Burning Out

I didn’t want to post about this. Not because of shame or denial, but because I know it’s temporary and will pass. I’m reaching the end of my rope though.

Last week my wife and I signed on a house after a month of emotional turmoil trying to get the financing in order. I knew it would be a stressful process because I bought a house before, but between much stricter standards and communication problems with the seller (a corporation), the process was so much worse than I remember. All that, plus worrying about the money we would have to put down, really overwhelmed me. Still, I pushed through because I knew that once the papers were signed it would all be behind me.

Once we signed the papers, we had to decide what we wanted to fix before we moved in (we’re moving in this weekend). We’ve purchased a lot of supplies, and have been trying to do repairs after work. Trying to divide my attention between planning projects, getting contractor quotes, figuring out what we can afford and when, and still taking ownership of projects at work has been exhausting. I thought it would be a “different kind” of exhausting because the unknown of getting the home loan was behind us, but now the things I do have control over are overwhelming me. It’s also exhausting keeping my attention divided between 2 homes, our apartment that we’re trying to pack up and our house that we’re trying to prepare, that are 20 miles apart. We can’t just leave the apartment alone either because we still have our dogs there.

For what it’s worth, I know that nothing has to get finished before we move in, and I can acknowledge the good work that we have done. There are some things that are out of my control, like the time limits we have and the costs of repairs. Still, it feels like there’s plenty that is in my control that isn’t going my way, and there’s just so much. I know owning a home will be endless work, but the little projects we wanted to do before moving in seemed reasonable and achievable, and I’m struggling as our small setbacks keep adding up.

In addition to all that, I’m 3 weeks into my new sexual recovery journey I talked about in a previous post, and that has been overwhelming in its own way. I’ve stayed clean so far, and I’m figuring out a lot of the roots behind my behaviors, but since I haven’t started step work or learned any coping mechanisms yet, I’m having to grit my teeth through urges to act out. That’s exhausting and guilt-inducing, as much as I know it’s not supposed to be. Recovery takes time, relapse is part of recovery, yeah yeah. Still, I keep thinking if I can stay clean it will give me a head start in my recovery path, and if I act out at this point it’s in open and willful rejection of my sexual sobriety. I’m also at a loss for discerning the gray area of what is normal and acceptable human thought patterns and what crosses the line into inappropriate territory, and what to do with inappropriate thoughts. I wonder if I’m beginning a journey toward repressing my sexuality, which is something unhealthy that I don’t want to do either. Part of this journey is calling my temporary sponsor every day, which is an exhausting human interaction even if it’s only 5 minutes long. My sponsor is well-intentioned and nice enough, but he’s not a good personality fit. I know I need to find a permanent sponsor, but tonight will only be my third meeting, and last week’s meeting was virtual due to an ice storm. I haven’t had a chance to get to know anyone there. On top of all this, these meetings coincide with HS Masterclass, so that’s another thing I’m letting go. I can re-watch the lessons on my own time, but I budgeted Thursday evenings for it. I need to carve out more of “my own time” to watch the lessons, an hour and a half at a time. I’m also giving up part of the community aspect of Masterclass. I know it’s not something I guilt myself over, but it’s still happening. Just another thing on my plate.

With all this, the obvious answer is “take time for self-care.” I fully intend to do that, but I don’t know when. I finish my current work project next Tuesday, and at that point I want to talk with my manager about taking on lighter work for awhile. I want to take time off to get away, or even just to rest at home, but I want it to be at a point where I don’t dread what’s waiting for me when I get back to the real world. My wife’s parents are coming to stay with us for a week and a half to help us get settled into the house. I like them, and they respect my emotional boundaries, so I’m not dreading their visit. It does mean I can’t (or shouldn’t) take time away though. It also means that we will spend next week trying to prioritize what to unpack and set up so that we can host them with a bare minimum level of comfort. So even scheduling R&R is imposing on things that can’t get put on hold.

I’ve had enough. I’ve been telling myself “just a little bit longer,” and that’s true. There are end dates on everything that’s going on in my life right now. It will all pass, and things will settle down. For now though, I’m exhausted. My attention feels viscerally splintered, and my daily performance in all aspects is slipping. I’m going to sleep every night dreading the next day, and waking up wanting nothing more than to sleep.

6 Likes

Love you friend.

I have read and want to take the time to respond properly as soon as I can. The brain fog is kind of hitting tonight. But I wanted to let you know in the meantime that your vulnerability is once again so very much appreciated, cherished, seen and an honor. There’s a lot to going on, a lot to figure out for sure. Clarity and peace are on their way and you are actively working for it. I believe in you.

