I thrive on stress. I am at my best in a crisis where things need to be fixed quickly. I get a lot of value out of this: what I do often has a strong positive impact, and usually benefits from being “so much better than it was before”. This is immensely satisfying and so I keep doing it. See a problem, fix the problem, move on. I’m a fixer. This is my job. I love my job.
Except that when I’m operating at capacity, I have no space to manage changes to my equilibrium. People who know me will know that I get every cold that’s going around and that it takes me twice as long as anyone else to recover. I love my job so much that I start working too soon after being unwell, never giving myself time to recover. I break the rules that I set for other people: don’t work if you’re sick. I return to work and expect to be high performing, ignoring all the signals that my body is giving me. I never recover.
And so I find myself in a situation that is incredibly difficult to think or talk about: I love my job so much that I’ve made myself chronically ill.
My symbiotic relationship with stress has turned sour. I have a secondary infection from a cold that I can’t shake. I feel like I can’t cope with simple conversations or interactions. I take every piece of feedback personally rather than inspecting it objectively. I react, rather than act. I sob in meeting rooms. The stress and ongoing illness make everything feel like it’s too much. Everything is too hard, too much.
I’ve made myself ill. I’ve broken something and now I need to fix it, so I’m calling time-out for a while, until I’m better.
I’m a fixer. It’s time to fix me.