Before I delve into the world of burnout I want to first start off with this fact; I LOVE MY JOB!
It's been so long since I've written anything I can't recall whether or not you all know what it is that I do for a living, well, I'm a "Youth Worker" which is a watered-down way of saying that I am a juvenile corrections worker. The thing about this job is that I did and didn't choose this profession. Many years ago I wanted to be a counselor to teens because when I was a teen I didn't like any of my counselors. I felt that they were all out of touch with the teens they were working with, not to mention they didn't look like me (African American). I wasn't able to finish school for mental health so I gave up on that dream. I actually trained to try and become a cop, you know be a part of the solution. That failed miserably because I couldn't lift half my body weight. I didn't even get to try the other portions of the fitness test. Time would pass and I would just work where I was best suited, customer service. I spiraled and ended up taking time off from a real job just picking up shifts through temporary work. Eventually getting to a point where the money I was making wasn't enough. I remember staying up one night and for more than 4 hours straight I completed application after application. I completed so many applications I couldn't tell you everything I applied to. Unbeknownst to me one of those applications was for the department of juvenile justice, and as you can see I got the job.
On November 1st, 2019 I started on a new career path and I was more than excited. I hit the ground running. Lots of overtime on the days I worked, I even came in on my off days to help out. It's been that way since I started. I had some issues with attendance the first year, but by year two I'd done a 180 and honestly, I can't remember calling in for anything other than getting hospital sick or the time I had COVID. This is significant because during this time I did begin to realize that I needed a break at least every three months for a mental health reset, because even though I enjoyed the job sometimes I would just be bogged down from all the issues encountered on the job. I was actually pretty good at knowing when to take my breaks so that I could be the best me that I could be. My last official vacation was in January early February of this year. Which ended up not really being a vacation because I ended up with COVID.
I know that a lot of jobs claim to be a family or have a family environment, but for the first time ever I felt, and still feel this to be true. I care if we are short-staffed, I care if taking a vacation will put a strain on the others, and I genuinely cared enough to coordinate my vacation with my coworkers so that there wouldn't be too many people off on a day that would cause them to be short. I cared enough and too much at the expense of my own sanity.
In March of this year I started to feel the burn, I knew I needed time off for a reset but I kept pushing. We were losing people left and right and getting to the point of being shorter than we'd ever been before, not to mention the promotion period was coming up and I didn't want to take off at that time to "hurt" my chances of not getting it. Well, I got the promotion and again hit the ground running. A new position, no true transition, I went from night shift one week to day shift the next. Again, I cared enough to coordinate my vacation with that of the supervisor I was under because hey, I'm his right-hand woman. When he's not running shift, I am. This took a toll on my mental even further as one of our night shift employees took leave, so day shift covered what we could to get them to where they needed to be. Looking back, I can pinpoint exactly what I did wrong with my new shift and position. We have mandatory overtime rotations so that the same people are not staying over all the time. In the beginning, I would stay over to help even if it wasn't my time to stay over. One, because I like money, and two, because the shift that relieved us was my old shift. Even though I needed a break I couldn't take one. I was in the process of trying to figure out whether or not I was going to have surgery anytime soon. I was told December at first but pain in my hand accelerated the need and I was just waiting to see how much of my time I needed to have this surgery and recovery time off. I am now post-surgery and I have been off for three weeks.
Lord, this is long but I'm going to try to wrap it up soon.
See, I want to address how I felt before my time off. Children test your nerves daily, but in corrections, multiply that by 1000. You have to have the patience of Job because you cannot react to every single thing that they do or say. Sometimes they just need to let their energy out and when they are done you look at them and ask "feel better?" and move on. It was getting more and more difficult to remain neutral. I'd also had a point where I went to the hospital with chest pain where I had to stay overnight because my heart enzymes were elevated. I was supposed to take my blood pressure daily for two weeks to see if I had high blood pressure. During that time I realized that on the days I worked it was the highest and on my off days it was considerably lower. My job was literally raising my blood pressure and stressing me out. I'd also begun to notice that the day before I was to return to work after my days off I would also be on pins and needles. I was afraid that taking the full 6 weeks off to recover from my surgery would be way too much. I literally thought to myself "if I'm gone for 6 weeks, how will that affect the other?". In the end, I had to ask myself if I didn't take the full 6 weeks how would that affect my family? They'd already been through mommy being edgy, and my fiance had already been through the loss of intimacy due to my anxiety being so high that I couldn't even bear the feel of certain fabrics let alone just a simple hug. Burnout affects everyone and everything around you. No matter how much you love your job, your career, nothing is worth the physical and emotional ramifications of holding on and not taking a break when needed.
I've been off for three weeks now and after two weeks I was afraid that this was going to be a traumatic experience where once it was time to go back I wouldn't want to. I was afraid that I'd be looking for another job soon because as a person who's gone through severe mental health issues at a job before I generally know the time it takes for me to recover. I'm not quite ready to go back to work yet. I have finally gotten to the point where I miss my children. I've even thought about contacting the dr to have them release me early, but I won't. You see, burnout is oh so real. With my job and the responsibilities I have, it's unfair to everyone around me not to be the best me I can be. So, I'm going to take the remainder of my time off to heal myself, and my household, and remember that it's okay to care for myself BEFORE I get to the burnout stage.
I pray that you will do the same.