Talk to you soon. :hrtlegolove:

2 Likes

It sounds like you’re swamped with details. Times like that have overwhelmed me too. Building a cathedral sounds like an overwhelming job, yet it’s accomplished one step at a time, one brick at a time, one shovel full of dirt at a time, etc. Looking ahead is a good idea, but if it interferes with managing the moment, it’s better to shift focus to the present.

Regarding shelter, you need to be warm enough or cool enough. You need a place to sleep. You need water and a toilet. You need a place for food, and a place to sit. You need at least some windows covered for privacy. That’s just about it. Once your basic needs are met, it’s time to allow yourself a comfortable pace in accomplishing the rest of the goals. Doing so will bring about better outcomes.

Take time to breathe! Let go of all the issues from time to time. Allow yourself some peace and quiet. That’s how you’ll recharge your batteries and strengthen your motivation.

Let your in-laws help you. I doubt if they expect the house to be completely put together.

2 Likes

“Just a little bit longer” can be such a soul crusher. And it’s not that it would be a wrong way to envision things in general. It’s just hard sometimes to find the right match between the knowledge that there will always be “something else” (so resting points are temporary), and the fact that we all need to add some breaks from time to time if we don’t want to fall down.

Just reading your post, my brain got quite overwhelmed and I felt the need to re-read so my focus would stop shifting. The heaviness of your commitments and tasks to accomplish is completely felt through your words here. So even if you know that it’s temporary, and even if it doesn’t necessarily bring more clarity, I’m still really glad that you’ve decided to just write all of this.

There is indeed a lot of very specific tasks to accomplish, so the combination of them can be draining. But on the top of it it also kind of makes your focus completely scattered and divided between different areas of your life, both tangible/physical areas, and more symbolic/philosophical ones. As someone who has a way to perceive things through the lens of a web made of specific connections, the more complex it becomes, the more overwhelming it is. It’s exhausting to have to constantly reweave your web according to new issues that emerge, real constraints, your desires/aspirations, the calendar… You’re going through this kind of time when organizing your daily life is a job in itself until things flow more smoothly. “Just a little bit longer” - once again.

I feel like the words of Thoreau are always a good indicator when we feel overwhelmed: “simplify, simplify, simplify”. You’ve been listing a bunch of areas where your focus and energy are mostly involved. How can you simplify each of them even just to a very lesser degree? You’ve been doing that already and you explain it well.

  • Masterclass? No need to be part of the community side for now.
  • Sponsor? Need a new one with whom you will need less “mental preparation” before your meetings, so it would become more natural and somehow enjoyable to talk to them, even if it’s once a day.
  • House preparation and repairs? It doesn’t have to be perfect, indeed. As long as your basic needs and comfort are met, then the pace for doing all the rest can absolutely be way more slow, and way less stressful (even if it might be part of the things that stick to your mind over and over just because “it’s there”).
  • Work? You got a tangible perspective/next step: next Tuesday. Lighten your tasks. Lift your commitments or at least the intensity of them.
  • Recovery journey? I would bet that these deep and philosophical questions you ask yourself now are going to be even more productive once you’ll feel less burdened by the daily tasks shared above. It follows a different pace and will stay there anyway. For now keep ensuring some kind of emotional safety for yourself. Limits that are realistic and not damaging either. The healing work will come in due time. And if you’d like to discuss this grey area, then you know it would absolutely possible here as well, whenever you need and again, at your own pace.

You are doing a lot. And from the outside, I can tell that you are setting up the pieces that are needed for peace and some kind of natural flow to be settled again into your life. You are doing it, even if some next steps have yet to be done because of time and external constraints. And I hope that, somehow, through your post here you will see that. Because in the midst of what probably feels like a giant knot to untangle, you are actually creating order and structure.

I love you very much. :hrtlegolove:

2 Likes

Thank you @micro and @wings for your responses. I really appreciated them. They were comforting and reassuring.

Update: We are officially moved in. We still have some stuff left at the apartment, but we still have 6 weeks to finish clearing it out and cleaning it, and we can do that at our pace. Now, though, we’re living in one place, and that’s a big relief. It comes with its own set of challenges and chaos–living out of boxes, deciding where and in which order to put things away, deciding which repairs we want to do–but we have the luxury of time now. We’re both really tired, and don’t feel committed to doing any work in the house, but we are working on one task at a time as it suits us. In that way, we don’t measure our progress by the goals we failed to meet, but by the things we accomplished in spite of not wanting to do anything.

