Home / Blog Posts / Fatigue and the Black Dog / Diary of a Chronically Exhausted Vicar. Episode 56

Recovery. It’s a long, long, road

I am on a long road of recovery from the impact of stress. Perhaps a road I’ll always travel, as stress seems to collide with us always, a given of the experience of living. The healing I am focusing on at present is from the most recent stressors, one of which impacts us all even now: the pandemic. It’s affecting all of us individually and collectively as communities, nations, humanity. It may be impossible to avoid stress completely, but we can learn ways to respond, reduce its potential for harm, and to heal from its inevitable impact.

Diary of a chronically exhausted vicar image

Each of us will find the practices and processes, rhythms or routines that promote well-being, resilience, recovery. I’ve been documenting the things I’ve tried for the longer term recovery effort from the impact of the stress endured through the PhD years, which we’re naming Chronic Fatigue. Many of the things that work for easing the symptoms I experience under that umbrella, work for helping to recover from the recent stress also. One of those things is Network Spinal treatment with chiropractors. I began with Yvan in Adelaide, found Rebecca in Canberra, and now she has moved away, I collaborate on my healing with Bilal.

It’s a long road, so pause from time to time

Today Bilal and I undertook a three month review, which involved me filling out the self-reflective questionnaire on my well-being, check of heart rate, vertebra by vertebra scan of the spine, and a posture check. Things have changed from the results of three months ago. We expected they would have, as we have noticed an opening of my system to transformation in recent weeks, my shoulders letting go, my breath flowing freely, a lightening of my mood with real joy, and a reduction of pain and fatigue, if slight and occasional. To see on the screen that the intensity of tension in my spine is indeed reduced, and that balance in my nervous system is looking much better was welcome confirmation. To see in the photographs that my neck is straighter today than three months ago was striking, and further wonder at the computer’s calculation that the effective weight of my skull has shrunk from over 17kg to 11kg – no wonder I feel lighter!

We are not there yet, however. The bars beside my spine on the scan results are still wider and more full of colour than they will be when I am healthier. The effective weight of my skull can lose another 4kg as my posture continues to improve. There is tension in my system yet to be resolved. There is energy to release, harness, understand. But we are heading in the right direction, and are working well together.

My dreams, I’m coming, down the long, long trail to you!

What does this progress along the road to recovery look like: what will you be able to see in me?

When I first arrived in Bilal’s room at Vitality Health Centre three months ago, I was visibly tense, twisted, taut. My neck was misaligned, jutting my chin forward. My shoulders were hunched. I sat and stood with slow deliberation, and you could see the pain etched all over my face with each movement. I was close to tears. I could not easily articulate my thoughts or feelings. I was lost, adrift, drowning in a sea of anger, hurt, frustration, resentment, disappointment.

Day-to-day, I had lost the capacity to do my job effectively. I couldn’t access my empathy, creativity, Spirit Friend. Coherent thinking was a thing of the past. Memory ceased functioning. I was tired. So. Very. Tired.

And the Depression had worsened.

A path winding through a forest

So food was – meh. Sleep was interrupted, and also the only thing I really wanted to do all day. I had lost interest in the things I enjoy, and so stopped with the jigsaw puzzles and cross stitch, couldn’t choose a movie to watch if my life depended on it, and people? I was both intensely lonely, and totally uninterested in spending time with anyone else.

Three months on, these are the differences someone might see in me.

I look light, happy, bright. My neck is straighter, my shoulders are down and back, relaxed and easy. I move more freely, and you might not realise I was still in some pain. I still cry a bit, but the tears are back to being the tears of grief for Dad, and so more positive with their gratitude and love. I can think and speak more clearly. I am remembering who I am, recovering a sense of purpose, gratitude, forgiveness, and peace.

Right at this moment, I’m not really doing my ‘job’, as I’m on annual leave, but I’m feeling more positive about it lately. I can feel again, with and for you and me. I can create again, writing, planning, dreaming. I can see Them, Holy One, sit with them, open to them again. I can think – I’m reading and listening and watching the stories of other women who lead, and engaging in deep reflection on my own unfurling understanding of the leader I’ve been and am becoming. Memory is gradually improving, Depression easing, sleep is much better (thank you, weighted blanket). I still do feel somewhat fatigued – I said there was a way to go yet. But I am enjoying Grand Designs and Escape to the Country / from the City type shows with their stories of humans seeking renewal in their lives. I’m doing cross stitch again. I’m spending time with people in various ways, and better enjoying solitude for its gifts, rather than as an unhealthy withdrawal.

And if you look closely enough, you might even see the glimmer of hope in my eyes, that the road to recovery might include a dropping of even the Fatigue, one day. That wasn’t there three months ago!