Signs

Well, I’m back from paralysis. I know you were all worried. Upon reflection and some conversations with my counselor, I have come to recognize what may be obvious to you, and may not: there are almost always signs on why you get stuck in the rut of paralysis.

What do I mean?

What I mean is that as I step back and examine what is going on in my life, I can almost always pinpoint why I am having a hard day, or I seem to be stuck in the fog. Here are some of the way of doing some self-examination:

  1. What has changed in your life? This can be big or little, scheduling issues, watching the kids more (or less), meetings, etc.
  2. How are you sleeping? If your sleeping pattern has changed, that can certainly have an effect.
  3. Related to number one, are there either short or long-term stressors that can be weighing on your mind?

By identifying what is it that is causing your spiral, this will lesson the spiral, give you focus on what to pray for, and will help you to figure out if any of those causes can be removd, redirected, or postponed.

For myself, I know that I can be worrying about things that are weeks or even months ahead, both known and unknown. They can weigh you down and play right into Satan’s hand of robbing you of the hope in Christ which we share by Holy Baptism.

Keep at it, friends. Don’t be afraid. Our Lord suffers with you, and He will not abandon you in your time of need.

-DMR

Signs

Well, I’m back from paralysis. I know you were all worried. Upon reflection and some conversations with my counselor, I have come to recognize what may be obvious to you, and may not: there are almost always signs on why you get stuck in the rut of paralysis.

What do I mean?

What I mean is that as I step back and examine what is going on in my life, I can almost always pinpoint why I am having a hard day, or I seem to be stuck in the fog. Here are some of the way of doing some self-examination:

  1. What has changed in your life? This can be big or little, scheduling issues, watching the kids more (or less), meetings, etc.
  2. How are you sleeping? If your sleeping pattern has changed, that can certainly have an effect.
  3. Related to number one, are there either short or long-term stressors that can be weighing on your mind?

By identifying what is it that is causing your spiral, this will lesson the spiral, give you focus on what to pray for, and will help you to figure out if any of those causes can be removd, redirected, or postponed.

For myself, I know that I can be worrying about things that are weeks or even months ahead, both known and unknown. They can weigh you down and play right into Satan’s hand of robbing you of the hope in Christ which we share by Holy Baptism.

Keep at it, friends. Don’t be afraid. Our Lord suffers with you, and He will not abandon you in your time of need.

-DMR

Paralyzed


So after my last post, the next day I was ready to make some calls. I had cleared the plate. I had time. I had my brand new very kewl communion kit ready for its maiden voyage. The weather was nice. It was a perfect day. I even had a chiropracter appointment so that I was “well adjusted”. Things looked just right.

After my appointment I got into the car to go make my calls.

But I couldn’t move.

I was stuck. Paralyzed. I stared at the steering wheel for 20 minutes, willing myself to go give the Sacrament to these people who are waiting so patiently for it. I prayed. I berated myself. I tried to talk myself into it being “no big deal”. Nothing worked. My hands wouldn’t leave the steering wheel to start the car.

Eventually I can to the realization that this was not going to happen that day, so I drove to a wifi coffeeshop to waste an hour and a half before I had to pickup my kids. There I sat, feeling horrible for being such a lousy pastor. Who can’t even go see their shutins? I don’t even have that many, and they are all really quite pleasant (not always the case, to be fair).

Blech. I hate that. Depression can stick you into places and situations where you really don’t want to be. This is a prime example.

Sometime you can’t do the things you want or even need to do. You just can’t. Call it a mental block, a massive energy drain, I don’t know. But this has been my experience with certain events with great consistency.

Upon further reflection, here are a few observations about such events, which are all too common for the depressed:

  • If you can’t do something, you can’t do something. It’s that simple. It’s not a matter of sin, failure, dislike for people, or whatever. You just can’t do it.
  • Most people will understand, and for the some that don’t, there is nothing you can do about it. So don’t worry about them.
  • Christ fulfills His Office through the weaknesses of His pastors. In other words, even if your shutins have a drought of the Sacrament for a time, they are still being fed the Word of God, and Christ remains with them.

Be of good cheer, my friends. Our Lord, who will not abandon you, will not abandon those whom you serve. No matter what may come.

Paralyzed


So after my last post, the next day I was ready to make some calls. I had cleared the plate. I had time. I had my brand new very kewl communion kit ready for its maiden voyage. The weather was nice. It was a perfect day. I even had a chiropracter appointment so that I was “well adjusted”. Things looked just right.

