I started The Anti-Burnout Club podcast and articles back in July, in the middle of the first lockdown in the UK. I recorded four episodes, had plenty of guests lined up, was nearing 1,000 podcast downloads, and then, I just disappeared. Despite some updates on Facebook and Instagram, for the most part I was underground for over two months. I wanted to go a little way towards explaining why I disappeared, what had been happening for those two months, and let you know where we go from here…
It’s not an easy one to talk about. I tried recording a podcast episode to explain all this, but it was impossible. I couldn’t hold it together. So, for now, it’s a written update. I hope it answers some questions and, if anything, provides a bit of closure for me too.
For those who know a bit about me or listened to my introduction podcast, you’ll know that for nearly a decade of my life I’ve run my own writing business. What started off as just me turned into an office with, at one point, ten staff. I felt successful, I felt like I had everything I’d ever dreamt of – even through the stress and burnout. I had a purpose.
However, things started to take a turn at the end of last year when I had to go through the devastating decision to make some people redundant. Work was slowing and the ever-changing exchange rates meant that being paid in dollars made it almost impossible to guess whether we’d be up or down each month. At the end of the redundancy process, there was just six of us left.
And so we battled on through the first part of last year, even when the pandemic was looming we kept going. We all worked from home from March and many of the team were furloughed throughout lockdown. The work just wasn’t coming in. The majority of our clients had online magazines that were popular with commuters. The trouble was, nobody was commuting. We lost almost 80% of our work overnight.
Knowing that not all of my staff could afford to be on furlough forever, I decided to bring everyone back as lockdown ended. We still didn’t have enough work for the full team to be back, but I invested heavily in training courses for them to take when things were slow. I hoped that learning lots of new skills would lead to the business taking a new direction if we needed to.
However, by the end of August the numbers were clear. We couldn’t survive any longer. I had to make the decision to close the business down. As we were still all working from home, I called a Zoom meeting to explain the news to my team. To say it was heartbreaking is the understatement of the century. I felt like I was reading a speech at a funeral.
From that moment onwards, I felt like I was grieving. Having been through plenty of grief in my life, including losing both of my parents, I can safely say that’s exactly how it felt. The people I had just made redundant were like family to me. They had been with me through so much and helped me out in ways some of them will ever know. I felt as though I had let them all down.
We said our final goodbyes on 30th September at a pub lunch, before I went home and sobbed. I sobbed for so long I thought I’d dehydrate. The next few days were pretty much of the same. I had been quiet on the podcast and blog from the end of August, because I wanted to dedicate all of my time and attention to the team before they left. The plan was that I’d roll straight back into it by the beginning of October… But I couldn’t.
All of a sudden, I lost my reason to get up in the morning. I still had client work coming in to tide me over, but I couldn’t even bring myself to look at it. I missed the morning Slack updates, the Deliveroo Fridays, the highs and the lows. I suddenly had no one to talk to, too. Now, I sit all day at home with nobody but the dogs for company, then Jake when he gets home late in the evenings. For at least 8-10 hours a day I’m now on my own.
I became quite unwell, and in a way I think I probably still am now. I’ve recently come back to Instagram and Facebook, and launched this new site, just to find purpose once again – to have a reason to get up in the morning. However, the sheer loneliness and isolation has brought back so many memories from my days living with agoraphobia. I’m struggling.
What happens next?
Yesterday, I broke down and sobbed on Jake for the millionth time this week, and he gave me some sage advice. I just need some routine back. Wandering around the house like a ghost is not doing me any good, that’s plain to see. I need to be practicing what I preach, using my productivity hacks, finding focus again, and looking after myself.
So, now it’s time to look forward. I know that I won’t always feel like this, that I just need that time to grieve what felt like my baby for so long. Launching the new site was a big, positive step for me and the response from you guys, the community, has been amazing. I’m so very thankful to you all for your support. YOU are my reason for getting up in the mornings. I’m creating a routine and you should see (and hear) a lot more from me going forward. The podcast will be coming back as of next Wednesday and I’ve got lots of exciting plans for the site too.
It’s going to be hard to start. I feel like a fraud talking about success when I feel like I’ve failed catastrophically, or talking about burnout when I’ve barely moved or worked for two months. However, I also know that there are some lessons in all of this, for me and for you. I hope that I’ll be able to learn, grow and then teach from all of this. At least then, some good will come from all of this bad.
I know this is slightly different from my usual posts, but thank you for taking the time to read it. I hope that you’re still enjoying being part of The Anti-Burnout Club community and we’ll speak again very soon.