Cheers to summer!
What a lifetime this past school year has been. I have never witnessed the level of collective burnout amongst our youth like I have with the seemingly drawn-out conclusion of this particular school year. The number of novel experiences and disruptions to the typical flow of the academic year was enough to drive our kiddos bonkers. Final exams were held six weeks prior to the last day of school, state-wide testing was held four weeks in advance, and then everyone fumbled with tasks to keep the students busy until the states were satisfied with the number of days the children spent inside the educational walls.
As a clinician, it’s fascinating to observe the collective patterns of those within the community that I work in. My colleagues and I joke that something must be in the water, due to the overarching patterns of behavior that we seemingly bare witness to. If one client has a bad week, it seems the majority face obstacles they must navigate. If one client proclaims a planned vacation, all of the sudden, other proclamations of travels pop up within my caseload.
The ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is still quite frequently felt, even a year and a half after the initial panic. Although I hear frequently that “we are returning back to normal”, I acknowledge that this “normal” we are all clamoring to is a desperate attempt to overlook the aftershocks of the traumatic blow to our World. Beneath the surface, we are no where near the state of equilibrium we all chase in our dreams. This summer is laced with the impacts of the pandemic, including the overarching theme of “getting the hell out of dodge”.
Yep, a large part of my caseload is packing up their bags and embarking on adventures outside of the bubbles they have been trapped in since the start of statewide lockdowns. The release of pressure from the chaotic school year has many breathing temporary sighs of relief which impact the overbearing presence of whatever dysfunction or challenge that originally led them to therapy. I wave goodbye to my clients and their families as they make the most out of this burst of optimistic energy. As if we all subconsciously recognize the calm before the return of the storm.
I wish the culture surrounding vacations or unplugged adventures could permanently mimic the mindset that I see present within my current community. Prior to the pandemic, vacations were almost not worth the exhausting effort it took to prepare our worlds to continue to spin without us. Guilt and anxiety, more often than not, talked us out of extended escapades, and we grappled with the crippling burnout simmering beneath the surface of our souls. Fast forward to present day, and the narrative of society is turned on it’s head. We are witnessing millions quit their jobs after returning to the office to sit with the suffocating ways of “what used to be”. The curse and the blessing of a forced hiatus from our usual is that we gain clarity into the dysfunction of our routines. Others have borne witness to insurmountable grief and loss that it forced their hand in what they prioritize within their lives.
We miss our people. We are hopelessly homesick for the memories and places we felt peace. We are tremendously in need of a heaping dose of happy. I don’t know about you, but I am so sick and tired of feeling sad.
Perhaps this normalized momentum toward the necessity of vacation and quests for happy will be here to stay. It’s difficult to muster up optimism (yet another ripple effect of the pandemic), yet here I am wishing upon a star. Tuning into the culture surrounding time out of the office as a clinician, it’s even more difficult to slip away without worry for our clients tugging at our thoughts. As a therapist, I am chronically fatigued from the anguish swirling around as a result of the trauma that has raged. Just as this past school year has been unequivocally novel to our children, families, and teachers, this stent of time has been unseen before in the mental health realm. In no graduate school textbook will you find a chapter on “unique needs and treatment plans for those experiencing a pandemic”. We therapists have been functioning as trailblazers as we struggle to wear all the hats necessary to serve as a supportive clinician. Your girl is wiped out.
Take it from a therapist who has sat with insuperable pain, grief, terror, anxiety, and sadness. Who has consulted with her colleagues who feel just as overwhelmingly fatigued. Who has struggled to dedicate enough compassion to her own self-care during this season of catastrophe.
Take the damn trip.
Call out of work.
Take the mental health day.
Embrace the peace we all direly deserve.