I ended up in the ER last week, stitches to my right (dominant) hand, resulting from a losing battle with a broken glass. Exiting the hospital at 11:30pm, I was faced with a decision – to go, or not to go, to work the next day? Self-care I can trumpet to my clients, but oh-how-complicated it becomes as I face my own choices. This blog entry is about my own journey navigating an acceptable balance between my professional and personal responsibilities. I hope that it might help “normalize” this challenge for other clinicians, dedicated, as I am, to the clients we serve.
Facts: I have 3 stitches in my hand. I am not in any amount of inordinate pain as a result. I have almost 7hrs of sleep available to me. I have a fairly full schedule tomorrow including clients without telephones or other means of contact. It is only one more day of work before the weekend. I just spent two plus hours in the hospital (second one I visited – first one, the ER was closed). It would help to keep the wound dry and immobilized for at least 24hrs. I am mad at myself for what I consider a stupid, unnecessary injury. What to do?
My old self, the “suck it up, your clients have dealt with more on a daily basis” was dominating my thought process. My newer, more hesitant, self-doubting self was gently questioning the need to “push through” my own thoughts and feelings – what about self-care? What does that mean, anyway? How do we decide what constitutes a “self-care” moment from a “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” moment?
The answer (for me) is that there is no one answer – each moment, situation and decision needs to be assessed on its own. Are we not constantly honouring that concept as we meet each client “where they are at?” Applying that same process to our own experience however can, and usually does, bring up our own issues. I personally think that’s a very good thing.
For me, in my family of origin, the mantra was “suck it up”. Being tough was equated with being a successful human being. People who whined, complained, or played the “victim” were not taking control of their lives. My personal and professional beliefs were in harsh conflict with each other.
Now only 5 and 1/2 hours of sleep available…
I decided to take the next day off. Making the decision was easy – processing it, not so much. Part of what helped me decide was choosing to look within, take a moment to assess my own needs, and not feel apologetic about prioritizing my own self-care. We are helpers – we have chosen a profession that can be perceived as self-sacrificial in nature. I challenge that. I truly believe that by taking care of ourselves, we allow others to do the same; friends, family, and clients. We communicate, through our actions, our deepest beliefs about self-love. When we honour our own needs, we allow others to do the same. Powerful stuff – much more powerful than the words we speak. In fact, it really is how we live and the choices we make that shows others the self-worth we feel. And, as a result, creates space for them to do so as well.
Stitches and all, I am grateful for this learning that has enabled me to look within, question my core beliefs, and choose my own way. I slept in, watched movies, drank coffee and generally lounged about. I even got my boyfriend to do the dishes, despite the pang of guilt I felt when asking (yes, I’m still learning…).
I love the work I do. I am honoured to work with the people that entrust me with their deepest fears, regrets, uncertainties and doubts. If I model self-love, how can that possibly be bad? I encourage all of us, myself included, to take care of ourselves without apology. We are committed to helping. Let us commit that helping to include everybody – including ourselves.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA