overwhelmed

OMG!!! I Really Need to Take a Frickin’ Chill-Pill…


Thursday, 4/6/17

Something happens to me as I go back to the intern office after my therapy group.

I’m planning to go back to the office and pick up my stuff & realize there is another intern I must share my office with.  As the straw the breaks the camel’s back, I find myself frazzled and befuddled.  I struggled to grab my stuff quickly after inadvertently interrupting an individual session.  As I walked to my car I began to feel overwhelmed, my stress level increased and I worried about how this little change would affect my ability to cope.  With a 70+ hour work week, I don’t get a day off.  I look forward to the 10-30 minutes between session to calm my mind and pray a bit….

…The alternative made me shudder.  I remembered the first month when I had to carry a large overstuffed tote bag and find an empty conference room in a homeless shelter to run an individual therapy session. Inevitably, there would be people needing to use it so each session was in a different room so I was never in one space, carrying piles of paper from room to room….

So I ended up having an embarrassing emotional breakdown that all the interns and my supervisor had to witness.

In an effort to work through my stress regarding this potential change, I ended up feeling like the biggest boob.  However, they were all sweet and told me they would be there if I needed anything.

On the way home, I couldn’t help but note that this event is a clear evidence that I’m running on empty. The  brutal irony of this is it reflects the discussion I had during an individual and group therapy class.  I was in the same boat as my clients more than I wanted to admit. am not taking adequate care of myself & won’t get a day off until June.

FIRST, I pick my boys up from school.

we have this regular routine we do every single day first I get my piglet who is waiting by the front of the stairs for me and give them my phone so he can text a picture of himself to his dad and tell him about this day.   Right now, I’m dictating this post on my phone and watching my boy walk down the stairs.  He’s wearing his favorite little pink “cupcake hat” with the red fluffy puff on top while carrying his Batman cup and Lion King Tote bag, we got from when we were able to see the play in a local theater.

Honestly, with what I’ve been through with my two boys, I do remember to say I love you and ask them about my day, however I quickly fall into a habit of my “Git-er-Done” mode.  This involves picking them up and rushing home with a long to-do list in my head.  There is dinner to make, paperwork to complete, homework to do, and chores I have to nag my boys about, (fun fun!!).

THEN, We eat out at Culvers….

My youngest so tells me about a field trip they had today at Fontanelle Forest and how it was a lot of fun but he didn’t like the lunch they packed.  My oldest then explains the sticker on his shirt with numbers on it.  On this sticker it said my son was doing very well in school and one of the top-ranked students in his class.  Honestly, it surprised him that he was doing so much better than his classmates.  Then as the food came, silliness ensued as my boys blew straw paper another and stealing food from each others’ plates.  I silently watched the two-man comedy routine play before me and was grateful to have these two boys in my life.  As we made our way to the car, my oldest said thanked taking them out to eat and my youngest said I love you and gave me a hug before getting into the car….

…As I started to drive home, I couldn’t help but recall the stories I heard earlier that day in my therapy group.  I began to recall the stories, ladies in my group shared of how much they missed their children. The pain of begin separated from their kids brought up a mixture of palpable guilt, grief, loss, anxiety, and depression.  I couldn’t help but berate myself for failing to appreciate what I had right in front of me, given the fact that I hear these stories all day…

NOW, I Blog…

My husband is on the sofa watching a “Barrett & Jackson Car Show” while my youngest son reads a book on the floor and my oldest practices his new electric guitar.  I am typing away on my computer and trying to work my way through several dictated posts I made on my phone while in the car.  The random stream-of-thought narration are difficult to make sense of at times, but quite entertaining to read.   It is now Thursday evening and have to work tomorrow night.  After the weekend & a bit of rest on Monday, I can have time to begin to process what happened.  I expect to have a meeting with my supervisor again on Tuesday in order to provide updates on what transpired…

Tuesday 4/11/17…

It is now 2:50 & I’m in the car, rushing to get my boys picking them up from school by 3:20.

I’m leaving a bit later than I normally do and have to hurry to pick them up in time.   I had to stop &  talk with a fellow intern to process the thoughts and feelings after a meeting with my internship supervisor.  She was wonderful, prayed with me & shared some essential her oils with me.  I have to admit, it did help alleviate the nagging anxiety burning in my brain.