The building sense of relief is having a backfire effect. As my inner tension dissipates, I can feel myself collapsing into a blob. This is affecting my discipline and rigor in all areas–productivity at home and work, and strength in my recovery. I find myself wanting nothing else but to sleep all day for a week, and to indulge in as many vices as I can fit in. I know these feelings are a normal response to being exhausted and don’t mean I’ve failed in any way, but it’s still hard to focus, be productive, or feel strong through them. once again, I plan to take time off once I can catch a break, but that’s still a couple weeks out.

Regarding my recovery, I’m telling the people in my corner that I’m struggling. Talking about it means I’m not fighting it on my own, that I’m surrendering it, and that I’m sharing my burden. It’s still not easy, but I know if I was trying to muscle through my urges in private I would have caved ages ago. I feel guilty for not having started any active work though–reading, step work, or even working on finding a different sponsor. Part of it is I am so tired and busy I don’t know where I’d have the time. Part of it is resistance to adding meaningful routines to my day. I’ve always struggled with that. It’s so easy to say I don’t have time to block out a half hour to an hour a day, and it’s not wrong either. Maybe now isn’t the time to start new routines, maybe for now it’s enough to surrender and survive, but I can’t help feeling like recovery doesn’t take days off, or that it won’t get any easier to get started.

1 Like

When I feel like being a blob, I choose a specific amount of time for blobbing out, relishing the feeling, and with zero guilt. There’s no benefit in starting a new routine if you can’t imagine yourself sustaining it. It might help to ask yourself if you can maintain the change for one day. Then each day, focus on that day only. Generally after so many repetitions of that kind of short-term goal setting, the changed behavior feels like it’s part of your nature. Adding some routines might mean decreasing others. Don’t rush yourself. You need to feel as though you can accomplish something before setting out to do it. If you tell yourself, “I’ll try…” it’s kinda the same thing as telling yourself “I’ll try, but don’t expect to succeed.”

It’s better to make incremental changes that you know in your heart, you can do.

There’s a guy I know who was really out of shape, and chronically tired. He decided he’d start exercising, first by walking. He could only go a couple of blocks before his heart would race and his chest would tighten up. He stuck with it though and after a few weeks, he could add another half of a block to his route. He kept increasing distance by a little at a time, until he was walking 5-6 miles at a time. Then he tried running, and could only do it for half a block. He kept it up, adding a tiny bit of distance every few days. It took several months, but he finally got to running 10 miles a day. He discovered that his mind was more clear and his memory improved. He also found his mood hugely improved. Some research indicates that exercise releases “feel good” endorphins, and in many cases is as effective as taking antidepressants. Family and friends were amazed at the change in him, as his self-esteem was healed.

I realize that story is a bit of a digression, but the takeaway I’m hoping for is that you’ll understand how do-able personal transformation actually is. People tend to maintain a “story of self,” and with it, a habitual self concept that’s really not who they are. Instead it’s what they’ve come to believe about themselves, based on some distant experience and negative conditioning. Every day, upon awakening, you are a new person. Spend some quiet time with yourself, perhaps in some form of meditation - which will help you get in touch with deeper thoughts, feelings and intuitions. It’ll help you realize how different you are from who you used to be, and how much insight you’ve gained.

I asked a hospice worker who worked long, long hours in emotionally intense circumstances, how he managed to avoid burn out. He said he thought of himself as a conduit of compassion and strength, rather than feeling limited to only the strength he could muster. I found that inspiring, and it helped me through some extreme difficulties.

I’m really glad you’re getting settled in your new place, and past that pressure to get moved.

Take care, Wings

2 Likes

Update. After my last post, I had sort of settled into the burnout. I had established a routine, and I was functioning pretty decently. That seems to have changed this week. My father-in-law is visiting. He is less of a “people-burden” than my mother-in-law and her husband, but but he’s still there, still disrupting my routine, still putting me on higher alert in my home than I’m used to. I don’t feel acutely that he’s draining me, but that’s the explanation I have for my decline. That, and the time change last weekend didn’t do me any favors either.

I don’t want to be at work. I don’t want to be at home. I just want to sleep, but when I go to bed every night I feel like I didn’t spend enough time relaxing. I’m doomscrolling through people from my high school. I’m aware it’s bad, I’m feeling its effects on my mental health, but I feel like I can’t stop. I feel like a moth to a flame. Part of me doesn’t want to stop. Part of me wants to dive in to the unhappy memories and regrets from my past. The feelings I had forgotten about are intoxicating in a way. Painful, yes, but an escape from the drudgery of my day-to-day.

