Warnings I ignored.
This post has sat in my computer's memory for days. I do not want to post it. The circumstances it describes are bleak, and thankfully long past for me. However, If I am able to frighten anyone into shifting gears and avoiding what I've experienced, it will be worth it.
Please, this is not a request for sympathy. It is a pathetic admission of an ego gone amuck. Five years ago I believed I had to be the answer to every problem my congregation, my family and my friends experienced. I had what some refer to as a "Messiah Complex." I am seeking to learn to trust in Christ's strength.
In the winter of 2005 and 2006 I was sprinting toward a health crisis which drastically altered my life. In February of 2006, the crash had begun, and by March it was a full-blown catastrophe.
Seven Symptoms of the Burnout I Experienced
1. Intensifying headaches were first symptom I ignored. Everyone has an occasional headache. But during the three years prior to my burnout, mine became more severe and more regular.
2.That winter my fatigue was pronounced. I felt weary and dragged myself through the days. And, unlike the the sleepy days and sleepless nights which accompanied my depression as the burnout kicked-in, I could sleep all night and still need naps throughout the day. I was always tired.
3. Another symptom I missed was the increased caffeine. In order to battle against my body's cries for rest, I self-medicated with coffee, shots of espresso and handfuls of chocolate chips.
4. I began giving myself strange new high-energy pep talks. Once, after finishing an eight mile run, in the middle of a forest I tensed my entire body and shouted a long "Yes!" I began noticing these strange self-urgings-on--more and more--as if I was pleading with myself to be strong and to keep going.
5. I began to lose my appetite for healthy food, and would re-stoke my energy fires with chocolate or yet another espresso. I alternated between forgetting to eat, and gorging on junk food.
6. The darkest part of the journey was when I began to experience the symptom I would later call "cotton head"--a sensation of intense dizziness and feeling faint. The first of these episodes happened in the middle of a sermon. I was teaching and enjoying the morning when it seemed that someone, somehow had pulled my power cord from the wall. It was so sudden, I almost fell to the floor. After sitting for a moment, I finished the message and spent an afternoon in the ER (which would be followed by months of being CAT-scanned and x-rayed and blood-tested and MRI'd).
7. In the two weeks following this first experience of cotton head, I lost twenty pounds and realized I could no longer walk twenty feet without stopping to rest and check my balance. I was experiencing blood sugar swings that would suddenly drop me to a 60 count and put me on my back. My doctor diagnosed stress. Two counselors spoke of a "major depression." A natural healer diagnosed stress induced adrenal burnout. I simply wanted to lay down and go to sleep and not wake up or face anyone anymore...and I am normally one of the most outgoing people you could meet.
Into the Darkness and Back
It was at this time that I sadly realized I had arrived in what became the dark and horrifying tunnel of depression.
Since that time, now five years ago, I have learned a great deal. My life is brighter and I'm less harsh with myself.
So in my next post, I will list symptoms of my recovery. It will be brighter and hopeful. This has been far too dark of a recollection for me. Please feel free to repost it, or to share it with anyone you think might benefit.