After my appointment I got into the car to go make my calls.

But I couldn’t move.

I was stuck. Paralyzed. I stared at the steering wheel for 20 minutes, willing myself to go give the Sacrament to these people who are waiting so patiently for it. I prayed. I berated myself. I tried to talk myself into it being “no big deal”. Nothing worked. My hands wouldn’t leave the steering wheel to start the car.

Eventually I can to the realization that this was not going to happen that day, so I drove to a wifi coffeeshop to waste an hour and a half before I had to pickup my kids. There I sat, feeling horrible for being such a lousy pastor. Who can’t even go see their shutins? I don’t even have that many, and they are all really quite pleasant (not always the case, to be fair).

Blech. I hate that. Depression can stick you into places and situations where you really don’t want to be. This is a prime example.

Sometime you can’t do the things you want or even need to do. You just can’t. Call it a mental block, a massive energy drain, I don’t know. But this has been my experience with certain events with great consistency.

Upon further reflection, here are a few observations about such events, which are all too common for the depressed:

  • If you can’t do something, you can’t do something. It’s that simple. It’s not a matter of sin, failure, dislike for people, or whatever. You just can’t do it.
  • Most people will understand, and for the some that don’t, there is nothing you can do about it. So don’t worry about them.
  • Christ fulfills His Office through the weaknesses of His pastors. In other words, even if your shutins have a drought of the Sacrament for a time, they are still being fed the Word of God, and Christ remains with them.

Be of good cheer, my friends. Our Lord, who will not abandon you, will not abandon those whom you serve. No matter what may come.

Making Calls

In my experience, one of the most difficult things for people to understand is why making calls (shut-in, prison, hospital, etc) are so difficult for someone suffering from depression and/or anxiety.

Why should it be hard? It’s one on one. They’re happy to see you (generally). It doesn’t usually take more than half an hour. For what most people see, this should be one of the things the depressed pastor should be able to handle.

Here is why it’s one of the hardest:

  • It is one on one focused conversation. This requires energy. Often they are in pain, or lonely, or depressed themselves. That makes it so that these visits are high energy right off the bat.
  • Because of this, they are profoundly draining. For myself, one shut-in call wipes me out for half a day. A visit to a prison takes about two days to recover from, and hospitals are in between. Mileage may vary on this, but that has been my consistent experience on the post-disability side of depression.
  • Pastors often serve as the sole source of information in regular calls. This isn’t part of being a pastor, but it is often the sad reality. Many shutins have very few visitors. So they want news, gossip, talk about the weather, their family, your family, everyone else’s family at church that they know. This, too, can be draining.
  • Because many people are sad, lonely or depressed, it hits the pastor where he lives. For myself, I am much more sympathetic to people’s trials and lives than I used to be. So when I hear of the sorrows of my flock, it hurts me. I’m not saying this because I don’t want to know. I do want to know. But being a pastor, caring for your sheep, is deeply personal and emotionally painful.

That’s why these calls are so hard. But there is good news. The good news is that it does slowly get better as you recover (see your doctor, take your medicine, find a good therapist, go to your confessor). The good news is that it is not about you, but about Christ and the medicine He brings. Some of the secondary things may not go as quickly as you wish. Don’t worry about it. Christ will take care of them, and He will use you as you are able, not as you want. Your suffering is for them as much as it is for you.

Also the good news is that you can ask for help. Tell your parish what is going on. Get your elders to visit. Get a tape program going so that others see them. Anything you can do to increase parish contact will make your own visits easier, because less of the burden will be on you.

Finally, you can only do what you can do. If you can’t see someone, you can’t. It’s that simple. This is good news. Don’t beat yourself up over things which you have no control over.

Anyway, pray for me as I try to make calls. You are all in my prayers along the journey as well.

-DMR

Making Calls

In my experience, one of the most difficult things for people to understand is why making calls (shut-in, prison, hospital, etc) are so difficult for someone suffering from depression and/or anxiety.

Why should it be hard? It’s one on one. They’re happy to see you (generally). It doesn’t usually take more than half an hour. For what most people see, this should be one of the things the depressed pastor should be able to handle.

