Friday, May 2, 2014

Coming up out of the trough of depression and burnout


I'm so thankful for the occasional but regular comment and cheers I'm getting from you all.  It's been entirely too long since I last posted, and if you all disappeared and started reading other better and more informative architectural blogs, I wouldn't be upset at all.

It's been a long haul since the burnout really kicked in late last summer. The short version of the story is this: After a few months of struggling, weeping in the bathroom at work, and barely able to tolerate other human beings at work, I finally went on antidepressants. The meds began lifting me out of my fog, and a good therapist has been helping me peel back the layers of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that have led me to a place of burnout and hopelessness. I am finally coming up out of the deep underwater trench that is depression and burnout, like a submarine from the Marianas Trench.

Part of my rise from the depths originated in seeing Brene Brown's TED Talks on vulnerability, courage, and authenticity. I read a couple of her books and found that they and her TED Talks resonated deeply with me.  Reading these, going on meds, and committing to  good therapy brought me to a few of my own professional and personal, I mean, spiritual awakenings:

  • Many of the traits and behaviors I've sought to suppress and squelch in myself, and that I've recommended you all suppress and squelch, are actually the things that make  me--and you--interesting and real to others. Sharing my fears, weaknesses, concerns, etc. in a not-too-TMI way can actually inspire and motivate others and get them on my side.
  • I've been living unsustainably energy-wise. Writing two blogs, serving on several committees at work, keeping up a speaking gig on the side, and doing almost full-time billable work on projects is unsustainable. Maybe it's my age (I turned 38 in Fall 2013), or maybe it's that all my busyness has kept the depression at bay, but it's time to accept my limits on time and energy. It's also time that I hold those boundaries with others, including my bosses.
  • My firm really does like, value, and support me. When I melted down last summer/fall, many of the senior leaders and partners rallied around me and asked "how can we help?" When I just folded in my chair and cried, they just sat with me and said, "Whatever you need, we'll help. We want you here for the long run." When I finally decided what I wanted, they said, "Great, let's do it" and did everything they could to deliver. I've been living my life for nearly 14 years like an intern just out of school trying to prove myself, I didn't realize that I'd already proven myself.
Hopefully I can get back to posting a little more often as I start to feel better. I must admit that so much of what I've written in the past makes me feel like a fraud. Perhaps the truth is closer to a quote by Oprah Winfrey (I know, I know, just indulge me a moment here): "When you know better, you do better." I realize that some of my advice to you all has been from a place of fear and not thoughtful strength, and you all deserve better than that.

Here's to giving you better--and here's to you all, the next generation of architects--demanding better.



  1. Some interesting points, glad to hear your making good progres.

  2. Being human is the best insight you could bring. Glad you picked up some of Brene Brown's book's. If this gets posted to all - if you're in the middle of month's long CA bender where the contractor has managed to identify every little coordination error, and your thinking the owner must be losing faith - pick up The Gifts of Imperfection. It's a short read, but great insight. Guys, you might have to accept some of the "girl talk" in the book, recognize that we have "guy talk" and go with it.

  3. Welcome back! We look forward to the return of more frequent posts.