Burnout is becoming a more common problem in the United States and around the world. How can you avoid it or recover from it if you’ve already hit the proverbial wall? Dr. Joseph Maroon, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, has written a book that addresses these very questions.
“Square One: A Simple Guide to a Balanced Life” grew out of his own struggles with burnout, setbacks and depression after he’d become a world-class neurosurgeon before the age of 40.
“I’ve had rather impressive success [and] cataclysmic failure personally,” Maroon says. “I was intent on becoming the very best that I could in terms of my profession, neurosurgery. I worked extremely diligently. It became an all-encompassing pursuit for me in my life … with success, societal approval, writing papers, going to national meetings …
Soon after becoming chief of neurosurgery at a major university hospital, I [cracked]. My father died, my wife and children left me, I had to quit my profession as a neurosurgeon due to the overwhelming stress … all within one week … The next week, I [was] helping my mother run a rather dilapidated truck stop left to her by my father in Wheeling, West Virginia, living on a farm.
One day I was doing brain surgery and [the next] literally filling up 18-wheelers and flipping hamburgers in a rundown truck stop. It was a great fall. It was kind of like an Icarian metaphor of flying too near the sun. I got scorched and I plummeted into the sea — a sea of depression.”