I have spent many summers working at overnight camps. I used to feel like camp was my second home, a place I grew in my faith and where I learned how to lead. However, I look back at my final summer of camp with some regrets. I had the best role that summer and it was the perfect job description for me. I had the opportunity to mentor young people and build community with them all summer long. The reason I don't look back at that summer very fondly is because I was experiencing intense burnout and didn't know the warning signs for what was happening.
Some context: I was getting ready for my final year at Western and I was preparing to say goodbye to Evan for a whole year while he worked as an intern with IVCF in Halifax. I was just beginning the role of President at IVCF at Western and I had also realized that the degree I had chosen (violin performance) did not make any vocational sense for me. I was exhausted from years of leadership teams, summer camps, tons and tons of schoolwork and never taking a break.
The last week of camp that year, I completely broke down. I was supposed to be a mentor for the youth and I couldn't muster up the energy to hang out with them or participate in the games or bible studies. I was so bitter and tired that when my supervisors asked me to do anything I resented them for it. I had also just found out that a mentor from my previous camp had passed away, and my parents had sold our house so when I returned from camp they would be living somewhere else. I couldn't deal with all of this, so I shut down. I stopped telling people how I was feeling and I became incredibly depressed.
For the first semester of my final year I spent all my spare time alone in my bedroom crying and when I was supposed to be acting as President for our IVCF Vision Team, I was trying to get out of every responsibility, doubting everyone who seemed to be experiencing growth in their faith. I thought to myself "just wait until you see the truth, this is all fake."
I had these thoughts for about two years after that summer. Anytime I went to church I felt so badly for the young people because I felt they were being tricked into believing something that was just going to disappoint them. I thought the worship songs were phony, I thought praying was a little bit ridiculous, I secretly made fun of people for being so into their faith.
I am happy to say that after a few years of slowing things down I am no longer depressed the way that I was. It has taken a long time to feel comfortable at a church and we have finally found a place that feels like home, thanks to the people who welcomed us in so naturally.
The issue now is the fear of experiencing this burnout again and I am extra sensitive to the warning signs. I am afraid of going full out again just in case I am met with the depression and exhaustion yet again. The work I do now requires full attention to people and their struggles. I want to invest, roll my sleeves up and get right into it, but I hesitate in order to protect myself. I don't want to live my life in hesitation, or taking the safe route all the time, but its where I am at right now. Burnout is a real thing, and recovery needs to be taken seriously.
Thanks for letting me be honest.