I am a workaholic. I am not even saying that lightly. It is a hardcore truth. Probably so hardcore that if they had a workaholics anonymous local group, I would need to be there. I have all the signs that point to a crippling disease of stress and overwork. A drive for perfection. A false reality that only I can do it well enough. A drive for success that has left me empty and perhaps, a little scared from life.
I don’t even know how I ended up being in this predicament. I try to think back to where it all started. I guess I was always raised with a hard work ethic and that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” philosophy. Did that create the harsh reality of where I find myself now? Not being able to turn off my mind, or my laptop, or my phone? Did it all start in school when I wouldn’t settle for less than a straight A report card or a 4.0 GPA? Did it all start in my first job when I was more than willing to work extra hours every single week? To bend over backwards to beat company records? To move up the ranks in my job at lightning speed? Maybe it was a combination of it all and then now, here I stand. Insomnia. Ill health. A doctor that tells me to de-stress before it kills me. A confusion on what de-stress even is? I mean, I know google knows it all…but to have to google de-stress is not something I like to admit I did.
Just this last week I realized I worked until one in the morning almost every night. Finishing up edits for three books that are on the brink of being published. Working on a conference I am hosting. Working on my own writing projects. Worrying that it won’t all be done in time. Trying to show up in all the right places, at all the right times and lead in all the right ways. It is exhausting. I don’t even know the words of stress free or what their meaning is. Am I alone in this? Where are my fellow closet workaholics?
I was thinking of the phrase Netflix and chill. When it occurred to me that I have no idea of the concept. I can’t even tell you what is on Netflix. I don’t watch it and I certainly don’t chill. Who has time for all that nonsense? This past year my business mentor asked me what I was needing help with and I think she probably meant in a business sense because I pay her for her consulting advice. I told her in short, I need to learn how to relax. She looked stunned for a minute and then laughed. She was not even surprised that was an issue for me. She had constantly been on me to stop working 24/7. She set me up with small weekly goals. Like, don’t pick your phone up once you go to bed. Watch one hour of TV or read twice a week with no work involved. Small goals that I am pretty sure you are chuckling over as you read this. Reality is that just thinking about those small goals sent me into a full-blown panic attack. It was something serious to me. All jokes aside.
The stress of being busy can sneak right up on us. We cannot even realize we are swamped in its deep heart wrenching claws. Suddenly we find ourselves in a situation where we can either break from busy or watch busy break us. At thirty-one years old I found myself riddled with seizures that I had never before experienced. I had a mini-stroke no one could explain. I was plagued with migraines that could not be controlled. As I sat in the office of the neurologist, he scribbled on a pad of paper asking me questions. What all did you do last week? I recounted my days for him. What hours did you work? I told him. How much did you sleep? I counted them out. He stops scribbling and looks over his glasses at me sternly. “You mean to tell me you worked 120 hours last week and slept on the average 2 hours a night, yet you wonder why you are sitting here with me right now?” I kind of processed what he said and shrugged. It had been a normal week for me. “If you don’t quit your job, you won’t live to see 40. It is that simple. Stress is killing you.” he said without even caring that he just crucified my heart. What I should have learned at that point, was that stress will break you. Busy will break you. It will break you worse than you ever imagined. However, I chose to ignore his plea and went on to work just as heavy as I did before I walked into his office. I watched as my health declined. Even more serious illnesses creeped into my life. I had to deal with diagnoses on repeat because being busy was more important than living. It was a habit I had created.
This past year I have tried harder than ever to break from busy before it broke me for good. I still have a long battle to go. I can now tell you a couple things on Netflix. I can now tell you I sleep more like 3 to 4 hours a night average. I can also tell you that I try hard to not work when I get home, but the truth is…I still am a workaholic. I still do not know how to de-stress. I did google suggestions just last week. I did hear my doctor say repeatedly the past month that I need to learn to lessen my stress. I do still deal with health issues flamed by stress.
So, if you are like me…a workaholic, I want to say I feel your pain of never-ending deadlines and work. If you are on the opposite end and are more of the Netflix and chill type person…I have mad respect for you. I wish you could just send me some of your chillness! Wherever you are on the charts of busy, try to remember to take a break from busy before busy breaks you. And that my friend, is coming from someone who busy has broken more than once. Let’s go live a little…life is too short to work all the time. Who am I kidding? I am working as I type this out to submit at 9:30 pm at night, far past my 5 pm deadline I give myself. Eh, I am a work in progress. What more can I say?