Nelsonian Knowledge

I am alternating between two books right now, both from the little free library near my home. Both Sides Now was my book of choice last night mainly because I accidentally left my other book in the car and I was not in the mood to go retrieve it in my nightgown.

Both Sides Now is an enthralling read, it is the kind of book that makes you lose time because you are so in it, AND it is intensely anxiety producing for me. Last night I could feel the palpitations wanting to start, my levels of panic rising with each mini chapter I would complete.

It is a memoir that details the intimate moments of excruciating loss. Loss on a level that most of us hope and pray never to experience. Loss that we do not want to even recognize can exist because then we have to see a truth no one wants to face: if it could happen to them , to could happen to me.

This morning I woke up thinking about how I do it, the thing we all do. I sit secure in the knowledge that I am going to live to see the end of this day, that everyone I love is going to live to see the end of this day. That my health will be with me for years and years and years to come because I am only 33 and have my whole life ahead of me.

I do know better.

I have worked with individuals and families that had their lives uprooted by a new reality when death and illness came to their doorstep in unexpected ways. I have been of the front lines of a cancer diagnosis, I have been in the fox hole with the families and individuals during certain aspects of treatment, I have co-facilitated caregiver support groups for other terminal illnesses, I have experienced the fallout – sat in the emotional aftermath of loss with family members and loved ones.

I have also experienced much of this first hand in my own life with family and friends.

So I do know better.

I know better because I have sat in the hospital room with my 20 something year old family member who was about to undergo treatment when just a few days before the news came that the cancer was back. I know better because I carry the stories of a close friend who lost all her hair because of the meds she had to take, I know better because time and time again in my young life I have witnessed and experienced my own suffering stemming from this broken illusion of time, and control, and certainty in a future that none of us have ever truly been promised.

Still, I sit in my willfulness ignorance as often as possible because I am not ready, and I am not sure I ever will be ready to face the truth: All we have is now. That is all we ever have. This exact moment. That is it.

This morning I sent my husband to work with a silent prayer on my lips that the Universe will bring him home to me this evening. I prayed for this today and that everyday this will continue to happen until we are old and ready to face our mortality with many happy full years behind us. I said this silent prayer to the Universe all the while secretly knowing that there will never be a time in my life that I will feel as though I have had enough, I will always want more from life no matter my age or experience.

So I will go on making plans, and planting gardens, and dreaming dreams of things to come. I will look to the future with hope and certainty AND I will be thankful right now, this very moment, for all that I have. Love, connection, the privilege of knowing what it feels like to be wrapped in my husband’s arms, every experience I have had in this life of mine because none of it was promised, not one day, not one minute. To argue with my husband is a privilege that I take for granted while another person might be willing to give up everything to argue with a loved again. When we both return home tonight I will remember this and I will  be grateful.

Sitting with this uncomfortable reality, allowing myself to set down my willful ignorance about life’s harsh truths, makes it so clear just how truly entitled we all are every single day. One of life’s fundamental truths is that nothing is ever promised yet we walk around every moment of every day so sure of the next.

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Counting Gratitude

I am not ready to do any deep writing. I am still processing quite a bit on my own. I do feel the need to express my gratitude though so I will take a little time and space for that.

I am grateful for my job. I am grateful that today when I developed a migraine I did not have to “come home from work” cutting my day short, I got to listen to and honor my body by taking the break I needed. Once I felt rested and ready I picked up where I left off from the comfort of a cold, quiet, dark room.

I am grateful for the little family my husband and I have created. This morning laying in bed together we expressed our love for one another in an authentic way where all parts of ourselves are being shown love from one another. You are messy and you fart in bed AND I love you. I love your messy and your smelly as much as I love your clean and pretty. The message here is so important: messy AND smelly AND clean AND pretty are all loved and welcome in this relationship.

I am grateful for the rest of this little family of ours, Lu. I am grateful to look over and see her lying next to me while I work.

I am grateful for this period of time in my life. This time I am being given is priceless to me. Not having to worry if I am leaving Lu in the crate too long, having time to work AND do a load of laundry, time to take a break and a nap as needed.. The work is important and very emotionally charged, doing it this way makes the balance so much easier so I am not overwhelmed. I am able to honor the space I hold for my clients because I take time to honor myself.

