Exhaustion and Burnout: Part One

First of all, I’d like to apologize for not posting as often as I usually do on here recently. I love writing this blog and I feel bad that as of late, it’s had to take the back burner on the stove of my life.

For the past several weeks, I’ve had to work longer hours at work. Two of my employees have had COVID, and since I’m the General Manager and the only salaried employee at my store, any labor shortages or slack immediately become my responsibility. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m almost dead. Last week, I clocked 61.98 hours, and that’s not including the lunches I worked through catching up on paperwork that I’ve had to neglect.

The thing that sucks the most about the whole ordeal is that the harder I work and the more I accomplish, it still seems like it’s never enough. The backlogged projects still shout at me. The unreasonable expectations of higher-ups still loom over me. They expect me to be more than human, to function like a well-oiled machine, but I just can’t. I’m unfortunately human. I have feelings. I get tired. I’ve been living off of candy and fast food for weeks because I’m always too tired to make anything better.

My bowels are irritated. I’ve had to hold myself and medicate myself to the point where my stomach is never not hurting. I take medicine to go and medicine to stop going, and I haven’t been allowed to simply go when I need to in so long that it’s going to take me a while to straighten myself out. Some days I don’t eat until I get home at night because I’m afraid that if I eat it will give me the urge to go and then my sales floor will be unattended.

Does my boss care? No. When I hear from her at all, it’s for her to inquire about my progress and to ask about our sales numbers. What are you doing to motivate your team to success? When will your excess truck be out? Why haven’t you made progress toward the XYZ project and do you have an estimated completion date? What conversations are you having with customers to promote our programs? Your sales numbers are not reflective of company expectations. Please tell me what you are doing to change that momentum and move the needle in a positive direction. One day, I’m going to just start screaming and I won’t be able to stop.

I’m a cog in the machine. If I drop dead, they’ll eventually (sooner or later) replace me with some poor schmuck who’ll probably get paid even less than I do. May God have mercy on their soul.

I want to say more about all of this but it will have to wait for another day. I actually get a day off tomorrow and I intend on sleeping in. Take care and thanks for listening.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

My COVID-19 Diagnosis

Well, dear readers, despite all my efforts to stay safe for the past two years during this global pandemic, I am sad to say that I have been infected with COVID-19.

I am still processing this fact. I started feeling poorly around 7:00 PM on Friday, January 14th. Extreme fatigue, tiredness, shortness of breath, etc. All of which I at first attributed to the week I’d had. My store’s Regional Vice President visited on Wednesday, January 12th, and I had spent more than twelve hours the day prior prepping for her visit, which was my first as General Manager. I knew she liked me already from prior visits she made when I was my store’s Assistant General Manager. I am just about as Type A as a person can be. I leave nothing to chance and always make sure my ducks are in a row.

Tuesday, January 11th was a perfect storm. As anyone who’s worked in a bookstore knows, Tuesday is the day most major publishers release their hot titles so those days are always busy with updating bestseller features, putting new product on the floor, and changing out in-store marketing. On top of that, we’ve been bombarded with after-holiday resets, sales sets, and overstock scans (oh my!). I didn’t have the manpower I’ve been enjoying because sales and foot traffic have slowed (though only marginally, following this unprecedented sales year). When I got to work, our truck shipment had arrived. The receiving area in the back of my store is chock-full of voided and overstock titles awaiting their journey back to our warehouse. And this truck was huge. So I had to play quite a few rounds of Totes Tetris to even be able to process my truck shipment.

Then, in the evening, I found out that my fellow (and only other) closer had been in a car accident early that morning and had stayed at school the rest of the day because she wasn’t having any complications or soreness. When she got to work, though, she started having shoulder pain and I made her go to the ER and closed by myself. No biggie, I’ve done it before. More than once or twice, in fact. One of my other managers volunteered to come in after her dentist’s appointment to help me get the store ready for our RVP visit. We were there until after 11:00 at night.

Had I known then what I know now…but I couldn’t have, could I? Sometime during that day, we were both exposed. She had opened that morning and came in after closing with me that night. We are both vaccinated but haven’t gotten our boosters yet, and we wore our masks at work at all times. But we still got infected.

I suppose one could call my case “mild” because I didn’t need to go to the hospital or require a ventilator, but in the world we live in, “mild” as a descriptor really doesn’t cover the hell I’ve lived in.

I started writing this post after I left urgent care on Saturday, January 15th. It is Friday, January 21st. It’s only been in the past couple of days that I’ve been able to string more than one cogent thought together and even now I’m aware of the haphazard and jumbled state of my mind. Whether that’s COVID-19 itself wreaking havoc on my mental faculties or simply the by-product of being deathly ill for days on end, the effect is the same. I suppose one could call my case “mild” because I didn’t need to go to the hospital or require a ventilator, but in the world we live in, “mild” as a descriptor really doesn’t cover the hell I’ve lived in.

Wearing a mask for up to twelve hours a day wasn’t enough. Washing my hands and disinfecting things constantly wasn’t enough. Social distancing, as much as one can social distance while working in a retail store, wasn’t enough. Nothing I did was enough. I still put the two people I love most in the entire world in grave danger, and we’re still not out of the woods.

You see, I live in a small two-bedroom apartment with my disabled parents. My first thought when I got my test results was of their welfare, and my second thought was pure unadulterated rage at the fact that despite my best efforts at protecting them and myself, I had failed. Miserably. Wearing a mask for up to twelve hours a day wasn’t enough. Washing my hands and disinfecting things constantly wasn’t enough. Social distancing, as much as one can social distance while working in a retail store, wasn’t enough. Nothing I did was enough. I still put the two people I love most in the entire world in grave danger, and we’re still not out of the woods.

I should be staying home recuperating and caring for my parents but the god of capitalism demands a sacrifice and thus on the heap my body goes.

How do I reconcile all of that? How do I cope with my anger at the fact that I am supposed to return to work tomorrow when work is the farthest thing from my mind, the thing which concerns me the least? I should be staying home recuperating and caring for my parents but the god of capitalism demands a sacrifice and thus on the heap my body goes.

My personal experiences have reiterated to me the urgent need we have here in America for universal healthcare, for a single-payer system.

I forgot to mention that I discovered during all of this that my health insurance had been switched without my knowledge, so I went into urgent care thinking I’d have to pay out of pocket because I was dropped by my previous provider. I’m still working all of that out and unfortunately it’s just been one more unnecessary piece of bureaucratic red tape I’ve had to navigate to get basic care. My personal experiences have reiterated to me the urgent need we have here in America for universal healthcare, for a single-payer system. It’s unfortunate that something so essential is so politicized, with right-wingers decrying “SoCiAlIzeD mEdIcInE” every time someone mentions single-payer healthcare. Never mind the fact that Medicare is socialized medicine lite, but the Faux News pundits won’t say that. It’s okay to hold contradictions when they serve your interests, i.e. further enriching the top 1% of the top 1% while the rest of us are left with scraps, if anything at all.

Never mind the fact that Medicare is socialized medicine lite, but the Faux News pundits won’t say that. It’s okay to hold contradictions when they serve your interests, i.e. further enriching the top 1% of the top 1% while the rest of us are left with scraps, if anything at all.

I’d like to end this post on a positive (or at least lighter) note, so please enjoy the following memes I’ve saved from Twitter in the past week. Note that I am unable to provide attributions to their original creators.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.