I was going to title this “burnout sucks” or something, but then a friend sent me to spoon theory. Go on, read it, I’ll still be here. :)
See, I’ve had a migraine/tension headache since february. It’s the end of may, now. Yes, that’s not normal. Yes, I’ve seen doctors, lots of them. Yes, they’ve tried whatever you’re about to suggest. (Except hypnotherapy and trigger point therapy, those are next week).
At first, I thought it was just another persistent headache. it was mid-march, iirc, when I finally stopped trying to work despite the pain. Stress was definitely a trigger – we had an awesome android contract, with more android to come, and I was the “lead” android developer (the other developers being more interested in iOS). I wanted to impress everyone and was pushing myself too far. Some internal matters were stressing me out too, but that’s none of your business. :)
The first 6 weeks or so were pretty awful. Pain, lots of pain. Not severe pain, just enough to distract me, to discourage me from thinking or doing anything, to make me thoroughly miserable. And I desperately wanted to do.. well, things in general. The idea of lying in bed and being unproductive was extremely discomforting. Does that make me a workaholic? It’s not like I was capable of much work, but it was very hard to accept that I needed to rest. every time I thought I was taking it easy, another layer unraveled and I learned that I was still being too hard on myself.
Then my neck went fucking crazy and I was stuck in bed for two days (except for some excruciatingly painful walks to the bathroom). You have no idea how much neck muscle is involved in just holding your head up on your shoulders. That neck pain’s been an issue ever since, although not bad enough to prevent me from standing up at all (thank god).
Since then… well, the pain (head and neck) died down, slowly. It flares up again, if I push too hard (like, two shopping trips in one day, or more than an hour talking to someone) or if it just fucking feels like it (aaaaargh!!). But the headache came with a side effect. Noise sensitivity. On a good day, I have to hide in the bedroom when Pete does the dishes. On a bad day, I can’t stand to have him in the house at all. :(
So that’s two (three?) problems that modern science doesn’t understand and can’t solve. There’s more, too, but nevermind that. Problem #4 is that I am burnt the fuck out. I’m not sure if I didn’t notice it or just refused to believe it… but I’ve had a lot of time to think lately, and eventually I had to acknowledge that I was more enthusiastic about cleaning the bathroom than writing code, even for my own personal app that would be really awesome to have working. :( All this lying about, attempting to rest, has helped a bit, though; I can at least see that I’m burnt out, now, and after resting enough I have the occasional burst of true enthusiasm (which I can’t actually act on, or I’d trigger the headaches again…)
The days have gone by fairly fast, and given the situation, I’m doing fairly well. I still have days where I’m so frustrated I just want to curl up and cry. I have days where I wish the migraine was a physical thing so I could beat the fucking shit out of it. I have days where I’m terrified I might never be well enough to work again. I miss parties so much, so very very much. But I also have days where I feel content to just enjoy the sunshine, or read, or days when I’m well enough to play video games. I seem to have switched back to the introverted personality I had as a kid, which makes it much easier to spend all day lost in a book. I’ve started to draw again, and on my worst days (when even reading hurts), I’ve rediscovered the joy of daydreaming.
To be honest, it’s very confusing and surreal. Here I am, supposedly grown up, and illness has forced me back into the habits of childhood. It took a long time to stop feeling guilty whenever I felt a flash of enjoyment. I still have days where I somehow forget that I’m not well, and feel confused and hurt when I’m not able to handle a full day of chores or errands. Some days I wish I could just be normal; others I’m actually scared of getting better, scared that I won’t be able to cope with “normal” life even when the physical pain is gone (I’m still burnt out, after all, and that’s not the only issue to deal with). Most days, though, I manage to forget about “normal” life, avoid thinking about fun things I can’t do, and enjoy the little things that I can do. :)
Hopefully one day I’ll be better, and I can hack again and make awesome things. Until then, well, I’ll just do what I can, and try to remember to take care of myself.
edit: I forgot to mention, I’m really grateful for the medical system and EI here in Canada. It’s not perfect, but EI is paying my (non-medical) bills for now, and none of the doctors have been skeptical of my mostly-invisible pain. It means a lot to know that the country I pay taxes to is willing to take care of me in return. :) And Steamclock has been very understanding, and is still taking care of my health insurance, too. :)
P.S. If you’re looking for canadian health insurance, don’t pick Sun Life, they’re very restrictive about what they cover. :P