I now work six out of seven days.  Over the weekends, I work for a large hospital system float pool.  I get Monday to rest and recuperate from a three, 12 hour, night shifts.  Then on Tuesday, I begin the first of three days at my internship site.   The work weekend was better than previous weeks, but a good work friend was still grieving from the loss of her mother, and that did put a damper on things.  Monday came and went, too fast.  I usually arrive home at 8:00 a.m. after working and pass out on the sofa. I set an alarm for 2:30 to pick up the kids and am home by 3:30.  I end up going to bed early, since I’m still a bit jet-lagged from three successive night shifts…

As a result of this busy work-weekend, I had pushed memories of the events that had lead up to my emotional breakdown last Thursday.  This morning on the drive to my internship, a nagging anxiety started to build as I knew what was waiting.  My internship supervisor emailed me this weekend to so we could set a time on Tuesday to sit down and speak at greater length about what happened.  The last time we had talked, he was on his way to a therapy group and didn’t have time to talk at length.  During the 30-minute drive to my internship site, I had time to ruminate.  I wondered what the other interns told him  I began to wonder what the other supervisor was saying to him.  What sort of impression did I make?  Would they be willing to provide good recommendations to my future employers?   I cringed at the thought of what they might think of me.

At 9:00 a.m. this morning, my internship supervisor came into my office to express his concerns.

I discussed with him that I’m trying to be conscious of how I’m doing work on trying to take care of myself as best I can.  I reviewed my schedule and it’s overall impact.  He was very understanding and provide several bits of useful advice: (1) take care of yourself, (2) practice awareness of how you’re feeling, (3) live less in your head, & (4) keep him updated.

His understanding was very helpful and put me at ease.  However, as the conversation came to a close, he did feel a need to briefly mention something that he heard from the other supervisor that concerned him.   Apparently, as a result of everything that transpired, he said some people expressed concerns about me hogging the office.  Additionally, the other practicum student, who I walked into on Thursday, decided to complete her hours at another facility.

I responded with an apology, (even though I’m unsure if it was necessary) & explained I had no interest in keeping the office to myself.

I again iterated how everything that had transpired last week, reflected how overwhelmed I was.  I needed to continue finding ways to manage my well-being & level of self care.  In fact, I told him I missed sharing the office with Jill, because I feel so alone now.  It was the straw that broke the camels back after a series of unresolved stressors that loomed just below the surface.  I happened to walk into an individual session with with a client after a therapy group & was caught off guard.  I honestly didn’t know where the feelings came from & was surprised by my reaction.

During the remainder of the day, I try to push the nagging worries out of my mind, however random thoughts pop in from time to time. “What impression does everybody have of me?  Is there any hope of me restoring it?”  At the end of the day, on my way out the door I talk with a fellow intern, who provides lots of useful advice.  I find it does allay my worries for a period of time.   After I pick up my kids, I decided to pop over to my professor’s office to see if he’s available for a visit.  He helps normalize the events that transpired by sharing similar experiences.  Since he is a former policeman and military veteran, he has experiences with the type of emotional suppression I experience at work.  He states it is indeed normal, and common in my profession.  The real trick, is to learn and become more in touch with how you feel emotionally and tend to this aspect of your well-being.  He described a few breathing & mindfulness techniques as well as spiritual practices that can help me live less in my head….

What follows are a few random videos to watch when I start to feel overwhelmed…

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Pulling my Head out…..

I’m so F*CKING busy it really isn’t funny….

I’m currently in the 11th week of my second internship course.  As a full-time working mother with two young boys at home, I rarely get a day off.  I’m managing to maintain 60+ hours a week.  I work Friday-Sunday 7p-7a as a C.N.A.   I work at a homeless shelter providing individual and group therapy as a student therapist 8-3, Tuesday – Thursday.   I divide my spare time between: (1) family time, (2) conscientious self-care, and (3) mounds of paperwork….

I feel overwhelmed by how much I have to learn…

 I have just one more week left.  As I progress, I feel a burgeoning sense of ignorance:  the more I learn, the less I feel I know.  This perplexing experience leaves me feeling ambivalent.  I’ve worked so hard over the last five years to complete my graduate degree.   After spending half a decade cramming my mind with information, I feel at times it matters little when you get to the pragmatics of day-to-day direct client interaction.   There’s only so much you can learn about “how to be a therapist” from a textbook. When I expressed concern about the limitations of my current skill level, my supervisor joked: “Give it five years”….

So anyway, I started seeing a psychiatrist….

