I walk down the street and wait at the crosswalk. A dusty gray van lets me go first. I wave.
Ten seconds later, just as I go across the sidewalk, I hear a loud “honk!” The hair on my arm stands at attention, my heart pumping through my chest. It was coming from the crosswalk I just passed, as two cars disagree over who had the right of way.
I shouldn’t have been that startled, I think to myself. I walk briskly to the office, with the anxiety of someone who overslept their alarm. It’s 7:00 am. I’m the first one in, again. Why did I have to rush? And why is my heart still beating so quickly?
I’m burned the fuck out.
Burnout is described as a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.
But that’s not how it feels.
I feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety. Like my blood is a constantly simmering stew. The stove’s been on so long that the house is beginning to smell like fumes of gas. I need to evacuate the premises, but there’s no exit. The doors have no handle, the windows have evaporated into thin air.
Yup, that’s about right.
After a few hours, I decided to take a walk outside. I felt like a zombie stuttering through a sleepless night. Physically, I’m there walking past you on Montgomery st wearing a nice button down J. Crew shirt tucked into my navy blue chino pants.
But looks are an illusion. Mentally, I’m far away. Wait, I’m not even there at all.
I walk back into the office, feeling about as fresh as month-old broccoli lingering in the back of the fridge.
I dip into a conference room, pretending to have a client call, only to stumble through a mindless vortex of email, Twitter, Instagram and back to email. I land on Twitter and find an influencer writing about wellness. What the fuck is an influencer, anyways? Into the rabbithole I go.
45 minutes later, I’ve read half a dozen of articles about mental health and am convinced I’m having an anxiety attack. I write a text to my girlfriend, who conveniently works in the same office, only a few feet from the room I’m hunkered in. “Do you have 5 minutes? I’m having a hard time”. I let the written text sit there for 10 minutes before sending. I make sure to delete the second sentence to not give an appearance of weakness.
Immediately upon her entrance into the conference room, I break down. Tears in my eyes, I fuddle through an explanation of my mental space. She assures me she feels like this frequently. “Does everyone feel this terrible?”, I think to myself.
Her words and support mean a lot to me. They make me feel better, kind of. I tell her I’m okay and sit back alone in the conference room. Is it just me or is it 1,000 degrees in here?
I decide to write down things I feel grateful for. It feels fake. I throw the page out.
I start writing this article, if not to publish it, to at least work through how I’m feeling.
I join the rest of my team, who don’t know how I’ve felt all day. We make late afternoon jokes and that makes me feel better too, kind of. I get dinner with a few friends and talk about life. This helps too, somewhat.
After a full night’s sleep, I start to feel better. I blow off a scheduled podcast with someone. I show up to work later than usual, still the first one in the office. The thought from the day prior lingers in my head – does everyone feel like this? Like they’re on an ever-moving hamster wheel with no true goal in mind, no true north they’re marching toward?
That question continues to stick with me – does everyone feel that way from time to time? Am I a failure or is this as human as it gets? This is shit they don’t teach you in college.
I listened to a great podcast this week between Brian Koppelman and Counting Crows frontman, Adam Duritz. Duritz is recognized as one of the best songwriters of our generation – with songs that can absolutely melt your heart. When asked about this, he said “it makes good music but it’s hard to live”.
Maybe that’s why we love music so much. We love hearing about the heartbreak, the grind, that they can barely afford their next meal. To a point, we can relate. And it makes us feel better about whatever we’re going through.
I wrote this article months after the day where I felt so horrible, so hopeless. I’m in a good mood, listening to the Rolling Stones through my headphones as I sit in a trendy cafe in Nob Hill, San Francisco.
Today is Super Bowl Sunday. It’s been a while since I felt like this but today seems as good of a day as any to post this blog.
Life is great. Life is truly beautiful. To think that all of the small things work every day – my ten fingers and toes, my hot water in the shower, my ability to read and write this article – is truly a miracle.
If you asked my friends, they’d say I’m an optimist. I’m usually upbeat and trying to bring good vibes with me where I go. I was recently told by a coworker that I must have been “born in the corner of positivity”, whatever that means.
But some days suck. Some weeks drag on. Some months it’s tough to see above the cloud over my head.
And during those times, I’m learning to be kinder to myself. Spend the $4 on that special coffee. Take 30 minutes in the morning to read a book or listen to some Kanye West. Set limits on the time I’m reading email.
It all goes in waves.
Sometimes I give advice on my blog. This isn’t one of those times.
But as someone with a small platform, as someone who appreciates every eyeball that lands on this site and as someone who gets some sort of sick therapy from writing, I wanted to open up the conversation.
Professional athletes are talking about it. There’s a ton of research indicating how important mental health. Anthony Bourdain, who was working in his dream job traveling the world, killed himself last year.
I heard my sister once say to be kind to everyone, because everyone is going through an internal battle. I believe that.
So if you’re feeling like shit today, don’t hesitate to seek help, either professionally or from a friend.
And if you’re feeling good, spread the positivity. We could all use some more of that shit.