Interview with Drew- Part 1-“Wholistic Spirituality, Burn Out and Siberian Ginseng”

February 8, 2011

Not only is Drew a Pastor at Sunwest Mackenzie campus in Calgary but he is also a singer/musician, sports nut and a dear friend. A few months ago, inside a pub in Canmore, another friend and I sat completely absorbed as Drew told us what he had recently gone through.  Even though we’ve shared a friendship for over 14 years his story seemed surprising and yet familiar. It was a common scenario played out by someone so close that it suddenly took on a different significance. If this happened to Drew, how could this not happen to me? Questions like these floated and hung in the air like heavy cigar smoke. However, his story is not one of gloom but of hope. I’m so grateful that Drew, with courage and passion, has been more than willing to share his tale with us. It is not common for someone in his profession to be so candid about such a sensitive subject.  For that, I’m indebted to you my friend.

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Here is part 1 of a 2-part series:

OS-From our last conversation it was obvious that you had gone through some significant changes. There was a purposeful intensity and reflective tone to your talk that I hadn’t seen before. Can you share a little about what’s happened to you?

Thanks for the opportunity to speak to these issues that you’ve asked about.  Taking a “whole person” approach to our spirituality has taken 180-degree turn for myself as I seek to integrate what it means to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

I’ve grown up in the church, grew up in a pastor’s home, went to Bible College and am currently working in church ministry.  I love what I do; I love the fact that I can work along side people in their spiritual journeys, guiding others into an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ.  I firmly believe that there is nothing more freeing than experiencing a holistic relationship with Christ.

But it hasn’t always been this way.

Back in spring of 2010 my wife sat me down and had a little chat with me.  Basically, she was concerned for me.  She observed that I wasn’t myself lately, I was withdrawing from people, I was tired, a little more irritable, always on the run going to the next meeting, constantly concerned for the well-being of others and the church.  At the time, I didn’t see the depths of what she was talking about, but I did agree that I was more “disjointed” than usual and promised that by the time summer came, I would be ok. I just needed a little R&R.

Well, summer came and went. I had a great vacation but when I got home I was worse off than before.  At the time I chalked it up to coming home from holidays, I mean, who likes to come home after being away for two weeks.  So by the time fall came I was back into the full swing of things and was sliding down a slippery slope of negative thinking patterns, physical health and into a state of depression.

I knew I was in trouble when my wife and I found out that she was pregnant with our second child and we went to tell her family.  We were supposed to meet them outside the restaurant that we were at, but I sat in my chair with no emotion. I was completely numbed, neither happy nor sad about this news. I just sat in my chair and waited until the evening was over.

After this happened I knew something wasn’t right, so with a heavy heart I told my lead pastor what was going on with my home life, work schedule, relationship with my wife, the fact that I had no energy and that I didn’t feel like getting out of bed in the mornings. Willy (lead pastor) had just gone through a sabbatical and had a chance to work through some of his burnout issues.  Out of concern Willy sent me to my doctor to check in on my physical levels.

First, let me say that I am blessed to have a caring and thoughtful doctor.  After some initial blood tests and talking through some personal behaviors, he asked me to take stock and pay attention to my feelings and my thinking patterns for one week, then come back and report to him.  During this week, I noticed some very disturbing thinking patterns. First off I couldn’t focus on what was going on around me, secondly my thoughts were increasingly getting darker and darker.  Thoughts like, “What would it be like to just drive into this ditch?”, or violent actions that I would commit to those who upset me.  I remember coming back to Calgary after visiting family and having an anxiety attack about a retreat that I had to go to the next day, I didn’t say a word for the three hour drive from Edmonton to Calgary because my mind was consumed with this retreat and being with people.

The following week, a lot happened in a very short time.  The pastors at the church that I work at intervened and sent me to a recovery center just north of Seattle in a town called Edmonds.  At first, I was very resistant, but soon found that I didn’t have the energy to fight back, so I went along with it just to get them off my case.  What started off as a one-week stint, soon turned into two weeks, which turned into three weeks.  My time away was filled with intense counseling (6 days a week, 9 hours a day + homework and reading assignments), I had a lot of layers that needed to be peeled back and allow God to insert truths and healing into my life.  While away I was not allowed to have any electronics, so we had to submit our laptops and cell phones when we arrived. Also there were no TV’s in our apartment so I ended up filling this extra time with reflection, reintegrated my love for music, journaling and stepping into the lives of those around me.

I learned so much while I was away, way too much for me to explain in this short period.  But allow me to say that as I’ve re-entered “normal” life, I’ve been able to draw boundaries in my life that I didn’t have before. I have been able to work on the contributing factors that lead to my depression. I am experiencing joy, hope and optimism that wasn’t in play in my day-to-day life. I will always be able to work on my self-talk and internal script, so I am consistently aware of what I’m telling myself.

OS-Talk a little about self-talk.

Verbally we can speak at around 150 words a minute.  Do you know how much we speak at with our non-verbal/internal script?  Approximately 1300 words a minute.  That’s almost 10 times our verbal speech!  And when our internal script is a negative one, it will start to come out in not only what we think, but also how we act and what we say.  That’s why I think it is so imperative that we “take captive our thoughts” as Paul instructs us in the New Testament.  Because out of our thoughts flows our feelings, and out of our feelings comes our behavior.

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