Home / Blog Posts / Fatigue and the Black Dog / Diary of a Chronically Exhausted Vicar. Episode 18

I have entered the tension zone: feeling a little better and tempted to do the things, yet still finding the doing of things to be exhausting beyond reasonable expectation.

Diary of a chronically exhausted vicar image

This morning I unpacked a few parcels that were delivered, did some dishes, and updated my other blog for a new liturgical year and season. Those small, gentle, tasks had me falling asleep in the chair by the window by 11am. Small amounts of energy do not go very far, and I seem not to have the requisite amount of patience this phase of the healing demands.

I live at present in the tension zone on several fronts, actually. For I am gifted with a congregation who cares, and has an approach to pastoral care that is mutual, reciprocal (rather than leaving the responsibility in the hands of the few, elected elders, called ministers). So they take seriously their charge to care, and many members have been asking, what can we do to help Sarah?

My colleague has encouraged people to accept that the best thing they can do is allow me the space to rest. Send an email, sure, but don’t call her or visit her, making demands on her limited energy. What insight and understanding.

For the most part, they’ve done just that. Sent emails, or text messages, offering prayers and understanding, and offering to help if I need meals or errands or …

The tension I feel is between accepting care that will be helpful, and not taking advantage. Between protecting the space I need to rest, and rejecting the congregation’s extended hand too often so as to hurt them and damage our relationship.

As ministers, we model the way of life to which we are all called, as followers of Jesus, the way of life we preach from the pulpit. So we model the reciprocal care we, with the elders, are encouraging as a way of life within our parish. Which means that we must accept, as well as offer, care. This is, perhaps, the hardest thing for the ministers to do, as it is such a core part of our role to be the ones offering care. I have long understood, however, from the story of Jesus, that to receive hospitality, or care, is to offer a gift, as much as it is a gift to offer hospitality or care. So I am aware that my gracious receiving of the care that is offered is a gift I can offer to my congregation.

While I have not accepted every offer of a meal, I have accepted a few, when the frozen meals I had prepared in a season of being well, had run low. Every offer was made with love and care, was delivered without lingering in my space. I said no thank you to some because, genuinely, I had provisions in the freezer for easy meals; because I wanted not to take advantage; and because for the first couple of weeks in particular, all I wanted and needed was to be left alone.

I think many of us realise how hard it is to ask for, to receive, help. I had got much better at it through the season of life in Edinburgh, when my capacity to continue on that path relied heavily on the help I received from others. In some ways, I still find it easy, but for some reason, I have begun to feel more reluctant, more guilty, for the ease with which I can receive help.

I felt so conflicted this morning, when friends and congregation members came round to do a bit of work in my garden, pruning roses and lavender, clearing dead wood away. I have not the energy to help them, and on the one hand, I felt perfectly at ease leaving them to it, but on the other, a nagging feeling of guilt pressed at me.

But the truth is, I can’t do it all. And while I can keep most of the garden alive, I am realising I don’t have the capacity to manage it completely. The juggling of all the things for running the house, keeping it in my mind, is beyond my foggy mind right now. The juggling of all the things for my work in the congregation wore me out entirely when I did it for four days last week. To do both?