Showing Up After Burnout.

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I’ll admit it, I dropped the ball. My intention was to document the entirety of my grad school experience. Yet here I am, 6 weeks from graduating, just now realizing that’s it’s been damn near 2 years since my last entry. I started my practicum position in the summer of 2016, as a community-based clinician at the same agency I’ve been working with for several years. A wonderful supervisor and amazing clients made my journey so enjoyable that I extended my 1 year practicum contract for another 6 months. However, the fact that the work was fulfilling didn’t make it in any way easy. It was demanding work; DMH paperwork never seems to have an end, and working with the foster care population requires some seriously thick skin. It didn’t help that I had accepted the challenge of close to a full-time caseload of clients. Clinicians putting in full 40-hour weeks had an average of 15 clients – I maintained a steady 12 for the majority of my practicum, while trying to squeeze in school responsibilities wherever I could. I had NO spare time, and my self-care was the first thing to be thrown out the window. So I was extremely susceptible to the heart wrenching stories of each of my clients on a daily basis. I don’t think anyone can fully prepare for the toll that these narratives can take if you’re not taking care of yourself.

I ended my practicum in January of 2018. I put my whole heart into my client’s cases, doing everything I could to advocate for their needs. I went to homes, community clubs, and schools – following kids from city to city, one placement after the next. At times, I was the closest thing to stability and an attachment figure a child had. At times, I had to be the one to break devastating news to a child. Several times, I came home crying to my husband about how things shouldn’t be the way that they are. My experiences both inspired the heck out of me and broke parts of me. Month after month my inner light faded, until I was running on the last wisps of smoke from the burned out flame.

For a full month after practicum, I was so deflated that I could not muster the energy to do anything other than read. I got lost in book after book, following one fantasy to the next, desperately trying to escape the aversion to reality that I was suffering. Fortunately, my last few classes of the program have required little time or attention, so I’ve had the luxury of time to waste. After a while, I felt so sick of myself for lack of productive behavior that I threw myself back into my old, comforting love of yoga. I completed a full 30-day challenge and jumped right into another after that. Yoga, paired with meditation and some crafty house projects, have helped me out of the fog of burnout. I’m finally starting to feel more like myself, motivated to figure out my next steps. I figured now was as good a time as any to go back and reflect on the last couple of years. If I can learn from my previous challenges, perhaps I can make my next go at being a clinician a bit easier. Here’s to showing up for ourselves everyday, and continuously taking steps towards our dreams.

 

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Finish Line

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.29.54 AMThe fall semester has just begun, and somehow I feel more relaxed now that I did all summer. This is the semester I’ll be starting my practicum hours, so I decided to resign from my position at my agency to allow myself the freedom and mental capacity to focus on this learning opportunity. Fitting full-time responsibilities into a mere 25 hours a week on top of school and the whole purchasing a house & moving in process has made these last 6 months ridiculously tedious. More often than I’d like to admit, I didn’t handle it well. The stress triggered everything from OCD & anxiety to some major irritability. I did, however, manage to end things at work on a good note. I tried to do my best for my clients up until the very last day, simply because their education is important and I cared about them enough to do my due diligence. My supervisor had been under the impression that my last day was on a Thursday, and was prepared to let me go even though the start of the school year is the busiest time of the year for my position. I had to request to stay an additional day, because I wouldn’t have felt right about leaving unfinished work for my successor. With that extra day, I managed to wrap things up nicely. Somehow that makes me feel a little more proud of the entire experience; as if I found the strength to maintain a jogging pace all the way to the finish line despite the fatigue and unbearable cramps that begged me to quit. Now I can take stock of my lessons learned and hopefully make some changes to better handle the new bouts of stress heading my way.

Phases of Life.

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I apologize for my lengthy disappearance. My soul’s been sliding down the curves of a rainbow, unsure of what color suits it best. Between school, work, marriage and my newest endeavor, purchasing a home, I’m all over the spectrum. All I can do is embrace the ride & hope that each new phase of this chaotic life will be just as beautiful as the last.

Wednesday Wisdom

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This gives me hope 💕 Rigid perfectionism and anxiety don’t always mix well. At times they keep me from fully enjoying my graduate school experience, but my dreams are finally within reach. I’ll gladly swallow the bitter with the sweet if it keeps helping me progress to the finish line.

On the Importance of Asking for Help

a5533265c5f77fa5d0c66fdb8d5ee9e4Life has been difficult lately. On paper, the work and school schedule that I have is manageable. It leaves little room for a social life, but it works. What I didn’t anticipate when I committed to the schedule was a reemergence of OCD symptoms. When you throw a panic attack into the mix, and some everyday generalized anxiety while you’re at it, the workload becomes damn near impossible. For this reason, I’ve been struggling to maintain the light within me.

My work environment is the root of the issue. My office is known as the recreation department, which holds all the arts & crafts supplies, movies, games, beauty supplies, sports equipment, & misc. items the girls could ever dream of. What all that means to me is a whole lot of clutter. While I did my best to organize it in one full work day, I barely made a dent. Being in there makes me feel tense; in a constant state of discomfort. I’ve tried to just suck it up and not look behind me, where most of the clutter is, to no avail. Although the generalized anxiety escalated to panic attacks, I was afraid to open up to my supervisor about it. I felt as if I was asking for too much. Yet, I was at the point where something had to give. The anxiety followed me from the office to everywhere else, causing my quality of life to take a serious hit.

I wrote a letter of resignation during my desperation for an escape route, then pondered the option of turning it in for a week. It didn’t sit right with me, I felt like a coward. Yes I was setting my expectations for myself very high, but how would I ever conquer anxiety if I chose to run away from it? It finally dawned on me that maybe there could be a middle ground. I was preparing to run without even giving this agency, that had been so good to me thus far, a chance to work with me. I decided it was time to open up to my supervisor. I explained my symptoms to her and the source, along with a few suggestions of what I thought might help me (part-time hours and either a new office or a laptop to work elsewhere when symptoms worsened). To my surprise, she was more than willing to work with me. She thanked me for going to her rather than simply quitting under the pressure; she understood how difficult that was for me. My part-time schedule was mapped out and agreed upon. Finally, she’ll be speaking with the HR Director to try to work out the office situation. They’re going to try to get me out of there altogether, but the laptop will be the backup solution.

What a relief it’s been already. I am so appreciative of my supervisor’s willingness to accommodate my needs. Furthermore, I’ve learned a valuable lesson; asking for help shouldn’t be a shame inducing action. People might surprise you and extend a helping hand. As this photo depicts, “Life is so very difficult. How can we be anything but kind?”