Stepping Off the Treadmill

lazy[1]Plenty of writers face burnout, but these days mine centers around real-life family issues which culminated in July when I learned that my mother has a cancerous tumor on her pancreas. We learned this four days before we’d arranged (after much cleaning, sorting, and recycling) to move her into assisted living for her deteriorating dementia issues.

Compounding the challenges was the state of the apartment building she’s living in. The woodframe building’s exterior was being replaced when the contractors discovered major rot inside, resulting in more work and special levy fees for condo owners.

My sister, Val, and I dealt with all of this and were doing okay until Val had a bad fall last month and broke her left kneecap into several pieces. A two-hour long surgery occurred the same day and her knee’s been put back together with wire and screws. She’s currently in an enormous leg brace and will need help around the house and to get to physiotherapy, and so forth.

Combined with my day job and the facilitating I do for a writers’ group on Saturday mornings, I’m feeling a tad worn out. I’d already spent many months going out to my mother’s home to shop, cook, and clean on weekends because she was no longer capable. So, with the support and understanding of terrific work colleagues, I’ve just begun a four-month leave of absence from the day job. As you can imagine, it won’t be all fun or relaxation, but it’s a start at the slowing down process I feel is necessary for my physical and mental well-being.

I had one day to train my replacement. After that I went home, and had a nap, exhausted. I’ve been napping a lot lately. As writers and family members, we need to recognize when it’s time to step off the busy-life treadmill we’ve inadvertently hopped onto.

I’m grateful that I’m able to do this. I’m hoping to write and read a little more, as they are calming distractions from real-life challenges. Besides, it’s what I do. And I know I’ll sleep more, and visit my mother and sister more often, and take care of what needs to be taken care of. It feels somewhat surreal to end the year this way (I won’t be back at work till mid-Feb.) but it feels right. I don’t know if four months is too long or not long enough, but time will tell.

Author: debrapurdykong

I'm a British Columbia author who's been writing for over 30 years. My volunteer experiences, criminology diploma, and security work inspired me to write the Casey Holland transit security novels set in Metro Vancouver. I'm also a part-time facilitator in Creative Writing Workshops through Port Moody's Recreation program. Feel free to contact me at

12 thoughts on “Stepping Off the Treadmill”

  1. Wow. That’s some major caregiver fatigue. So sorry to hear about your mother and your poor sister. That surgery sounds excruciating. I had a dislocated patella one (dog-related injury of course) and I know how bad that was, but broken and pins and surgery. Yikes! So glad, you made the choice to take a leave (before it took you as it took your sister) and will have some time for self-care.

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  2. A good move on your part. Sometimes we just have to do something in order to look after ourselves. How can we look after others if we are not looked after? Take lots of naps so your body can catch up. Sending hugs.

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  3. And this gave me flashbacks… I had just started my second first novel (I burned the first one) when my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. As her caregiver working two jobs, everything creative in me stalled. So when she passed, I entered a ten year period of Writer’s Block, and when I finally came out and fished out that novel, I discovered the publication of a new novel that was too eerily similar for me to continue my own…so all was for naught. Don’t let this happen to you! Stay working with your group, even if you have to pull back a little because YOU need the support. And I highly recommend that you keep a journal — a raw telling of your emotions so you don’t bottle them up OR stop writing. Rest the creative muse, but keep the fingers writing, the mind forming sentences. Trust me: you can’t get the years back lost to any block, but you also can’t get the time back with your sick relative. Journaling is the way to nurture them both and neglect neither. If I had to do it all again…

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    1. Thank you for the tips, KC. I have been keeping what I call the “dementia journal” for over 3 years, as my mother also suffers from that, along with the cancer. And I will be making arrangements to rejoin my writers group in Jan., so I think it’ll be okay. I can’t imagine living with 10 years of writers block. It must have been so hard. But it sounds like you’re fully back to the writing life, which is fantastic!

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