How do you do self-care when your job is literally to care for others? How do you do care for others when you cannot care for yourself?
I know self-care is important because I have neglected it and sometimes feel like I’m falling apart at the seams. I spent a good portion of my life learning to hold in all of my icky parts and have spent years learning that holding it all together only leads to more of it spilling out at awkward times. My icky parts are my feelings and as the years have progressed I have learned that feelings are not icky. They are important and need paying attention to.
Feelings are as important as the pains and aches of life. A fever turns you towards a flu or doctor so tears should turn you towards the feeling and figuring it out. What makes you sad? Why are you happy? Do you know why you anger so easily or do you simply sweep it under the rug?
This week I was slapped in the face with my lack of self care. I had noticed it: it came in my inability to enter some rooms or my inability to see past my own pain.
So this week when I had learned that one of my favorite aunts was very sick and possibly even more sick than we thought. I couldn’t get past it. I couldn’t even go to rooms on my unit. I couldn’t sit in meetings and not think about losing her.
Being slapped in the face like that got me thinking about how I was caring for myself.
I was throwing myself into this internship, throwing myself into the work I must do and neglecting the inner workings of me. Sure when I lost it in a room or two I would take a moment to reclaim myself but what about those moments when I simply ignored it? What about those moments when I just let it go?
So on Thursday when I couldn’t force myself to go on the unit I asked one of my group members: Is it okay to say, “Today I can’t go”? Is it okay to say, “I need help today”? Is it okay to say, “I can’t come in because my mental health is at it’s breaking point”? Is that ever okay?
One of my fellow members, John, asked people all day long for help. He passed the pager on to someone else, asked me to go with him on a call and used us all to help him through it. What would he do when he was there alone? How would he get through it without us?
The time I spend on-call, I don’t worry about the job I do, I just do it but when I am not on call it’s harder for me. It’s harder and I’m not sure how to ask for the help that I need. It’s harder for me to say I need someone to go with me.
It’s almost as if the emotional drain of being on-call takes it’s toll and I do not wish to go into any more rooms, I don’t want to feel that anguish, I do not wish to subject myself to anymore emotional onslaught. I do not wish to cause myself anymore pain and going into those rooms is pain. It hurts my heart. It causes triggers each time, whether I realize it in the moment or if it takes weeks for me to realize it.
So how do I go back? How do I go on? I realized yesterday that this internship lasts for about two months more. How in the heck do I continue to go? How do I get myself to let go of the anguish and focus on the joy of hearing someone say, “That was a great prayer, thank you”? How do I get myself to go on?
This is a hard internship, much harder than any other so how do I continue to do the work I do without letting it consume my entire being?
How do I manage better self care?