All Posts Tagged ‘shift-work


I don’t want to know the future

The notebook I’m currently using for writing has some notes in the back of it written in mid-2008 when I was trying to find a way forward from being in a state of burnout. Looking back on the almost ten years since then I’ve come a long way, yet am now glad I could not see much of the path ahead at the time.

In June 2008 I applied for a job as a technical writer for a software company but was unsure if I would get the job so tried to plan how to cope with the next six months in the job I already had. As it turned out I did get the new job, which was a real blessing and gave a reprieve from the stress I had previously been carrying. What I didn’t see but is now obvious to me reading what I wrote back then, is the warning signs of depression.

The change in work enabled me to recover somewhat but two years later the black dog returned and this time there was no denying it. At least his forced me to seek help, beginning a long journey of trying to find a medication combination that worked for me. By this time I’d moved on to what in many ways was a dream job for me, but it came with the downside of a 24/7 roster. In time the shift work messed with my body clock enough to make the next cycle of depression much worse than any before, necessitating a week’s stay in a psychiatric hospital. Recovery that time was long and painful, at least a year before I could consider myself ‘normal’ and not a joyful normal at that.

This is why I’m glad I could not see the future for me in 2008. If I could have seen what was ahead I probably would have given up or run away and hidden from the world. But if I had known what was to come, could I have taken steps to avoid it?

On this I’m not sure. Certainly I’ve learned signs to watch for  so now seek help sooner than I did in the past. I also know some of the circumstances and situations that can precipitate depression so take steps to avoid or reduce the effects of those situations. However, life always carries a certain amount of stress and my depression has a definite cyclic pattern so I doubt that I could have completely avoided it.

The approach I now take is to have fences to keep the black dog out, a stick handy to push if back if it gets too close, and I try to live as fully as I can when it is not around. Yet I still hear it barking in the distance.


Shift work is biblical

My ‘day job’ entails shift work on a 24 hour, 7-day a week roster. This can be a drag and there have been plenty of times when I’ve resented having to work until midnight or endure the graveyard shift. Working weekends when everyone else seems to have time off, or trying to sleep on a brilliant sunny day is no fun. I can easily slip into feeling sorry for myself, thinking that not working 9 to 5 is abnormal and unnatural.

The reality is that a huge number of people work weekends and ‘non-standard’ hours. Statistics vary, but up to 30% of the workforce in NZ, Australia, Britain, Canada and the USA work at least some hours outside of the ‘usual’ 8 am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday work week, with about 15% of workers doing the ‘graveyard shift’ as part of their schedule. In the USA about 28 million people work some non-standard hours, and almost 15 million Americans work the night shift. I’m not alone!

This is not a purely modern phenomenon. During the industrial revolution children laboured in cruel conditions during the night, night work was also common in the early 20th century in mills and factories.

In Biblical times sentries or watchmen were posted to guard cities and warn of impending danger. To ensure these sentries remained alert the night was divided into ‘watches’ and watchmen changed at set times so that fresh sentries replaced those who were becoming tired. Shepherds also remained up through the night watching over their flocks (Luke 2:8). It also seems that occasionally servants were expected to remain on duty during the night ready to serve their masters if they arrived home late (see Mark 13:34–35).

The ancient Jews divided the night into three watches: Sunset (about 6 pm) to 10 pm; a ‘middle watch’ from 10 pm to 2 am; and a ‘morning’ watch from 2 am to sunrise (about 6am). Later, under Roman rule there were four watches: sunset to 9 pm; 9 pm to midnight; midnight to 3am; and 3 am to sunrise (see Smith’s Bible Dictionary).

Even Jesus kept some weird hours at times, going for a stroll across a lake at about 4am, heading off into the hills before daylight, working seven days a week (Matthew 14:25, Mark 1:35, Luke 13:14).

My point is that while we may like to consider ourselves modern (or postmodern, or metamodern, or whatever) with our igadgets and always connected techno lifestyles, the human condition has not changed. Jesus rode a donkey, not a motorbike and the prophets were not receiving texts from God on their iPhones but they still endured boring lunches, feeling tired, squabbling kids and in-laws just as we do. Remember that even Jesus’ parents experienced miscommunication between them as to who was looking after the kids (Luke 2:41-48). If you think a negative Tweet or Facebook update about you is bad, that’s nothing compared to the embarrassment of having the incident recorded in the most widely read book of the next two thousand years!

