The Breakdown Rollercoaster – How it all started

Why and I writing about this? I hope it will help in three ways. Firstly I hope it will be cathartic to me personally. As an introvert I don’t often share or show what is going on within me. I hope by sharing It will help me. Secondly I hope it may help others locally who are themselves experiencing stress and depression. When you experience it you suddenly start to recognise and understand better what others may be going through. Some may find it helpful to know they’re not on their own. Thirdly I hope it may help some colleagues, as ministers we often don’t share our weaknesses. To know that someone else is experiencing stress and depression in ministry my be helpful.

At the end of May last year I went to see my GP. I was shocked that he signed me off for a month due to work related stress, depression and anxiety. I simply wasn’t expecting that as I didn’t think I was that bad. Looking back I was experiencing a breakdown and I really, really needed that time out. I ended being off for 6 months with the added addition of a cancer scare that was eventually found to be benign.

What happened to lead me to my breakdown? Early on I looked back over the past 5 years and recognised that I had been on a downward spiral for a period of years. I had experienced a number of stressful church issues over these years. Each on their own was difficult but not insurmountable but together they mounted up. Over those years I also experienced a number of stresses that many families face. The cumulative effect on my mental health was entirely different, and to me, unexpected.

Reflecting back I think the most difficult thing was the inability to share openly and the loneliness of leadership. Because of confidentiality and safeguarding there are things that a minister simply cannot share with others within the local church. This can often lead to misunderstanding which is difficult for ministers to handle. Others can sound off to friends and house groups etc. The minister simply cannot do this and rarely can say what is they actually feel and think. There was a sense that others can say what they like but the minister cannot defend themselves. That is possibly the most stressful area of ministry.

I’ve always thought I was fairly broad shouldered and could cope with pretty much anything without buckling. The last year has shown me how wrong I am. If only I’d noticed some of the signs earlier!

One of the biggest stress point was on the Sunday when for the first time I felt ‘I don’t want to be here!’ More on that in my next blog.

2 thoughts on “The Breakdown Rollercoaster – How it all started

  1. Sandy, having not been able to attend chuch for months, it felt so good to be back and to have you back last Sunday !! God was in his heaven and all was right with the world, albeit the Coronavirus has put the kaibosh on it again. However we will get through it and hopefully without losing any of our dear friends. Love to you and Bella xx

  2. Lovely to read this post Sandy, my heart has gone out to you over this period of difficulty & I pray God’s continued healing & guidance for each step you make. I have said it before & I will say it again, God used you, your ministry & St Paul’s church community to be a part of Him lifting me from the,’ miry clay’ the difficult stage in my life at that time. I have never been a vicar but I have had leadership positions within the church & understand the feeling of not being able to share my what appeared to be ‘weaknesses ‘ & troubles too , but God continually reminded me that His power was made perfect in weakness! That’s when I rested on Him, a lesson I have to continually rember to practice. Thank you for being brave enough to share your weak/ troubled times with us, it is very informative & helpful. Look forward to reading more. God bless you Sandy. Much love to both you & Bella xx

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