Last week, I joked about running away from everything and spending time off the grid. This weekend, I did just that…sort of.
I’m pretty sure I had a mental breakdown from Tuesday to Sunday.
I’ve never experienced anything like it. I’m still sorting things out so I’ll try to make sense of much of it today. In this blog, I’ll go through:
- What happened
- What I learned
- What changes I’ll make moving forward
Let’s dive in.
1) What the hell happened to me?
I woke up exhausted on Tuesday. But not a typical exhausted.
I’ve gotten bad sleep before. This was different. This wasn’t sluggishness or fog. I was awake. It was strange.
I felt no excitement or joy…None.
Whoa. I ran an experiment. I wrote out all of my favorite things and imagined myself doing them at the highest level. Spending time with friends and family laughing hysterically. Growing a business I love. Living in my new NYC apartment. Playing in chess tournaments…I felt nothing.
I wasn’t looking forward to any of it. In fact, I resented and was angered by anything I had to do last week. Client sessions, admin work, plans with a friend. I didn’t want to do any of it.
This was a shock to my system. I’m always excited. I love projects. I love talking to people and spending time with those I love.
But the only thing I truly wanted to do was run away to a cabin in the woods and not talk to a soul. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t fly.
I had a week of calls. Much to do, like any week. My next vacation is Brooklyn at the end of the month. My first thought was, Just make it until then. Not a chance.
The problem-solver that I am, I worked hard to find the source of all this.
I went through every interaction, every experience, everything I did and said in the past two weeks. Is this a trauma thing? Am I nervous about something? Did I do something I feel guilty about?
No. No. And no.
Then what the fuck is wrong??
Mindfulness told me that nothing was wrong. There was nothing to fix. But that’s much easier to say when I’m not in the thick of it.
I used my Ph.D. in Bro Science to dissect things. It felt as though my brain wasn’t producing dopamine. It was hard to laugh. I had zero motivation to do anything. I dreaded waking up and attacking the day.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m always laughing, I’m always motivated, and I love waking up and getting moving.
I cried a few times.
- I felt awful
- I had no idea why I felt so awful
- I both wanted to be consoled by my friends and not talk to anyone
- I felt guilty for showing up to calls as (barely) half a person
- With my limited knowledge of mental health, I thought about how many people experience way worse than what I did
This continued each day. I went to bed hoping I’d wake up refreshed and back to normal. Then I’d get up disappointed and reluctantly head into my office.
On Thursday, I had a session with my coach. When I laid out everything I was going through, we dove in. Without recounting the entire session, here were my major takeaways:
- I need more support.
- I work every day and didn’t even realize it.
- I’ve built an accidental brand of someone who’s unstoppable and has it all figured out (lol).
- In the 10 days of February, I had given myself to (held space, helped, served) 53 people for 36 hours.
- I’m working on too many things.
Holy shit. I was totally burnt out.
With this blog, with becoming a leader in my coaching community, with building more and more relationships in life and business…
People have been asking for my time and attention more than ever before. My output—the amount of value I’ve been trying to give—has been blowing up like a balloon. That balloon popped last week.
As I’ve reminded myself countless times in the past: It doesn’t matter how good we are at time management—there are only 24 hours in a day. We can’t trick Father Time.
I was giving 100 things 1% of me. As opposed to giving one thing 100% of me.
That session gave me a ton of clarity on what was going on. But it didn’t make me feel any better.
The next day on Friday, I was in a session with someone and I realized I hadn’t been listening to them for about 60 seconds. My eyes started watering.
I felt terrible. It was unprofessional of me to try to power through this. I finally understood the merit of taking a mental health day.
So I took a mental health weekend.
I reached out to the seven people I had sessions/plans with, told them I needed to escape for a few days, and then asked to borrow my friends’ dog, Hank.
I got an Airbnb an hour away. Seven of seven people responded with nothing but well-wishes and heart emojis. ❤️
I packed some clothes and a book, picked Hank up, and we headed off the grid.
