I am on “vacation”

Christmas has some and gone, New Years is just around the bend. I am currently at home, wrenching my gut and trying to relax (at the same time, of course). I seem to have developed a love-hate relationship with my work. I had originally planed to take just one week off, to go home for Christmas, and then return to work this week “between the years”, as the Germans say. But after the train ride back, once I was alone in my apartment on Sunday evening, I couldn’t seem to bring myself to go back to work. So I took another week off. I had heard before hand that everyone else was going to be gone two weeks and it’s not like anybody is monitoring my work or expecting anything from me, so I guessed it was better for me to take some time for myself, recuperate from France and the family, and chill these three days.

The love side of the relationship is easily explained: I love those crazies. That might sound patronizing, but I mean it in the best of interests. I could just sit there in awe and listen to them for hours. I am totally fascinated – the crazier the better. And that’s the part I’m good at, too: listening. I can create a link, a therapeutic relationship, faster than most on the ward, even though they’ve been in business for years. My other colleagues in the theory classes complain they don’t get any information out of the patients – mine won’t stop. Even with a very difficult borderline patient, I knew about her very painful past quicker than most had expected, since she’s a difficult patient and I’m a newbie. That also gave me the reputation of “bitch expert” (not my words) on the ward, after I had cracked the two most emotionally volatile patients we had. My problem is I don’t know what to do with that information once I have it. The three basic rules of therapy (empathy, authenticity, congruity) I can do. Diagnostics I can do. Cognitive behavioral therapy I can not. Granted, it’s what I’m in this formation for: to learn that. But at the same time, it’s already expected of me. And that gets pretty frustrating, which leaves me feeling powerless. On top of that, there are times when I feel like it doesn’t matter if I do anything or not. The patients don’t say anything and the doctors have no clue what I’m doing. Sometimes I get along great with them and I manage to include myself in the treatment process. But since we’ve had four different doctors since I started there, it’s hard to find my spot.

The more I think about it, the more I feel it was right to stay at home for a few days. After all, it’s not like I had a restorative time at home with the family and it would not have been a good idea to jump back into work after that. Not that it was particularly bad – it was Christmas after all – just the ordinary routine of pent-up problems nobody addresses. It’s like a big can of worms, dug under an iceberg, covered by a thick layer of ignorance and denial. You only need to poke at it and you either get a flood of tears or raging anger. But negative feelings are bad and must be repressed, so we all put on a happy face, drink and eat and watch DVDs and divert ourselves until we’ve diluted ourselves. For the most time I grid my teeth and bear it for the time I’m there, and then leave it behind along with the 600km that separate us once I’ve left, because I know I am no match to tackle these issues. But this year – wonder of wonder, miracles of miracles – The BF came home for Christmas. That truly was the most wonderful gift and it made me so happy to have him there. The problem was that with an outside spectator, it was much harder to keep up the act.  He kept himself out of it all, of course, but did notice that some reactions weren’t quite normal. It was nice to hear, on one side, that I’m not imagining things and that there is a lot out of whack. On the other, it made it more real. So here I am at home, sorting things through, deciding to reach out to you again, dear readers. And with a big sigh I might realize that once I’ve put all this out there, I should leave it behind and not try to save the world. That’s Greenpeace’s job.

Happy New Years!

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