It's November and 2 years ago, around this time, I sunk into a deep dark depression which was preceded by a panick attack after a particuarly distressing session with a client. I had allowed my work to take up all my energy resources, both emotionally and physically.
Other people went off with stress, but I prided myself that I wasn't one of them. So, for me to accept and acknowledge that I needed some time off wasn't easy.
Also I am surrounded by some very strong and resilient colleagues who are so passionate about what they do, that I felt guilty about not being able to carry on.
I have to admit, I do get ground down by the stark realities of my role, and every now and then I want to disappear for a while and hide from the despair that goes with my job.
I am feeling that familiar feeling of helplessness and distress at the moment. I have let my work get on top of me, I am not good at protecting myself from other people's emotional turmoil, and I have allowed my emotional resources to be drained. I have let my client's project their unhappiness onto me and now I am suffering.
I am feeling guilty that I feel like this when my colleagues are able to stay strong and detatched. I am walking in the office each day projecting my gloom and emotional tiredness onto them and I feel guilty about that too.
Most of the time, I find it a priviledge to be doing what I do. When people who have not met me before, and do not know me from Adam, let me into their lives, and trust me I feel humbled and truly hounoured.
I was listeining to Desert Island Discs the other day,and heard Lord Victor Adebowale. What an inspiring man. He founded Centrepoint, the charity that provides support for young homeless people, and has devoted the last decade to overseeing services for people who are homeless, suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, mental health illness or learning disabilities.
He talked about the pride he feels when sitting alongside the people he has supported and continues to support. He compared the fact that many people spend their lives trying to get power over others, to the fact that people come to services like his and mine, and hand us power to help them change their lives.
And I do agree with him that when you see someone turn their life around and make positive changes, it is a real priviledge and very rewarding.
He said he doesn't get worn down.
I'm afraid that's just fed into my guilt and frustration that I do and am, worn down. I feel more guiltly right now, because I am part time. I work with wonderful colleagues, all of whom are full time, and some of whom, do not have the emotional or physical support that I do. I have Rob which is why I can afford to be part time, and in whom I vent alot of my frustration and despair.
My Friends and colleagues, do not have the luxury of a partner to bring in a 2nd higher wage so they have no option but to work full time, however they seem able to cope better than I even though I am part time.
The truth is staring at me in the face, and has been doing so since I had that mini breakdown.
It is glaringly obvious that I am not cut out for this kind of work. I love it when I am on top and I find it incredibly rewarding and energizing,even, when I am coping.
However, for much of the time, probably, the majority of the time, I find it drains the life out of me and I want to run and hide.
This is where I am right here, right now. I am feeling unwell from the stress of dealing with people who face such difficulty and emotional and physical challenges.
I have tomorrow off, and I am going to go out for a long walk, do some deep breathing, make some banana bread, see a good friend and just ground myself again.
And I will remind myself to be grateful that I have what is right here, right now, in this moment, and that is the inner strengh I have which will me find the outer strengh to carry on supporting my clients.
I need to take comfort and support from what is around me, all those things at the heart of this blog:
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Steams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this is, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare
(Leisure, by WH Davies)
As I have touched on before, we make our own rules and if we place high expectations on ourselves, then we are going to fall.
It doesn't help me to feel guilty that I am struggling within my job role right now and I have to challenge those irrational thoughts of guilt and with the more rational thinking that everything we feel is relevent to us.
I am not as emotionally resiliant as my colleagues and I need to accept that and give myself some time to gather my emotional strengh up. That may mean that I simply need to give myself a few days at work when I don't see as many clients, or it might be that I just need to take some leave.
What I need to do however, is stop feeling guilty because that may just help me to recover from this period of self - doubt and inability. Guilt doesn't work. It is a disabling emotion, not an enabling one. It is negative and holds us back. Guilt weakens our spirit because it creates a conflict inside us. For me, it is how I want to be (emotionally strong and resilient and able to protect myself from the projections of other people's distress), and how I am (unable to put adequate barriers up to protect myself from taking on other people's despair and, as a result becoming run down).
If we set ourselves high standards, we beat ourselves up when we fail to meet them, so we need to lower them and make it easy on ourselves, therefore giving us fewer opportunities to feel guilty.
Guilt is very restricting and as I have touched on in another post, I am good at believing that I "should" do things to compensate for something or other.
For many years, I felt guilty that I had met a wonderful man and for the life we had created together. I didn't feel deserving of what I had so I compensated by pursuing the line of work I am in now. I felt like I "should" help others and so it is, that for over 10 years, I have been supporting people to realise their hopes and dreams and to fulfill their potential. However, far from easing my guilt, I continue to feel guilty because I come across people who experience such hopelessness and disappointment with their life, that I feel guilty for my life!
So it is, that this guilt drags me down.
I Feel guilty that I am able to be part time when my colleagues have to work full time. So I compensate by putting in extra hours, staying late, not taking a lunch break or coming in early.
And so it is, that this guilt makes me ill because I take on too much!
I feel guilty that my wonderful husband has to go to work every day for long hours, while I have a day off at home and a day to partake in a voluntary role that he would love to have the opportunity to do. So I compensate by trying to get all household things done rather than focus on my interests and activities.
And so it is, that I get frustrated because I don't get to do what I want.
And I want to highlight here, that my gorgeous husband in no way contributes to my feelings of guilt. He actively encourages me to pursue my interests such as writing this blog, gardening, running, walking, arts and crafts, but it doesn't matter how much he tells me not to feel guilty for having the time to pursue them, I still do!
This blog is about my journey to find my vocation, my inner peace and contentment and...............TO STOP FEELING GUILTY and TO JUST BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT I HAVE AND AM ABLE TO DO!
I have just looked back through my previous posts and have noticed that I have mentioned feeling guilty in both my first post and twice in my 2nd post and then once again in my 5th post.
It is definately a theme that appears runs through my life.
Guilt is optional and it causes conflict within ourselves and resemtment towards others, both of which I am experiencing right now, as I battle with my self to carry on or take some time out, and with the feelings I am experiencing towards my clients that they have made me feel like this.
It is not their fault, I have failed to protect myself, I have tried to give too much to ease the guilt I have over how much I have and it has backfired again.
I do my clients, and myself no favours because if I go off ill, they will suffer, however, if I start to put protective factors in place now so that I avoid being drained of any more emotional resources, I can continue to have the emotional capacity to carry on supporting them without disrupting our work together too much.
So, I will focus on staying in the moment, being grateful for what I have rather than feeling guilty for it and encourage my clients to also see what they have rather than what they haven't.
They have the moment as much as I do. The natural world is on their doorstep as much as it is on mine. They have the possibility of making a change with my support and the support of others, and they have opportunity.
I have seen people literally rise from the ashes and turn thier life around completely. Their stories are inspirational and prove that with the the right attitude and discipline, diligence and dedication we can achieve our aspiration and follow our vocation in life.
Writing this has helped me acknowledge where I am and why and what I have to do about it. There is alot of power in expressing our thoughts, getting them out of our head. I feel better already and I feel that I can go back to work, actually wanting to go back!
Thankyou for reading!