2) What the hell did I learn?
When we got to the place, I dropped my bag and phone off. Hank and I left immediately to explore the local hiking trails.
When we got to the first one, I let Hank off the leash and he galloped around the trees with glee. Hiking with a well-trained dog should be an American pastime.
He found a stick and handed it to me. I thanked him for the gift and we walked aimlessly.
A few things hit me in those first few minutes in the woods:
- I don’t do this enough.
- Intention is a beautiful thing, but so is doing something without a goal or purpose.
- Life is 40 times more enjoyable outside without a phone.
The sun was going down so we went back to the Airbnb. I fed him and ordered dinner for myself.
The evening was spent reading, playing with Hank, and thinking.
When we woke up, I gave him breakfast and we went straight back out to the trails. It was snowing. He looked even more graceful sprinting through piles of white.
Back at the place, I made a cup of coffee and started reading a novel. A few minutes in, I realized I was enjoying it more than I had in the past. 90 pages in and it felt like I was soaking it in for the first time.
What was different?
Then the insight struck me. This was the first time in months I had picked up a book simply because I wanted to read it. It wasn’t for my routine. It wasn’t my 30 minutes of morning reading. I was just reading a good book on a snowy morning with some coffee and a dog lying at my feet.
“I need more mornings where I don’t care what time it is,” I said out loud.
“Quiet, I’m trying to sleep,” muttered Hank.
I stopped reading when I wanted to stop, not because it was time to stop. I could get used to this whole “not scheduling every hour” thing.
We played more tug-of-war, cleaned the place up, and checked out. Before returning home, we hit a nature park and wandered around for an hour or two. Every ten minutes that passed was like a percentage increase in my life battery.
I discovered that this stuff…time in nature, electronic-free walks, mornings without a clock…these were no longer self-care luxuries. At the level I’m at now, they’re necessities.
With that said…
3) What the hell am I going to do with all this?
I brought Hank back home and chilled with my two friends for an hour. I told them about my mental state. They listened with care.
When they asked how the Airbnb was, I said, “Necessary, not enough, and expensive.”
While it was helpful, it didn’t remove the physical sensation in my eyes and throat. But it did show me what I needed to change.
First, I need to stop working on Sundays.
I’ve been willing to do sessions on weekends because several of my clients have 9 to 5s and I don’t do evening calls. But that means when I’m not taking a trip, my week looks like this:
Mon—write book, organize week
Tue—sessions, chess lesson
Wed—sessions, group calls
Fri—sessions, creative work
Sat—sessions, maybe fun
Sun—sessions, chill before week starts
No days off. Literally. That’s stupid.
My brain has no time to shut off or unplug. I’m always on.
Last night, I turned my phone on airplane mode and watched six episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender (I have no idea who played in the Super Bowl).
Even that felt like a rarity. How often do we watch something on TV while on our phones? How many God damn screens do we need at one time?
So, here are my to-dos:
- Get back to everyone I’ve been blowing off.
- Reschedule my sessions/calls.
- Tell my clients I can’t work Sundays anymore.
- Spend more time without my phone and not looking at the clock.
I’ve already halted two projects I was working on. Taking those off my shoulders gave me an immediate wave of relief.
Moving forward, I’m going to be doing less. Less but better. Less but with more time, love, and attention. I’ll do more by doing less. Yes. Less.
I’m immensely grateful to have people in my life I can be vulnerable with.
Even this blog. I’m lucky to have an outlet where I can share stuff like this.
I also think about my mom.
I work for myself and have no one to worry about other than me. What if I was a single parent with a full-time job? I couldn’t just cancel everything and escape. Again, I’m lucky to be able to do what I do.
Please, if you’ve been through anything similar, share it with me. I’d love to learn more about the scope and scale of mental health.
Thanks for making it this far. I’m back and feeling pumped to do much, much less! 😘