if there's one piece of advice that i've tried to adhere to (given by one of my former managers, who i very much still look up to), it's to make sure you don't make any decisions under duress. run towards an opportunity, not away from a situation.
figuring out how far under duress i've been has been something that i've been traditionally poor at. when i had my first burnout spike, i recovered by focusing on what i wanted to do, in that moment, and declared everything else off-limits to try to recover. maybe it's an aspect of work that i know i have an interest in and is ambiguous enough to warrant further digging; maybe it's just helping others get disambiguate their tasks to ensure the entire project moves forward.
my second burnout spike moved much the same way; the cause of that one was personal-related; i shifted my focus to burnout recovery and tried my best to ensure that people knew i was stemming burnout and dealing with the root cause.
but this most recent burnout spike has been not only the most intense, but also the one that has come from misunderstanding how far under duress i've been. there's a couple of factors: crazy ambiguity that's taken a lot of effort to untangle; a pandemic that refuses to end and is slowly normalising longer working hours; and an insistence by certain upper level figures to death march instead of reasonably push back a date.
by the time i had forced myself to take a break (or rather, my friends), i was feeling every inch of the burnout. i felt like my contributions weren't making impacts to slow the tide; but what was worse was that every impact that some of my closest colleagues were feeling were impacting me, too. and so i tried to find something that would be interesting for me to work on, and direct my attention to help me recover from burnout.
in retrospect, that should have been my red flag. when i went talking with different teams, i wasn't motivated to work on any of their problems, or i found red flags that i knew would hurt my recovery. by the time i had talked with a number of teams, i was starting to feel desperate. i ended up pulling on the one thing i knew i was interested in – and that was a huge mistake.
if there's only one thing that interests you, that's not a bad thing. but that one thing is almost never in isolation from other aspects of that thing. and i had totally failed to take into account all the other aspects i would be dealing with. i had ended up running away from a situation instead of running towards an opportunity.
so that one thing i was interested in – i'm not really that motivated to pursue anymore. more to the point, i'm not motivated to do anything at the moment. i'm doing my best right now to stem any further burnout, but that's really hard when i've used my last interest and my motivation has evaporated as a result. my current manager has been hugely supportive of my experiences and has helped me every step of the way so far. they can only do so much, though, and i won't hesitate to say that i'm not mentally equipped to deal with more than what i have at the moment. (i understand why people take sabbaticals, now.)
so if i'm interacting with you over the next few weeks, months (or have interacted with you over the past few weeks or months), i apologise. burnout is a tricky thing to manage, and taking steps to remediate burnout is a hard and ardous, but necessary task to manage, and my focus will be on that for the near future.