It’s Better to Burn Out… Or Is It? Nah, Not Really.

Well, I’m finally headed back to see my therapist today, for the first time since November. It’s a little nerve-wracking. I feel like a dog with my tail between my legs, for no reason at all except that I stopped scheduling appointments with him out of the blue back in November and never sent an explanation, only to write him at the beginning of the month asking if he still had any availability to see me.

I’ve been under a lot of stress lately and it’s been impacting my mood pretty severely. Well, severely for me, which means cycling between feeling pretty OK and content with life to extreme existential questioning and frustration/anger with the world at large. I’ve been finding it harder to control my urges around sweets and comfort food, and I’m noticing a lot of tiredness and problems with sleep that wasn’t really happening earlier in the winter. I’m more easily frazzled and confused, my muscles in my back, shoulders & neck are all tensed up, and I’m starting to feel a little burnt out of school work and my internship. I’m not worried about my sobriety, but I feel like the rest of this stuff has to be at least moderately-well managed in order for me to continue feeling safe & secure in being sober.

I haven’t had a personal therapy session since November, though, and I can tell its definitely time. I think that personal therapy will be important for me to maintain on a somewhat consistent basis so long as I’m working in the mental health field, myself. Supervision and consultation sessions are nice, but they don’t really allow much space for the kind of processing and self-reflective work that needs to be done, which is where personal therapy comes into play.

Like, how do I manage my own feelings of depression and anxiety while working with people who need help with depression and anxiety?

Like, how do I put up effective personal boundaries in my day-to-day life, so that my work as a therapist doesn’t permeate every single other aspect of my life?

Like, why do my moods cycle up and down so often? And why do I cycle between extreme discomfort with intimacy & a strong desire for intimacy?

Like, what harmful or dysfunctional patterns am I repeating in my life without knowing?

Like, how does my personal history of trauma impact my ability to be present, aware, and non-assumptive with my clients?

Like, how can I process my own trauma without trying to conceptualize it from the perspective of being a therapist? i.e. how can I just sit in the therapy chair and be a client? I’ve done it before. But now that I’ve been working as a therapist for 9 months, I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to be in the other chair.

During group supervision at my internship today, someone said something that stuck out: “We didn’t actually choose this line of work; this line of work–mental health, counseling–it chose us long before we even had the words to understand what it was. People were coming to us for help long before we had the words to describe rapport or empathic listening. Now, we’re doing what we’ve always done, just with the understanding of our legal, professional, and ethical requirements.”

This was both comforting and stressful to hear. I’ve always felt like a mediator, listening ear, and people-pleaser in my personal life. This is often to my own detriment, but also to my own personal growth. This is why my pursuit feels both natural and completely alien to me: I am introverted and independent and crave my solitary time, yet I feel compelled toward a line of work that puts me in front of people day after day, week after week, year after year, where I will need to muster the strength, compassion, and knowledge to show up for them time and time again.

All while balancing my own need to show up for myself, every single day, week after week, year after year.

The learning curve is steep and I am tired. Most days, I want nothing more than to crawl up into bed and take several naps. I want the summer sun. I want to feel like smiling is natural again, and that intimacy isn’t scary, and that I can allow myself to be deeply touched by my client’s stories without falling all the way in.

Mostly, though, I just want a damn minute to drink my coffee and talk to my therapist without feeling like I need to be a therapist in return.

Big breath & sigh. I am 642 days sober, according to my handy little app, and am staring down the barrel of 2 years this July. It’s cool. I am proud. And I’m still learning to take everything one single day at a time.

3 thoughts on “It’s Better to Burn Out… Or Is It? Nah, Not Really.

  1. Lily 🌷 says:

    I think it’s really important that you have decided to get some personal therapy. A place to challenge yourself safely and put down some of the burdens you carry. Will you get a break soon? A holiday where there are no expectations of you? 🌷xx


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