Last February I went through a season of burnout. I want to give you a quick glimpse into this season of my life so that you can understand better my outcry to God.
During this season of my life, which lasted fairly intensely for about 2 months and then took quite a few more months after that to feel like “myself” again, I experienced a lot of things I had never experienced before. I had what they call situational depression, which basically means that once my life got back in order and this burnout was dealt with and I was mentally healthy again it would go away. For me the depression looked like loneliness, inability to sleep at night, feeling worthless and incapable, extreme tiredness, unable to concentrate (I would try to do homework and find myself staring at a screen of one sentence after an hour or so of trying to do a paper), lots of crying, and a desire to be left completely alone and isolated. These are some of the main things that I dealt with.
I also experienced anxiety attacks for the first time in my life. For those who do not know what this is, it is not something you want to ever experience. My experience with this was tightness of chest, fear (mostly unable to identify what I was afraid of), difficulty breathing, crying, and a feeling of an inability to move or cope with the situation. Now, in school I had been taking many counselling classes and I had learned about how to talk with someone who is dealing with depression. I knew some techniques to help someone who is having an anxiety attack. In my head, I knew what to do, but I was unable to help myself, again because of this I recognized my lack and felt stupid and incompetent for not being able to apply these things into my own life. If I couldn’t help myself, how would I ever be able to help anyone else?
I want to mention that during this season I had a hard time seeking God. I was pouring myself out into so many areas and had for a long time and yet I was not filling up with what I was pouring out. I was running on empty or on low fuel with the little blinking warning light for months, and I was ignoring it or figured that I could make it just a bit longer. I could make it until winter break. Well, based on my previous explanations of burnout we can see that there are warning lights for a reason.
During that first month of recognizing burnout for what it was, with the help of my then fiancé, now husband, as well as counselling teachers, research, and actually attending counselling. I also recognized my spiritual dryness. However, even after recognizing my need, I still prolonged my reading of the Bible for quite some time. In the moment, I blamed it on tiredness, on my lack of energy for anything, on the mountain of homework that was still accumulating, and so on and so forth. But, it was truly the main fuel that I needed to fill my tank alongside counselling, actual sleep, reigning back on commitments, and creating a plan so that this did not happen again. It was about a month into recognizing burnout that I really started to seek God and that was when changes really started to occur.
While I was going through all of this I felt like I had no idea who I was anymore, my personality was totally different, my desire for people went from 24/7 interaction to wanting to just stay in my room, and my persona of being strong and independent came to a halt by way of crashing and burning. I started out with reading Psalm 138 and 139 and this is when I broke and saw how deep my need for Truth was. I needed to seek out my identity when it felt like I didn’t have any sort of grip on it myself. This is when the darkness of brokenness that I was trapped in gave a glimmer of light the end of a very long tunnel.
I will input those two chapters after the prayer that I wrote. But first, here is a glimpse at my broken heart and my cry for help and the real beginning to healing.
“God, You know my pain and my struggle. My confusion and my doubt, lead me. Hold me. Help me to endure. Help me to finish, school and Residence Advising for the semester, even if it isn’t strong. I am weak but You are strong. You are faithful. I waver with the tiniest breeze. Help me to be strong. Be my strength. Renew my spirit, my courage, my heart. You know my thoughts. You know all I do, see, everything. May I be faithful to you once again; dutiful, loving, devoted. Please be patient with me. Forgive me. Hold me. Convict me that I may follow You all the more devoutly and closely with nothing set up between us. Rebuild my life from these broken pieces. Put my life together according to how You formed me and originally planned. Be my shepherd. Correct me. Guard me. Lead me. Feed me. Help me to find rest. O Lord.”
Slowly, but surely, after this surrender, things started to get better. I was able to finish my semester and get everything handed in on time, thanks to my incredibly gracious and understanding teachers giving me extensions and extra help. I had a mentor who gave me a tool to organize my thoughts, a tool that I am still using to this day, journaling. Through counselling and an incredible fiancé I worked through a lot of issues, I was guided on how self-care worked, I was given permission to rest, to nap, to cry, and learned that downsizing on commitments was not failure. I had winter break and then started back into the New Year with some priorities a bit straighter and I completed that semester better than I had the first and with steady progress instead of going downhill again.
Reorganizing the priorities of one’s life is quite a process and now a bit over a year later I think I have finally figured it out and I am finally satisfied with my new normal. Praise God for healing and renewal and for the people that He placed in my life at the perfect time. I am thankful for counselling and would highly recommend it to those who are struggling mentally with anything. I am also thankful that God is the High Counsellor who ministers to my heart, mind, and soul.
Psalm 138 (NIV)
1 I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
2 I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
that it surpasses your fame.
3 When I called, you answered me;
you greatly emboldened me.
4 May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord,
when they hear what you have decreed.
5 May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
for the glory of the Lord is great.
6 Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
though lofty, he sees them from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me.
8 The Lord will vindicate me;
your love, Lord, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.
1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.