I returned to the office in mid-January expecting that my usual enthusiasm for the start of a New Year would kick in, even though I’d had some creeping doubts about that. On Day One I found that my pot plant had died and my Christmas chocolates had melted. I wondered if that was some kind of a sign.
After my kick-start espresso and organising my inbox, I was already looking for a distraction. I couldn’t concentrate and I really did not want to be in the office. It wasn’t that I wanted to be anywhere else especially, in fact anywhere else would have done! I saw a counsellor straightaway. At a deeper level I had known that burnout or something close to it had been creeping up on me for a long time, and instead of my usual upbeat ideas about “New Year, Newstart, New Adventures”, Day 1 in the office truly did feel like the same old crap.
My main focus when I first saw my counsellor was how to quit. Sitting uncomfortably alongside the idea of quitting, was the feeling that I didn’t want to let down my team or tarnish my own reputation for staying power, and I was alarmed about how my mortgage was going to be paid.
After a couple of counselling sessions I was able to shift my thinking away from quitting to thinking about how I could make some changes in my life balance, which has always seemed impossible and a thought I had been pushing away for years. I see that I can potentially reduce my working hours and responsibilities, and I know my employer is on board with that. The counselling has helped me to understand that my belief that I lacked support was more accurately the lack of my ability to delegate, and that a lot of the billing pressure I feel is self-imposed. I’m told that what still feels like reduced job satisfaction might change when I take some off the pressure off myself so I can remember why I do this work in the first place.
As I write this I am surprised at how I’m no longer intent on quitting, and am thinking about reshaping my work life. I’m not 100% certain I’ll stay in this position, but whatever decision I make about staying or going, I know I need to build better boundaries between work and my own life. I’ve never engaged with this kind of thinking before, and I would once have been the first to call it ‘psycho-babble’. I’m grateful to my counsellor at Support for Lawyers, and to my firm for making this service available to all staff. My only regret is that I didn’t buy into the wellbeing sessions on offer which most of the other staff did. I had to be a typical Type A and wait for a crisis. Lesson learned.