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Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

Both are very important to me. I feel my best when I know what my schedule is. I function best when I know what is expected of me. Rituals help calm my mind and help me to focus. So, as you can imagine, the last month has been a great challenge as my schedule is in constant flux, there is an influx of emails demanding attention as well as phone calls, Zoom meetings, text messages and many more distractions.

I’ve never been good at managing boundaries, yet I am determined to come through the other end of COVID-19 with my marbles intact. Wish me luck.

I was lamenting with a friend that I’m feeling overwhelmed with the amount of contact that is demanded these days. I’m quite certain that I’m receiving at least twice as much email as I did before. And I’m attending 1000% more meetings by Zoom then I did before (that may be a slight exaggeration).

When I came back from medical leave I created a workspace in my flat so I could separate my home life and my work life. With the increase in Zoom, I’m finding there is a very blurry line between the two.

So what I (attempt to) do every day is turn off technology for part of the day or at least not respond to everything immediately. Constantly re-prioritizing is tiring, but necessary so I don’t feel too overwhelmed. I have discovered a feature on my mobile phone that when I place it face down it goes into Do Not Disturb mode. So texts, phone calls (unless from a specific list) and emails do not make any sound until the phone is turned back over.

I will be taking Friday and Saturday as my Sabbath Days as of next week. This week is Holy Week and I have Worship every day. My Sabbath Days will be marked with no electronics. No email, Slack, Facebook, Instagram, Zoom or Skype. Disconnection. An opportunity to be intentionally outside for more than half an hour.

If I need to sleep the day away, I will do so. If I want to clean my flat from top to bottom, I will do so. If I want to pack a lunch and take a drive, I will do so. With no guilt.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a waterfall about an hour’s drive from here. When I arrived there was not a soul in sight. I walked around to the other side of the falls and on the way back I noticed a dozen cars arriving. Everyone kept physical distance, we waved and smiled and got out of the way of each other. It was a lovely sunny day and I put the windows down in the car.

On the way home I stopped at one of my favourite hikes. There were three cars in the parking lot. I started the hike, realised after about 20 minutes that the trail was icy and not safe for me. So I turned around. I met a couple who stepped off the trail and asked how it was further along. I told them it was icy and with safe distance, they turned around as well.

I’m doing my best to take one day at a time. I’m doing my best to eat well and drink lots of water. I’m doing my best to go to bed early so if I have a rough night it’s not as bad come morning.

And of course, there’s the menopause, which will be a reflection for another day.

I hope you are all doing your best to take care of you.

We will get through this. And I do, truly believe, we will be stronger for it.

Take one day at a time, unless that feels too hard.

Then try one hour at a time, unless that feels too hard.

Then take one minute at a time. We’ll get there.

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can be really difficult. Growing up I was allowed to be happy and, within reason, sad. Never angry. One of the “fun” side effects of that kind of upbringing is that I never learned how to identify the majority of emotions.

I know happy, sad, angry, sarcastic and frustrated relatively easily. Nuances beyond those are often difficult for me to pick up on. *shrug* It is what it is.

My emotions have been all over the map this past few weeks. I was doing really well…eating well, taking care of myself, working smarter rather than harder. Getting back to full speed after surgery and the subsequent recovery.

And then a virus was discovered in Wuhan, China. Which then made it’s way…well…everywhere. I watched in fear as it seemed unstoppable. Surely it wouldn’t get to Canada, not to my small corner of creation, would it?

Surely we’d be able to continue gathering as Church?!?

Two weeks ago I felt as though I couldn’t breathe. I was inundated with information…on the news…by email…from the denominational head offices, concerned parishioners, family and friends.

There was so much information, but how much was accurate? What was I supposed to share? What was I allowed to share?

And the decisions to be made…are we allowed to gather? If so, under what circumstances? How do we get this information out quickly, appropriately and calmly. Then I got a tension headache that made it difficult to think, never mind do anything.

Then I lost the ability to sleep.

I was feeling as though I was running as fast as I could…but getting nowhere. I was frantic. And I couldn’t figure out the emotions.