I am grateful for connection, both inside and outside.

I am grateful for stormy weather. Our Florida summers would be too much for me to handle if it was not for the glorious storms we get every afternoon. I am an overcast-70-degree-weather kind of person. 99 degrees and sunny is torture. I have to keep my blinds drawn and create a cave within my home to manage the relentless heat and light. Then come 3 or 4 o’clock I get the much needed break via a dark cloudy storm.

I am grateful for my path and my truth and the woman I am and the woman I was and all the women I have ever been or will ever be. This life and all things in it that I have so much gratitude for are here and possible because one day I woke up and decided I was ready. I was ready to be me, and do my work, and hold myself sacred. For this and every good thing that has come from it, I am grateful.

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Nana Wisdom

Just as I was sure that I was finished processing the events of last week the Universe sent me one more message of validation.

After losing myself in the creative process for most of the afternoon I failed to recognize the house was slowly getting warmer. My husband turns the thermostat up when he leaves for work and occasionally during the course of the day I have to turn it back down again because lets be real, Florida summers are no joke and A/C is a life saver.

So when I was finally done with all my artistic endeavors I realized, wow I am burning up. It was raining at the time and since I was covered in paint anyway I decided to go outside and allow mother nature to cool me off.

It was pouring outside so as I stepped out I expected to be drenched, that was not the case though because our entire backyard is covered by the branches of our old Nana oak tree. She was protecting me from the rain and maybe on a different day I would be grateful, today I wanted to feel the rain though and she was getting in the way.

Because Nana was protecting me it took twice the time for me to cool off because I was not able to experience the rain fully AND not only did she shield me from the rain I wanted to feel, she dropped multiple leaves on me.

This is how I related this back to my experiences from the other day:

When someone prevents us from experiencing our pain by trying to hold it for us or protect us from it, it takes longer to heal. Just like today when Nana protected me from the rain it took me a lot longer to get wet and cool off.

When someone tries to block us from our pain what can end up happening is we wind up having to hold some of their parts for them as well. When Nana shielded me today she also dropped her leaves all over me. When the therapist from the other day tried to shield my client from the pain my client was experiencing my client ended up having to hold that therapist too. Not only was my client unable to experience her own healing by tapping into that pain, she ended up holding someone else’s pain without ever agreeing to do so.

For me it all comes down to this:

I know that in general people do their best to avoid getting caught in the rain, just like people do their best to avoid feeling pain. However, sometimes a person may make a deliberate choice to stand out in the rain and experience it, just like someone might make up their mind that they are ready to experience their pain and heal. The rest of us have no right to interfere with the choice that individual has made.

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Holding On to What’s Mine

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I gave myself time this weekend to further process my feelings around the events I outlined in my last post. I checked in with my mentor, the person who first showed me what holding space looks like and who held space for me as I found my own voice as a clinician in that space he provided. Then I checked in with myself. As mentioned in my prior post there was a lot of counter transference taking place in that session, both the other clinician’s and my own.

I have no way of knowing if the other clinician is aware and doing her own work on this AND that is none of my concern. I am only responsible for me and my work. I know I am still sitting in my shadow of judgement. In my last post I led with that judgement because that is where I needed to start, now I would like to process a little deeper and go to where these judgements are coming from.

The reason I allow myself to show up in my shadows of self-righteousness, and arrogance, and judgement, as well as any other shadow that pops up based on how I experience the world and myself, is because that is where my work is. I can deny that any of these shadows exist so that way I appear pretty and palatable to the outside world and become consumed by them OR I can allow them to exist out in the open, allow them to bring me my work, and learn to love myself there. I choose the latter and my truth is if my shadows are too much for some to stomach, that has everything to do with them and very little to do with me. I will do my work to love myself wholly and worry not what the world thinks about it.

While sitting in the space of heavy judgment I was feeling towards the events that unfolded in front of me during this session I was able to identify where some of my feelings were coming from.

