My recent posts have looked at things I’ve learned from my 7 years at PBC (and the 7 in Nottinghamshire) about being a minister. So to round the picture out a bit here is the first of a couple of posts on things I’ve discovered about myself:
The first warning sign was the overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t keep this up, that the workload was too high and I was getting too tired; but being paid to take responsibility and sort things like this out meant I just kept going. The second was crying over someone I’d not heard of before loosing at Wimbledon, but I pulled myself together and thought, ‘I need a holiday’.
Autumn came bringing a dark fog, which hemmed me in and from which there was no escape. I walked to the church office, crossing the main road, pondering how I could time the crossing to walk out in front of a speeding lorry; too quick for it to brake but far enough to ensure I was hit. All warning signs, all ignored or at least downplayed.
And so, one June morning I found myself in the GP’s surgery. The previous weeks had gone off the edge; I couldn’t face meeting and talking to people – everything was either impossible or a complete lie on my part; disconnected from reality, feelings, family I’d hit the buffers.
Depression is an odd illness; it erodes your ability to think coherently, logically or even at all. Trapped in a dark prison, one with no walls and no means of escape you can sometimes go through the motions of doing life, but it’s a mirage. Christians’ reactions to depression are an odd mix as well: can you be the leader if you are depressed? Can you be visionary, pro-active, inspiring and encouraging if your mind has been hollowed out like a used coconut?
In the two years since, I’ve not talked about it much in public. I confess I’m torn: I don’t naturally talk about myself and there are many others with far worse mental health issues, but we need Christian leaders who are going to stand up, talk about their experiences. Is the person to talk about it me? Who knows? But blogging about it is a start (who knows who will read it, share it and critique it once its in the public domain) and in the autumn I’ll try to share some observations from the journey.