Carey Nieuwhof talks about life after burnout:
Seven years ago, I entered into the darkest period of my life.
People had always warned me I would burn out. I thought I could prove them wrong.
And usually I did. I would get tired – out of balance – but when I saw the edge, I could always pull myself back.
Until seven years ago.
I found the edge, and as I was falling, I knew this time I realized I couldn’t pull myself back.
Although I’m not a person who suffers from depression, I’m sure I would have gone to the doctor and received a diagnosis of clinical depression that summer seven years ago.
It wasn’t your stereotypical depression.
I could get out of bed every day, and I did.
I kept praying and reading my bible.
But my speed decreased to a snail’s pace.
And hope felt like it had died.
My motivation and passion dropped to zero. (Make that zero Kelvin).
I had never been there before.
I knew many in ministry had gone down this road before me, and what scared me is that some of them never made it back.
For them, ministry was done. And sometimes, tragically, they were done – hope never fully returned and they didn’t ever become the person they were before.
That was the last thing I wanted to happen to me.
Looking back, the diagnosis is still a little elusive and mysterious.
Who really knows what corrodes the soul to the point where it deflates?
But I’d say the most likely candidate for what derailed me is what I’d call emotional burnout.
In caring for others I had not adequately cared for my heart or soul, or let others who wanted to care for it do so.
I spiralled down for about 3 months before I hit bottom.
Then with the love and assistance of a great wife, board, leadership team, close friends, a counselor, and a very gracious God, I slowly began to recover.
It took, honestly, a few years to really feel full stride again, but I recovered to 80-90% of full strength in the first year. The last 10% took two or three more years.
The good new is, there is life after burnout (my next post will be on ways to recover from burnout).
I’m writing this because burnout seems to be an epidemic in ministry leadership.