Above all it was this: I am someone who is doing my own healing work and I projected my truth about what that means to me onto this situation.

Being held in your pain is sacred. I have allowed myself to be held in my pain. Since I started my own healing work years ago what I have not done is allowed anyone to hold my pain. There is a difference.

When I am being held in my pain that means I am allowing myself to be supported while I hold my pain. I am not asking anyone to hold it for me. I have to be the one holding it or the healing is not happening.

Here are some examples of what that has looked like for me:

Sitting in the ocean. Allowing the sand beneath me to hold and support me, allowing the water to support me, as I hold my pain.
Sitting on a front porch swing next to my therapist. Allowing my therapist to energetically hold space for me, allowing the swing to support me, as I hold my pain.
Sitting in my walk in closet next to my husband. Allowing my husband to energetically hold the space for me, allowing the walls and floor of the closet to support me, as I hold my pain.
Sitting in a healing circle with other women. Allowing each of these women to energetically hold space for me, allowing the floor and the wall to support me, as I hold my pain.

This is what being held looks like for me. This is how I learned to hold space.

I do believe that you can be both energetically held AND physically held while holding your pain. I have absolutely curled into my husband’s lap and allowed him to physically hold me while I hold my pain. Whenever I allow myself to ask for support in this way it comes with conversation – that is what was missing from the situation I witnessed. When I allow my husband to physically hold me while I hold my pain I am clear about what my needs and boundaries are first, I tell him exactly what I need from him and then ASK if he is comfortable with my specific request. He has a right to say No AND if at any point I feel like he is trying to hold my pain rather than hold me while I hold my pain, I have the right to disengage. If there is ever a time that I am allowing anyone else to hold my pain then I am not healing. That is my truth.

In school when we talked about counter transference and becoming triggered while working with a client I think there was this idea for some that this only relates to trauma or our biases based on how we were raised to view race, religion, sexuality, etc. I believe it goes far beyond that. I experience it all the time with clients. It happens in moments when my client reminds me of my nephew or my husband based on something they say or a mannerism they possesses. It happens when my client is struggling with a part of their healing that I previously struggled with. And it certainly happens when I see something that goes against one of my personal truths.

There is nothing wrong or shameful about being triggered and experiencing counter transference. My admission of this does not make me a bad or ineffective therapist. My truth is: the counter transference itself is not as important as  what you do with it.

In that session both myself and the other clinician experienced counter transference. My truth based on what I saw and how I experienced the situation is: when I became triggered I sat there with the piece of myself that was experiencing the counter transference and I HELD HER. The other therapist did not hold her pain. She did not hold the piece of herself that was triggered by our client’s emotion. She got up, crossed the room, and essentially made the client hold it for her. It was never about how the client was feeling, it was about how what the client was feeling MADE HER FEEL.

Each therapist has there own style and approach to practice. I feel very deeply connected to my way. That does not make me right. That does not make other therapists wrong. Part of my practice will always include showing up for myself like I am right now so at no point am I ever trying to hold my client’s pain for them or energetically asking them to hold anything that belongs to me, including my opinions on how this work should be done. Even my approach to practice belongs to me alone and I am responsible for holding that piece of me.

 

Holding Space Not People

It is important to me that I acknowledge that in this post I may show up in my shadow of self-righteousness. I was triggered yesterday and when triggered any number of my shadows may rise to the surface. As I process out this experience I am sure self-righteousness will show up as well as any other shadow that has something to say.

Yesterday I was meeting with a new client. Rather than start this story at the end, let’s go back to the beginning. Last week I was informed I was getting a new client who would be transferred from the therapist who had been working with this client because the therapist was leaving the agency. My supervisor requested the therapist and I touch base with one another so I could be brought up to speed on treatment goals and progress thus far as well as anything else pertinent.

When I spoke with the therapist I was informed that the client has severe abandonment issues and the therapist informed me they would like to attend the first session I schedule to make introductions, answer any questions, and ensure a smooth transition for the client.

I am new to this job so at first I did not question this. I assumed this was protocol, when a client is transferred both therapists go to meet with the client and do a warm hand off. Plus I was willing to trust the current therapist’s judgement. A few days later, however, I did start questioning it.

