“Apathy is not caring at all. Anxiety is caring too much.”
I read that on a meme a few months back and remember thinking, “Burnout is both at the same time.” On one hand, you could care less that North Korea is about ready to bomb the US out of existence, but at the same time you are terrified to tears that you’re going to come home to find your 3 year-old dog dead from some random cause. A customer complains about having to pay one more dollar for a daily pass compared to last year, and all you feel like doing is staring at them until they go away because you have no energy left to get annoyed. Your significant other adds salt to the soup you made for supper, and you worry for the next two days that they will dump you because of it. No matter how much to tell yourself to the contrary, your mood never correctly matches the situation. Your give a damn’s busted and you stress about things that make no sense.
Worse yet, you’re aware that the thoughts are not rational. You second guess every thought and emotion and compensate for what you know isn’t correct. Sleep is constantly interrupted, if it’s even attainable. Getting out of bed becomes a monumental task. Going to work and putting on a friendly, talkative persona seems impossible, but you do it anyway, because you have to make a living. Eventually, you wear down until all that’s left of you is an empty shell existing without purpose because no matter how hard you try, how hard you fight, you never achieve your goals.
Several months passed before I started to figure out what the problem was. I knew something wasn’t right, that I wasn’t myself, but none of the symptoms made sense. It was like depression, but not entirely. I’d lay awake at night worrying about who would die first, me or my boyfriend, and how one of us would cope without the other. Then that would follow me into the next day no matter how hard I tried to put it away.
I should have sought help from a professional, but I couldn’t. Being a recent transplant to a new state without residency, I lost my insurance coverage from my old state, couldn’t get coverage in my new state, and I was too broke to pay out-of-pocket. Add to that the fact that the nearest mental health services is almost a two hour drive away. No wonder suicide rates are higher in rural areas! Access is extremely difficult or non-existent!
So, I just toughed it out until the day came that things started to make sense, not because I was stronger than it or any of that b.s. I just had no other choice and lacked the energy to do anything else. It was a record low for me, low enough it took me a while to get enough traction to start climbing out of the hole.
How did I get there? That’s a good question and one that I can’t factually disclose to the public lest innocent people get caught in the crossfire, which has added to my angst and sense of helplessness.
Then my friend, Holly Soriano, mentioned that I should start using my experience as a first responder to create a character like C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett or Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire. I liked the idea and decided to give it a try. So, this year for National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) I will be working on crafting a new story loosely based on my experiences. I won’t know until the back side of the rough draft if it will make it into publication. A lot of that will depend on how well the story turns out.
But before I go, I have to thank some people. First, my boss and crew from this summer for being a great bunch of folks who just wanted to have a good, drama free time at work. You guys exemplify the meaning of team. My friends, Holly and Sara, for being sounding boards through a major transition in my life.
And lastly, because his was the toughest job, my boyfriend, Donny: Thank you for not giving up on me, for lending me your shoulder to cry on and your strong arms to find refuge in. I’ll never be able to thank you enough for all you’ve done to keep me sane. You are my better, other half that I hope I never loose. Your belief in me got me through.