Home / Blog Posts / Fatigue and the Black Dog / Diary of a Chronically Exhausted Vicar. Episode 36

Reader, I am not well. And yet I have had a productive day.

Diary of a chronically exhausted vicar image

Over the weekend, the fatigue grew worse again, tiredness, pain, fogginess in the brain. Ugh. Then Monday another head cold took up residence.

So I did not attend the ministers’ professional development days for our presbytery yesterday and today, as I had planned, and (surprising for some, perhaps), actually was looking forward to attending. I like the social aspect of it, the connecting with colleagues – a group of ministers who have fun, enjoy each others’ company, celebrate each other, and support each other. I like them, and I am sad to have missed seeing them. I also quite like the check in of these regular professional development days, the time out to attend to our wellbeing, our professional and effective and ethical engagement in ministry. But I needed to stop, to rest.

I suspect the fatigue is worsening with a growing to do list, and mounting responsibilities. I don’t mind the increased responsibility, but the illness greatly diminishes my capacity to carry the load, which makes me angry, and the anger awakens the black dog, and the whole sorry house of cards crumbles. Again.

Yesterday, I gave myself permission to do nothing after a productive few hours in the office getting the skeleton of Sunday’s liturgy mapped out, and some other administrative and pastoral tasks attended to. I watched the entire first season of Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, and that gave me joy, which is very good for healing.

Today, after a slow start and a text message to my colleague to confirm I’d be an apology again today, I sat down at my desk and re-wrote the to do list. I grouped things together roughly on the page according to priority. I drew lines to reinforce priorities and timelines.
Then I rewrote the list in clear sections. Today. Wednesday and Thursday. Next week. Day off. The week after. The week after that. I have put all the things on the list, and I have determined what needs doing now, and what can wait and for how long.
Then I folded the page, telling myself with each fold along the section lines: you don’t have to think about that today, you don’t have to think about that today … you only have to think about this today. A five centimetre section of an A4 page, with 5 things on it.

Email some information to someone: that’s quick and easy, so I did that right away. That made the next thing feel achievable, so I did that, too, and tomorrow I have an appointment with a chiropractor who does Network Spinal Analysis, a therapeutic practice that has helped with my health and wellbeing in the past, and I hope may help me manage this Chronic Fatigue better now.

The next thing required cognitive clarity. Now that I had hived off all the things I don’t need to think about today, and built some momentum with the achieving of two things, I cracked right on with the editing of that Scholarly Musing for the Network of Biblical Storytellers.

By now it was lunch time, and I hadn’t eaten at all today – overcome with illness and fatigue on Monday I’d not ordered groceries, so had run out of breakfast supplies. Don’t worry, it’s all good now, I did the order last night, and they’ll be delivered this afternoon.
But I was hungry, so I slowly unfolded myself from my chair (ouch), and went to the kitchen. While the wrap thawed, and since I was upright and moving, I tackled possibly the biggest task on the list for the day: five days’ worth of dishes. (yes, they had piled up again) It was slow and painful, but I admit to feeling very good when it was done.
Then I made my wrap and took my lunch out to the patio and enjoyed the sunshine for a while. I cannot exaggerate the restorative powers of sunshine.

It’s now mid afternoon, and I have finished the five things. The liturgy for Sunday is ready to put into the orders of service for the people and for me.

But that is tomorrow’s task. For now, I am going to put in practice my goal with this to do list: trust the process, and when a day’s work is done, rest. I need to pace myself. I need to remember that not all the things must be done right away. I need to encourage myself – and perhaps my readers – that rest is not nothing: in fact, rest is the most important something on my to do list. So I’m off to do more of that.