In the days leading up to the scheduled session I had a few interactions with the therapist that on the surface seemed normal, yet I was picking up on something. I started wondering, is this proposal of going together really for the client.. or is it for the therapist?

Attachment goes both ways. The bond between client and therapist does go both ways and that is why boundaries are so important.

I believe my intuition was right this time. This was about the therapist, not the client. I believe there was unaddressed counter transference happening.

What I witnessed during the session was, in my opinion, outside of appropriate boundaries. At one point I asked a question that elicited a strong emotion from the client, when this happened the other therapist left the couch we were sitting on together, walked over to the client who was seated on an adjacent couch, and half held them. This was done without warning and without permission.

In that moment that therapist was not holding space for her client she was literally holding her client and my truth about that: we cannot let go of pain we do not allow ourselves to experience.  We cannot set down/let go of something we never held, literally and figuratively speaking. That is what our work is collectively as a human race. In that moment my client was attempting to hold her pain so she could finally put it down/let it go and the other therapist prevented my client’s healing moment due to their own personal need to comfort the client. They were made uncomfortable by the client’s pain, maybe it reminded them of their own – who knows, either way they took this opportunity from the client and that was incredibly hard for me to witness.

Outside of my own personal truth about what I saw take place, touching is a big gray area in therapy.  For example, in a Hospice setting hugging is a regular occurrence you see happening. Still, you ask before you touch – that is my truth. In a traditional therapy setting you do not see touching as often. There are many reasons for this and I am not here to write a report on the significance of physical contact in therapeutic settings, just know that this is a delicate area. And again, to be clear, my truth is: I would never touch a client without asking permission first and in most cases I would probably just never touch a client.

What I witnessed felt, in my opinion, like an unhealthy attachment between the therapist and client (that may or may not go both ways). It felt to me like the therapist was having trouble letting go and that was why they requested to be present. Now it could absolutely be both; the therapist felt this was the best way to help the client transition AND they wanted to be there for their own personal reasons related to trouble letting go. The latter aspect made me feel very uncomfortable and made my part of the session challenging.

It is difficult to build a connection with a new client when they are trying to process the loss of a former therapist they felt connected to and that former therapist is still present. It is difficult to connect with a new client when they are literally physically connected to their former therapist during the session. It was a weird situation to find myself in and I was definitely regretting not listening to my inner knowing and asking the therapist not to attend.

Here is my truth about this, and this is where my self-righteousness will undoubtedly show up: I think it is important for all those who want to step into this very sacred role of holding space for others in this way to be doing their own work, or have done their own work. I am human, not robot, which means during a session, all of my pieces are still present in the background and can become triggered by a client or the environment or anything really. My truth is: me doing my own work is what has made me effective at holding myself AT ALL TIMES so I am able to hold space for my client and protect against counter-transference.

Transference and counter transference are absolutely a thing that happen in a therapeutic relationship. Transference can actually be a great way to process and explore deeper topics in a way that feels surface level and safe with a client. Counter transference is also a natural thing that happens, what is important (in my opinion) is having a place to process it when it happens. Supervision is a great place for this, that is a big part of supervision, AND I still believe in therapists having their own therapist to hold their deeper work.

For example, I totally see where I am experiencing my own counter transference in what took place during this session. I am processing a surface piece of that here and I will be doing my real work around it when I see my therapist.

Something that I heard a lot when in school had to do with meeting our clients where they are. I think we also often times meet our clients where we are. Just like Brene Brown says you cannot give your children what you do not have, relating to parenting, I think the same can be said for therapy; you cannot give your clients what you do not have.

I cannot hold space for my clients to do work I have not personally done. That is my truth. It is not every therapist’s truth, many never do their work and do not feel called to and are still effective at practicing in their way. My truth is: I could never hold space for the deep healing work my clients are called to do if I am not walking my own path towards healing.

I do not know what this is going to look like going forward with this client. This client’s very first experience with therapy has sent them the message that when they cry their therapist will literally hold them. I am hoping to show this client that they can still feel held energetically through use of empathy and healthy boundaries AND show them how to hold themself and comfort themself.

inner shit

#This-is-my-truth.

