AwareNow: Issue 7: The Return Edition

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KRISTEN: Is it harder to take on so much of the same topic (Covid) in your sessions while experiencing similar struggles yourself? JENNY: This is a resounding ‘yes’. Under normal circumstances the struggles of my patients are varied. Of course, they still are, but always under the umbrella of the pandemic. I am having similar conversations with many of them. And like you mentioned, I have some of the same struggles. This can be a great point of connection, but if I’m not careful, I can feel overwhelmed and unsteady myself. This period has forced me to re-examine what self care means. I have had days where I feel like I have failed as a therapist. I cry, I feel helpless. Then I realize I am exhausted and need to eat, sleep, be alone, hug my family, stretch my body or something else that I have been personally neglecting. And that’s the conversation I am having with patients, too. KRISTEN: What are some tools that you often give your patients to help cope during these challenging times that you also need to remind yourself to practice? JENNY: This has been a strange time because I am typically a “tool-free” kind of therapist. I generally work with people to develop insight, deepen their frustration tolerance, and learn to hold steady in uncertainty. A lot of that kind of work is just sitting in ambiguity over and over and over again and learning how to cope. Now, though, I have had to learn the art of tools! I am learning with my patients together. For many, we have found that creating structure helps. Literally writing a schedule for the day. For some, this means writing in lunch hours, making a point to wear work clothes even from their couch, or committing to a 6pm walk every single day. In general, though, I find myself repeating a few key phrases to them and to myself. One of which is that it is ok to expect less of ourselves right now. Our resource availability has changed, so will our output. KRISTEN: What’s your opinion on the “what’s next”? All the unknowns of what’s to come and what our world will look like as a result of this pandemic? JENNY: This is a tough one for me. Much of what I do right now with patients is assisting them to shy away from jumping ahead to what’s next. We have to deal with what we know. Right now we know that there is still so much we do not know! On my good days, I see this as a great opportunity to practice the art of surrender. On my bad days the future can feel dismal. I do believe there will be lasting impressions from this time on many of our psyches. This pandemic has ruptured the illusion of safety for many. Not only from a health perspective, but from a leadership and governmental perspective. When trust is broken, it is very, very hard to restore it. I also believe that we have a lot of collective mourning to do. We don’t grieve in crisis, we grieve in the quiet after. I hope people understand and are prepared for that phase of recovery. It won’t just be a simple return. Overall, my hope is that I can stay strong enough to avoid the gravity pull of “I Have The Answers” and stay observational and open to what happens moment by moment. After all, it is my job to sit with suffering, not to pretend I know how to solve it.