Speak up before exhaustion breaks you
Deb Russo is a FIFO wife of the offshore kind. Her husband works on oil rigs and vessels. Typically, he does a four-week-on and four-week-off roster. They've lived their entire 14-year relationship like this. Initially Deb's husband was in the Navy, then he shifted to work in the mines and did the 28/7 roster (Deb's least favourite!) With this offshore roster, though, she wouldn’t change a thing.
"I broke my body and then my brain," my friend said, laughing nervously as she said the last part.
"Yup, been there," I said. "It's rather scary, isn’t it?"
My bout occurred way back in September 2011 and at the time I wasn’t sure if it was depression or exhaustion.
"I'm pretty sure it was exhaustion," I told my friend, "but regardless, if you don’t fix it, one will lead to the other."
"I was physically sick at first," she said, "and then I just couldn’t move. I couldn’t get out of bed."
I nodded in sympathy. She is a full-time mum with a FIFO husband, running her own business and on more charity boards than you can poke a stick at. So it was only a matter of time really.
"It was like I wasn’t in my body," she said, hoping I would understand.
I nodded again. "I felt completely removed from myself," I said, "and I cried a lot. Not because I was sad but because I was frustrated and angry that it had happened.
"So, have you been to see a doctor?" I asked.
Luckily, she said yes. And the doctor had told her to take two weeks' break from everything – including asking relatives to help with the kids.
True exhaustion is completely different from feeling tired because you've had a binge night of Netflix.
Exhaustion is mental and physical tiredness all rolled into one, and if something doesn't give, it can create a much bigger problem – often depression.
Around 1.5 million Australians see their GP about exhaustion or severe fatigue every year and it’s fast becoming a catalyst for many other conditions.
Exhaustion develops for many reasons, but lack of sleep (or in some cases even too much sleep), poor diet, anxiety, drugs and alcohol and medical conditions such as anaemia can be contributing factors. So seeing your doctor is very important.
The 'fix' sometimes involves medical intervention, but often it's as simple as working out what the problems are and balancing them out correctly. Most times it's taking better care of ourselves – something most parents are notoriously bad at.
For me it was anaemia and lack of quality sleep combined with being unable to ask for help or cut myself some slack.
So my friend is on the mend now, and striving to find more balance and time out in her busy life.
We finished our coffee and I said, "Call me next time."
"So long as you promise to do the same," she said. "If we did more of that, there would be less of this."
More columns from Oil & Gas Mum Deb Russo:
- Is FIFO to blame for my child's anxiety? Thankfully, the answer is 'no'
- How to stay sane and survive the Christmas holidays on a budget
- How we handle fly-out day
- When tiredness takes over and you start to second-guess your life...
- Future-proofing your family against the "blood bath" in Australia's oil and gas industry
- To protect those you love, prepare for the worst
- Christmas and the meaning of "stuff"
- Surviving with a growing brood when your husband works away
- Top tips from a frugal FIFO family
- Don't be afraid of tough conversations - your relationship will be better for it
- Put your marriage first. One day, your kids will thank you for it
- Clever mum's guide to juggling work and kids when your husband works FIFO
- Christmas? Been there and done that!
- My top tips for next time you're wearing that nurse's hat
- Don't play the waiting game. Get busy with your own life instead
- Easy tips for taking the stress out of drop-off day
- Real friends care about me. Not what my husband does for a living
- Learning the hard way to ask for help
- To be the best possible mum, you need to look out for number one
- The airport drop-off - learning the art of leaving
- Why I left the kids at home and went to Paris with my husband
- When your husband does FIFO, are you a single mum?
- Use 'welcome distractions' to survive long FIFO swings that seem to drag forever
- Those little words every FIFO mum dreads: "I don't want Daddy to go back to work."
- Heard of life hacks? They're great for FIFO families
- Winnebago wonders: blessings of a FIFO wife
- Beating the loneliness of FIFO life in winter
- Diary of a FIFO mum (4.30am starts included!)
- My husband spends 2016 hours of quality time with us every year. Beat that!
- Deb's advice for FIFO newbies
- Put some va into your relationships's va va voom
- Organisation: the key to sanity in FIFO households
- How to ease the pain of being apart for special events
- Four weeks apart from your loved ones? It's just part of the job on an oil rig!
- An oil & gas mum's advice on raising your own little superheroes
- Introducing my fantastic FIFO family