Until recently, I’ve had the same therapist.  I’m forever grateful for the personal growth I was able to achieve as a result of my experiences as her client.  However, in this last year I’ve desired to really understand the profound and lasting impact of past traumas in my life.  I searched for a psychiatrist who could provide a unique perspective on things.  Last Friday, I had my fourth session with this new psychiatrist & are just now moving beyond the initial “get to know you” process.   In our third session, I decided to take a risk with this new mental health professional & share honestly various aspects of earlier traumas: (things I’ve really resisted speaking with anyone).  To be honest, he’s the first person I’ve really opened up to honestly about these early experiences and their lasting impact on me.   Anyway, in our first session after sharing this information, I’m appreciative of the opportunity to reflect upon the impact of these experiences.  I walked away last Friday, with much to think about & reflect upon.

What follows are just a few random things I learned about myself after our last session… 

1st: Past experiences with emotional invalidation are still VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY big triggers…

The third session with my new psychiatrist was quite a pivotal moment.

I decided to be completely honest for the first time and share aspects of traumas that I had – until that moment – been unwilling to talk about with anybody.  During the week between my third and fourth session, many “interesting things came up”.

This session was on Friday at noon (its the only real time I have off where I’m not completely exhausted).  I was at my internship site Tuesday – Thursday.  I napped Friday morning since I had to work that night.  At 12:30 I had a session with my therapist & drove home afterwords to do some housework.  After picking up the kids from school I made dinner.

While getting ready for work, I started to feel depressed.  I didn’t quite understand why, and tried to push this feeling out of my mind.   It wasn’t until I started driving to work that the waterworks started.  I began to cry uncontrollably and had difficulty seeing the road.  While I wanted to call in, I realized a doing so “last minute” wasn’t feasible.  So I collected myself & went through the motions.  The weekend was a blur.  I did my job, came home and slept.  Before I knew it, Monday had come & I was just exhausted.  I slept all day and didn’t get off the sofa.

…Tuesday-Thursday rolled around again, and I was in the swing of another “work week.”  With a busy schedule filled with supervisory meetings, individual sessions, and group therapy meetings, I had a lot on my mind.  I struggled that week, feeling overwhelmed and anxious.  I wondered how I would be able to complete my internship….

Then Thursday evening came, & my husband surprised me by taking the afternoon off.

We spent the evening together: (a belated valentine’s).   I had a chance to breathe.   During this rare evening of “private time” with my hubby of 17+ years, I was finally able to stop and reflect on the past week.  He knows me like the back of his hand and could tell something has been wrong all week.  He expressed his concern to me: “you’ve been off all week, what’s up???”

When he asked this, I began crying. He held me a while and I told him: “I simply wonder if any of it was real? Or if it all was my fault & I’m the crazy one?”  He looked at me perplexed.  I provided the “cliff-notes version” of past traumas I’ve still struggled with.  I recalled, the most painful thing about the whole experience was the “gaslighting” nature of it all

  1. “All involved” acted on willful blindness, unable to acknowledge obvious fact that these shitty things happened to me and it was traumatic.
  2. Rather than acknowledging my feelings, I was blamed for what had happened. Somehow it was my fault and for that matter, my feelings were unjustified since “I did this to myself”.

And then the four session came up & I was able to finally process the feelings that came up during the last week.

I talked about everything that happened with a nervousness.  The idea of continuing with this level of honesty was terrifying.  However, my psychiatrist provided a sympathetic and calming presence, letting me somehow know it was okay.  During the course of our conversation, he questioned me at one point the meaning of the statement: “know what I mean?”   I was saying it frequently, stopping at points to make sure he was following me.  He reassured me he was, and understood completely.  “Was it rhetorical in nature?”  I stopped to ponder the question, unable to provide an honest answer.  A smile floated across my face as I was reminded of that famous Ernest quote: “know what I mean Vern?”

So what’s up with the “Know what I mean?” Question???

I do feel it is in part a rhetorical question, in the sense that it reflects the fact that I question the validity of my own past experiences.  Since nobody exists from my childhood, who is able to validate and fully understand the nature of my traumas, I wonder if it was really “all me”?  The logical part of my mind yells out “Pure idiocy” as these very words are being typed.  You see, I know logically, that the experiences are valid to me, as real, regardless of whether others are able to understand it.  The trauma was there, it was difficult, and painful, right?   YES, duh!!

