Ah, Wednesday. It’s Hump Day, right?
Since I’ve been on sabbatical, I’ve lost all sense of what day it is, and what the days of the week mean. I haven’t experienced the dread of Monday mornings or the building excitement of Thursday Happy Hours knowing “we just have one more day until the weekend”. I’ve simply just experienced days. Occassionally I’ve forgotten what day it is. Oops.
So now I have just a few more days before I start work again. Which feels surreal because it was just three weeks ago when I was considering NOT going back to work after this leave and finding a different job.
That’s right- the first few days on leave I felt like I had been in a fog and it was finally starting to clear. And when the fog cleared, I saw how stressed out, anxious and frankly, traumatized I had been at work for months…
To recap for new readers, I’m a therapist at a private behavioral hospital treating eating disorder patients. It’s a tough job. It’s heartbreaking at times. It’s not a 9-5 job and then forget about it until tomorrow- it’s an “I’m always thinking about work even if I’m not at work” kind of job. Or at least it is for me. My fellow clinicians who have better boundaries than I do? I envy them.
But for me, I put my heart and soul into my job. And the risk of opening your heart and soul is that it gets broken. It had been a terribly difficult, heart-breaking and traumatizing few months at work prior to my personal leave. Of course, I didn’t realize it at the time- I just kept going and going and going.
And so, in those first few days and the first week of my leave, I became angry. I was angry at myself, for not taking care of myself earlier. I was angry at my company, for not taking care of me earlier as well and not noticing that I needed a break. I was angry at the culture of my job, the high stress and intensity of it, and all that it asks of us as clinicians and healers.
Simply put, I was pissed. Once I had the space away from work, I saw what the constant stress and intensity was doing to me- on a physical level, a spiritual level, and an emotional level. And several days into my leave, I said “Fuck this, I’m going to start looking for new jobs. This job is NOT worth the stress and the hassle.”
And that first week, I allowed myself space for my anger. I even did some job searching (although each time I saw something, I was like “meh”). I thought about beefing up my resume. I thought about all the different possibilities for my career. “Fuck this, I’m never going back there” was my mantra for a week.
But what a difference a week makes. By the time Week 2 rolled around, I had some
therapy space to let the craziness settle. I felt grounded. I felt more calm. My heart started to feel as if it was on the mend again (so grateful for reiki!!!). I was experiencing less symptoms of PTSD. I was sleeping again. I was smiling again. And I was entertaining the notion of possibly going back. I was thinking a bit more sanely and not out of anger or reactivity.
Week 3 brought about a lot of reflection. The notion of NOT returning to work was no longer on the table, because I realized something. I missed work. I missed the crazy nuthouse that is my job. I missed my coworkers, who are an incredible bunch of dedicated individuals. And mostly, I missed my patients. Terribly so.
I went into this particular field- not just mental health, but eating disorders- because I felt a calling to it. Simply put- it’s where my heart is. It’s a tough field- one that most mental health providers don’t want to touch with a ten foot pole- but frankly, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. For every stress and heartache and fear, there’s a tremendous reward when you see a patient embracing recovery and life again.
And so I go back renewed, but with caution. I’m scared. I’m scared I lost my “touch” or that my coworkers or patients won’t want me back. I’m scared that I’m going to walk into the building again, with all the drama and stress, and go back to “fuck this” mode.
But I know I need to do a better job at setting boundaries (ie: not checking emails on weekends and evenings!). I need to step back a bit and not do my patient’s work for them. I need to practice non-reactivity to all the daily drama that goes on at an eating disorder hospital. And mostly, I need to practice connection without attachment. Buddha had it all right, after all.
My patients have beautiful souls. They make me laugh. They make me cry. They make me angry and irritated. They make me smile. They make me- well- me. This is who I am. I’m a healer. As one of my patients once said, “You’re like an ambassador of life!”
And so I think- Ambassador of LIFE? How can I pass THAT up???
Except as a clinician, it’s not about you. It’s about your patients. So I go back for all of them- past, present and future patients.
But not until Monday. 😉