Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Let's have real talk

I am still alive!!! As I mentioned in my last post, I am traveling for the month of October, visiting beloved friends and family that I will not be able to see for at least the next year, barring they decide to make the journey to Japan...which I hope they do!!! It has been a lovely trip so far, with stops in Tampa, Las Vegas, Boston, and now Newark, Delaware, where I am writing this from my dear friends' kitchen while munching on a delish homemade pumpkin chocolate chip muffin, preparing to head to Washington, DC this afternoon. It has been two weeks of feeling overwhelmingly loved and joyfully throwing myself into the daily lives of the people I adore. Except for those three crazy days of splurging and pampering and gluttony in Vegas...nothing "daily life" about that, which is exactly as it was meant to be. Indulge me in some photosharing:

It was my job to police this cheese-related meltdown. I may have just taken pictures instead. :)
Breakfast in the boonies. Best kind. Oh, unless it's room service. I love room service.

The joys of a 3-year-old's enthusiasm. "Hulk smash!!" has never been so adorable.

Escape to Vegas. Yeah, we're amazing.
Exploring New England, doing some "leaf peeping"...that's a real thing! 
This is only the second time I have ever seen fall colors!
A lovely day at the pumpkin patch with my dear college family
A new friend acquired during the splurgey days of Vegas. :)
It has been two and a half weeks since I quit my job, and as a result of my current jaunt, I am finally starting to gradually feel like myself again. Some of you may have wondered what exactly has prompted such a dramatic shift in direction in my life, ditching my life as a nursing home psychologist in Florida to be an English teacher in Tokyo...actually I know this is true, because some of you have actually asked me "What has prompted such a dramatic shift in direction in your life?" Or something to that effect. You know what I'm saying.

Here's the truth: I need a break. Those four words took a long time to fully embrace and accept and admit the truth of to myself. I have lived my life as an extremely productive, self-sufficient, and capable person. Every goal I have ever set for myself has been accomplished, and generally in spectacular fashion. I am used to feeling successful and strong and able. So it took a very long time for me to acknowledge the true depth of the burnout I was experiencing, that I couldn't just "power through" it, and that drastic measures would be required to fully correct the situation.

As I have mentioned previously, my life has undergone some pretty extreme change in the last couple of years, with some pretty severe and emotionally draining consequences. Add to that the completion of my doctorate in clinical psychology (no small task!!), and three years as a nursing home psychologist where I've carried a very heavy caseload both in terms of number of patients (average 60-75 visits a week) and the fact that they tend to drop dead on a regular basis, which is NOT MY FAVORITE THING IN THE WORLD.

So even though I have been very vigilant and diligent (wow, try saying that five times fast) about taking care of myself, surrounding myself with supportive people, taking vacations and mental health days and federal holidays even though I don't work for the government anymore, it caught up with me. Hard. Reaching into my emotional reserves day after day to provide "unconditional positive regard" and empathy and love and care for 30-40 broken people twice a week...well, those reserves got depleted. And reaching into an empty well, finding you have nothing left to give, and giving it anyway...I can't even begin to explain how terrible that feels. How many days did I get dressed for work, only to find I was unable to will myself to go? How many times did I sit in the parking lot requiring a pep talk from a friend to get out of the car and actually walk into the nursing home? How many afternoons found me hiding in the bathroom at work to have a moment to cry and collect myself? A LOT. And all the while feeling IT SHOULDN'T BE SO HARD. I SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO THIS. But these were all LIES. Lies that kept me pushing far longer and far harder than I should have.

And so I've wised up. I may have been a little slow on the uptake, and let things get worse than they should have, and may have needed to be beat upside the head with a rock to accept that it is okay to back off, to step away, to REST. And maybe I really don't need to go so far as to move to Japan for a year...that could be a teensy bit of overkill on my part...but I'm nothing if not thorough!! And the idea of not bearing even the smallest bit of responsibility for the emotional state of others sounds simply heavenly. I know that I will come back to my work as a psychologist in some capacity in the future...but for now, I'm going to take this opportunity to replenish my reserves and embrace this crazy adventure and see where it takes me.

I have lots more to say about this, but I've got a train to catch! Until next time, my lovelies: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES! I really mean it!!

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