Scripture references

Lamentations 2:19 Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! (ESV)

Judges 7:19 So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch. (ESV)

Exodus 14:24 And in the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, (ESV)

1 Samuel 11:11 And the next day Saul put the people in three companies. And they came into the midst of the camp in the morning watch and struck down the Ammonites until the heat of the day. (ESV)

Song of Solomon 3:3 The watchmen found me as they went about in the city. “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?” (3:3 ESV)

Luke 2:8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. (ESV)

Mark 13:34-35 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— (ESV)

Matthew 14:25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. (ESV)

Mark 1:35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. (ESV)

Luke 13:14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”


Your money or your life


I have a dilemma – my job is negatively affecting my health, but we really need the income to stay afloat as a family.

My current work is at the NZ National Poisons Centre giving phone advice to both the general public and medical professionals for acute poisoning exposures. As with all jobs, there are good and bad days, interesting parts and boring parts. Unlike many jobs, we work rostered shifts covering 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the aspect of the work that is messing with my health.

I suffer from depression which can be severe for months at a time when I am not well. A key element in trying to stay well for any mental health illness is to maintain stable, adequate sleep habits – not easy with this job.

My training and most of my work experience is in science, a field known for crappy pay rates. The job I currently have pays better than any I have previously had and more than any position I am qualified for that I’ve seen advertised in the last year.

(an incomplete draft that I’m choosing to post as is, 14 February 2018)


Being nocturnal

From Hannah (aged 6) at dinner this evening: “Dad, why are you being nocturnal?”
(I have been on night shift)

(Apparently she learned about nocturnal animals on the “Wot Wots“)


Missing them

My Friday effusion of words in 5 minutes. The theme today is together, something I have both been greatly blessed with and am also missing all in a single week.


Alone at work in the middle of the night.

I don’t enjoy this. I want to be at home with my wife and three children, together in the same house, sharing our lives.

This separation is the way it has to be during this particular season. There are some benefits but the cost of separation is high. For some, perhaps, not having the family routine we had become so accustomed to would be a trivial thing. I have a good job, an adequate income, this is a great blessing.

Yet the evening routine with it’s ‘jungle hour’ when the kids become hyped-up and unruly, the wrestling of baths and pyjamas and nappies while trying to catch snippets of today’s news and tomorrow’s weather from the telly. Wanting to collapse with a cup of tea, just my lovely wife and I, but needing to do the bedtime routine first. The dishes to wash, toys to pick up yet again, stories to read for the hundredth time (does he ever tire of Thomas the Tank Engine?).

I miss these things, the mess of being a family together.




If I had to choose a word to describe my life at the moment it would be ‘crepuscular’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines crepuscular as:

1 Resembling the twilight of morning or evening; dim, indistinct; not yet fully enlightened.
2 Of or pertaining to twilight.

Working shift work and with winter closing in it feels as if I live in a perpetual twilight, not only in terms of the light levels I experience but also socially – I am out of sync with the rest of society so my weekends occur at odd times and I have to work during the real weekends.

Then there are other aspects of me that could be described as dim and indistinct, maybe I will tell you about it one day.

Photo of paper bag: iStock


Deranged by darkness

Several of the blogs I regularly read participate in 5 minute Friday led by Lisa-Jo Baker, who posts a single word prompt. The idea is that each person simply writes for 5 minutes based on the prompt without stopping to edit or fix up punctuation.
I’ve often wanted to have a go at this but never gotten around to it. However, today the word prompt is exactly what has been on my mind this last week or so and I had been considering writing something but didn’t quite know how to start. So here is a bit of a brain dump on the topic of: Tired

I have been thinking a lot about “tired” lately – working night shifts and having only a depressed mind for company I struggle to hold things together sometimes. It is one thing to be tired in daylight hours when there is light to see by, but in the dead of night when peering into the blackness simply reflects my soul a heart hangs heavy with waiting for the light. What if today were to be the one day in all of history when it won’t come – finding me here, alone, deranged?

Many hours later, in sunshine, I am rational again, lucid, and thank God that yet again His mercies are new and He did send the light into the world. The light by which even this stumbling soul staggers towards home.


