on authors. I understand that we need to be prolific if we want to make our mark and have a chance. I understand that we’re perfectionists and we’re surrounded by success stories. I understand that we’re constantly told we’re supposed to be bigger, and better.
Do you know what’s more important than all of that?
Your health and wellbeing.
Give yourself time off. Look after yourself. They keep telling us to make time for our writing, I’m telling you to make time to do absolutely nothing but relax, entirely guilt free. Forget about that publishing schedule, forget about that wordcount goal, just switch off and relax.
When you start to feel the pressure, when you start to feel yourself retreating and the cracks forming, do not push through it. Step back, take a long deep breath, enjoy the sunshine, read a good book, watch a hilariously bad film, do whatever you need to do. Just don’t push on.
That’s what I’m doing right now. I have three months of intense editing ahead of me so I’m winding down my blog, I’m watching more tv and movies, I’m working on a fun writing project that will never see the light of day. I’m giving myself the breathing space I need.
I’m sorry that I’m quiet right now, if you want to chat about anything @ me on Twitter and I’ll respond, I love a good chat. I’m an extrovert 😉 If you have a song you can’t get out of your head and need to share, link me! If you’ve found the most amazing book, link me! Same applies to movies, tv shows, sexy men, adorable puppies, whatever. I want to hear from you guys, but I need to step back a little bit.
If you need to talk to someone because you fear you might be burning out, get in touch. Use my contact form on here for my email, @ or DM me on Twitter. I will listen, and I will do my best to help. Don’t be afraid, and definitely don’t be ashamed. Most importantly, don’t push through it. Step back and take care of yourself.