It is November 14 and I am on vacation. It is the first vacation I have taken this year and I will never – ever – go so long without a vacation again.

Normally I take a week in the spring, two or three weeks in the summer and a week in the fall or during the holidays. This year, I took a week off in the spring but it was no vacation. I felt myself slipping into a depression and took the time to deal with that. Throughout the year I have taken a day here or a day there when I wasn’t feeling well or needed a long weekend.

But that is not a vacation.shutterstock_140985469

I realized in September that working so much with so little time off was affecting my mental health. Some mornings I woke up and wondered what day it was. Sometimes I tried to figure it out but I got to the point where I was like, f- it – it really didn’t matter what day it was.

I had to work – either at the newspaper or in the yard or on my 85-year-old house, which seems to be falling down around me. I felt that the only thing saving me from falling into my black hole was the floor beneath me – my medications. And I was flat on my ass on that floor.

The last two months have been hellish. As ¬†journalist for 30 years I’ve seen a lot of nasty stuff. However, September and November brought two new cases that raised the depravity and brutality bar. I won’t go into details but both involved mothers who ended up dead – one without a head – and orphaned or dead kids.

I was supposed to begin my vacation last Friday but after the second memorial service last Wednesday, I told my editors that I was leaving – now.

“What about your weekender,” one editor asked about a story I had planned to write for the weekend.

“Ain’t gonna happen,” I responded, then left. I had allowed myself – even volunteered – to cover the stories without considering that I had not had a vacation and that these were horrific homicides and gut-wrenching memorial services.

I should have known the end was near when my sleep went south. I have an app on my phone that monitors the quality of my sleep by detecting my movement while I sleep. But for my dog  sometimes jumping on the bed, it seems accurate. My worst night sleep was November 4. I had worked 7 straight days, much of it on the case involving the decapitated mother.

According to the app, my sleep quality that night was 50 percent. Last night Р6 days into an 18-day vacation Рthe quality of my sleep was 91 percent.

Sometimes I wish I had an editor who would rein me in or at least inquire if I’m okay because I have no OFF switch. I will literally work myself into a depression. I have tried for years to acquire an OFF switch but all I have is an ON switch that is permanently ON.

I know it is my responsibility – not my editors’ – to set my boundaries. I got myself into this jam. I could have taken time off earlier this year but there always seemed to be another great story breaking and I did not want to leave.

You would think after 30 years I would know that there is always another great story around the corner and that the paper is going to end up in your driveway in the morning whether I write the story or not.

I am not watching the news or reading the paper during this vacation. I have also not read my work emails. This is not easy. I just turned down a radio interview with a public radio station in Miami after I choked out the words, “I’m…on…vacation…” I think she was as surprised as I was that I turned it down.

I have a monster to-do list to work on during this stay-cation. I have already ticked off a couple of the big tasks. I have also taken a couple of monster naps. Hopefully, I will get to the point where I don’t know what day it is because I am so relaxed.

But for now, it’s still Thursday.

Life-work-balance image available from Shutterstock.