Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Something odd is happening. I keep thinking if I ignore it for long enough, the depression-like feelings will simply dial back and go away, but it continues to linger. I do well when distracted, as if keeping my mind busy forces the lurking crisis firmly into the background. But as soon as I try to rest or my surroundings get quiet, I struggle again. And it appears to be getting worse.

I was hired to do a specific job, working in tandem with a partner who would cover Task A. Which would leave me to happily deal with Task B. And I like B – it’s lower profile but super-cool. I know how to do it. I’d be pretty good at it. But I am – as is often my problem – without a partner. So I want to do it all – gain enough energy, clarity and talent to handle A + B – but I can’t. I’m trying – really, really hard most days – and I just seem to have this large crowd of people who want more from me than I have to give. And I’m starting to shut down.

Maybe if I spend less time in the office, I thought, trying to save my sanity. That didn’t work - it just made me feel guilty. Perhaps if I take time to relax, I thought as I made spa appointments, but that failed too. I could pray more, I thought this morning when I woke up from a nightmare-plagued sleep. Exercise. Work harder. Instead, I’m fighting this desperate urge to withdraw completely. Hide in my basement and read. Not check work email filled with emails asking why I missed a meeting, where those numbers are, if the slides were acceptable, when I was going to review the documents.

I can’t, I think, looking at them and feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. I cannot do all of this. It takes time and thought and expertise that escapes me. And Task B ends up ignored because I keep throwing effort at A in a fruitless attempt to keep from getting buried under it. And then my B people look betrayed that I was hired to help them and won't.

“Maybe I should move some things around,” Adam said when I looked blankly at him after he said something funny. “You don’t look good.”

I shrugged, thinking he was right but not wanting to admit defeat. I like being challenged, I told myself firmly. And given the economic climate, it’s good to be useful in several areas. And I can always work on B stuff in my free time!

“You can’t keep this up,” one of my favorite engineers noted after we had lunch and talked through an upcoming pitch. “Working evenings and weekends, being bothered when you can’t handle every detail.”

“I can’t burn out in three months,” I replied. “I have to find a way to do this.”

I just wish I knew how. I also wish these feelings didn't feel awfully close to depression.


phd me said...

I wish I knew how, too. You can't keep up the pace you've set for yourself; a frantic pace can't keep the wolves at bay forever. How to conquer those wolves once and for all...I'm rooting for you.

saxifraga said...

I'm right there with you. I'm sorry to hear you're feeling so overwhelmed and I hope you will find a way to let some of the things slide. Why did the partner who were supposed to cover task A never materialise? I'm pretty much in the same boat, so haven't got much advice except much empathy. I'm rooting for you too.

I haven't commented in a long time, but I'm still reading almost every day.

Dr. Brazen Hussy said...

Hmmm. I recommend driving southwards and drinking girly cocktails with me.

Amanda said...

I can sympathize about the pace. The taking time off to re-energize just to feel guilty about taking time off. I hope that you'll be able to find some way to balance things soon. (And take Dr. BH up on her offer.)

Psych Post Doc said...

What about just being really kick ass at what you were hired for? Katie you can't be everything to everyone and you need to have a life.

Once you get used to actually living your life you'll stop feeling guilty. You have to be good to yourself before you can be good at doing anything else.


Citronella said...

I agree that you should be focusing on what you've been hired to do. Especially if you like doing it and are good at it. You sound like you're trying too hard at times... you cannot carry the whole company on your shoulders.

I hope you find a way out of this muddle soon.

Moose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moose withthoughtslikemine said...

When I get into a lull, I have to get back to basics. I know it sounds simple, but catching-up on sleep, exercise and healthy eating increases the chance that those "low-level" feelings of numbness/tiredness/low mood will go away...

Psycgirl said...

Hi Katie. Sometimes people who have had depression get really worried when they start feeling negative - like it is guaranteeing a relapse. The good news though is that you at least recognize that you're not enjoying this pace and the impact it's having on you.

Your mental health is just as important as your work - I say you feel like you can't do it all because nobody could do it all. I think you should take some time to read in the basement.

You can't do all work and no play, it will lead to burnout and total lack of productivity! So your work would likely suffer either way (that's how I justify it anyway.)

Anonymous said...

i wish you all the best and sorry you're feeling this way.

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