Hello. My name is Jessica and I’m a workaholic. Either I got this way from my father who still hasn’t seen the light or I convinced myself that it’s actually a good thing a long time ago.
My illness started when I was 15 working at the veterinarian’s office as an assistant and animal caretaker. I cleaned everything from animals to cages to floors, doors and walls. I walked the dogs, assisted during surgery and appointments, etc. Whatever needed to be done that didn’t require a doctor, I was there to do it. I was young, vibrant and loved animals more than anything.
I worked every day after school, weekends and on holidays. I was supposed to have one day completely off per week, but that hardly ever happened. I was either called in that morning or asked the evening before if I could come in. I always said “Yes!” because I didn’t want to disappoint. I wanted to be reliable and adopt a positive work ethic.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that I set myself up for future disaster.
I finished college and started working at an independent record label in Atlanta. That was a FUN job. I started at 11am and left work around 7pm. With that schedule, I was able to see tons of live bands and sleep in. I probably could have done that forever, but I didn’t.
Instead, I met the love of my life and moved to Germany. I first had to learn the language before getting a job though. Mind you, working at a new job in a foreign language is not the easiest task. I misunderstood things and made mistakes. I sometimes felt worthless, especially after I was told by my supervisor that she expected me to be able to write German perfectly. Ironically, she needed me to either correct her English or write it from scratch myself.
Even though I realized her expectations were unrealistic, I became so stressed out that during one project, I kept a notepad, pen and a flashlight to write down things that came to me in the middle of the night because I had to get it out of my head in order to sleep.
Gellinger, pixabay.com, CC0
Counting sheep didn’t help…
I knew I had to leave, so I moved on to work for other medium-sized companies, but only to add even more stress to my body and brain.
I became a department head which put me in a higher position and gave me the opportunity to build up a team. I was able to delegate instead of doing everything myself. I liked that idea and although I knew it came with more responsibility, I was naive and thought I actually wanted that increased pressure. Turns out, I really didn’t.
I ended up working so much and so hard that I wasn’t enjoying my own family, let alone my own life. I drove my daughter to kindergarten and tucked her into bed every night. It clearly was not enough!
I ate lunch at my desk. I worked when I had a high fever. I worked when my daughter was sick at home. I worked at night and on the weekends. My brain never stopped working and I was getting ill again with one sinus infection after the other.
Not only that, I lost a lot of sleep in the process and both my husband and I forgot our 16th wedding anniversary that dreadful year! At least he forgot it too.
Although I was delivering positive results at work, apparently I was starting to burnout — again.
My conscious was waving that red flag, but this time, I couldn’t ignore it.
And then I thought about a friend who died of a heart attack in his mid 30’s at a gas station while on a business trip. He was overworked and traveled way too much. I then thought about 2 other friends who were out sick on doctor’s orders. Diagnosis: burn out.
I was wounded and I needed time to heal.
So in April 2013, I decided to quit the corporate world and start my own business. I had a lot to offer with my marketing expertise and had the drive and knowledge to make it work. I got this, I repeatedly said to myself.
As I reflect on the past 3 years, I can say with 100% certainty that I made the right decision.
I’m not only able to spend more time with my family, I’m also able to pick and choose which projects I want to work on and seek out clients of a similar mindset.
In having this freedom and power, I found the strength to say no and am able to market things that I’m truly passionate about. That definitely makes a huge difference in my performance, productivity and overall health and well-being. I am doing more of what makes me happy and my clients and family are also reaping the benefits.
I healed my wounds, but now have a scar. It’s located somewhere between my heart and brain and it reminds me every day to take breaks, eat lunch, be in the moment and be present for my family.
I feel enlightened because I know the answer to the most important question I can ask myself: What matters most to me? Is it my career or the ones I love? Obviously, the latter because towards the end of my journey, I’m certainly not going to say: “Darnit, I wish I’d worked more.”
Can you relate? What changes have you made or are about to make? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on September 5, 2016.
Originally published at medium.com