a lesson in burnout
I thought I would share some stories from the therapist’s chair. Ever the professional I am starting with a disaster tale that taught me a valuable lesson.
Many moons ago I was featured in various magazines and news stories about breast enhancement using hypnosis. It triggered a deluge of interviews, business and clients on top of my already packed diary which is what we crave when everything is manageable. Busy doesn't come close - it was verging on manic. I was tired but with no time to rest I just kept going. I considered getting a personal assistant but being Superwoman I could manage.
My 3rd client on this particular day came for her 2nd breast enhancement session. I shall call her SP. As SP came into my office I glanced at my notes from her 1st session. I felt an odd twinge as she looked different to how I had remembered her. That can be an issue when we are busy. Therapists tend to have gaps between clients to ensure enough time to make thorough notes while all is fresh in their minds and to prepare for the next one. When the client returns our memories are triggered and combined with the notes it can seem like a continuation of the previous session. Well, it should seem like that…
Me - How are you?
SP - I am well, thank you. Excited to be here.
Me - I am pleased you are here. How are your breasts?
SP - They are okay.
Me - That’s good. Are you aware of any changes?
SP - No.
Me - Any tingling, warmth or sensitivity?
SP - No. I am uncomfortable with these questions.
Me - I appreciate that it can feel awkward but it helps me if I know exactly what is happening.
SP no words just looking confused
I ploughed on
Me - Have you noticed if your bra feels different?
SP - No.
Me - Are your breasts at all heavy?
SP - No. I do not like this personal questioning. Are your sessions always like this?
Me - They can be but it is helpful.
SP - I am not sure this is right for me.
Imagine now everything going into slow-motion as a dawning occurs. I felt a bit sick as I looked at the notes.
SP - I do not understand what my breasts have to do with a flying phobia.
I thought I might be sick in her lap. Frantically checking my notes.
Me - Your name is SP?
SP - Yes.
The realisation that this bewildered woman had the same name as another client but I was too tired and busy to have noticed before.
Me - I am sorry. I have confused you with someone else.
SP - I am leaving now.
Me - I’ll get the door.
Despite the potential humour I was cross with myself for not paying enough attention. I knew I was too busy and this session proved I was not at my best for my clients.
Within a few days I got ill. Too ill to see any clients. After a couple of weeks of feeling ghastly I saw the GP who sent me immediately for x-rays.
It was pneumonia. I was a poorly dollop and it took 3 different types of antibiotics plus home visits from a physiotherapist and the doctor coming by every couple of days. I was offered admittance to hospital but we decided being home was best.
In between sleeping, cough choking and feeling very sorry for myself I realised that self-care and pacing was the way forward.
SP called in the midst of my illness to say sorry for leaving so suddenly, bless her. I apologised again with a brief rundown of what had happened (even though explanations always sound like excuses) and gave her the name of another therapist. She sent flowers with a note that after she realised what had happened she found it funny.
Burn-out can creep insidiously when you might be too busy to notice. You can get little signs such as changes in your sleep pattern, food cravings, irritability, forgetfulness, tummy or bowel issues, pain or other seemingly minor things.
Obviously being busy is often good but it must be balanced with down-time - in whatever form pleases you. You may have heard people say, “I thrive on stress.” They might. Until they don’t.
If your life is frenetic; you can only relax with many stiff drinks and your sleep is a no-show it might be time to attend to your needs.
I thought I was thriving and tiredness was inevitable but that is a misnomer. If you do not pay attention you can get ill.
Or, worse, ask a woman how her breasts are doing when it is really inappropriate to do so.
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