Turns out, it was a combination of grief, of anger, of frustration, of sadness. It was churning my insides and making me ill. So I made a decision.

I sat down with my day planner and looked at all the Zoom calls I was expected to attend. I made a list of all the ways I need to communicate with my congregation and community. I unclenched my jaw. I drank more water. I went for a walk. And I took a nap.

Friday I had to run an errand at a local hardware store. Keeping physical distance has made me afraid of crowds – well, that’s not exactly true, I’ve always been uncomfortable in crowds, NOW it’s reinforced. Red lines delineate where to stand while waiting.

I picked up the two items I needed and saw the most beautiful dog and his person. I commented on the beautiful pooch and lamented that I couldn’t say hello. The dog’s person said “Why not?” and gestured for me to walk to the other end of the aisle. Which I did. He then called the dog to sit and took off the lead, telling him to “go say hello”. I knelt down and this magnificent beast walked towards me, wagging his nub of a tail. He put his head against my chest and I gave his neck and ears some loving.

He looked up at me with these huge, beautiful brown eyes and my heart broke into a million pieces. I started to cry. He licked my tears away. Eventually I settled and stood up. I patted his head and back and thanked his person who said “You’re most welcome”, and called his dog to him.

Through tears I made my way to the checkout, paid for my purchases and walked to my car. I let the welled up grief out and cried for what felt like a very long time. When I was finished my head felt much better.

I’m doing the best I can. I am reaching out as I am able to everyone I can. I can’t do it alone and I have a wonderful group of folks who are checking in on each other and checking in on me. There was no course for this at Seminary. Yet I expect there soon may be.

I’m seeing lots of posts on social media about “being happy”. And of “bucking up and making the best of things.” And I’m tired of it.

A friend of mine is going through a really difficult time. She said she needs to stop crying and smile. I told her to feel her feelings for as long as she needs to feel them. Because when you swallow them; when you push them down they will build up until you end up on your knees in a hardware store, with a stranger’s dog licking your face.

I’m making this up as I go. I’m doing the best that I can. This is all uncharted territory. And I need to give myself the grace that most everyone else has offered.

So, I will feel those feelings. I will do my best. I will be the best I can be. And the rest will sort itself out. Priorities will continue to change. People will continue to challenge me. I will continue to hang on and do what I can every day. I will take time for me, every single day. I will take days off.

Without guilt. Without shame.

I’m just going to feel the feelings, and try to figure out exactly what they are.

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I am a hugger. I’m a great hugger. And I’m an introvert. A BIG Introvert. Since COVID-19 we went from small gatherings to social distancing and I reckon we will soon be house-bound. Right now I’m going, alone, to the Churches at least once a week. It helps me retain a sense of normality in a world that seems to have gone mad.

Last Thursday I spent 10 hours on various screens dealing with phone calls, emails, texts, and Zoom meetings. By Saturday I was feeling completely overwhelmed.

It felt as though I couldn’t finish anything.

It felt as though I was running as fast as I could, simply to stay in the same place.

I couldn’t focus. Then my head started to hurt. It’s still hurting. To the point its distracting.

Last night I had a hot shower and focused the jets on my neck and shoulders. That helped. I’ve tried meditation, drinking water, walking outside to get some fresh air. I’ve tried medication, acupressure, and caffeine. I’ve tried stretching, self-massage and sleep.

What I think I need, no, what I KNOW I need is a time to disconnect.

I was speaking with a colleague earlier today and he said he feels as though this time of isolation has created more demands for connection. I absolutely agree. Working with two denominations has been stressful and enlightening. Both want to ensure that clergy feel connected. Both want to assure us that we are doing our best.

What I need most right now, is not connection, but disconnection.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parishioners. I love my community. I love my friends and family. I also love my own company. And complete solitude.

I’m now trying to work out a new routine. When I wake up I open an app called “Pray as you Go”. It’s a 20 minute reflection on scripture with some music and a calming image on which to focus. As I listen a breathe, sip water and give thanks. Then I say my morning prayers. THEN I get up.

