Tuesday, July 17, 2018

What burnout did to me, what it’s like now

Photo by J Scott Rakozy on Unsplash

One of the unfortunate though necessary events in life is burnout for the person who continues to refuse to own their limits.
This happened to me in 2005.
Working and ministering at much more than full-time load, with a full-time study load, with three children, and in a season of life where I was saying yes to everything, something drastic happened to bring an abrupt halt to my preferred mode of operating.
I feel I only approached burnout and didn’t enter the entirety of what would have been a cataclysmic personal event. But the burnout I experienced caused my brain and my body to be semi-permanently affected.
Some of these effects were deficits I’ve had to adapt to, and some of these effects have had a positive impact as far as my body’s protective mechanisms that were initiated and remain in place today.
The way my brain worked shifted suddenly.
Immediately the symptoms of burnout began, I knew instantly what was causing it, and though there were no warning signs, I did know what God was saying. For the previous 18-months I have been working in kind of Superman mode. Freshly baptised in the Holy Spirit, I felt I could do anything. I really had no idea that I was limited, and wouldn’t have accepted it had I known.
God was using His grace to remind me
that while He was Sovereign, I wasn’t.
It was a hard lesson to learn. It was a scary change that had occurred to me. Without notice. Perhaps akin to what trauma does to us. In some ways burnout is trauma. Burnout symptoms made me feel like I was out of control.
With burnout, there isn’t any choice in matters.
Suddenly I was rendered incapable of cognitive processing when I suffered stress on the fateful day the first event occurred. Suddenly my mind just froze in a way it never had before. Later in the season of recovery the cognitive freeze would manifest itself behaviourally as well, affecting my vocal expression, in that when I was maximally stressed I was incapable of speaking any sense for up to a few hours. I felt incredibly vulnerable when this would take place in my workplace. More than once my wife had to pick me up and discreetly whisk me away to refuge.
My only hope on these occasions was to get complete rest, to escape the stressful situation, and to then gradually re-emerge hours later, needing to express what had led me to the emotional meltdown that had stopped my brain from working.
With time came recovery, but it took a few years of these episodes before they relented.
Now I still have the cognitive incapacity when I’m overwhelmed. My mind literally seizes up. But I’ve learned to accept it and live with it. My mind works better in one direction at a time now. The less I try to control it, the easier it frees itself up.
Burnout is much better prevented than cured.

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