For the past four years, I've been going through burnout. I think I mentioned this before, and I certainly think that it is something that anyone who is working in a hard-core full time ministry experiences. But I've also felt that I have moved into a "post-burnout" phase. Not that I've changed that much, but the serious fatigue and insane anger/depression seems to have passed.
Or so I thought.
In the past, I have mentally "pushed" inappropriate and difficult thought processes aside. I can have overwhelming urges to look at pornography, and I might stumble, but since that is unacceptable I would push such urges aside. Later, I might have a serious memory problem, but since that doesn't work for my ministry or family, I would force my mind to remember. Then I might have irrational bouts of anger and depression. Again, I would push that aside, and work through it with exercise and meditation.
Until the worst seemed to just go away.
Sure, I would still have some "bad days" and be tired, but at least I'm not afraid of being thrown into a hospital, or whatever.
But the tiredness and fatigue would just get overwhelming. And I do have some physical symptoms-- the low testosterone being primary. And low testosterone could be a symptom of another physical problem. So, earlier this year, my father provided financial assistance to help me discover a deeper problem.
We did a battery of tests and found I had high cholestoral (big surprise, there, he mumbles sarcastically), but no distruption in blood sugar, thyroid, or iron.
We prayed with my family and with others, but there was no immediate help from the Lord for healing.
We went to one doctor and he immediately diagnosed "sleep apnea." But after an expensive sleep study, I just got the results today. It didn't confirm anything. I definately do not have sleep apnea, and the study nor the experience of the staff determined any physical cause. My O2 levels are fine, my heart rate is fine.
I have to say that I am pretty frustrated about the findings because so often my fatigue feels physical-- but recognizing the weight of the responsibilities I sense, perhaps it is all pretty much in my head. Stress, of course, causes physical symptoms, especially over time, but since no physical symptoms can be found I just have to admit to myself that my "post-burnout" phase is nothing of the sort. I'm STILL going through burnout, it is just that my body is being forced to function the best it can.
So we are back down to some combination of fatigue/depression. Im working with my wife and another person in my church to see about breaking down all that I do and seeing if I can share the load and take more breaks.
I don't feel like I or the ministry will collapse if I don't get this taken care of. At least not right away. This is how I DID feel, up until about a year ago when I started taking testosterone and adrenal supplements. But I still have too many days when I am excited about the ministry, but just don't feel like I have the energy to actually do it.
Years ago, when I was working as a shipping clerk at a new company, I had to create a system for them and deal with all that came my way. At first, it was completely overwhelming, all new, and I thought my mind was going to break. But then, over time, I figured everything out and while it was never easy, it was managable.
That's what I thought my ministry in Anawim was. A difficult, new situation, but over time my mind would adjust to the difficulties and the work would be smooth sailing from then on. However, this work didn't turn out that way.
It seems as if my mind is a bubble in a box made of sticks, but no sides. And the bubble has too much air in it, so every time I push the bubble back into the box where I want it to be, the air just pops out somewhere else, and I have no idea where it will pop out next.
I can take care of fatigue, but then I'll deal with anger. I can take care of anger, but then I'll have to deal with overwhelming temptation. I can take care of that, and then I'll have to deal with overwheming depression. If it was just one thing, I could target it and deal with it. But I never know what will come up next.
Perhaps it is because dealing with the homeless and the mentally ill is just too large of a ministry to create a "system" for and so it is always new, and so my mind can never rest. Perhaps I am just never satisfied with what we give, because new needs and people arise and I always want to improve what we offer. Perhaps because there IS no answer that I get depressed, especially (like this year) when I see many deaths and many people who are on the edge of death.
I don't know. But I won't stop. I just need to figure out how I can be the best, most effective person I can be so that I can do the work God has called me to do.