It was a black-tie dinner for about 500 people. I had been looking forward to hosting it even though it was a busy time for me.
I had been working non-stop on television stories, writing, speaking and hosting health events. My focus was on improving the health and wellbeing of Australians, bringing our audiences the latest scientific research breakthroughs. Somehow, as well, I had become an investigative reporter, uncovering safety scandals that had left so many patients’ lives ruined. But I couldn’t resist the invitation to fly interstate in the afternoon to host the glittering event that night, honouring health workers.
I felt good in my sparkly dress and high heels as I made my way onto the stage to welcome everyone. When I got to the podium, that’s when it hit me. All of a sudden, I felt dizzy and unsteady on my feet and had to hold onto the podium so I didn’t fall over. I smiled even more as I could feel my heart pounding harder and harder in my chest.
This wasn’t anxiety. I had had that feeling before and this was way worse. I have always had low blood pressure, but this was something I had never felt before.
My one consolation, I thought, was that if I fell over in a room full of doctors and nurses, someone would be able to look after me! In hindsight, I should have seen it coming.
I had been increasingly tired on weekends. I had been working long days during the week and using the weekends to catch up on sleep. Some Sundays, I was so tired I could barely make it along the promenade of my favourite beach when my husband and I took our puppy for a walk. I had to keep stopping on benches for a rest. To the outside world, I was happy. But deep inside, the joy I usually gleaned from my work, from interacting with patients, viewers and readers, had significantly lessened.
After several rounds of medical tests that all came back normal, I found out that my autonomic nervous system had stopped working the way it should. Constant stress and overwork had led to what doctors call ‘autonomic dysfunction’.
I was burnt out.
Side note... Sarah Wilson on why women burn out, get tired and sick. Post continues below.