I am going to take time every day to go outside. I’m going to restrict the amount of time I spent in front of a screen. I’m going to nap when I’m tired. Feed myself good, nutritious, food. And do something every day that brings me joy.

In my heart I believe this physical isolation is going to last for awhile yet. Which means I need to get myself into a routine and treat myself better than I have been.

We are having our 5th Sunday Joint Service on Sunday and we’re going to use a Zoom platform. It will be interesting to see who is able to attend and whether we continue to use the platform.

We, as Church, have not been in this position, of physical isolation, for hundreds of years. And while we cannot reach out and touch our friends, parishioners and neighbours, we can reach out and connect. I have recorded one homily and posted it online to incredibly positive feedback.

My hope is that the technology we are figuring out, will be a short-term solution and once the virus is in check, and the isolation is relaxed, we will gather in person once again. Time will be the measure of that story.

So as I watch the sun set behind the snow-covered mountains I give thanks to God for the blessings of this life. I ask for a restful, pain-free sleep which will enable tomorrow to be a beautiful day.

My wish is the same for you. Deep, restful sleep. Rise to a beautiful new day. Experiencing things which bring you great joy.

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I reached a major milestone this week…I drove home on Wednesday. Loading the car was an adventure as I overthought about putting the back seat down or what order to load things in. I made sure everything was at a weight I could safely lift so I put twice as many bags into the car to come home as I did when I left home.

Stopping half-way at a café for a Chai Latte (first time I’ve had one of those) was quite good. I drove the last half hour home feeling determined and relatively pain-free. When I got home a friend was waiting to unload the car which was wonderful. We had a quick visit and she left.

A friend and colleague stopped by with his adorable new puppy and we had a cup of coffee and a lovely visit for about an hour.

I unpacked my clean clothes, toiletries, electronics and groceries. I took my time as I did all these things, stopping for a sit down and a cup of tea or glass of water. Then I had a lovely hot shower in my own shower, put on clean pajamas and snuggled into a freshly made bed. Bliss.

I was wide awake at 2:00 am. I wasn’t fretting about it, I realised it was because I’d had a cup of coffee at 4:00 pm and that was my first cup of coffee since I’d left home. Jeez.

Since I got home I’ve continued unpacking and making lists of chores to do, all fun little things like setting up a new recycle station in my storage cupboard. I bought some indoor plants and plant pots and plan to transplant them into pots with better drainage. I have two small sewing projects to take on.

I’ve been out to appointments, and while I’ve seen parishioners, given and received hugs, “shop talk” has been an absolute minimum. And I don’t feel guilty about that.

I’m still working on the “deep dive” and there’s still some yucky stuff to deal with, yet I’m striking a balance.

Yesterday I saw my family doctor in the morning and my counsellor in the afternoon. At the end of our session she remarked that this was the first session we’ve had where I didn’t talk about work for the entirety of the session. She said I look calmer, happier and healthier then she’s ever seen me. She said she was proud of me! I said I was proud of me too! Then she asked the difficult question…”So, how are you going to maintain this level of self-care when you go back to work?”

Fair Question.

The answer is difficult but necessary. Boundaries, communication and the realisation that I am just as entitled to look after myself as I am to look after everyone else. I don’t have to and shouldn’t have to put my needs last.

It’s taken me 52 friggin’ years, and I am finally understanding that I am a good person, a kind person, and I matter. I am going to continue treating myself as well as I treat everyone else. And sometimes even better. 🙂

My relationship with food is still a big trigger and it’s part of the icky stuff I need to work through. I weighed myself before I had surgery and again when I got home and was shocked that I had lost 7 lbs. I’m not yet back to full-strength. I can’t walk as quickly as I was able to before because of an issue with my left foot.

I have not yet learned to be bored. I’ll need to apologise to my Bishop for that. Instead I’ve begun to daydream again. To take notice of my surroundings, be fully present when I eat and drink. To sit comfortably in silence or listen to music.

I’ve started writing poetry again…which I haven’t done since 1991.

