I’ve just spent the last two and a half weeks in a bad ME/CFS crash after our major conference at work. The conference wipes me out every year, but this year it was extreme — probably in part because of the terrible summer that proceeded it.
Breathing in toxic levels of air pollution from bushfire smoke since November, fire fears and stress, extreme heatwave days, a massive hail storm that wrote off my car (and triggered all the stress and organising involved in replacing it, thankfully reduced by my family’s assistance and loan of the classic 1996 Toyota Tarago) and damaged one of our conference venues, and now coronavirus — which thankfully was still more contained when our event took place than it is now but still had impacts.
When I went on my Byron mini-holiday last year I already felt burnt out, and because of the summer of doom I never had a chance to regroup. So I went into our conference with terrible fatigue, not helped by a few other issues in the office — it was never going to end well.
My mental health has not been great either — exhaustion never helps on that front. I’ve been feeling uneasy since September or so last year, unsure of my place at work and whether people think I am doing enough/doing a good job, like I could never do it all or do it well enough (even though I usually do get it all done, on reflection) and like I don’t get listened to, and like the huge volume of work I do is invisible and often not appreciated. With the unease and stress of a large event combined, along with a really heavy workload, it all kind of snowballed. By the time the conference came around it felt like it was just happening to me, and I struggled with a massive dose of imposter syndrome from not being able to be there as much or as actively as I would like to be. And because of the fatigue I also missed out on a lot of the fun parts of the event, or was struggling through them — normally the social element makes the slog more worthwhile. Feeling like I was losing control over my workload when control is one of the few things that helps me keep symptoms in check was all just a bit much.
The silver lining of the last two and a half weeks of exhaustion, pain and illness have been the company of my little pup Asterix, who is a joy and a sweetheart (though prone to zoomies and the attacks and the chews like any puppy of his age). He has destroyed a couple of pairs of shoes and my Apple Pencil (aka expensive stick) when I’ve been too tired to play, but I’ve also been too tired to care very much about the damage, and he well and truly makes up for it on the whole.
So I’m now looking at a 2020 where I am going to have to cut back significantly on work. I was hoping to look at new opportunities but I am not sure how long I will take to bounce back from this crash. And meanwhile people are having scrag fights in the supermarket aisles over toilet paper, so the vibes out there just aren’t good. I didn’t get to go to any of the things I usually enjoy over the summer (like the Multicultural Festival or Noodle Markets) and after the next week or so Canberra will pretty much start shutting down for winter as usual. I had higher hopes for you 2020! I hope this turns around.