Home / Blog Posts / Fatigue and the Black Dog / Diary of a Chronically Exhausted Vicar. Episode 55

In which I find my way back to joy!

Diary of a chronically exhausted vicar image

Steps forward, back, and forward again

I felt the feelings.

I took wine off the menu.

I began to sleep more deeply under the weighted blanket.

Slowly, I started to feel more ease.

I realised I was feeling disconnected from family. I asked if they could meet me half way. One sister started calling on the occasional afternoon she makes the commute home from work without car-poolers. The other sister texts more often, and in her capacity of queen of both shopping and gift-giving, found a button on which you can record a message, and so I received in the post a parcel that before I even unwrapped it called out ‘hello’ on four adult voices, ‘we miss you Aunt Sarah’ from the four year old niece, and finished with a chuckle from the one year old nephew. And I can push that button whenever I want to hear their voices. My brother in law sent a video of my nephew amusing himself by clinking a small toy against Daddy’s glass. Mum and I talk a couple of times a week. And yesterday, we Skyped me into the messy chaos of pre-dinner for the six of them. I feel connected to them again.

I’ve reached out to friends in far flung places with messages and Skype calls in recent weeks as well, which has drawn me further out of the loneliness.

My chiropractor is working with me to open up my system to more ease, more energy. I have left recent sessions standing taller, breathing easier, feeling lighter. With his help, and through the processes of composing and delivering keynotes for the Network of Biblical Storytellers’ Gathering and proof reading my next book, I am finding my voice again, finding my self again, having lost it in the fog of illness, the stress of conflict, the demands of the pandemic. It’s a calmer assurance, a quieter confidence, and a far lesser need for fanfare than I have known before.

After a very stressful six months in congregational ministry, during which my health was significantly worsened by that stress, space is now opening up for recovery. We have a Supply Minister taking a large share of the preaching and worship leading load to the end of the year; we still have our Ministers in Association performing more tasks than usual with pastoral care, worship, and teaching; I have reduced my workload to 80% from today (I’ll write more about that in a later episode); I have two weeks’ leave from the end of this week; our council, elders, and members are more supportive than ever, growing in understanding as I communicate clearly with them, how the illnesses impact me, and them, and how I am working to minimise the negative impacts.

The more ease I find within, and the more understanding and support I find around me, the more I move into deeper wellbeing.

Sunlit gate and path

A big step forward!

I have moved through the past three or four days at least with a growing sense of joy: the happy joy that brings a smile for ‘no’ reason, more than the deep joy of gratitude for life and Holy One that endures through the sadness, stress, loneliness, and anger, even. I am smiling; I am looking to the sky and the trees and the birds with delight; I am completing tasks; I am turning up; I am experiencing joy and well-being.

I am not without pain, sometimes because I’ve done too much, sometimes because I’m able to swim a bit harder or walk a bit further, and that stretches the muscles in a good way. I am still quite tired, in a background sort of way that means I’m not charging through the days like a four year old on red cordial.

But I am experiencing joy, I am feeling somewhat happy, I am appreciating the benefits of diligent discipline in seeking healing.

Feeling the feelings, I have acknowledged my responses to situations and circumstances, and found what energy I need for resolving the dis-ease some of those responses caused. I have entered dark spaces in order to move through them towards the light, not avoiding, not ignoring, not wishing the hard stuff away.

Choosing to eat and drink what helps me feel well, and leaving aside the things that exacerbate muscle inflammation, has not been as hard as I thought. I like feeling well, and I am finding much to delight my taste buds without negative consequences for the rest of me.

Weighted blanket, reducing work load, seeking greater connection with family and friends across the distance: though it may seem I have to make them over and over again, I continue to make good choices in response to the impact of the illness and circumstances that worsen symptoms of fatigue, depression, pain.

It is two steps forward, several back, with this illness. But lately, it feels like the steps forward take me further than the steps back. So the general direction is steadily forward, slowly and gently towards well-being. The joy emerges as I begin to feel more peace with Chronic Fatigue and Depression again, peace with a gentler pace of life, peace with a ministry approach of presence without the guilt anymore, at last, that I ‘should’ be doing more. I am enough, living faithfully, seeking wholeness for myself and my community; and so at last I trust that my presence in my community is enough.