I am sorry for a probably uninvited comparison — I am not implying that my situation is harder, and I know that burnout is a serious shit. It takes months to recover.
Some things to consider:
1) Even if you feel like a failure, you are not. You are a success. Our feelings are not a reliable indicator of personal value, especially after burning out.
2) Try to do something where you can feel small improvements every few days, with enough runway before productivity plateau. Running, meditation, skateboarding, playing guitar, rock climbing — whatever looks the most interesting to you, and looks easy enough (it's important). Regularly feeling improvements in any activity is the best therapy I know.
Don't worry about the big picture.
Every day, find yourself some wins and celebrate them.
Maybe it's something as small as brushing your teeth. Dental hygene rocks -- go you!
Or leaving the house and going to Starbucks, even if only to browse Reddit. Hey, getting out that door can be a big challenge.
Maybe it's going for a run or a hike. You totally owned that half-mile.
Whatever it is, write it down in a list, and look at yesterday's list every morning.
Every accomplishment, no matter how small, is a step forward.
Celebrate the fact that you made that step, and didn't give up.
One more thing:
I don't know where you, the OOP, are, mentally.
So while burnout is serious shit, depression is even more serious shit.
And we don't talk about it enough in the tech community.
Whenever I move to a new country, I immediately identify a local English-speaking hospital and dental practice. Because if I ever need them, I will need them on a very tight timeframe.
So, I would invest a little time and find a quality psychiatrist. Somebody that you feel comfortable talking to, and that gives you good advice.
Do what you would do with any professional service, and shop around until you find one you really like.
That way, if you ever really do hit rock bottom, you know where you can go, and don't need to start searching when you're in no shape to do so.
Sometimes your world really has gone to shit. There is no shame in admitting that. Despair isn't limited only to people that have mental problems.
So you treat it like any other survival situation: take stock of your resources, focus only on your next action (and on nothing else), celebrate every win that you get, and realize that failure is going to be part of the process, too.
You're going to need every ounce of motivation and positivity that you can muster, and those ounces don't come free. So earn them, no matter how small, and bank those victories for the next day.
Slogging through a long and grueling hike isn't about focusing on the summit of the mountain. It's about taking one step. And then you repeat.
Sure, it might not be fast, and it might be hard as hell, but if you just don't quit, you will make it through.
In other words, "just be positive"?
For incredibly poor interpretations of the phrase "just be positive"
If you pick up a guitar and play it for an hour, you're probably going to get a little bit better. Likewise, if you go for a run, you're going to be a little bit faster the next day.
These sorts of relationships can be really good for our brains after founding a startup, where there isn't always a clear relationship between what you put in and what you get out.
I never let that put me down. What I did instead was to find more work since I do consulting and pay down the debt and still get a decent living.
So lesson is to learn from your mistakes and find solutions to your problems and keep on fighting.
You'd be surprised how many people actually have it worse than us but the key here is to not give up.
This is awesome advice for any situation brilliantly sumerized. Thank you!
My background: 39, failed a couple of companies - the last one was the only true high profile project (in biotechnology). As a bonus, my co-founder tried to make me sign some IP related documents once we were going under, proving that the person I was living with the last two years of my life was a complete human disappointment.
I am a scientist, multilingual, deep expertise in chemistry, skills in biotech, IT, and the whole startup salad. CV wise in Europe, I am totally out of the norm, have no life partner, and had to struggle to get back to life. No savings left, so I actually moved in to the cellar of my parents place. Additional bonus: All the stress of the last years start to pay off and gave me some bad health surprises, and I had to face a 2-3 month long depression.
Fortunately, I got our of it, and I am not facing the same thing?
Where do I fit in? What should I do with my beautiful, finite life? Work in a company? Get a wife? Get kids? Save up money to start my next project?
Take a break, think about what you want in life, re-evaluate your situation, and move on. C'est la vie.
If anyone wants to get in touch - here is my email: email@example.com
"Remember that failure is an event, not a person." Zig Ziglar
No offense but most of the sob stories that make HN front page sound like whining from a spoiled brat. Your case sounds like proper bad/tough.
I guess at least you've gained some skills from all this.
As someone about to start the dreams - I'm curious.
I'm having trouble imagining a scenario where the last item is really a proximate consequence of the startup failure (rather than a bit of context that makes the problems that are such consequences more acute.)
Some context: not all startups are financed with external investments; some happen to run from founders' personal savings and debt. I consider myself, as an ex-CEO, to be fully responsible for the failure, but it doesn't make myself a failure. I lived and learned through the experience.
That's pretty easy for me. Let me try to give an example: start-ups are really hard on relationships, starts-ups that are failing and that you are trying to save doubly so. There is a small chance that that led to relationship issues which in turn led to OP now is a single parent.
There are lots of other explanations besides.
I would say the same even though I'm happily living with my wife. Nursery cost and rent alone would cause financial difficulty.
You can save on nursery but a 3 months old is a full time job if you don't have family around (which an immigrant like me and op is unlikely to have)