However, the emotional part of my mind remains stuck as a little girl who simply was hurting, and didn’t understand the “gas-lighting” nature of things.  I felt I was what was wrong, it was my fault, & I’m the crazy one.  This is where the “know what I mean?” question reflects a desire to seek “safety”.  Will this person, I’m talking to invalidate my feelings??

2nd:  I appear to engage in a form of self-invalidation that reflects what I experienced in my childhood.

This brings me to the second major insight from my fourth session:  I engage in a form of self-invalidation that reflects early unresolved childhood experiences.  What’s pathetic is that while I’m already very aware I do this – I still do it.  WTF!?!?!  It appears that my desire for self-understanding, has yielded me an ability to write a book about myself, and little else.  It appears intellectual self-understanding, cannot really replace true healing.

3rd:  my favorite defense mechanisms are: (1) intellectualization, (2) denial & (3) dissociative emotional numbing.

Yup, I do these things.  As you can see by the content in this blog, I’m a “nerd-girl” art heart.  I get this tendency to intellectualize from my parents:  As doctors, their education and intellect was a superb defense.  It allowed them to create the perfect defensive armor.  They were flawed human beings lurking underneath a veneer of intelligence & merit-based respect.  As for the denial & dissociation, I have this disturbing ability to hold outside my mind the very feelings that have overwhelmed me.

NOW WHAT!?!?!

I have to keep reminding myself its not the journey, its the destination.  It seems like I’m an onion: you peel away one layer, and another arises.   Jere are a few things I am going to work on:

FIRST, I need to work on a relationship with “the man upstairs”

SECOND, I need to follow Bessel Van Der Kolk’s advice:  “You need to find some way where your body once again feels like ‘I am in control of myself.'”

THIRD, I need to apply what I learn to my future therapy practice.


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I hate my fucking job….

On the surface, this blog post appears to represent a brief piss-n-moan session.  However, it also reflects my hopes for the future.  As I reach the end of my educational journey, I am starting to see the finish line just over the horizon.

I am a full-time working mother who is also in graduate school.  I work at a homeless shelter as an intern, providing individual & group therapy to clients with substance use and mental health issues.  I also work as a C.N.A on the weekends (Friday – Sunday, 7p – 7a).   When I’m not at my internship or job, I spend my time as the domestic goddess (trying to live up to the roles of wife & mother).  I rarely get a day off and am overwhelmed by the endless and relentless pace of it all.  I need a break but see none in sight until I graduate this summer. I just need to hold on a little longer…

What follows is a little list of things I get to say goodbye to once I finish my degree & find a job… 🙂

I am a “Certified Nurse Assistant” (aka professional ass wiper).  I work three back-to back 12-hour shifts over the weekend.  Since my husband works Monday through Friday 8-5, it’s been a practical solution to avoiding daycare.  However, pragmatism doesn’t necessarily yield happiness.

From the moment I get to work I am “hitting the ground running”.  I joke to my patients I’m their “personal gopher”.  If they need it, push the button and I’ll get it for them.  Intermingled within assigned tasks (vitals, blood sugars, etc), are nurse’s requests and call lights.  I’m frazzled by this constant pushing and pulling of my time.  Everyone needs something, they want it now, and don’t understand I have others to attend to.

…and I can’t blame my patients for this really. The old lady with a bad hip & bladder control problem can’t help it that she needs to go hourly.  The man down the hall who has a colonoscopy in the morning can’t help it that he’s having endless “code browns” for me to clean up.

Honestly, cleaning up patients after they soil the bed is really “no big deal”.  I am accustomed to it.  However, it does get old.  I can’t wait for the day when I can say “I’m dome!”

“No more of this shit” 🙂

Believe it or not, it isn’t the human excrement that I hate most.  I dislike how my personal needs slip into the background of my mind as I work hard to provide good care to others.  As I rush from one task to another I think to myself: “I would like the change my tampon, I’m hungry, my feet are killing me.”  I struggle to push aside these thoughts while with the client.  Because I have keep up with the pace of the work and respond to everyone’s needs in a timely manner.

I am a hamster running on a treadmill chasing a carrot on a stick….

For even the most patient of souls, the never ending nature of catering to others’ needs can wear thin on one’s mind.  I do it literally, all the time.  Presenting a pleasant bedside manner requires me to set personal needs aside.  This is often easier said than done….

