A workaholic is someone who is so addicted to their job that they do it at the expense of their family, their marriage, their relationships and their health.

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One day my doctor told me:

“I’m sorry Anne, You are Workaholic”, and my first reaction was: “So what?”

“Who doesn’t work too hard these days?”

It could not be a medical diagnosis,

It seemed ridiculous, I thought.

Anyway my doctor was adamant.

I enjoyed overworking, sending 200 emails a day, living off coffees and no sleep.

But my manic habits for years had now taken their toll.

I remember that fateful morning,

I was 31, I had woken up and was literally unable to move.

For five hours I just lay in bed in a near-catatonic state.

When I was finally able to drag myself to see my doctor,

He was unequivocal.

“You had a real problem”, he said.

All my health issues; chronic eczema, mouth ulcers, bloated tummy,

Depression and panic attacks were caused by my addiction to work.

I was working myself to death and I needed to stop Immediately.

So how did I get to this state?

I started working in an office administrative role when I was 19.

I came from a family where praise was rare. As I plunged into office teamwork,

I finally felt accepted and part of something.

My boss praised me continually for my hard work and gradually my self-esteem became dependent on the judgment of my colleagues.

The adrenaline got me high, so as well as working 11-hour days and I had irrepressible energy for nights out at restaurants and bars.

Anyway I felt warning signs, they were already present.

When I was just 23, I walked to the office one day and felt an abrupt pain in my lower abdomen.

It was so severe that I doubled over, my hand pressed to my stomach.

My colon was inflamed, said the doctor.

It was down to stress.

But I thought I was invincible and I ignored what happened.

That year I moved to Boston,

where I managed to get a job in a financial corporation.

I worked every hour I could, and I was quickly promoted to project manager.

Years went by and my job continued to swamp my whole existence.

I sent nearly 200 emails a day, and attended countless meetings in between making dozens of telephone calls.

I worked at weekends, was always late when meeting friends

and I was never away from my phone.

Health problems were still lurking in the background.

I wasn’t happy, but I didn’t know why.

My stomach was constantly bloated even though I barely ate.

I had eczema all over my body, mouth ulcers and acne.

Dermatologists kept diagnosing stress, but once again I ignored them.

After a few months panic attacks also arose and the first time this happened I was about 27.

Suddenly I couldn’t breathe.

My face went numb, as though I was having a stroke,

I gasped for air and felt my heart pounding in my chest.

I had these attacks more and more frequently, even in front of my colleagues.

After telling my doctor about these, I was put on antidepressants and tranquillisers.

But anyway I threw myself back into the only thing which had any meaning for me,

My work.

After that fateful morning

When I woke almost paralysed two years ago,

I was admitted to a mental health hospital.

While I was there,

I started to understand the nature of my addiction to work.

It was an addiction just like any other to cocaine, alcohol, sex, or gambling.

I was addicted to highs and to constant stimulation that came with my job.

I substituted the word ‘narcotics’ for ‘work’,

And the underlying need to numb myself was the same.

I was also diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome,

And this, along with my severe depression and anxiety,

Has put a stop to my career.

I no longer work because I am not well enough.

My life as I knew it has been taken away from me.

Now I live from day to day.

It is hard for me to do much.

If I walked into a office room now,

I could immediately identify the workaholics.

They are the ones who won’t stand still.

I see elements of myself at my worst reflected in them.

They are like zombies,

They are already dead and they do not know that.

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