This is work I’ve needed to do for years, no, decades. It’s brutally difficult work and I’m nowhere near finished. And yet I cannot imagine making time to do this work. I’m so very grateful that I’ve taken the time.

All it took was a hysterectomy and oopherectomy to make me take the time to do it.

I’ve missed my Parish and parishioners. I’m looking forward to being back to work, and doing God’s work in our small corner of Creation.

For the first time in a very long time I feel content.

Thanks be to God.

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It’s been a rough week. I’m struggling physically to balance how I think I feel and how I actually, physically feel. When I wake up in the morning I assess how I’m feeling and what I think I can do. Most days I wake up feeling relatively okay. My sleep is not great yet, I have very vivid and strange dreams that I’m putting down to the anaesthetic leaving my system.

I start my day with prayer and then make a cup of tea, decide what to eat for breakfast and what I think I can/should do.

The other day I woke up feeling pretty good. Said my prayers, had some tea and toast and then decided to clean the bathroom. Not the floors, just the sinks, counters and toilets. Shouldn’t have cleaned the toilets. Probably shouldn’t have cleaned any of it, but I like restoring order and making things clean.

I decided to go for a walk, just to get out of the house. Got to the end of block in front of the house and fell. I stepped on some ice covered snow, which I thought was just snow. I fell onto my backside, much to the amusement of a family of deer who were reclining on the front lawn. It took awhile to get myself upright and once I did I came back into the house, had a shower and put clean pajamas on. Enough adventure for one day.

My car is buried. Not completely, but there is a burm in front of it that I have no idea how to move. I know right now I can’t physically move it. Honestly, I don’t know if I am strong enough yet to drive.

It’s frustrating.

I see all kinds of things that I’d like to do, little things I’d like to take care of, and I absolutely physically cannot do them. It makes me feel helpless. For someone who prides herself on being fiercely independent, this is an awful struggle.

I’d like to change my bed, but I can’t. I’d like to do the laundry, but I can’t. And before I allow myself to surrender, I feel completely helpless.

I’ve started a journal – a deep dive – into discovering who I am. I take great pride in being a pastor, priest, prophet, and minister. I am proud of the education I have, especially how hard I worked to obtain it. It makes me feel very good when I am recognized in the community where I live and introduced as the pastor, priest or minister to another person.

Yet when you peel all of that away…when it’s just me and God, who am I? Can I be me without the titles? Without the education? Without the knowledge?

Anyway, that’s what I am exploring in bits and pieces and it’s really difficult work. The answer to “Who am I”? is “I am a Child of God”. Yet the examination of the pieces of me, the motivation for doing what I do and being who I am is difficult. It’s dark and it’s lonely and it’s work only I can do.

So as I continue to heal internally, and recognize that the doctor’s told me 6 weeks recovery FOR A REASON, I am shifting my focus from the physical to the spiritual, mental, internal me. She has not had a lot of care given to her for a long, long time. And as much as my body needs to be nurtured, so does she.

I will continue to physically heal. I will continue to emotionally dive. And I pray by the time I am back to work, both will be in good order. A lot of work between now and then, but I’m worth it.

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It’s been awhile since I logged on to my blog. When I tried tonight it asked for my password and it wouldn’t work. So I had to reset my password and taaa daaa it now works!

I’ve been waiting for awhile to have surgery. A hysterectomy. It’s happening the day after tomorrow. I don’t know what time yet as I have to call in the morning to find that out. I’m going to be off work for 6 weeks, which is the longest I’ve ever been away from work in my 52 years of living. I’m quite anxious about that.

I’ll be staying with a good friend in the community where the surgery is happening. It’s an hour+ drive from home. He is listed as my Emergency Contact, also known as The Responsible Adult. It’s a title he QUITE enjoys. Me? Not so much.

It will be a challenge to listen to my body for 6 weeks and not overdo it. I am fiercely independent and also quite private. Asking for help is not something I do well. Both congregations have been incredible in offers of help. From driving me to the hospital and picking me up to arranging meals once I am back in my own flat. It’s difficult for me to accept the help and yet I know accepting it is the right thing to do.

