I've worked 11 to 16 hour shifts 19 of of those 20 days. And the one day that I took off was such a disaster that even though I had the chance to take another one off tomorrow I decided against it. I don't mean the day I took off was a disaster for anyone else — just for me personally.
I have this weird thing where if I get into a rhythm with something intense, it's really hard for me to stop, even when all apparent evidence would suggest that I need to take a break. As long as I keep going I'm fine. It's the moment I stop that I go to pieces.
I don't really understand why this is. I usually have no trouble with large amounts of free time. I even seek it out. And I'm not a workaholic. If anything, I tend to generally be more worried that I'm lazy and lack motivation. But there are times when I really can't stop.
When I was in the Middle East for just shy of two years, I didn't come back to visit the US once during the entire duration — even when one of my grandparents passed away. This wasn't really because it was against my organization's rules, or because I couldn't afford it, as I variously told people. In reality, it was because I knew that once I got back to family, and security and normalcy, I would fall apart.
That's how I feel now.
The last 20 days have been one of the most intense experiences of my life. Barring none. I've been stretched personally and professionally, at least a couple times near to the breaking point. I've had to learn to rely on my teammates in ways that I can only remember on one or two other occasions in my life before now. I can also say, for perhaps the first time ever with honesty, that there is really nothing else that I'd rather be doing and nowhere I'd rather be. But I can't shake the feeling that the moment I stop for more than a night, I'll go through windshield. Again.
So tomorrow morning, before the sun rises, I'll go back. Just like I will the next day and the day after that. Anything to push back that moment when I'm all alone in my living room and everything is quiet and normal and I suddenly have to think about what it all means. Or if it all even means anything. It's all equally terrifying to me.