(For a little insight as to where some of these thoughts come from see: Psalm 130:5-6, Acts 2:20, John 1:9, John 12:46)

Also notice why it takes me a long time to write blog posts – I write slow, not many words made it onto the page in 5 minutes!

Image of hands trying to cover eyes by Vlue via iStock


Good to be back

For the last month I have been rostered on weekends at work, so it was great to be able to go to church this Sunday. During our worship it occurred to me that some of the songs we were singing would be sung all over the world in many different languages.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9–10 ESV)

As you are probably aware, I have just finished a month of praying for, and reading and writing about, the Shan people of Burma. There are are very few Christians in this ethnic minority, so I would guess that their churches are fairly small. Maybe this is why I kept thinking of them this morning as our little church met to worship. We also are a small group of believers without the resources to pay a pastor, living and working in a culture that is very negative about Christianity.

When I have been unable to get to church for a while it is very noticeable how much I have missed it when I finally get back. This is my spiritual home, these people are my family. We can take each other for granted at times, but boy do I miss these folks when I’m not able to see them for a while!

If this is what other small struggling churches are like also, then I suspect God is very happy when we all meet together in our little congregations all around the world, praising Him in all our stumbling ways.

Gifts I have noticed recently

655) Finding a new polarfleece top for only 20% of the marked price!
656) Watching the new BBC Jane Eyre movie with my wife.
657) Just the two of us enjoying a walk on the beach together.
658) Reminder to come to Him as I am, childlike.
659) Cuddling my wee boy to sleep.
660) Sitting in sunshine.
661) Kids spending days building their tree-hut.
662) Cooking dinner.
663) A beautiful park to walk in.
664) Reading and writing on a rainy day.
665) Finding a baby stick insect on the floor and setting it free outside.
666) Daughter playing compassionately.
667) A refreshing cup of tea.
668) My son has spirit and persistence.
669) Girls giggling as they wash the car and each other.
670) The story God is weaving into this ordinary life.
671) That NZ has no snakes.
672) Safe traveling on a long weekend.


He gave Himself up for her, will I?

At the beginning of this year I decided that for me 2011 should be a year committed to essentials. I have given this some thought at times but, as is human nature, it really isn’t until things start getting a bit unbalanced that I have paused to consider whether I am on track with what I should be doing as opposed to what I have actually been doing. And then there is all that I have not been doing, such as:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
(Ephesians 5:25 ESV)

When I think about Christ loving the church and giving Himself up for her, I am reminded of Philippians 2:5-8, which in turn reminds me of the immediately preceeding verses:

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)

Pulling this together, I need to love my wife as Christ loved the church, which means serving her and considering her needs more than my own interests. A good example of considering her needs would be to not promptly fall asleep after coming home from work, leaving her to get three children ready for bed alone when she is already exhausted and I know it.

Over the last couple of months we have been attempting to adjust to me doing shift work, which has meant a bit of an upheaval to our usually quite routine days. As part of this there are now days when I am at work all evening and asleep in the morning so am not available to help at either of these busy parts of the day for families. This puts a huge load upon my wife, especially if I do nothing to reduce the other work she has to get done to keep our home running. On the surface it seems easy to come home from work tired and just want to rest, but I am not the only tired person – the kids are so they are cranky, my wife is so she has a thumping headache and twenty things to get done at once. Am I now going to simply have a rest myself while someone I love is being drained utterly empty?

The answer should be obvious, unfortunately I don’t always think things through like this before being selfish and unloving.

Gifts I have noticed this week (251 – 261):

251) Problems which cause me to consider what I believe and why.
252) Physical labour on a sunny day (Ecclesiastes 3:13).
253) A shed slowly filling up with cut firewood and pine cones.
254) Neighbours who at least have good taste in what music they play loudly.
255) A lovely paediatrician who genuinely likes children.
256) Gentle reminder from a friend, that I need to encourage a brother.
257) Figuring out that the computer can do a tedious task for me.
258) Love, which causes me to want to make her a cup of tea and give her the nicest cheese roll.
259) The depth of Scripture (Mark 12:24).
260) Cold tea because I fell asleep in the sun before drinking it.
261) The Third Strand in our marriage (Ecclesiastes 4:12).