Sometimes I get worried about you. Yes, I am talking to you. I know you are working really hard to make this ending homelessness thing happen. I know sometimes that means you are not sleeping well and working long hours. I am also pretty sure you were the one worried about where things are going politically as it relates to this work (and America as a whole). Plus your friends and family are stressing you out a bit. I got you. Let’s do a little check up from the neck up, shall we? I have some questions to ask you, and all I ask is that you be honest with yourself as you go through them:
Are you exhausted? Are you struggling to get motivated in the morning? Are you still feeling wiped out after a weekend or even days off?
Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Are your dreams interrupted by thoughts of the people you serve and the work?
Are you getting sick more often? Is stress making you feel physically sick? Do you feel anxiety about the potential of a physical illness?
Are you using more alcohol than you used to? Are you having more than a couple drinks at the end of the day to deal with the stress of the day? Have you found yourself seeking a prescription from your doctor for pain so you get access to narcotics? Are you using drugs to escape or to excess? Have you been late for work or missed a day because of your drinking or drug use?
Feeling angry about stuff that never used to make you angry? Having outbursts with clients, colleagues, friends or family members in a way that is inappropriate or disproportionate to what actually occurred? Find your tongue sharper than usual and spending a lot of time apologizing or thinking you should apologize? On edge and read to blow up at a moment’s notice?
Crying a lot lately? Or on the verge of tears? And sometimes for the seemingly weirdest things or stuff that never used to make you cry? Or when you do have a good cry do you still feel you have more bottled up inside?
Avoiding your clients? Making yourself so busy you can’t possibly meet with them or talk with them on the phone? Do you know there are things that should be taken care of with clients that are not happening?
Things good with your friends? Still seeing them as much as you used to? Are you able to carry on an engaging conversation, or are you in a rush to go back to being alone?
Does your family feel connected to you – and do you feel connected to your family? If you have kids, are you performing all of your parenting duties adequately relative to the age they are?
Are you still getting your groove on with your significant other? Is the sex good and are you present in the moment? Are you able to provide and receive pleasure? Can you sustain your interest for the duration of the moment?
Can you still feel empathy? Do you find yourself being angry or irritated rather than supportive? Do you find yourself slipping into sympathy? Are you judging your clients or co-workers rather than trying to understand and relate to them supportively?
Do you feel you are making any difference in your job? Do you wonder if you still have what it takes to make a difference in the life of others? Do you wonder if any of this really matters?
Have you wondered what the world would be like without you in it? Have you thought about killing yourself? Have you thought about how you would do it?
Do you feel rage or violence about clients, coworkers, friends or family – even though you may not be acting on it? Have you thought about what it may feel like to demonstrate that rage or violence?
Are you missing work more regularly? Are you missing out on family events? Have you opted out of hanging out with friends?
Are you cynical about seemingly everything? Catch yourself rolling your eyes at others (literally or figuratively)? Do you snipe at others with condescending statements or sarcasm?
Is the stuff you are experiencing at work impacting your personal life? Do you find yourself having any irrational fears that stem from stuff that happened at work? Do you feel anxiety about the state of the world? Do you think the world is inherently an evil place?
Do intrusive images pop into your head about work stuff? Ever been driving and had a terrible image in your head? What about when you are trying to go to sleep? Do your dreams ever have intrusive images from work, or even been awakened by the thought or with the thought of an intrusive image? Have any of these images impacted your relationships with others?
Are you maintaining a life outside of work? Are you keeping your personal and professional life separated? Can you leave your phone alone when you are not being paid to look at it? Are you increasingly going in early, working through lunch, avoiding breaks, or staying late?
Do you still have hope for the people you serve and the work that you do? Do you still believe the world can become a better place and that our work matters in helping to make that happen? Do you have the ability to still believe that next week can be better than this week; next month can be better than this month; next year can be better than this year?
I’m your friend. I have had those feelings before. I know what it is like to burn the candle from both ends. I know what it is like to burn out. If you find yourself concerned or feeling uncomfortable with the responses to the questions about, it is time that you talk with someone you trust and maybe even get some professional help. If you are an American reader of the blog, you can get information about suicide prevention resources here, and if you are a Canadian reader you can do so here…just in case you need it. And remember, you taking care of you is self-preservation, not self-indulgence. Only you know if you are in a good place these days, and only you can take the initiative to address it if you are not.