Health

I Quit My Job Because of Burnout

Eight months ago, as I huddled over my laptop, trying to compose a Slack message while weeping and asking myself, “What is this all for?” I realized that I had to quit my job.

I could no longer ignore that my health was in shambles, I lacked any semblance of a personal life, and I was incapable of being a good friend or daughter because I was so burned out by the demands of my job working in social media covering breaking news.

On Instagram, I traveled, ran, and partied. In reality, I barely saw anyone, struggled to get out of bed, cried frequently, vaped weed heavily, and found basic tasks like laundry exhausting. The darker the news turned, the more dead I felt inside, and I couldn’t escape the news because my job was to stay on top of it. I finally realized that I couldn’t move forward until I stopped and seriously addressed the emptiness I was feeling, borne from years of always being “on.”

Quitting was an idea simmering in my mind for months that I kept pushing away, until, at last, I broke.

I’d broken before. Two years earlier, during the summer of 2017, I was riding the subway and my brain crashed. My body seized. I was rushed to the E.R., then returned to work days after. Three weeks later, I seized again and smacked my head on a coffee table.

Perhaps the concussion and black eye should have been a wake-up call to slow down. But I need my job, I thought. I didn’t know who I was without it. I feared losing health insurance, but mostly I feared losing the security of a title and a salary. Not having a job, in my mind, equated failure. It showed that I couldn’t handle hard work, city life, or being an adult; that everyone else, as social media proved, was stronger, happier, and more successful than me.

After the bruises healed during a brief medical leave, after I’d ordered a tiny gold medical bracelet engraved with a diagnosis of epilepsy, most likely stress-induced, I went back to work.

Current events grew bleaker, and so did my mental health as I stayed on the digital front line of every story. White supremacists descended on Charlottesville; a silent gunman opened fire on a Las Vegas concert; millions of women, myself included, shared intimate accounts of sexual harassment and assault. My dreams were plagued with AR-15s and leering men, and still I declined to deal with my health and fatigue. I dismissed therapy as requiring too much time and money, and if my colleagues appeared able to withstand the pressure, why couldn’t I? Instead of seeking help, I spent a long evening at an October wedding hidden in a back room, sobbing for hours into my best friend’s shoulder for reasons I couldn’t clearly articulate.

A month after the wedding, I was promoted to direct a new team, and my responsibilities doubled.

Looking back, I wonder: Was that the time to take a break? Even if it meant risking advancement? Or was the time in 2016, when I first started working in news, right before the chaos of the presidential election? Before my job evolved into seemingly constant coverage of every mass shooting as it unfolded, starting with the Pulse massacre? Should I have taken off more than a week between two high-pressure jobs in a media industry rife with layoffs, leadership changes, and scandals? How about after graduating college in 2011, before immediately moving to New York to job hunt? When was the right time to take a break? When is it ever? Quitting was never an option—until it became the only option.

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