I took last Wednesday off, splitting last week into two 2-day work stints. It was helpful for what it was. Not nearly enough to recover, but I knew it wouldn’t be. I have convinced myself to take 5 days off work and away from home to hopefully get some real R&R, but I can’t swing that for at least a couple more weeks. I can keep dragging my carcass through the days, but I feel miserable. Home isn’t a safe haven right now. I’m surrounded by projects that need doing, and a wife who has compartmentalized her own burnout to continue working on them diligently. Every time I get home from work and see the progress she’s made, I feel guilty and inadequate, even though she is not lording it over me by any means. She’s been supportive through this, and it was even her idea for me to leave home for 5 days just to get me away from the workload. Still, that kind of love and grace merits a better effort on my part, doesn’t it?

To cope with my weakest moments, I’m journaling every day, reaching out to accountability partners, and reading Bible verses. That gets me through moment by moment and allows me to function, but it’s not restoring me.

Some positives on the horizon: I am scheduled for a nighttime and daytime sleep study in mid-April. Nighttime will assess where I am in my nightly sleep health, and daytime will screen me for narcolepsy. I’m excited for that because it means I get to take 5 naps that day :slight_smile: and hopefully address my constant daytime fatigue.

I am also 58 days clean from porn and masturbation, which I am very proud of. It’s not something I ever tracked because it’s not something I ever thought was that important. Turns out, giving up something that’s “not that important” is a big deal. It’s given me a lot to reflect on. I’m realizing that it wasn’t about sex, it was about escapism and isolation. It was a lot easier to take care of my needs on my terms, but doing that meant that I was in part divesting myself from my marriage. That said, as much as I’m now aware that it was a shallow, false escape, I would love to “escape” for just a bit. Just a hit to take the edge off. That thought looms large, along with rich memory banks and a vivid imagination, and those are disrupting my focus. Right now, even more appealing, is the idea of acting out to active self-deprecation. “Every opportunity you missed, every encounter you regret, and every woman who broke your heart is everything you deserve. Your wife deserves better than you. You’re not worth any more than 5 minutes with a dirty sock.” Again, I’m surrendering it to accountability partners and even being honest with my wife about it, but while that gives me strength it doesn’t lessen the burden.

2 Likes

I don’t feel acutely that he’s draining me, but that’s the explanation I have for my decline. That, and the time change last weekend didn’t do me any favors either.

Both of them would still be significant changes for most people, indeed. Although it is temporary, it still brings this pressure of having to adapt. As much as your father-in-law might be pleasant to welcome at your home, it’s still different from feeling completely at home. There are things you may not be able to do - it reduces a sense of freedom. I know for me that even if I dearly love the person and they actually give me energy, it is still draining unconsciously to have someone at home. I guess that’s why G. and I never invite anyone here lol (besides the absence of social life).

I hope this transition can go as smooth as possible for you. Both for the time during which your father-in-law is around, and for your body to adapt to the time change as well.

I’m doomscrolling through people from my high school. I’m aware it’s bad, I’m feeling its effects on my mental health, but I feel like I can’t stop. I feel like a moth to a flame.

Maybe going cold turkey with that could be good? Blocking the social medias you are using for that, and making sure to replace your doom-scrolling by something soothing and grounding. Something that helps you reconnect with you before sleep.

It’s time to find another escape from your daily life, but one that acts as a complement to your heart, and not a threat to it.

Still, that kind of love and grace merits a better effort on my part, doesn’t it?

Maybe if you estimate so. It is amazing that you already think about the balance between you. But that’s also how complementary functions in a couple. If you take care of yourself now, you are going to get back on your feet to handle more things while she will take care of herself as well. It doesn’t have to be 50/50 all the time. The balance is built over time, through the different seasons you both go through. Maybe check in together to strategize a bit and see who could use some rest first.

You are not failing her. You are both trying to find ways to navigate a time of overwhelm for the both of you. Make sure to communicate as much as possible and set some perspective together. Who knows, maybe you could both use a couple of days together, away from everything? It could feel easier to compromise things temporarily if you do it together.

To cope with my weakest moments, I’m journaling every day, reaching out to accountability partners, and reading Bible verses. That gets me through moment by moment and allows me to function, but it’s not restoring me.

