Burn Out

I am burned out. It’s a common phrase, and we all pretty much know what it means. But today I feel it. I actually feel like a still-hot smoking wick at the bottom of a candle that has been completely sucked dry by the surrounding air.

I have nothing left to give today.

And why do I feel guilty about this? Bear with me: I need to do some self-examination for a moment.

Today is the sixth day in a row I have gotten up out of my bed to come and spend 8 hours in the hospital. Over the past 6 days, I have led and preached a memorial service, written a prayer for publication in honor of Nurses Week, led a devotional for transplant nurses in honor of their special day, planned and organized our department’s spring retreat, attended staff meetings, palliative care team meetings and a CPE graduation, completed mandatory education on online phishing and preventative practices for hospital acquired illnesses, provided mandatory staff devotionals on my units, attended codes to wait and pray with family members, been at the bedside of three dying patients who literally passed as I prayed, spent 4 hours being shadowed by a volunteer teaching and answering questions, and somehow kept up with my metrics and all the tracking we are required to report. All of this is, of course, in addition to continuing to provide pastoral and emotional care to my everyday patients and families.

So it does not surprise me that I’m burned out. What surprises me is that here I am, sitting in my office, and all I want to do is pack up and run away to the beach, but instead I’m feeling guilty about taking time out to write this post. To breathe. To focus on my own needs.

Because here are the emails I need to catch up on, and the passive aggressive insinuations that my numbers aren’t where they need to be, and I’m not increasing my visits by enough percentages, and I can’t take off a full day for PTO after all, so I’ll have to come in for 5 hours on the day I’m supposed to be off and work another 6 days in a row (even though I’m technically to blame because I asked for this, but who wants to waste a precious PTO day on mandatory events when we already have so few?)

I read a quote today by Thomas Szas that reads, “Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.” This strikes a chord with me. Right now I want to feel serene, but I feel bored. Even though I’m busy, I feel like I’m wasting my time. And who wants to feel that way? I want to melt into nothingness and enjoy the present moment, even if it means I’ve only seen 2 patients and it’s already 12:00. Who cares? I work hard. Yesterday was incredibly demanding on me physically and emotionally, and today I need a break. So I’m spending this time rationalizing away my guilt and demanding me-time. If nothing else, it should be okay for me to get paid for me-time when my pay barely covers my rent, right?

I do not like feeling cynical. It’s not really my style. But sometimes I guess I just have to indulge my Negative Nancy and let her point out some obvious problems. I need to re-evaluate my boundaries. I need to take time for myself. I need to shake it off like Swifty.

That’s why I’m going to Chattanooga this weekend. I am going to do what I want to do, and I’m going to eat what I want to eat, and I’m going to read my book, and play outside, and see some fish at the aquarium and enjoy myself.

And I guess that’s about all I have to say about that.

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2 thoughts on “Burn Out

  1. I hope you truly enjoyed your weekend, and didn’t feel too guilty during your time away. The sermon at church yesterday was focused on emotional vampires, and how easily we can be sucked dry while trying to provide help and compassion to those in need- something that seems to ring so true to your situation of late. The message was that you must set boundaries and outline what resources you can give, so you can be healthy enough to help, and able to meet expectations. And remember, you are not the savior, Jesus is. And while you can’t step away from work situations, be sure to let him help you while you are helping others. Best of luck, my friend!

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