Eight pairs of eyes stared back at me as I asked how the last 40 days of COVID-19 had been. We aren’t kidding when we tell our clients how hard finding the courage to be vulnerable is…It’s hard to practice ourselves. One therapist glanced at the floor, glanced back up and said “this has been really hard”. Looks that echoed that sentiment followed.
In mentioning how tough being a “first responder” can be, guilt came over like a wave. There was an immediate sense of our jobs as therapists are not as important or that I was wrong to compare. But not acknowledging the fact that we are indeed first responders continues the stigma that mental health is somehow second best compared to our physical health.
March 13th I sat completely paralyzed by doom, grief and sadness. I was completely inundated with information. I was scavenging to try to make “the right” decisions for my employees and the clients that we serve. I was swimming in a sea of politics, telehealth and the fear that comes with owning a small business during COIVD-19. The under current was strong. I was lectured two weeks later by my mom for not returning her phone calls. The fact was when I wasn’t working, which was most of the time, I wasn’t really able to move. Everything was in slow motion. You see there is no PPE for a mental health therapist. There is no mask for your brain or sanitizer for your soul.
I realized then I would need to change up not only my self-care plan, but how I was viewing my work. I was and I am a first responder in the COVID-19 crisis and that means my self-care HAS to be different. I started to touch in with my neighbors frequently. I have honored my mother’s request and called once a week, regardless of my schedule. I have increased my mileage when running and started doing yoga six days a week. I take a moment each night to find gratitude and soak up vitamin D when the sun is out. I increased writing to my grandmother to twice a week and hug my pup a bit tighter knowing he is my quarantine companion.
While we as therapists didn’t have to problem solve the ventilator shortage we did have to carry your anxiety, grief, fear, loneliness and confusion. We did have to help you problem solve where to get your next meal. We did have to problem solve helping families become schools and how to talk to your kids about social distancing. We did help problem solve child abuse and domestic violence during a stay at home order.
If you have a therapist make sure to thank them. If you know a therapist send them a virtual hug or a note of encouragement. If you are a therapist, take care of yourself and know you are not alone.