These are still positive steps. To shift a little bit from the intellectual part of your journey, maybe you could dedicate some times to let your mind wander and connect with God within your heart, instead of reading verses everyday? Allowing yourself to feel more, without any tool, object or accessory. Just you, your body, your heart and what you feel. Just a suggestion - it could be good to alternate both practices, little by little. You might learn a lot from these doors to open too, even if they could be scary or uncomfortable.

I’m excited for that because it means I get to take 5 naps that day :slight_smile: and hopefully address my constant daytime fatigue.

Yes! Hurra for all the naps incoming!

I am also 58 days clean from porn and masturbation, which I am very proud of. It’s not something I ever tracked because it’s not something I ever thought was that important.

Well done for t his long streak. I can only imagine how shifting this from your life could have been challenging, especially when you don’t expect to feel that absence. It’s not comfortable to feel like something’s missing, and to realize the importance it’s actually been having in our life.

That said, as much as I’m now aware that it was a shallow, false escape, I would love to “escape” for just a bit. Just a hit to take the edge off.

You are allowed to escape. Escaping is not bad - we all need it! What’s essential is to use ways that are healthy for us and don’t become avoidance. I think when you start owning your actions, being aware of the control you have and set intentions when you use an escape coping mechanism, it makes a big difference. Now, what would be means for you to escape but remain safe? Escaping from the daily life but not necessarily from your heart? Escaping, but not going too far? Escaping without compromising your values and beliefs.

Right now, even more appealing, is the idea of acting out to active self-deprecation. “Every opportunity you missed, every encounter you regret, and every woman who broke your heart is everything you deserve. Your wife deserves better than you. You’re not worth any more than 5 minutes with a dirty sock.”

I’m so sorry that you are struggling with such thoughts and feelings. These are justifications that your mind creates to justify further actions that you know you don’t want to take. It’s heartbreaking as it feels real. So nothing is written, and there is so much love for you to ground yourself in. :hrtlegolove:

1 Like

I thought about this more last night. These thoughts are wrong because they leave no room for grace or redemption. Every woman who broke my heart, every woman I regret encountering, and every woman who I missed the chance to date would eventually mean every woman in the world except my wife. “I don’t deserve anything more than that” is a stupid statement. It implies I deserve everything in the world except my wife. Once I realized that, once I realized how false it was, I snapped out of it.

The idea that we’re beyond redemption and unworthy of grace is an idea that isolates is from God, or the goodness of others if God isn’t your thing. Maybe we feel unworthy, and maybe we haven’t encountered grace and redemption yet, but the only way we can stay away from those things is to actively reject them. Grace and redemption are out there, you just have to accept them. Good people want to love you. God wants to love you through those people. Seek and ye shall find–in this community, in church, in support groups, etc. I lost sight of that for a bit, but to say I’m unworthy of grace is an insult to the people that want to love me. “Unworthy? Too bad, here it is anyway.” My demons are what keep me isolated.

Thank you for continuing to show me I am loved, for no reason other than because I’m here. The only reason I wouldn’t be loved in this place is if I rejected it.

1 Like

Wow. That was amazing to read. I probably needed that reminder and logic too, more than I thought. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this. I am definitely keeping this with me as well.

What’s so hard in that process is that being loved can be so brutal. It can be so painful. So hard. It’s not all about softness, butterflies and cuddles. For so many of us it can trigger some raw and brutal reaction of rejection - could it be by hiding, disappearing, or being angry, upset and saying things we don’t mean. It is so radical to face the reality that this love is present no.matter.what. Kind of mind-blowing, comforting, appealing, but also so scary! “What if I lose it?”, “Well, you can’t!”, “But what are my guarantees?”.

I guess that’s when faith comes in. You don’t have the proof that it’s going to be there for the rest of your life. You don’t have any way to put that love in a jar for eternity and put it in a locked chest. It can’t be controlled. It can’t be possessed. But it can be experienced, felt deeply… as long as we open the door, and keep opening it each time we start doubting or fearing the worst.

What is amazing through your post is that not only you word this brilliantly, but YOU, at a personal level, are in this position of knowing that you can choose to open the door or not. And that makes such a big difference! Maybe people closed that door for you before. In the past, you may not had this emotional maturity and growth to be fully conscious of your options. Feelings can take all the space… and start to build such a mess of wrong connections and pathways in our mind.

By being in front of that door and by choosing to open it, you are also showing to yourself how much you have progressed in your life. Emotionally, rationally, spiritually.

:hrtlegolove:

1 Like