 

Out of the Box/Book

I just had this whole thing recently with not wanting to follow a book when it comes to healing because I know that healing happens within, not from a book. That is my truth. I might be inspired by something I read in a book, I often am actually, but the healing comes from me listening to my intuition and figuring out how this inspiration applies to my life and building that connection within as a result.

This message was validated today in session with a client. At the end of session, a session wherein the client experienced more than one break through in her healing, she said to me I can tell you are not by the book and I like that about you because I’m not either.

I believe that as a therapist the only thing I need to do is shine my light, my unique light, and those who are drawn to it will find me. I have seen this happen multiple times already and I am at the very beginning of my career. I had clients in my last internship and now in my new position where I see the interconnection and know, from my intuitive knowing place, that it is no accident that these clients landed on my case load.

I will always be a reader, a searcher of knowledge and the truth, I will attend trainings, and gain insight from those around me who have wisdom from years of practice, AND I will always lead with my intuition because she is my true north.

I have said it before and I will say it again; I will not be the therapist for everyone, there will be many who do not understand my methods, AND I will be the exact therapist for others.

As I look back at the clients I have had so far that I know felt called to my approach to healing I see a common thread. I am beginning to understand what my specific healing gift is and what I can tell you is that I did not learn this gift from any book.

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Figuring It Out

About a month ago when I was in the thick of training for my new job my mantra was I will figure it out. This stuff was new, it was okay that I did not know how to do it, AND I was confident that I would figure it out. That confidence in myself went a long way because I was right. I did figure it all out and I am still figuring it out.

Each time I am presented with a new challenge I feel so much less intimidated by it because I know I can and will figure it out.

The last few weeks have brought me a lot of opportunities to figure new things out, I am grateful for this AND a few times I have felt exhausted by it. I knew this job would help me grow in terms of self-reliance and that has been true for me so far, for better AND for worse.

Something that I miss about agency work is having things readily available and handed to me without me having to figure it out on my own. I took that part of agency work for granted. In my last placement if I wanted to implement an intervention rarely did I have to go do my own research to find what I need, it was sitting there in a binder waiting for me, all I had to do was make a copy.

So far I have been creating my own materials for sessions, buying books and toys for play therapy with my younger clients, researching evidenced based studies on certain topics to ensure effectiveness of my planned intervention, and researching trainings in my area on topics I want to become well versed in.

A lot of this was part of past agency experiences for me. I was attending trainings and researching intervention outcomes and preparing materials for sessions and for groups I facilitated. The difference is the frequency in which I am doing these things now. Before I had a supervisor right there that I could go to and say, my client is presenting with _________ and I was thinking of trying this, what do you think?
They would either validate my judgement or present me with another option that they have used and seen success with. Or if there was a certain worksheet I wanted to use during session it was available to me, I did not have to do any work on my own to create the template or download and print what I wanted. And I certainly never had to buy my materials. Toys, books, yoga mats, expressive art supplies, folders for my clients to keep their documents in, pens, they were all available to me.

I want to be clear, I am not complaining, just making the observation that when I was doing agency work I took a lot for granted without even being aware of it. I am sure that when I am on my own one day I will look back at this experience and reflect on aspects of this position I am currently taking for granted, like the fact that the agency I am contracted with provides me clients. I do not have to market myself which is a lot of energy and anxiety saved. And things like not having to pay rent for an office or buy furniture for that office. Even now as independent as this position allows me to feel I recognize I am still supported.

Some days I do feel exhausted by aspects of this job AND I love it. This jobs comes with a lot of extra work AND I get to much of that work in yoga pants on my couch. This job requires that I provide my own supplies AND I have the time in my day to go to the store and get those supplies. This job is pushing me in ways I have not been pushed before AND I am having the learning experience I wanted.

Last night I was having a moment of overwhelm as I was planning my sessions for later today. I looked over at my husband, who knew what I was working on and could sense my exhaustion, who then said I know you can do this because I know who you are.

I will figure this out. I know I can do this because I know who I am.

got this