Clinician Heal Thyself

Rebecca Zalona, #113504 on May 02, 2022 in Mood and Feelings

I'm a clinician. In session, people tell me their problems. I validate, reflect, empathize. I remind them of the context — the backdrop of the last 20 months — fear, uncertainty, new normals, masks, unmasked, vaccines, anti-vaxers, elections, murders, riots. It’s okay to feel anxious, it’s okay to feel depressed, it’s okay to feel listless — you’re not alone.

I reflect on my own inner thoughtlife. I forget the context of fear, death, and civil unrest. I lie to myself: The problem is you. You’re too sensitive. Other adults can go to the grocery store, do laundry, make dinner without it being a predictable saga, an internal battle of responsibilities vs. feelings — it rarely feels like there’s room for both.

I forget my training, I forget my tools, I forget to have self-compassion, and I try to bully myself into a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps-git-'er-done attitude. I deny my experience that life often feels too loud, too bright, too crowded, too hot. Everyone radiates energy, and it burns my skin. It doesn’t feel okay.

TikTok told me I’m neurodivergent and I’m not alone. I watch other people smile and go outside and I forget what I felt like pre-quarantine. I forget what it feels like to feel safe away from my house hours on end. I forget what it feels like not to feel like being inside my little home is the only safe place. I've lost the ability to create safe space in my body and bring that out with me anywhere in the world. I want to rise with energy and gusto to greet the day. I don't want to drag my feet; I don't want the tapestries of anxiety and dread and depression to decorate my existence.

The gentleness I offer my clients is meant for me too. I can deal myself the grace card; I can be unspeakably kind and gentle and patient. I can accept I’m not where I’d like to be but fall back on the fundamental knowledge that people change and grow. This hope is meant for me too.

Something helpful to myself and others is to remember:

  • This too shall pass — it always does.
  • Snuggle up in bed if you need to. Rest, nap, cry, watch something familiar and comforting.
  • Grab your emotional support friends (one of mine is my cat Nancy Drew).
  • When the feelings are too big, open a window to let them out.
  • Go outside; feel the elements of nature and breathe. Try this 4-4-8 breathing technique for grounding and relaxation.
  • Place right hand on heart, left hand on belly. Tell yourself, “I gotchu, I have your back.”
  • Rinse and repeat.

Rebecca Zalona is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Santa Cruz, CA.

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