Maybe I’m sick of the lazy nurse who runs me ragged & refuses to help out with a call light because I’m with another patient. I politely ask for help and remember to thank her for getting that, while seething inside.
or maybe there’s this feisty old lady with Alzheimer’s & a vicious temper. She lets loose an endless barrage of insults, because I won’t leave her alone. My mind fills with anger & frustration over the fact that I can’t reason with her. All I can do is my job, and explain again in the calmest voice I can muster, I’m just here to care for her.
The point is, after 36 hours on the job over a work-weekend, I become filled with these frustrations.  They remain pent-up & unresolved.

 I feel like a bomb about to explode.

Here is a link to a recent post I did of the typical confused patient I’m asked to sit with at work.  Just imagine sitting with somebody like this for a full 12-hour shift.  It gets old very quickly.  Over the course of 15 years on the job, I have seen many patients like this one.  Oftentimes, this sort of behavior is attributable to confusion.   Therefore, the client can’t be held responsible for this sort of behavior.  Consequently, my response in this situation is to: (1) ensure patient safety; (2)  reorient when possible; (3) and maintain agitation by responding promptly to patient needs.

However, a snag I run into pertains to my PTSD diagnosis.  Over the years, I’ve encountered a few verbally abusive & agitated patients that remind me of earlier traumas.  As a bullied child, the constant putdowns from classmates left me with zero self-esteem. I endured high school in a state of complete isolation & para-suicidalit  (primarily due to the fact that I didn’t want my sister to be the one who found the body).  After years of “white knuckling” on the inside, I couldn’t wait to graduate.  However college didn’t yield anything better since I landed in a four-year abusive relationship in my sophomore year.

I drudge up these old memories only to note that verbal abuse like this can be a trauma trigger.  Certain things can produce intrusive memories, and along with it, a wave of old emotional flashbacks.   In the years since being in therapy, EMDR & self-awareness has helped tremendously.  However, I can still become depressed, frustrated and anxious when on the receiving end of psychologically abusive behavior from patients for a length of time @ work.

When I quit this job, I will no longer be forced to endure this verbal abuse….

…Instead, my past will have a purpose in a positive manner while helping others….

Last year I was assaulted at work while working as a safety advocate for a schizophrenic patient.  He beat me several times in the head as I tried my best to keep him from crawling out of bed.  The whole incident flew by fast & occurred within the first 30 minutes of my arrival.   I entered the room full of anxiety & dread.  I didn’t feel safe in the room alone with him, however knew staff would not listen to my concerns since they were short-staffed & everybody was still getting a shift report.

What’s so fucked up, is while this guy kept punched me in the head, I didn’t think to pull away or defend myself. I was only thinking about my job & not getting in trouble for letting the guy fall. I stayed there and “took it like a man”.

The guy didn’t crawl out of bed..

However, I was punched several times & went home an emotional wreck.

When I quit this job, I no longer have to put myself in harms way.

I work every weekend & if my shift falls on a holiday, I have to work it.  I am not allowed to take time off.   Since my family has a regular schedule, we are like “passing ships in the night”.  My sons have school Monday – Friday, 8-3.  My husband works 8-5.  I either nap during the day, do homework, or clock internship hours.  They get to spend the weekend together while I work at night & sleep all day.

It depresses me, knowing I that we never get a whole day to spend together.

When I quit this fucking job, I get my weekends back.

What I hate most about this job is it reflects a decision based on circumstance & necessity.   It pays really well & the hours are conducive to the completion of my graduate education.  However, it is also a circumstantial byproduct of trauma.  I was bullied as a child so badly that survival became a priority over education.  My childhood is filled with missed opportunities of wasted potential.

My childhood bullies altered the course of my life, left me traumatized & robbed me of my potential….

Things didn’t improve in college, when I found myself in an abusive relationship,  Driven forward by the impact of unresolved childhood trauma, I was again in survival mode.  Intent on running away from my problems, I didn’t yet understand I was carrying them within….

At the hands of an abusive asshole, I lost the opportunity of a normal college experience & an education of my choosing.

My parents were too focused on their careers to provide assistance.  I honestly feel, they sacrificed my well being for their career pursuits.  Quitting their job or cutting back their work hours was unthinkable.  Didn’t they know how “bad off” I was?  I guess not.  Part of me will never forgive them for failing to be there.

Upon the altar of their careers, is the sacrificial lamb of my childhood..

This education provides me a chance to realize my full potential & reclaim it….

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