Work, Sleep, and Other Ridiculous Things

This coming Monday is the first day of my last year of school. I start my internship on Monday, and with that comes the return to the whirlwind of learning, stretching, bending, breaking, and re-making myself again. I will be interning with the county this time around, at their mental health clinic/partial hospitalization program. I feel a different kind of scared than I did when I first set out as an intern at my previous placement–the substance abuse program.

This time, I carry with me a reminder of the things I didn’t do particularly well at my last internship, and a larger toolbox of things I can use to make this round (hopefully) go a bit smoother. I’ve now got a deeper understanding of trauma-informed therapies, and body-focused therapies. I’m not as quick to internalize and blame myself when things don’t go as planned. I feel much, much more confident now than I did a year ago.

And yet, still, there’s this weird sense of anxiety that has been trailing me since I walked out of my internship on my last day back in late April. It was a particularly difficult day, and a couple of clients in my last group of the day were testing the boundaries with me in every way they knew how. I left feeling defeated, and angry. I wanted to yell at them, but instead contained my anger into a sort of dismissing silence that I’m not proud of. They knew they got to me, and to make things better (or worse), they told me that I shouldn’t even care anyway, since I was leaving.

I was so frazzled and upset that I couldn’t bring myself together enough to fully benefit from the yoga class I went to right after I left that day. I spent the evening with my boyfriend eating ramen and ranting about how frustrated I was, how tired I was, how glad I was to be done. I just wanted to cry. I’d spent 9 months doing the best I could, and not always doing very well anyway. I felt bested.

It’s 4 months later, and I am nervous. I am trying to recall all of the beautiful, genuine moments I had with clients, rather than the moments that made me feel awful inside. I am trying to reconcile my dreams of being a therapist with the reality I’m faced with as an early-career mental health worker. The fact that I am working with folks who need such intensive help, who deserve to be working with professionals who have years of experience and training under their belts, and yet they get…me. Someone who walked into this field with a dream and a plan to just keep doing the next best thing until that dream was realized… who is now coming to terms with the fact that there are as many difficult, ugly, heart-wrenching experiences as there are beautiful, soulful, and fulfilling…

I am coming to terms with what it means to be in the helping profession, after years of working almost exclusively with non-human systems, in an effort to make more money, sell more things, or earn more “influence” on the web.

My mind is caught in the middle of my career up-til-now, and my career from here-on-out. It’s causing me a lot of emotional and physical pain. I am stressed. I want to find a pressure release valve, yet I feel my body slowly shirking away from my favorite forms of physical activity. I feel weak.

Among other stressors in my life, like the uncertainty in my relationship and all the regular financial/day-to-day concerns, I have been having some of the worst sleep of my life this summer and I can’t quite figure out why.

Often, I get terrible bouts of insomnia on nights when my boyfriend sleeps over. He’s not a particularly loud or disruptive sleeper. In fact, he’s relatively quiet and self-contained. But since sometime in late May, weeks after my internship ended, I have had so many troubled nights of sleep. So much so that I will sometimes crawl onto the floor in an effort to toss and turn without disturbing him, or I will take my pillow and go to the couch in the living room downstairs. It’s embarrassing. I often feel like I ruin a completely good Saturday for myself by entertaining a buzzing mind until 3 or 4 in the morning.

On nights when he doesn’t sleep over, my sleep is a bit better, but I am still waking up fatigued more often than not. It doesn’t seem to matter if I get 9 hours of sleep or 6, I keep waking up feeling as though I’d been running circles in my sleep. My Fitbit tracker often shows me as waking up several times a night for more than 3 or 4 minutes at a time, and my deep sleep/REM phases are often disturbed.

All of this has been occurring even with daily exercise and leisurely reading and plenty of socializing. On nights when my insomnia is at its worst, I often want to just lay there and cry. This past Friday, as I laid still in bed, my heart started racing to nearly 90 beats a minute, until I was sweating.

I don’t know what’s going on. Yet. I am most certain it is a mixture of my relationship confusion, my vocational questioning, and my natural inclination toward neuroticism. Eating more sugar than normal, sleeping in the top floor of a house with no air conditioning, and scrolling through my phone late at night definitely isn’t helping, either.

As with most things I’ve learned in the last few years, the pain, the anxiety, the insomnia, and the professional quandaries aren’t going to disappear on their own. Ignoring them isn’t going to make them better. Continuing to eat like garbage and do things that I know aren’t going to make sleep easier is an obvious fix.

So, why then, is it so hard?

I’m not sure. I think I should figure it out. I’ve got only a little bit of time left before I need to be back in my therapist state-of-mind.

For now, though, I’m going to go hang out with my hedgehog and watch some Netflix. Maybe I’ll even meditate a little before bed.

❤ Em

3 thoughts on “Work, Sleep, and Other Ridiculous Things

  1. heathermangan says:

    Although I am new to the mental health profession, I think what you experiencing in stress and hesitation about your new internship is really normal. It’s a taxing field, and you have to build yourself over and over. Sending you lots of support as you figure it all out!

    Liked by 1 person

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