I have a bag packed with books, crafting projects, a cake of yarn to make a baby blanket and three journals. One will be for keeping track of my post-op recuperation, i.e. pain levels, emotional space, eating, drinking, etc. A good reference for when I see the docs for follow up.

Another journal will be for my “regular’ journaling about what is happening in that crazy brain of mine. And the third is the ideas journal for when I have an “a-ha” in the middle of the day or the middle of the night. I will jot things down there and then leave them alone until I’m back to work. Hopefully.

My main intention as I heal physically is to do a deep dive into my psyche and try to unravel the root of my anxiety, depression, OCD, etc. It won’t be pretty, but it will be necessary. And my “regular” journal will be where I unravel all this stuff. I was talking with a colleague this afternoon who offered prayers and when I told him about the deep dive he asked what I’m going to do with all the “stuff” I dredge up. I told him I haven’t the foggiest idea.

We sat in companionable silence for awhile and then he told me he hoped in five years time I would look back at this hospitalisation as a wonderful opportunity for personal growth. I pray he is right.

Lately my life doesn’t seem to be working properly. I love my vocation. I’m happily busy. But my insides are a mess. I’m not eating properly. I’m not sleeping properly. My skin is itchy, my guts are a mess and I don’t feel right “in myself”.

My deepest desire is when I get back from convalescing I will be stronger mentally, physically and spiritually. I will learn to balance my time better. To build in moments of silence, of stillness and of peace.

A friend of mine is retiring in June and he’s been inundated with people asking him what he’s going TO DO with his time. He’s frustrated with the question, because it lends itself to the unhealthy ideal that we are what we do. It insinuates that once he retires he will have no personal identity.

What he plans on doing is whatever he pleases. He will focus on BEING, rather than on DOING. That is such a great message; such a great lesson for everyone. And it’s something I will be building into my convalescence.

Looking for an honest answer to “Who am I”? and then living into how I can be that person. Not by doing, by being.

Wish me luck.

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A common thing to do this time of year…where have I have been…and where I think/hope I’m going to…

This time last year I knew there was going to be a significant change in my ministry, yet wasn’t quite sure what that was going to be.

I was experiencing a significant emotional and spiritual crisis and thankfully there are terrific mental health services for me to tap into which got me through the “holiday” season and referred to receive help in a timely fashion. I started working with a counsellor, changed my antidepressant and eventually worked with a group on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

It was good to be a in a room with people who understood what I was feeling. It was good to be in a place where I didn’t feel it necessary to pretend how I was feeling. I could be honest and every one understood how I was feeling, and not try to fix it.

I finished the class, and brought the reference materials home, which I referred to from time to time. I continued working on my mental health, my physical health and my emotional health.

We moved through the Season of Lent, then Holy Week, then Easter. All this time there were discussions about entering into shared ministry with our local United Church. It was exciting and terrifying. There were meetings, conversations, committees, sub-committees and lots and lots of prayer.

Eventually a vote was held in both congregations and it was decided that we would step out in shared ministry and that I would be appointed for a two year term. Joy and terror filled my life. Mostly joy.

And as we entered summer there were teleconferences, meetings, conversations, sermons, laughter and tears as we ventured into the unknown with great hope, expectation and fear.

As I reflect back on the past three months, it’s been a time of great professional and personal growth. The Congregations are beginning to see that there are new ways of entering into ministry. One of the congregations is experiencing growth and great hope. The other is experiencing grief.

To be honest it did not occur to me that there would be grief because I’m still with the congregation…but I’m not there as much. I may not be as available. Yet I’m still here.

So as we move into 2020 I’m going to spend more time listening and asking questions, to see if there is a way we can work through the grieving into something tangible and meaningful. To see if we can move through grief and loss into resurrection.

It will take time. And we have time. This is a season of joy and celebration; Epiphany, which will then be replaced by the season of preparation and anticipation; Lent.

We will walk through this together, with my deepest desire being a greater understanding of who we are; individually, as two Congregations and as a Parish. With a greater understanding of Who’s we are. And who we are to each other.

Thanks be to God.

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