As told to Shona Hendley.
The past few months have been some of the most challenging of my career. Long, arduous, overwhelming.
Day in and day out, my clients share with me their struggles. Now more than ever, these are difficulties they are facing ‘right now’, immediate challenges due to the pandemic, rather than long-standing issues they had been trying to resolve.
These are so overwhelming that they have often eclipsed whatever the issue was they were referred for initially, or sometimes they have joined forces to equal something much more severe.
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My clients are impacted in every way: financially, relationship-wise, loss of jobs, juggling priorities like remote learning and working from home, self-isolation, the list goes on and on.
I am, of course, here for them, not just because I am paid to do it but because they need me; because I want to help them. It's more than a job: being a psychologist and supporting people’s mental health is a part of who I am.
But COVID-19 has taken a toll on me as a psychologist, and as a person, because it is becoming increasingly hard to switch between my professional and personal self. More and more often, the issues I hear from my clients are coming with me into my own life, and my own issues and challenges have been triggered as well.
This is why.
I want to take you through a standard workday for me during the pandemic.
My schedule is full of pre-existing clients. I’d even booked them in over my lunch hour because I know how difficult it is right now for them. This means my appointments regularly begin at 8am and finish at 7pm, without a proper break. It's exhausting.
My first client already had severe anxiety before COVID-19 and its subsequent restrictions came into our lives. She has struggled to cope with the drastic changes that have impacted most parts of her life, from her work to her new relationship with her partner, and not being able to go to the gym, which was a major aide in helping her manage her anxiety.
She shares with me how she is struggling to manage the anxiety when so many elements of her life have changed, she is unsure how to negotiate this. And to be honest, I'm feeling very much the same way. Although I am the ‘expert’, although I know many strategies that can assist in theory, I too am struggling with this in my own world. Of course, it isn't their fault this impacts me - but it does.