I’ve been thinking about this post for a couple of weeks now. Not sure what to say or how to say it. Searching for the words to describe the last year or more honestly, without sounding like I’m grasping at the sympathy vote. Before COVID was a familiar talking point, before lockdowns were a thing, before facemasks were commonplace, I was already heading into isolation. I knew it was coming, I could feel it creeping up on me. The stress, the anxiety, the fear, the weight of perceived responsibility, the exhaustion, the disappointment in myself and worst of all, the distance between myself and God.
At the end of December 2019, I shoved it all in a corner of my brain and we went to Ireland for Christmas. I had a fantastic time with my Irish family. I forgot about (well, ignored) my endless to do list, my inability to do my job properly and my lack of enthusiasm for church life. I was home and free and happy. But by the end of that trip I was ill; my usual winter lurgy, I thought. After we came home, I fell down a couple of steps hurting my already injured ribs. I went back to work for a few days, but after starting to cry when my boss asked me, “How are you doing?” I went home and rang the doctor’s surgery. In her treatment room I poured it all out. Sickness and pain, both inner and outer, which left me with no ability to pick up the load I had laid down before Christmas. The GP’s advice was to forget about even trying to go back to that life.
“For how long?” I asked. “I’ve loads to do.”
“You’ll know when you’re ready,” was her reply. I went home with my sick note, a prescription for the pain (both inner and outer), and sat down in an armchair. I sat in that chair every day for weeks. I didn’t cry again. I wasn’t pining for home. I didn’t want to binge eat. I wasn’t even sad. It didn’t feel like depression should feel. It didn’t feel like how it felt the last time. I was just empty.
It was clear that I could not return to the job I’d been doing, and should not return to all of the many calls on my time. It had never occurred to me that I could change things. I thought I was being lazy and selfish; a bad Christian and a BAD pastor’s WIFE (not a BAD PASTOR’S wife, you understand). But the doctor, and the pastor, and others I spoke to assured me that it was not only possible, but essential. I decided to give myself permission to only do what I could. I wanted to start running again but was worried colleagues might see me in the the park and think, she’s off sick, how comes she’s doing laps of the duck pond?
The Occupational Health doctor my employers put me in touch with, said I should get out there. He told me he’d prescribe it if he could. In his opinion, getting out doors and moving again is better than any pill he could give me. So I started an online couch to 2k, which went on to a 2 to 5k. I was running again and making good progress. This is me having just finished my first non-stop 5k. The elation I felt did indeed do more for me than the pills I’ve been taking (grateful as I am for them).
I’m officially finished work, but ‘under the doctor’ as they say in Wales. All this is just the start of my way back. I’m in no fit state to go job hunting. This is a time to reenergise, get my eating back on track, keep active, edit my book, and as from four weeks ago, venture back into church life. The irony is not lost on me, that I now wear an actual mask to church, at a time when I’m finally able to take the emotional one off.
I’m doing so so much better these days. Still have a way to go. But by God’s grace and love, I’m getting there.
Thanks for reading.
More soon. A x