In my last post I talked about my crazy time learning to trust God in my mid-twenties, now it’s my time to cover off my late twenties and my life in Wellington, NZ. I’ve called this my ‘burn-out’ years because even though they were fun days, I definitely was not even close to living a healthy lifestyle, though I was thinner, fitter and worked out way more than I ever manage now.
The reason for me moving to Wellington was a role in an international telecommunications company and you may have noticed that NZ is very far away from the rest of the world? Well, that also means, that, if you work internationally you have to work crazy hours, so I continued to be a shift-worker for a few years. In some ways there were some really good things about working weird hours, I had so much time to myself (I was pretty lonely at times in all honesty) and I got a lot of time to walk on the beach, think pray and read my bible. It was actually pretty good, though I don’t think I really appreciated it, given the jet-lag, crazy feeling I had most of the time. But, my endometriosis got progressively worse during these years, (circadian rhythms effect hormones so I’m sure the shift work was part of it) to the point I was needing a day or two in bed in the final months before I finally got diagnosed with the laparoscopic surgery when I was 29.
On the plus side, spiritually, I can honestly say I spent so much time with God, which has given me such a strong foundation as I had so much quiet time to read books, my bible, pray and journal and I do miss that sometimes. I joined a church plant in its’ first year of existence and I Immediately knew it was the place I was meant to be and it was tremendously fun to be part of and support financially even when I couldn’t always be there as much as I wanted due to my work schedule. I made some really good friends and we had fabulous community, due to the small, compact nature of the city. Wellington is a bit of a weird place, it’s on a fault line and there is very little flat ground so everyone tends to work very close to each other and it was so easy to meet up and hang out. I really did enjoy being there in my 20s during a bit of a boom time in NZ, in a well paid job and I still treasure the people I got to meet who are still dear friends.
Now I know at this point you’re all waiting for the ‘but’, and it is coming, but boy I actually wish it wasn’t.
In March 2005 my life came crashing down around me a little when my father had his accident. Watching him in ICU almost dead and go through the long rehabilitation was the most stressful thing I have ever experienced. I was still shift working also and within a few months I just wasn’t sleeping very well, if at all. I was exhausted and had a manager who was playing some games, (bullying is probably a better word for it, but I just didn’t have the energy to fight that nonsense at the time) while being 8 hours drive from my father and being constantly worried and long story short, I ended up going from being recommended for a management development scheme and to do my Masters degree, to changing jobs and careers within a few months and things rapidly unravelled from there with my health, my personal life and finances.
Once I stopped shift-working though, I started serving more and more in church. Because I loved it and because there was so much to do and if I’m honest, because I’d always felt a lot of guilt about working on Sundays and evenings, some of it self-inflicted and some of it not. The serving in itself wasn’t bad and there are many in that church who still serve their hearts out and it works for them. It didn’t work for me at that time and between the stress of my father, work and my own health issues I just didn’t cope. Often in fast growing churches there is just so much to do you get more and more given to you and if you aren’t good at knowing your own limits you eventually crack. I remember Sundays were a blur of activity, with rushing to church at about 8.30 am, going to lunch after as was expected, then driving home quick for a nap or, often a bath as I didn’t have time to nap and then running out the door again for evening church. I honestly was often exhausted on Monday mornings, which is not an ideal way to start your working week. I also didn’t really take relaxing holidays at all, mainly because I was single and often on holiday alone and I usually worked public holidays too. I still have this problem a bit, but I very much know now it’s important I rest at least a little. In my twenties most of my ‘breaks’ involved going to conferences or driving 9 hours each way up to my parents and then running around crazily visiting people at home.
I got diagnosed with Endometriosis in May 2006 after about 11 years of symptoms that progressively got worse. The surgery really changed my life as I have never had the same level of pain since, but I started getting migraines after I went on the Pill and my immune system was really affected by that surgery, so I got sick all the time. Oh and I almost forgot, three days before I went into hospital, I was told I was going to be made redundant, it was rather cruel timing and in NZ if you have ‘no redundancy payment’ written into your contract, the company doesn’t have to give you anything. I had that. Thankfully, I found a job within a couple of weeks (I clearly remember sitting in the interview in pain from the stitches) but I just didn’t rest enough and started it too soon, which in all honesty has been the story of my life. I didn’t rest after Glandular Fever (mono), I didn’t take enough holidays while I was shift working, I didn’t really know how to relax. I’ll definitely write about this more in the future as it’s been such a theme in my life. The next six months or so I started to implode, I had migraines all the time. I got sick constantly. I couldn’t serve in church at all as I was pretty much in bed all weekend trying to get myself in gear again for another week at work and this wasn’t well understood. I think even to this day as I write this I realise how much of a big failure I felt and still do to some degree. I’ve often examined my reasons for serving so much in church and it’s only recently I think I’ve realised that I was trying to prove my worthiness, definitely to other people and partly to God. Of course, I always felt a strong call of God on my life to serve in His house – I started serving in church at age 9 initially and I still love it. But, I had no capacity (or indeed support) to say no until my body just about ground to a halt. I think in a more established church with people over the age of, say 30 (yes we were that young) there would be a bit more caution shown, but we were all young with big dreams so sadly more than a few people burned out. I also felt immense pressure as a single woman that I wasn’t quite what was wanted, even at the age of 28 I was becoming an anomaly and somehow that might have propelled me to try even harder to prove myself, while simultaneously putting off any guy who got slightly close to me I’m sure.
It turned out I really didn’t enjoy the job I had taken in the panic of being jobless and I increasingly got more worried about my parents and the load that was on my mother after my dad’s accident, so I prayed a lot and realised it was time to move to Auckland, which I did at the start of 2007. Most of the first 8 months or so I lived there I was in incredibly poor health, I had a 3 month cough over winter, got the flu and every other bug going around and I started to show the signs of adrenal fatigue pretty quickly (waking in the night was one of the symptoms). I think I was just suffering the consequences of years of abusing my body and not really looking after myself, combined with a lot of quite stressful life experiences that were out of my control. It’s only now, when I look at my resume and think about my life in my late twenties that I really comprehend how much happened in a short space of time and that it was probably to be expected that I didn’t cope and made bad career moves.
Over the summer of 2008 I luckily had a brief patch of being really happy and in good health over the summer, which was a nice bonus, as it turned out I had years of hard, horrible, incredibly difficult experiences ahead of me.