Home / Blog Posts / Fatigue and the Black Dog / Diary of a Chronically Exhausted Vicar. Episode 12

In my work as a minister, I need to be present and available for others. I preside at community gatherings, participate in administrative and pastoral councils and committees, I listen to individuals and hold their stories safe.

This can be a challenge when one has fragile health, as I do. Whatever the cause – a natural pre-disposition, chronic fatigue or something similar, or glandular fever as has been the recent story – I pick up every cold and virus that goes around, or so it seems. I also seem to pick up injuries fairly easily, so that my best friend, when we shared a house, would ask when I returned from netball, not did you win (partly because we never did), but, what did you injure today?

Diary of a chronically exhausted vicar image

Over the years, I have had to learn how to live with that. How to live with constant back pain from multiple causes. How to live with chronic shin splints that made it difficult to stand, let alone walk, for months. How to live with carrying sniffles and a stuffy head and persistent coughs every winter.

In more recent times, I started to want to learn how to live well with this part of my experience of life. I had learnt to live well with depression, could I learn to live well with the physical susceptibility to illness, too?

I found a good teacher, whose challenge to me evoked this new desire for wellbeing, and the belief that it was possible. Yvan is a chiropractor who practices network system analysis, which invites the body to find for itself the places of dis-ease, and breathe ease into those spaces. Essentially, inviting a body, whole and complex with bones and sinews, feelings and thoughts, to heal itself.

I learnt, working with Yvan for a couple of years, to listen for myself, to love my whole self. I un-learnt the ‘hate’ for a body that seemed to let ‘me’ down, and reintegrated my understanding of myself as whole. I un-learnt complacence with pain as my norm, and remembered what it was to be at ease, to breathe freely, to seek to be without pain. I learnt to value the foods and movement that would make me feel well, and I learnt how to be unwell without collapsing in a useless heap.

Younger me would come down with a cold and stop doing everything, become a dramatic, pathetic, ball of ‘sick’, and withdraw from the world.

Older me wonders whether that was a mis-understood ambivert finding relief in any opportunity for solitude but not knowing that was what I needed.

Older me now knows how to slow down when I am unwell, and take the rest I need, but also to keep moving forwards.

So this week, when I woke with a chesty cough getting worse after a couple of days of nuisance, I slowed down, cancelled appointments, stayed home from the office, and worked gently on the worship services for the weekend in my pyjamas.
I paid for the home delivery of groceries I hadn’t gone and shopped for, for myself, earlier in the week because of other tasks and a dreadful headache.

Then I rested for the afternoon, so that I could turn up to the very important meeting at the church in the evening. I needed to be present there, for my community, so I took care of my health through the day. If I had ignored it and pressed on at a normal pace, I’d have been less able to give my attention, if I’d been in a fit state to turn up at all. If I’d collapsed in a heap and given up entirely, I would certainly not have turned up at all, and they would have coped, but I would have let them down.

These days, I put into practice the learning I have acquired through hard work and endurance, to live as well as I can, being easily fatigued, and susceptible to illness.

The work still to do is to build up resilience and reduce the susceptibility if I can.