Here is why it’s one of the hardest:

  • It is one on one focused conversation. This requires energy. Often they are in pain, or lonely, or depressed themselves. That makes it so that these visits are high energy right off the bat.
  • Because of this, they are profoundly draining. For myself, one shut-in call wipes me out for half a day. A visit to a prison takes about two days to recover from, and hospitals are in between. Mileage may vary on this, but that has been my consistent experience on the post-disability side of depression.
  • Pastors often serve as the sole source of information in regular calls. This isn’t part of being a pastor, but it is often the sad reality. Many shutins have very few visitors. So they want news, gossip, talk about the weather, their family, your family, everyone else’s family at church that they know. This, too, can be draining.
  • Because many people are sad, lonely or depressed, it hits the pastor where he lives. For myself, I am much more sympathetic to people’s trials and lives than I used to be. So when I hear of the sorrows of my flock, it hurts me. I’m not saying this because I don’t want to know. I do want to know. But being a pastor, caring for your sheep, is deeply personal and emotionally painful.

That’s why these calls are so hard. But there is good news. The good news is that it does slowly get better as you recover (see your doctor, take your medicine, find a good therapist, go to your confessor). The good news is that it is not about you, but about Christ and the medicine He brings. Some of the secondary things may not go as quickly as you wish. Don’t worry about it. Christ will take care of them, and He will use you as you are able, not as you want. Your suffering is for them as much as it is for you.

Also the good news is that you can ask for help. Tell your parish what is going on. Get your elders to visit. Get a tape program going so that others see them. Anything you can do to increase parish contact will make your own visits easier, because less of the burden will be on you.

Finally, you can only do what you can do. If you can’t see someone, you can’t. It’s that simple. This is good news. Don’t beat yourself up over things which you have no control over.

Anyway, pray for me as I try to make calls. You are all in my prayers along the journey as well.

-DMR

Do Pastors Relax?


Do pastors relax? There is a grand question. Many pastors work 80+ hours a week, even down to cutting the grass for the church, janitorial services, and a host of non-pastoral or quasi-pastoral tasks. Why do we do this to ourselves? Family has little room in such a life. Friends exist only on the internet. Time for personal recharging and reflection will certainly be at the bottom of the heap. We can easily look at life as one long series of obligations (and failures), and that all we do is try to keep our heads above water. I once had a pastor tell me that we (meaning pastors) measure our day not by the mistakes we make, but by the number of things we didn’t get done.

I certainly have lived that life, and continue to struggle with it every day. Guilt is a powerful thing, and none of us will ever fulfill our vocations completely (see the Ten Commandments).

All of this brings me back to my original question: Do pastors relax? And if they do, how?

One thing that really is critical for pastors and relaxation (and this may sound a little silly) is that often it has to be scheduled. I live by my calendar. If it isn’t on the calendar, or on the “task list,” it simply isn’t going to happen. If I do this, it is much more likely that I will take the time to sit back and relax. Golf. Tennis. Cards. Brewing Beer. Drinking tea by the lake. Whatever it is.

Of course, the danger with scheduling relaxation is making it become another obligation, something you MUST do can become a chore in no time. It’s a delicate balance.

Is it worth it? YES!

Is it a hard habit to form. YES!

Can you do it? YES!

Talk with your spouse about it if you’re married. It will help across the board in dealing with people, church, home, and the like.

So how do you relax?

-DMR

Reentry Blues


Sorry about that two month hiatus there. If it is any consolation, in the words of Larry Nelson, “You’ve always been on my mind.”

I’m now several months into “reentry” and things are mostly good, but with definite bumps along the way. One plus for you longer time readers is that I have a draft of the book done. We’ll see where it goes from here. But that consumed a lot of my time this spring. Now I just have to get it to make sense…

For the most part reentry has gone well. We’ve done a couple vacations. I’m trying to get back into the swing of pastoral life juggled with family life. It’s okay. Here are a few observations that do come to my mind:

  • The things that bothered me on disability still bother me, e.g. overstimulus, stress, time with too many people, and so forth. That has not gone away. I’m learning how to manage it better, but it is still a long road.
  • Family time really has to be deliberate and planned. If it isn’t, I’m much more likely to simply bail out.
  • “A man has to know his limitations,” in the words of Clint Eastwood. I am very tempted to take on new and more projects, and to get right back to where I started. It’s my nature to be the superpastor, and while I’m working on that, it is very hard for me.
  • Time in the Scriptures and in prayer is easier now, but still not an unconscious habit of my daily life. Maybe its energy. Maybe there are still spiritual matters that have yet to be resolved. I’m not sure. But this is an ongoing challenge for me, as it is for most pastors.

So there you have it. I hope to be back to posting more regularly now. If you have any topics you would like to see covered, let me know and I’ll take a stab at it.

-DMR